Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Samoans are horticulturalists, raising tubers (taro and yams) on a swidden basis. They also grow bananas, breadfruit, and coconuts and supplement their diet through fishing. They raise chickens and pigs, too, but pork is reserved as a special food for ceremonial occasions. Hunting for runaway pigs is still practiced with the help of dogs, but it's probably done more for sport than for food. Pigeon snaring also formerly served as an entertainment and as a sporting event. Terracing and irrigation are not practiced. There are small house gardens for raising staple foods in the back of the households, but the main taro gardens often lie 3-4 kilometers farther inland. The primary cultigens are taro and breadfruit. Contact with Europeans resulted in the addition of new sorts of bananas and vegetables, which are grown today mainly by the small Chinese population for consumption and sale. Many Samoan families earn a small income by selling coconuts to the Western Samoan Trust Estate Corporation, which does the processing. There are many small family businesses, shops, and guest houses, the majority of them in Apia, the capital of Western Samoa. In many local communities there is a small shop where locals can buy a limited range of products, many of them imported.
Industrial Arts. Aboriginal crafts included the making of bark cloth, house building, boat building, and tattooing. House builders, boat builders, and tattooers were organized in guilds. They met the demands of prestige consumption, since small boats and houses were and are built by the male members of each household. Mat weaving is practiced by women.
Trade. There was only a limited amount of interregional trade in precontact times. Samoan fine mats (' ie tōga ) were exchanged for parrots and red parrot feathers from Tonga and sometimes from Fiji. Intraregional trade, too, was Limited. Some regions and places were noted for their products, such as nets, which are said to have been made mostly by towns in the interior. Some places were noted for their boats, adzes, and kava bowls. After contact with the Europeans, trade of coconut products (oil and copra) was encouraged by the missionaries, but it became a regular and important activity only after the German firm of Godeffroy and Son from Hamburg founded a branch in Apia, Western Samoa, in 1857. Traders were stationed in Samoa and on other Pacific islands, but there was also direct trading with the Samoans. In 1865, the firm established its first coconut plantations. Today, Western Samoa is dependent on the world market, its three most important export items being copra, cocoa, and bananas. Western Samoan governments seek to promote tourism, and beer brewing may develop into a profitable enterprise, at least for the regional market.
Division of Labor. Men do the more strenuous agricultural work, such as clearing and planting with a pointed hardwood digging stick, while women may weed and help in harvest activities. Men are responsible for fishing beyond the reef and for cooking; they engage in toolmaking, house and boat building, and ornament making. Women look after the household, raise the children, and plait mats and fans; formerly they also made bark cloth. They collect edible wild plants to supplement the diet and they forage in the lagoon and reef for small sea animals.
Land Tenure. Aboriginally, the widest social unit for landownership was the community (nu'u). Its domain included all the territory from the central mountain ridge to the reef. The heads ( matai ) of the different descent groups ( 'āiga ) of the community were entitled to claim blocks of land for themselves and their dependents. Overall authority over lands, however, was vested in the council of matai (fono), whose members could revoke ownership of the respective 'āiga. Individuals had the right to occupy and cultivate the land of the descent group to which they belonged. When Western Samoa became independent, 80.5 percent of its territory was still considered customary land, administered outside the statute law in accordance with traditional principles of tenure; 3.7 percent of the land was freehold; 11.3 percent was government land; and the Western Samoan Trust Estate Corporation owned 4.5 percent. American Samoa, too, has provisions that restrict ownership of land to Samoans.