Working together as one? Exploring the implementation and community perceptions of catchment management in Samoa.
Thesis DisciplineWater Resource Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Water Resource Management
Water is a constantly changing resource by way of the hydrological cycle. It is unevenly distributed and crosses boundaries of all kinds i.e. political, social, cultural and natural.
Samoa is a small developing state in the Pacific Region that is facing rapid pressure with its water resource availability. Consequently, access to and use of water resources has created tensions between water resources regulators, water utilities and villages. Therefore, managing and governing of water becomes a challenging process that has to take into account the complexity of both nature and society. With the emergence of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework, a greater social acceptance and importance has been given to catchment scale management and governance. Nowadays, many countries including Samoa, have embraced this appealing concept where catchments are seen as natural units for water governance and management.
This study used a social qualitative approach, aimed to investigate the implementation of catchment management and examine local community perceptions of catchment management, using Apia Catchment as case study. It is based on a conceptual framework of the concept of scale i.e. set out in recent debates and ideas in the arena of catchment scale water governance and management. The primary data was collected from community focus groups within two villages of Apia Catchment, and semi-structured interviews with government agencies involved in the Water and Sanitation Sector programmes.
The findings revealed a shift in water resources management and governance and a spatial scale mismatch in Apia Catchment management. According to government officials, the catchment approach is a ‘management tool’ adopted to improve the coordination between water users and to promote local ownership of catchment activities amongst individual villages. However, several challenges arose around land ownership, monetary cost, community resistance and issues outside of catchment areas when implementing catchment management. Despite the challenges that government officials encountered and the concerns raised by the communities, catchment scale management is still being adopted in Samoa. With the adoption of catchment management, many individual villages within Apia Catchment are expected to make decisions collectively. However, some local groups have concerns about the use of the term ‘boundary’, the possibility of the government taking over their land and the proposed catchment-based authority taking precedence over pre-existing cultural hierarchy. Overall, this research reveals that catchment management is often viewed or seen by government as a ‘one size fits all’ notion that ignores the range of the socio-ecological realities on the ground. This study shows that in order to design better water resources policies and strategies that are fully applicable and workable for Samoa, it is very important to identify these mismatches in scales (e.g. spatial and administrative) and levels (e.g. national and local). Understanding scales and associated levels is critical to understanding the whole system and can reduce possible consequences of mismatches due to lack of interaction and collaboration between levels and scales. Local villages have expressed their opinions on how to enhance catchment management and this could perhaps be useful for government in terms of implementation. Based on the results, recommendations are made for water resources managers to assess the importance of different levels and their interactions but, more importantly, to consider how local communities perceive catchment management.