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Fagaloa Bay - Uafato Tiavea Conservation Zone

Date of Submission: 21/12/2006
Criteria: (v)(vii)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
State, Province or Region:
Atua District, Upolu Island, Samoa, South Pacific
Coordinates: S13 55 and 14 00 W171 25 and 171 35
Ref.: 5090

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The consideration of the Fagaloa Bay- Uafato/Tiavea conservation zone as a mixed site is based on its unique physical landscape and close relationship with the traditional way of living. The Faa-Samoa (Samoan way of life) governs the interaction between the people and their environment and remains an effective measure in maintaining harmony and security for all. The Uafato conservation area is the largest rainforest in the Pacific, thus contains some of Samoa's endemic flora and fauna, and marine resources. The cultural features found in the area represents the close association of the people and the environment and also symbolise a particular form of identity for Uafato - Tiavea communities. To date the traditional lifestyles is intact and continuously strengthened through the local governance of the faasamoa (Samoan way of life), the matai system (chiefs), and the interrelations of the people and its environment (va tapui'a), traditions and cultures. Hence the application of traditional conservation practices is enforced as a tool to protect and conserve its natural environment. Uafato has a very unique socio-cultural situation and the economic benefits of having a conservation site extends at the local, national and regional level. The combination of Uafato's lush rainforest, rugged topography, accessible waterfalls, considerable species diversity, coral reefs and unique cultural features gives the Uafato - Tiavea area great significance and potential for consideration as a possible nomination under "mixed site" for Samoa's Tentative list.

Fagaloa Bay is located on the eastern part of Upolu Island, known as the long bay is a ford-like formation of mountains that rise directly out of the water and forms the villages of Sauano, Saletele, Musumusu, Salimu, Taelefaga, Maasina, Lona, Samamea and Uafato. The distinctive features of the Fagaloa area portrays some of the most interesting myths and legends which to date are considered invaluable and relevant to the peoples' cultural lifestyle. The following myths and legends support the importance of these unique physical features in the Fagaloa Uafato area and its close association to the landscape of the area.

At the base of the bay lies the village Taelefaga at the mouth of the Malata river on a sandy alluvial soil. To the east above the villages of Lona and Uafato several waterfalls descend along the wall of mountain forests. On the western side is mountain Fao with spurs dissolving seaward into several surf-battered cliffs called Utuloa. Like the Fao in the west, the more broadly shaped Malata waterfall raises in the east. Further east lies Uafato bay at the eastern base of Malata which displays a spectacular view of lush rainforest and waterfalls. Facing the sea are single, tall, free-standing cliff pyramids and near the western cape are several caves into which the surf crashes. This landscape displays an outstanding aesthetic beauty rarely seen throughout Samoa.

(i) Origin of the name Utuele

The site around Uafato where the clay was harvested is sacred, and is located near Cape Utuele, 'ele' the Samoan word for clay. The origin of the name Utuele is told through the legend of Tuimanu'a (a paramount chief of Manu'a, one of the islands in the Samoan archipelago) and his deformed son born without lower limbs. Tuimanua requested his friend Folasa (a godly spirit) in Savaii for assistance for limbs. A covenant was then made between the men for Tuimanua to cast a portion of their meals to the sea as an offering for his son Kapuna. Upon receiving limbs from Folasa's son Kapuna, Tuimanu'a returned to Manu'a via Uafato. However Tuimanua did not honor his word and as a result the limbs started to dissolve and turned into blood. They arrived at a place between Uafato and Tiavea where the bleeding stopped hence, the area is renowned with its red earth today known as Cape Utuele.

(ii) The Lufasiaitu Legend

Lufasiaitu known to be half human and half spirit lived on the coast of Uafato with a farm of forbidden chickens (moa sa) which only Lufasiaitu can eat. Whilst Lufasiaitu lived on the coast, Tagaloalagi known as the god of the heavens lived on the top of the mountains known as the tenth heaven. The taboo was put to test when members of Tagaloalagi's clan residing on the heavens attacked and ate Lufasiaitu's forbidden chicken. Lufasiaitu found out and in his fury raged war against Tagaloa and slaughtered his clan starting from the first heaven (mountain) right up to the eighth heaven. Seeing that his clan has been decimated, Tagaloa decided to make peace to Lufasiaitu by offering his only daughter Leamoa as his wife and to appease for the wrongdoing made by his clan. Thus, the origins of the following expressions widely used these days in Samoa's oratory:-

