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Rehabilitated freshwater pool brings joy to Vini Fou residents

APIA, SAMOA – 20 FEBRUARY 2023: Residents of Vini Fou celebrated the restoration and rehabilitation of their freshwater pool, Punaoleola last Friday. The project was implemented under the EFKS Vini Fou’s Conserving our Natural Spring and Waterways Project.

The project has not only increased people’s awareness of the importance of conserving fresh water resources, but has also improved the quality of the surrounding ecosystem for future generations.

Living up to its name, which means “spring of life,” the Punaoleola pool has been the source of fresh water for the Vini Fou community for many years for bathing, drinking and providing a place to sustainably grow watercress.

However, natural disasters, human activities and pollution over the years led to the deterioration of the pool.

“The biggest benefit for the community now, thanks to this project, is having a clean pool, and the protection of the springs within the pool because they had been vulnerable to soil erosion. With a proper enclosure now in place, it is much safer and cleaner for the community to enjoy,” said Leota Victory Leavai, Project Coordinator.

The EFKS Vini Fou project, which cost about $55,000 Talā, was funded under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP). The project supports national efforts to conserve and protect freshwater sources and reduce land-based pollution.

Pool shelter
Pool shelter

This shelter was built under the project for people who want to take a rest and enjoy the cool air.

“The Punaoleola pool essentially reflects the mission of the Small Grants Programme, which is to support communities by providing financial and technical assistance to projects that aim to conserve and restore the environment and natural resources, while enhancing people’s wellbeing,” said Lepale Aussie Simanu, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative.

“The UNDP GEF-SGP congratulates the Vini Fou community, particularly the project committee, for their diligence and perseverance to see the project through to its successful completion.”

Awareness-raising activities were held at the beginning of the project with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on the importance of conserving the freshwater source.

Other project activities included adopting village by-laws to enforce the protection of the pool, conducting tree planting initiatives, reinforcing the wall of the pool to prevent soil erosion, growing watercress in the freshwater pool, and creating signage for awareness raising. A training programme for the youth and children on the importance of removing algae and carnivorous fish from the pool was also held.

Watercress is grown
Watercress is grown

Watercress is grown at one end of the pool – a long-time practice of the village, which they were able to maintain and enhance under the restoration project.

“The community is now more aware and have a new found appreciation of the benefits of the pool, and are now taking better care of it. The primary beneficiaries are the children because they swim in it every day, and the experience is now more enjoyable,” said Aumua Clark Peteru, Vice President of the EFKS Vini Fou Project Committee.

Most of the adults come in the evening and use it for bathing. Watercress is also grown at the end of the pool, as there is also as a shelter for people who want to take a rest and enjoy the cool air. It can also be a source of drinking water if boiled, and has the potential to be a stand-by source for us and other nearby villages in case of a drought. It can also be used for the crops. The water is also deeper and cooler now because of the rehabilitation work that had been done, which also includes proper sealing of the sides,” said Aumua.