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Impacts of modernisation on traditional food resource management and food security on Eauripik atoll, Federated States of Micronesia

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This paper discusses the changes that are occurring in the management of food resources in a remote Pacific community due to modernising influences, such as the introduction of imported food and outboard motors as well as contemporary trends, such as emigration and greater population mobility. The paper focuses on several social circumstances observed during a seven month fieldwork period, many of which drive consumption of imported goods. Noting parallels to other isolated communities in the region, generalised observations are made and conclusions reached on the importance of understanding the social effects of ‘modernising’ projects for community food security.

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  1. The word ‘household’ is used here in a very broad sense, usually comprising a number of dwellings as well as those living outside these dwellings who share the same food e.g. those who have been adopted by existing household members. It is worth noting that adoption is quite common in Pacific communities and provides food claims to multiple households—see Brady 1976.

  2. Although other ilets shared childcare responsibilities and, in the process, created the potential for additional sharing.

  3. It is worth noting that these were not necessarily the same foods as those for which the sharing ilets had received extra portions.

  4. N.B. The 2000 census (Government of the Federated States of Micronesia 2002) also confirmed the disproportionate impacts of emigration between men and women on Eauripik. In 2000 just 42 men were recorded as being resident on the island, compared to 71 women.

  5. When compared both to other islands in the region and more generally.

  6. e.g. during fieldwork, community members identified six distinct types of banana that had been introduced, three types of introduced breadfruit, and three types of introduced coconut palm. Community members identified the origin of each, with some from as far away as Sonsorol in the Republic of Palau.

  7. Dahl (1989) recorded such introductions in New Caledonia and Falanruw (1989) in Yap. The first author of this paper has observed such introductions on Pohnpei (1999) and Pollock (1996) recorded them in the Marshalls, and so on across the Pacific. Falanruw (1989) noted that the diversity of cultivars of taro may have been important in Yap’s avoidance of outbreaks of disease caused by Phytophthora colocasiae which have damaged the less diversified taro crops of islands such as Bougainville and Manus (1989:37).

  8. Despite this, the rate of return is still highly variable (confirmed empirically in the Torres Strait by Bird et al. 2002) and fisherman may come back with little to show for their efforts. The popularity of skiff-based trolling, notwithstanding the uncertainty of the catch and the considerable financial outlay for gas, is clearly demonstrated by the fact that there is never any difficulty in collecting a team to go trolling when a skiff is being used. Furthermore, given the prestige gained from returning from a successful expedition it is not difficult to appreciate why the method is so attractive.

  9. N.B. The nuts are generally allowed to sprout.

  10. These pigs are fed on leftovers as well as some fresh vegetable matter.


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The research was principally funded by Dr. G. W. Zimmer, David Cross FRGS and The Royal Geographic Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). Space forbids a complete listing of the many who assisted the project, however in the field the valuable and insightful assistance of Tino Igesug and Simon C. Adams was of great importance as was the continued support of Cdre. R. G. Bryan, Charles E. J. Tee and Simon C. Adams on the authors’ return. Any omissions or errors are the sole responsibility of the authors.

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The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Andrew Scourse.

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Scourse, A., Wilkins, C. Impacts of modernisation on traditional food resource management and food security on Eauripik atoll, Federated States of Micronesia. Food Sec. 1, 169–176 (2009).

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