"Faalava Leamoa" meaning being lain across the path

"Tulouna le lagi"- oratory phrase used to seek acceptance when attending a chief's funeral

Origin of the name Samoa - from Lu's forbidden chickens

(iii) Legend of Moso

Along the western coast of Uafato bay is the resting place of the ancestral god Moso known as the 'tietiega o moso'. This place consists of a chair (nofoa papa), dining table (laulau), branching tar0 (talo magamaga), and a ava bowl buried in the sand (tanoa faiava) all made of stone. This was his usual resting place to enjoy his ava with Lufasiaitu and Tagaloalagi. Moso's presence in the area was recognized by three unique sightings - a streak of light out in the sea, anyone fishing on this particular night will not catch any fish, and piles of fish bones and sea shells found at his resting place. To date the sudden outburst of rain or the abrupt surge of waves are signs to indicate when foreigners visit the resting place without permission.

(vi) Legend of Fatutoama

Fatutoama and Lufasiaitu lived at Uafato with their three sons, Niumea, Niuui and Niualava. Lufasiaitu went fishing and brought home a shark, he did not share with his family. Fatutoama was furious and left with the children for the mountains. During their journey the sons turned into stones until Fatutoama was left alone. Upon her last glance to see if Lufasiaitu was following, she too turned into a rock. Lufasiaitu became remorseful and went out in the ocean to find his family, but failed and turned into a reef. The stones of Fatutoama and her sons are located near the Afulilo valley and are significant cultural features of Uafato.

(v) Origin of the name Uafato

The name Uafato originated from the stacking of humans to build Lufasiaitu's house made of 100 human poles. One human was made to stand on the neck (ua) of the other to make one pole. Thus, the origin of the chiefly title 'Faleselau' (fale meaning house, selau - hundred) which bears reference to the hundred poles of Lufasiaitu's house.

(vi) Origin of the name Tiavea (from two versions)

Version one

Tuiavii a paramount chief discovered a headless man in the sea. Given that the area was unnamed he named it after this finding. That is, Tia, meaning head and avea meaning removed, thus the origin of Tiavea.

Version two

A man arrived ashore with his torso bitten off by a shark, hence the name 'muli'avea (muli meaning bottom), and avea meaning removed. Over the years, this did not settle well with the villagers who were ashamed of the name claiming that it was impolite. Therefore they decided to replace the name muliavea to Tiavea.

Physical features

The Fagaloa - Uafato is geologically one of the oldest settlements in Samoa of around 3,000 years old. (Green and Davidson 1981). During that time local clay was used to make pottery, called Lapita pottery. The underlying basalt in this area belongs to the Fagaloa Volcanic Series, dating from the Pliocene or early Pleistocene (up to 3 million years old).The age of this basalt explains the high degree of land dissection and the advanced stage of soil weathering.

The district is located 30 km from the capital of Apia in a remote area on north eastern Upolu, where the land rises steeply to 730 meters in altitude to sharp forest covered volcanic peaks. The volcanic cones and lava flows have been dissected into a dramatic landscape of rock walls, short steep-sided valleys and long, knife-edged ridges, unparalleled elsewhere in Samoa. The sea bed drops away sharply from the rocky cliffs and largely forested coastline. (Park, Hay, Whistler, Lovegrove, Ryan: 1992:67). The villages including Uafato line the narrow sandy beach zone, sheltered by coral reefs. Behind the settlements, gardens extend up the base of the cliff line to meet the forest. The forest area extends from the mountains to the sea and contains many of Samoa's rare forest birds, bat species and native trees like ifilele, a valuable tree in Samoa.

The inclusion of Tiavea village (41 km from Apia) in the Fagaloa-Uafato conservation zone is mainly due to the existence of the rainforest that geologically binds Uafato and Tiavea and also, to ensure the property is of sufficient size to enable protection and management of the natural values of the site. This is further complemented by the unique physical landscape of the area and its isolated location in the most eastern part of Upolu.

The Uafato conservation Area is 1400 hectares of land in the strip of coastal hills on the north eastern corner of Upolu Island, between Fagaloa Bay and the Ti'avea area, immediately to the south east. Uafato's forest is still relatively intact and uninterrupted from the mountains to the coast, and contains many of Samoa's rare forest birds including its national bird, the manumea, tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris) with at least seven other endemic bird species found in the same area.

