Samoa -- Geography --
The country is located east of the international date line and south of the equator, about halfway between Hawai‘i and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The total land area is 2934 km? (1133 sq mi) (slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island), consisting of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai'i which account for 99% of the total land area, and eight small islets: the three islets in the Apolima Strait (Manono Island, Apolima and Nu'ulopa), the four Aleipata Islands off the eastern end of Upolu (Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Namua, and Fanuatapu), and Nu'usafe'e (less than 0.01 km? - 2? acres - in area and about 1.4 km (0.9 mi) off the south coast of Upolu at the village of Vaovai). The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population, and its capital city is Apia. The climate is tropical, with an average annual temperature of 26.5°C (79.7°F), and a rainy season from November to April.
Samoa -- History --
By the late nineteenth century the Samoans had occurred between natives and French, British, German and American forces, who valued Samoa as a refueling station for coal-fired shipping and whaling.
There followed an eight-year civil war. All three world powers sent warships into Apia harbor. A war seemed imminent, until a massive storm damaged or destroyed the warships.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Tripartite Convention partitioned the Samoan Islands into two parts: the eastern island group became a territory of the United States and is today known as American Samoa; the western islands, became known as German Samoa after Britain vacated all claims to Samoa and accepted termination of German rights in Tonga and certain areas in the Solomon Islands and West Africa.
From the end of World War I until 1962, New Zealand controlled Samoa. There followed a series of New Zealand administrators who were responsible for two major incidents. In the first incident, approximately one fifth of the Samoan population died in the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. The second major incident arose out of an initially peaceful protest by the Mau ("Strongly held Opinion"), a non-violent popular movement which arose in the early 1920s in protest against the mistreatment of the Samoan people by the New Zealand administration.
After repeated efforts by the Samoan people, Western Samoa gained independence in 1962 and signed a Friendship Treaty with New Zealand. Samoa was the first country in the Pacific to become independent.
Samoa -- Economy --
The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, private family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports.
Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil.
The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products.
Tourism is an expanding sector which now accounts for 25% of GDP. Tourist arrivals have been increasing over the years with more than 100,000 tourists visiting the islands in 2005, up from 70,000 in 1996.
Of the total land area of 2,934 km? (725,000 acres), about 24.4% is in permanent crops and another 21.2% is arable. About 4.4% is Western Samoan Trust Estates Corporation (WSTEC). The staple products of Samoa are copra (dried coconut meat), cocoa (for chocolate), and bananas. The annual production of both bananas and copra has been in the range of 13,000 to 15,000 metric tons. Samoan cocoa is of very high quality and used in fine New Zealand chocolates. Coffee grows well, but production has been uneven. Rubber has been produced in Samoa for many years, but its export value has little impact on the economy. Other agricultural industries have been less successful. Sugarcane production could be successful. Old train tracks for transporting cane can be seen at some plantations east of Apia. Pineapples grow well in Samoa, but beyond local consumption have not been a major export.
Samoa -- Culture --
Despite centuries of European influence, Samoa maintains its historical customs, social and political systems, and language. Samoans are deeply spiritual and religious people, and have subtly adapted the dominant religion of Christianity. As such, ancient beliefs continue to co-exist side-by-side with Christianity, particularly in regard to the traditional customs and rituals. The Samoan culture is centered around the principle of vafealoa'i, the relationships between people. These relationships are based on respect, or fa'aaloalo.
The Samoans have a communal way of life with little privacy. They do almost all their activities collectively. An example of this are the traditional Samoan fales (houses) which are open with no walls.
Samoans have two gender specific and culturally significant tattoos. For males, it is called the Pe'a and consists of intricate and geometrical patterns tattooed that cover areas from the knees up towards the ribs. A Samoan girl is given a malu, which covers the area from just below her knees to her upper thighs.
The traditional Samoan dance is the Siva. This dancers tell a story with gentle movements of the hands and feet in time to music.
Samoa -- Policy --
The 1960 Constitution, which formally came into force with independence from New Zealand in 1962, is based on the British pattern of parliamentary democracy, modified to take account of Samoan customs.
The unicameral legislature (Fono) consists of 49 members serving 5-year terms. Forty-seven are elected from territorial districts by ethnic Samoans; the other two are chosen by non-Samoans with no chiefly affiliation on separate electoral rolls.
The prime minister is chosen by a majority in the Fono and is appointed by the head of state to form a government. The prime minister's choices for the 12 cabinet positions are appointed by the head of state, subject to the continuing confidence of the Fono.
The judicial system is based on English common law and local customs. The Supreme Court of Samoa is the court of highest jurisdiction. Its chief justice is appointed by the head of state upon the recommendation of the prime minister.