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PLaNET : Presentation of the program: customary land and food security

The Pacific Land Network
(April 2023)
Statement of Intent :

The Pacific Land Network - for food security (PLaNet) network aims to bring together knowledge, perspectives and recommendations on land and coastal use in the countries (states and territories, regardless of status) of the Pacific region, with a particular focus on the cultural and economic values attached to the range of 'customary' land and sea rights.

To this end, the network brings together, on a voluntary basis, specialists in these issues from all research institutions and organisations, national and international, concerned with food security and sustainable development.

The network aims to produce field analyses of the current situation and short and medium-term perspectives (in the form of recommendations / policy briefs), but also to bring together existing, relatively recent publications based on field experiences. All humanities and social science disciplines are involved: law-economics-management; anthropology-sociology-history; relations between customary law and state law (whether the state in question is an independent Pacific state or a state 'administering' a Pacific territory); linguistic issues (the vocabulary of land status, its evolution, etc.); arts and literature, even works of fiction, but with customary land as the central theme.

In addition to regular long-distance exchanges, the network plans to meet once a year, in hybrid mode (in person and by video-conference), depending on the material means available.

First Scientific partnerships :

The programme was formulated following two scientific exchanges. On the one hand, in September 2021, the symposium "Land in Polynesia", organised at the University of French Polynesia, by Prof. Sandrine Sana-Chaillé-de-Néré, from the GDI Governance and Insular Development Laboratory, where several members of the CREDO have participated.
On the other hand, a series of informal meetings, during 2022, between CREDO ( (Pr. Serge Tcherkézoff) and the Land Tenure Team ( of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (Dr. Antoine Hochet). These exchanges led Serge Tcherkezoff and Antoine Hochet to ask whether the National University of Samoa (the NUS: could host this programme, which was accepted in November 2022. The secretariat is now established in the Faculty of Arts (FOA) (we are grateful to Aiono Prof. Alec Ekeroma who was the Vice-Chancellor and President of the NUS until the end of 2022 and to Saui'a Dr Louise Matai'a, Dean of the Faculty of Arts).

Why Samoa?

Two reasons:
1) The FAO Regional Office for the Pacific is located in Samoa (One UN House, Apia
2) Samoa is an illuminating example of the importance of customary land tenure.


"In 2015, 85.3 percent of lands in Samoa were held as 'Customary land', 1.2 percent were held as 'Leased customary land', 1.2 percent were held as 'Leased government land', 10.8 percent were held as 'Own freehold land', 0.8 percent were held as 'Leased freehold land', and 0.7 percent were listed as 'other' (Government of Samoa. 2016. Agricultural Survey 2015 Report. Apia, Samoa: Samoa Bureau of Statistics., p.3). The Constitution defines customary land as 'land held from Western Samoa in accordance with Samoan custom and usage and with the law relating to Samoan custom and usage.' (Section 101.2) (The Land and Titles Act 1981 provides a similar definition, but also sets out how freehold and public lands can be made customary."
(Iati Iati : « The Implications of Applying the Torrens System to Samoan Customary Lands: Alienation through the LTRA 2008 », Journal of South Pacific Law (USP), 2016,Volume 18, pp. 66-88.

Samoa is also an exemplary case in terms of the constitutional importance given to customary land tenure, with a double lock: any change would require a 2/3 vote of the national parliament and a national referendum subject to a vote of the entire population. Debates on this issue are at the heart of Samoan national politics, as was illustrated in the most recent national consultation (April 2021)

Statement by FAO Land Tenure Unit:

"Tenure is crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people. For many, their food security is linked to their tenure security. People with weak, insecure tenure rights risk losing their means to support themselves if they lose their access to natural resources. Women often have weaker tenure rights where there is discrimination in laws and customs. Tenure systems define who can use which natural resources, for how long and under what conditions. Many tenure problems are caused by weak governance and attempts to address them are affected by the quality of governance. » ( (page 1)

See next document "PlaNet-List" for the Ongoing scientific partnerships

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