The continued traditional economic importance of the rainforest to local people, the unsuitability of the land for agriculture or other conventional development, and the opportunities for income generation from forest conservation also contribute to the priority rating given to the site. Overall, according to Park et al (1992), the Uafato-Tiavea forest: 'fulfills better than any other area in Samoa the biological model of international nature conservation, the minimization of human impact on an environment and its natural processes'.

In terms of environmental awareness, the people of Uafato have considerable understanding and appreciation of their environment. The commitment by the community to help protect and conserve the resources includes restrictions on access to the forest and sea, bans on the use of chemical pesticides, dynamite and fish poisons.

Given the steep topography of the Uafato - Tiavea area, a small area of flat land is cultivated. Around 75% of agricultural land is covered with coconut. Other food crops include breadfruit, bananas, taamu (giant taro) and yam. Traditionally the application of land zoning is still widely practiced as a sustainable land management strategy. Located behind the village and extending inland is a coconut zone. Inland from this is a mixed crop zone of coconuts, cocoa, banana, taamu, taro, minor crops and fallow land and finally there is a third zone of taro plots.

Population and settlement

According to 2001 census the population of Uafato is around 234 residents with 29 households. The settlement pattern is based on the matai system whereby the chief is responsible for the allocation of land and total well being of the family. A notable feature in these communities is the layout of the extended families surrounding the high chief's residence and providing communal support amongst themselves and the village.

There is a strong relationship between the community and its natural environment in particular land which defines and directs the identity of all Samoans. Land provides proof of ancestral bonds and relations for all families. Utmost respect for the land is vital not only for the existence of man alone but myths and legends which makes one community unique from the other.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion V:

The Samoan social system

The unique social system in the villages has greatly contributed to the traditional uses of the forest and traditional farming practices. The continuation of traditional lifestyle (fa'a Samoa) in relation to traditional conservation practices along with the cultural heritage values of the area further complements the significance of the landscape as being of outstanding natural beauty. Myths and legends associated with the landscape provide deeper appreciation of the significance and the value of the area to the beliefs of the communities.

Uafato is a traditional village with a strong social system guided on the faa-Samoa or Samoan way of life. An essential element of the faa-Samoa is the faa-matai, or chiefly system which facilitates and ensures achievements of group activities benefits the whole community. The matais roles are highly recognized within the village council (fono) which has legal, judicial and executive powers. The council also has substantial influence on village life, in terms of regulating village activities and mediating disputes.

The aiga (extended family) stay close and loyal within their village and the matais are well respected and honoured. In addition the matai has responsibility for directing the use of family land and other assets belonging to the aiga, such as their labour.

Equally important is the role of churches on providing security and remains the focus of many social and economic activities in the village and the village pastor yields considerable influence on village life. In addition religion practices and offerings remain as essential components of family activities. There are customary practices such as village curfews enforced by the council for evening prayers and for security. Furthermore, Sundays are strictly observed by the whole community for everyone to attend church and no other activities are allowed.

Also noted are the supporting role of other relevant village groups such as Women's Committee, the Untitled men and Youths. Women play a very strong role as advisors in village affairs, especially in community activities such as village hygiene, sanitation and beautification. Traditionally, women are regarded as sacred covenant within the families (va tapui'a) and at present this covenant is now recognized by the whole community. The untitled men perform tasks directed by chiefs such as ensuring plantation plots provide sufficient food as well as maintaining the integrity of the environment. The practice of wood carving and handicrafls is common activity for both women and men.

Criterion VII:

- Uafato and Tiavea conservation zone exhibit exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance as displayed in its unique landscape which consists of very steep and dissected mountain peaks, rock walls, short steep-sided valleys and knife-edged ridges. The coastline is largely cliffed and rocky, except in the vicinity of Uafato village and other protected areas where there are small sandy beaches. There are a number of rivers and many of these rivers have waterfalls, such as the Malata waterfall with such spectacular view.

The rugged topography of the Uafato and Fagaloa areas has strong scenic attraction with the most dramatic area of mountainous country in Samoa. This scenic attraction of the mountains is enhanced by the numerous waterfalls which cascade down the mountainsides, especially in wet weather from April to November.

