Futuna - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Futuna is a very fertile island with high rainfall, so everything grows well. The main dietary items are starchy vegetables with a little accompaniment, such as coconut, fish, or a faikai pudding. Taro and yams are the main root crops grown on a rotational System; breadfruit, bananas, and coconuts are also important. All of these crops are liable to cyclone damage such as that inflicted by Cyclone Raja in December 1986. At the eastern end of the island where the coastal belt is narrow, plantations are cut into the hillside; at the western end, extensive fields of irrigated taro are planted. Fishing is limited because of the lack of a protecting reef and high seas for most of the year. Men fish in the shelter of Alofi Island, using the few boats that are owned jointly; older women fish on the reef for smaller fish. Pigs predominate in the villages, roaming around their households and on the reef where they scavenge for food; each family has its own pigs as these are the main representation of wealth. Formerly copra was sold; now the people rely for cash on the few administrative and public-works jobs, the sale of handicrafts, pensions for those over age 60, and occasional gifts from relatives in New Caledonia.

Industrial Arts. Women spend a good part of their time weaving mats and beating tapa; both these items are shipped to New Caledonia as gifts for relatives and for sale. Some of the mats are also used locally as gifts on large communal occasions.

Trade. Goods are imported from New Caledonia for sale in Futuna, or sent as gifts by relatives. Futuna's imports far outweigh its exports, especially since copra has ceased to be a marketable crop.

Division of Labor. Men cultivate the land, including both household plots and the plantations farther afield. This task requires them to clear any vegetation, turn over the soil, plant, weed, and harvest the crops; the latter job may necessitate carrying loads of taro or kape (kava) several kilometers. Men also go fishing together, though this activity is considered more like sport than work. Women look after the Household, take care of children, weave mats, and make tapa. Older women also fish on the reef. Children fetch water and act as runners between households, bearing goods and messages.

Land Tenure, The two halves of Futuna, Sigave and Alo, are distinct entities with separate land holdings; it is rare for a person to hold land in both kingdoms. Each saut or leader, is custodian of all lands in his territory, and in former times waged war in response to any violation of his lands. In each village the headman was responsible for ensuring that lands were properly used, but individual families could cultivate their household land and also use the vacant land behind the village. Some village land was maintained in production by a group of men in order to provide a bountiful supply of yams and kape for any large communal feast. Families depended on their household strip for day-to-day supplies of taro, bread-fruit, bananas, kape, and cassava. But in these days of large households, the men find it necessary to cultivate their own plantation land, and sometimes that of their wives, in order to grow enough to feed the family. Land rights are passed on to both sons and daughters, but a couple prefers to live on the man's land.

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