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languages: Samoan, English
Head of state: Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi
Prime minister: Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi
The Independent State of Samoa
Samoa - Agriculture :
agriculture occupies 43% of the land area,
employs about 65% of the labor force, and makes
up about 50% of GDP. Most Samoans grow food
crops for home consumption and cash crops for
export. Village agriculture, in which the family
is the productive unit, involves the largest
areas of land, occupies the preponderance of the
labor force, and produces the major portion of
food and cash crops. Coconut products, cocoa,
taro, and bananas are produced for export, and
bananas, taro, and taamu are grown for local
sale. Village plantings are invariably mixed,
containing some or all of the following crops:
coconuts, cocoa, bananas, taro, taamu,
breadfruit, sugarcane, yams, manioc, and various
fruits. Plantation agriculture has been
controlled mainly by non-indigenous residents.
Exports of unprocessed copra have been largely
replaced by coconut oil, coconut cream, and
copra cake. Due to a decline in world prices,
coconut production fell to 95,000 tons in 1992.
In 1999, coconut production was estimated at
130,000 tons. Taro (coco yam) production in 1999
amounted to 37,000 tons. Taro production dropped
97% in 1993/94 due to leaf blight, and the
government is working on methods to control the
disease. Exports of cocoa have fallen in recent
years, thereby discouraging production. Since
1991, no production over 1,000 tons has been
reported. Banana exports fluctuate greatly from
year to year. Exports of agricultural products
in 2001 amounted to $5.1 million, while
agricultural imports totaled $17.7 million that
Paraguay one of South America's least densely populated countries experienced more than three decades of dictatorship under Alfredo Stroessner who was ousted in 1989 and died in exile in 2006.
The end of his iron-fisted rule did not bring political stability. Factional splits led to the assassination of a vice-president the resignation of a president and an attempted coup.
Stroessner's party the National Republican Association-Colorado Party survived his departure and remained in power until 2008. In elections in April it was defeated by the centre-left Patriotic Alliance for Change led by Fernando Lugo.
Up to 95% of Paraguayans are mestizos people of mixed Spanish and native American descent. Many speak the language of the indigenous Guarani; the rest are bilingual or only speak Spanish. There is a Japanese community a legacy of post World War II migration.
With few mineral resources Paraguay's economy revolves around agriculture. The 1990s saw slow steady growth but by 2002 the economy was in serious trouble partly because of a financial crisis in neighbouring Argentina. Emergency loans - conditional on economic reforms - were negotiated with the IMF.
Corruption is widespread and Paraguay is a centre for smuggling money laundering and organised crime.
The commercialisation of agriculture population growth and forest clearances have led to a dramatic increase in the number of landless families.
This has boosted migration into urban areas and shanty towns have burgeoned. Around 60% of Paraguayans live in poverty.
Much of the north-west is taken up by the Chaco a vast and largely uninhabited plain. Paraguay and Bolivia fought over it in the 1930s; the war left 100000 dead.
Leftist former bishop Fernando Lugo achieved an historic victory in Paraguay's presidential election in April 2008 defeating the ruling party candidate and ending 61 years of conservative rule.
Mr Lugo won with nearly 41 percent of the vote compared to almost 31 percent for Blanca Ovelar of the Colorado Party.
The 56-year-old Mr Lugo served as a Roman Catholic bishop in one of Paraguay's poorest areas until stepping down in December 2006 saying he felt powerless to help the country's poor. He embarked on a political career promising to tackle inequality and corruption.
On taking office in August 2008 he vowed to deliver on land reform - a key issue in a predominantly agrarian economy.
But his party the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC) does not have a majority in either house of the Paraguayan Congress and the Colorado Party which still has a strong presence in Congress has threatened to block his reforms.
In 2009 he resisted calls for his resignation after he admitted that he fathered an illegitimate child during his time as a Catholic bishop.
Newspapers and broadcasters air a range of views including those of the opposition. But journalists investigating corruption or covering strikes and protests risk intimidation and media outlets sometimes face legal harassment.
Reporters Without Borders the media rights body said in 2007 that journalists "do not dare probe too deeply into scandals involving politicians".
Unlicensed radio stations have flourished in the "tri-border area" where the frontiers of Paraguay Brazil and Argentina meet.