Criterion X:

The Uafato-Tiavea Conservation is one of the best remaining examples of coastal rain forest in Samoa and isunusual in having a closed canopy, harbouring relatively large numbers of birds and bats and stretching uninterrupted from the mountain tops right down to the sea. The marine component of the conservation area includes regenerating reefs with some interesting coral formations and potential for scuba and skin diving. The Uafato Bay is also known to be an important atule or big-eyed scad fishery (Selar crumenopthalmus) and local fishermen say the local fisheries are plentiful and relatively unexploited.

The Uafato conservation area includes most of the village lands or Uafato village and stretches from the coast upvery steep and highly dissected coastal mounlains along the neighbouring village of Tiavea. The rainforest in the vicinity of Uafato village was rated by the most recent and comprehensive ecological survey in Samoa as a grade 1 priority site for conservation (Park et al 1992). This rating is based largely on two major reasons. It is one of the very few areas left in Samoa where there is an intact band of rainforest from the sea to the interior uplands and, secondly it is thought to be one of the most viable areas anywhere in Samoa for a form of conservation that can sustain natural ecosystems in perpetuity at the same time as traditional forms of resource use (ibid). In addition, it has the largest remaining strand of ifilele (Intsia biiuaa), a tree of great cultural significance to Samoans. The area contains a number of rare bird and bat species and a range of lowland forest ecosystems unrepresented or poorly represented in Samoa's limited system of conservation areas.

The overall conservation significance of the Uafato Tiavea conservation area is considered by Park et al (1992:xix) to be of international as well as national value; and to be one of five key lowland areas for the conservation of the biological diversity in Samoa's coastal lowlands (Park et al 1992:69); Also considered by Lovegrove et al (19925) to be one of the four sites of greatest importance as high quality habitat for indigenous wildlife.

The status of vegetation in the area has been recorded to contains Samoa's "best and most ecologically diverse sequence of coastal to upland hill country forests " (Park et a1 1992:xv) and that at least 37% (278 species) of the native vascular plant species found in Samoa (Whistler 1997:8). Also the lntsia bijuga dominated lowland forest type that occurs on the ridges in Fagaloa-Uafato is unique to this area (Park et a1 1992:73). Other significance features already recorded in numerous reports include land birds and terrestrial mammals.

Land birds

The conservation is one of the highest priority sites for conservation of birds in Samoa (Park et a1 1992:43) and has a diversity and abundance of the rare and more endangered species of birds (Park et a1 1992:67). It also provides habitat for six of the eight Samoan endemics (the Samoan Fantail, Samoan Triller, Tooth-billed pigeon, Samoan Whistler, Samoan Broadbill and Flat-billed Kingfisher) and the two Samoan Archipelago endemics (the Mao and Samoan Starling) (Lovegrove et a1 1992:12-13; Park et a1 1992:74). Also provides habitat for the 'endangered' Tooth-billed Pigeon and the 'vulnerable' Samoan Broadbill (Lovegrove et a1 199232-13; Park et a1 1992:74).

Terrestrial mammals

It provides habitat for the Samoan and Tongan Flying Foxes (Park et a1 1992:75)

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The authenticity of the Fagaloa Bay - Uafato I Tiavea conservation zone is demonstrated through a series of factors such as the strong prevalence of the faa-Samoa ( matai system ), its unique topography and myths and legends associated to the landscape. The matai system also the social system governs the way of life through the guidance of council of chiefs. The virtual remoteness of Uafato may have a direct link to the commitment of the community to protect its environment based on the principles of its matai system. The area has one of the most unique and rough landscape features which provides a spectacular scenery and sense of tranquility not experienced in any other parts of Samoa. The unique cultural features located in the area illustrate myths and legends traditionally believed as the source of expressions used in the language of oratory.

The sustainable management of the conservation area by the communities with the application of traditional conservation strategies supported and recognized by the council of chiefs. Few of Samoa's endemic fauna and flora are found in the conservation area. Maintaining the integrity of the conservation and the natural resources will provide benefits at the local, national and regional level.

