This was Seacology’s first project, and an excellent example of our win-win strategy: A rainforest was saved; a school was built.
It all started when the government of Samoa told the remote village of Falealupo that if they did not build a better school, teachers would be removed and their children would not be educated. Having no other source of revenue, the villagers sold logging rights to the pristine rainforests surrounding Falealupo. Before any trees were felled, however, Seacology cofounder and chairman Paul Cox heard about the plan. He worked with the village chiefs and promised to raise the funds for a school in exchange for a promise to protect the 30,000-acre rainforest. Back in the United States, he worked with others, including Seacology board member Ken Murdock, to raise the funds. The village built the Falealupo Rainforest School, and has had a close relationship with Seacology ever since.
In recognition of this achievement, in 1997 Cox and the late High Chief Fuiono Senio received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Cox used his prize stipend, with matching donations from Nu Skin International and Nature’s Way, to create a permanent endowment for the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve. Also in 1997, Seacology funded the Falealupo Rainforest Canopy Aerial Walkway to help the community generate revenue from ecotourism. At the dedication ceremony, village leaders announced they would extend the 50-year covenant and protect the rainforest in perpetuity. Since 2000, the village has used revenue from the canopy walkway to fund a modest retirement fund for village elders.