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Building cyclone resilient villages in Samoa

World Bank
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Samoa's nine islands lay in an area prone to tropical cyclones. In 1990 and 1991, despite a less than a one-in-a-hundred-years probability, Samoa experienced two catastrophic cyclones, Ofa and Val, with winds in excess of 200 kilometers per hour. The impact was disastrous-causing more than US$500 million dollars in damage, sweeping whole villages out to sea, wrecking critical infrastructure and flooding the capital, Apia. They destroyed 80 percent of crops and around 60 percent of coral reefs and coastal fishing grounds. In 2004, Cyclone Heta, also a Category Five storm, hit Samoa again, inflicting damage equivalent to 15 percent of GDP.


The Samoa Cyclone Emergency Recovery Project took a twofold approach. The first goal was to assist the government in post cyclone reconstruction. The second goal was to reduce Samoa's vulnerability to natural hazards and to develop villages that could withstand catastrophic cyclones. The project drew on the Coastal Infrastructure Management Strategy devised between 2000 and 2002 (under the IDA-supported Infrastructure Asset Management Project, Phases 1 and 2) to help the government better administer its seaside natural resources and mitigate the effects of cyclones.

Beaches and coral reefs are critical to increasing resilience and protecting coastal villages from storm damage. Improving these natural protections was central to project design. To further protect coastal areas from erosion, flooding and landslides, seawalls were to be constructed, mangroves planted and fragile ecosystems nurtured toward recovery.


Renovation was performed in compliance with the action plans developed under the Coastal Infrastructure Management Strategy. Community groups also received small grants to accelerate ecosystem restoration and make coastal environments more resilient to future hazards. The model proved to be so effective that the number of subprojects was doubled to 50, involving 28 villages across the entire country.

Despite being a post disaster project with the immediate goal of furthering reconstruction and restoration, the project increased national awareness of disaster risk reduction to future cyclones and the adaptations needed to cope with climate change.


- Communities were consulted to develop projects that would help protect them from future cyclones. In total, 50 small ecosystem-related community projects were completed, including communal freshwater pools, establishment of sand dunes, mangrove plantations and "no-catch" marine protection areas.

- By 2008, 24 kilometers of sea wall were rehabilitated to protect coastal villages, and four bridges were rebuilt.

- The project was very successful in generating semi- and low-skilled paid employment for Samoans during implementation.

- A hazard-management education campaign increased national awareness and helped the government and villages to manage responses to and plan for natural disasters.

- Mayors and villagers in the eight communities most affected by the cyclone received interactive training with technical specialists to develop detailed coastal recovery plans for their villages.


The total project cost was US$6.05 million, which was financed by an IDA grant (US$2.37 million), an IDA credit (US$2.01 million) and the Government of Samoa (US$1.67 million).

Next Steps

Several of the community-led initiatives (such as freshwater pools, sand dune protection and recovery, and no-fish zones) continue. IDA is working with the government to pilot small-scale community initiatives identified in the Cyclone Infrastructure Management plans. Under this initiative, the Ministry of Environment will also pilot a few of the larger management plan proposals for scaling up if modeling proves successful.

Learn More

Samoa Cyclone Emergency Recovery Project (2004-08)

Project documents