It is also to note that Samoa under the Convention on Biological Diversity which it became party to in 1994, conducted a national inventory for its fauna and flora for both marine and terrestrial species. The study identified 14 ecosystems as the highest priority for conservation based on rarity and threats (Schuster, 2001). The Cultural Affairs Division when it was under the previous Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture established a documented series of traditional folklores and cultural activities, starting from 1997 up till now. This documented series is a compilation of Oral Traditions and Legends of Samoa from Volume 1 to 5 and they are called the "Samoa Ne'I Galo" ( Lest You Forget ) with financial assistance from UNESCO. The inventory of cultural sites identified in this series also covers those sites considered priority areas for conservation. This series was produced to record andpreserve oral traditions and legends of the Samoan islands, which forms parts of our cultural identity.

In addition, UNESCO (Thorburn, 2002) conducted a study for the Samoan Archipelago in 2002 suggested in this study the potential for the islands to be nominated, as a serial site for the conservation of biological diversity is important for outstanding universal value under natural heritage. The numbers of sites suggested are mostly identified in previous studies of Samoan ecosystem as priority areas for conservation due to their biological diversity significance in terms of species and ecosystems.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Uafato conservation zone, Fageloa bay and Ti'avea area, proposed as a mixed site, is unique in this category since there're no mixed sites in the World Heritage list in the same region, with a similar geology and, above all, with people still following the same cultural patterns as their ancestors.

From the 25 mixed sites actually registered in the WHL, only the Laponian Area, in Sweden, is actually inhabited by the same people who have been living there for centuries.

The other mixed sites contain archaeological remains and traces of human have been living there in a perfect harmony with the nature for a long time. Some of this places, with a remarkable natural and cultural heritage like Machu Picchu (Peru), Mount Taishan (China) ou Ukhlahlamba I Drakensberg Park (South Africa), contain archaeological evidences of people living in a perfect harmony with the environment many centuries and millenniums ago but actually they have been replaced by another populations or they are not inhabited anymore.

Nevertheless, the site proposed by Samoa is the living example of a relationship between a community and her environment unchanged from the beginning of the settlements in the region, more than 3000 years ago. The geographical isolation of the place and the roots with the traditional customs of the whole country allow the access to special place which represents one of the most pure, old and essential interaction between humanity and nature in the world.

The site of Fagaloa Bay, Uafato conservation zone and Tiavea, inhabited from more than three millenniums, contains therefore the first archaeological remains of the first pottery which has been made in the Pacific, the Lapita pottery, and the living heritage of every customs at that time above all those related to the use of the land.

The place is like an island inside in other island and the relationships between the people and the environment are stronger than in other places of Upolu because of the relief and the geographical characteristics of the terrain, which create an access very complicated.

Besides the "living tradition", the site has a unique geology in the framework of the mixed sites registered in the World Heritage List because it's a rainforest which has grown in a volcanic island. The only mixed sites of volcanic origin are Tongariro National Park (New Zealand), where there are extint and actifs volcanos, and the volcanic archipelago of St. Kilda (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), comprising the islands of Hirta, Dun, Soay and Boreray. Nevertheless no one of them has rainforest besides of the volcanic rocks.

The only mixed sites with rainforest or subtropical forest are Tasmanian Wilderness (Australia), Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area (China), Mount Wuyi (China) and Rio Abiseo National park (Peru). No one of them has a volcanic origin or populations living there in the traditional way.

About the natural heritage, and compared to the other mixed sites, the variety of endemic species (especially birds and plants) is very abundant, as well as the lowland and coastal biodiversity, compared to the other mixed sites. The big variety of natural features which are presents in such a small space is also comparable to other islands that, because of their insularity, promote the development of a lot of endemic species and natural phenomena (waterfalls, caves, coral reefs ...) in very little spaces. In that way, the biodiversity could be similar to the other pacific islands registered in the World Heritage List as natural sites like the Galapagos Islands (Equator), Henderson Island (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Hawaii volcanoes National Park (United States of America), East Rennell (Solomon lslands) and Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica). In that sense, we can also compare the site, from the biodiversity point of view with another islands registered as World Heritage sites in the Atlantic Ocean as Gough and Inaccessible islands (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Laurisilva of Madeira (Portugal) and National Park of Garajonay (Spain); and more islands of the lndic Ocean as Heard and McDonald Islands (Australia), Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles) and Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve (Seychelles).

Besides all the other natural and cultural features, the traditional way of living of the populations which habit the site (use of the land, use of the resources, fishing ...) sustain the natural ecosystem in perpetuity, and that's the best guarantee of the natural conservation, a intrinsic characteristic very hard to find in another sites of the List.