We often hear the saying that- “Whatever is good for Apia is also good for Savai’i, Manono, Apolima and the rural areas as well.”
It is indeed one of the most common phrases we hear whenever our Government leaders open a new development in the rural areas and Savaii.
And Puni Tupuola from Matāutu Lefaga believes that it’s about time our government start brining big companies and shops to the rural areas as well.
The 42-year-old told the Samoa Observer yesterday that the government needs to decentralize the development of Samoa to the rural areas.
“It’s about time we decentralize the development of Samoa and start bringing some big companies back here in the villages,” he says. “That will provide job opportunities for the people here in the villages as well.”
“I think the life style will be similar if we start bringing some of the big shops and companies back here in the villages. That will provide job opportunities for the people back here in the village because we depend on that to help our families. Because if we don’t work, we will not get any money. And if you have a plantation as well, we need to wait for containers to export boxes of taro only then we can earn money.”
In his opinion, living in town is very different from living in the villages in the rural areas.
“The big differences we’ve seen are the tall buildings and the development we see in Apia,” he says.
“There are a lot of Chinese shops in Apia. Back here in the village, we mostly depend on plantation and agriculture for food and to earn money for our families.”
He went on to say that the main challenge for them is transportation, especially those who work in Apia.
“I work in Apia,” he says. “The main challenge is transportation, especially for us who are working in Apia.”
“The good thing about life here in the villages is that we have lands here back in the villages for us to grow our crops to help out our families.”
“But the good thing about life in Apia is that it is closer to work and easy for people to go to work. Because it’s hard for us to travel from here to go to Apia.”
Another challenge he says is transporting and taking of their products such as taro and other crops to the market to sell.
“It would’ve been nice if we have our own markets back here in the village to sell our crops like the market at Afega.”
“For Apia, there are no lands and most people do not have plantations therefore, they go straight to these markets to buy taro and banana from.”
As most people in the people in the villages depend heavily on agriculture for food and to earn money, Puni believes that the access roads (auala galue) of the villages should be fixed.
“A lot of vehicles we have in the village cannot go to the plantations because it is the main source of income for these families.”
“People will be encouraged to go and work on their plantations if we have good roads. And it will be easy for them to go to their plantations.
“Because we now have a lot of containers exporting taro to overseas countries as well.
“If the roads are fixed, it will be easy to get to the plantation even if we have a taxi. But at the moment, the people are walking to their plantations and by the time they get to the plantation, they will be very tired from walking and they will not do much work when they get to the plantation. But if the roads are in good condition, people will be motivated to go and work as well.
“At the moment the auala galue of our village is not in good condition.
“The other villages are okay but not us. For the village of Vaovai, most people now uses their taxis to go to the plantation and they also call up a taxi to pick them up when they are done. That’s the big difference compared to the past. Back in the days, we didn’t have cars and people had to walk all the way to the plantations. But that’s a big change we have now.”
Speaking of development, another great development Puni believes is improving is the standard of education in the rural areas.
“To me, the teachers back here in the village are the same to the teachers in Apia,” he says.
“Some students from the schools back here in the village in the previous years had higher marks and grades than other students in Apia as well, and that’s a sign.
“The teachers are the same. But it’s all up to students and their parents to do the work.” Puni believes that parents should push their children and help them with their studies and so they can succeed.
Nevertheless, he also added that the strong village councils in the rural areas is what makes life in the villages safe and peaceful.
“Another good thing about living here in the village is the safe and secure authority of the village councils.
“Everyone in the village is under the watch and care of the matai’s in the village. Whoever wants to show that they are smart is under the watch of the village council. And no matter what happens, the village council has the authority and power to control the behaviors of the people in the village. Especially when it comes to issues concerning youth and alcohol.
“In Apia, the police are in charge of these issues and they (police) also depends on the village council to help them with their work.
“But back here in the village, we hardly take up such cases to the police. We always solve the issues back here in the villages whenever there are problems with the youths in the villages. They are taken care of by the village councils. They (village council) give them advice and teach them on how to live their lives. Because I don’t know if we ever had any cases where we had to take the youths of our villages to the police because of any misbehaviors.
“For example, if someone is caught stealing something in our country, the police will come and take you because it’s against the law.
“But here in the villages, we just go to the village mayor and then raise the issue up in the village council, then brings them in during the village council and they will decide on a punishment for them, and then that’s it.
“All in all, I’m used to the life here in the village.”
Puni Tupuola is an officer of the Fire and Service Emergency Authority. He resides with his wife, Maria Tupuola and they have five children.