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Country profile - Federated States of Micronesia

Federated States of Micronesia

From high mountainous islands to low coral atolls, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consists of four states - Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap, each with its own language and culture - totalling 607 islands spread over 2.6 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. Given that many of the atoll islands rise no more than a few metres above sea level, the impacts of increasingly frequent tropical storms and rising sea level due to climate change are posing a significant threat to the future of the country.

Overview

Agriculture is a major part of the FSM economy, but much of this is subsistence agriculture and not recorded in the GDP. Breadfruit, banana, taro, yam, sweet potato, cassava, coconut and tropical fruits are the main staples, in addition to fish and seafood. Pigs and chickens are the predominant livestock. The main export commodities include fish, black pepper, sakau (kava) and betel nut.

Traditionally, copra was the major cash crop but, due to a drop in world market prices, inefficiencies, and ageing coconut palms, production has almost ceased. Rehabilitation and diversification of the coconut industry is a government priority and, in addition to extensive replanting, proposed plans include targeting niche markets and strengthening processing capacity, as well as utilising coconut palms for timber. Improving quality standards and further increasing agro-processing opportunities for other exports, including pepper, is another government priority.

Extensive forest cover still exists on each state, and traditional agroforestry crops, including breadfruit, mangos, and coconuts, are a source of food for many islanders. Timber is also used for construction and firewood. Mangrove forests play a vital role in protecting coastlines from storm surges, preventing coral siltation, and providing habitats for crabs, shellfish and numerous fish species.

Fe'i bananas are very distinctive plants with upright fruit bunches (Lois Englberger)
Fe'i bananas are very distinctive plants with upright fruit bunches
Lois Englberger

Despite the rich diversity of local foods, fruits and fish available, nutritionally-related diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and vitamin A deficiency are a serious concern. Increasing reliance on imported food and the neglect of the traditional food system were two issues particularly highlighted as serious threats to food security by the Pacific Food Summit, held in April 2010. A key recommendation was the need to reverse this neglect by encouraging communities to grow and consume more local food to improve nutrition, food security and strengthen the economy.

Securing fisheries

The FSM economy is still firmly dependent on funding from the US, which provides about 75 per cent of revenue and, as this assistance is reduced, domestic revenue will need to be increased. With one of the most productive tuna fishing grounds in the world, the ocean is clearly the FSM's most important natural resource. Yet, while the value of tuna harvested within the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) every year is about US$200 million, the vast majority is fished by foreign vessels and the FSM earns only US$20 million annually from the sale of licensing fees.

Sandfish sea cucumber spawning induction work being carried out in Pohnpei (Masahiro Ito, College of Micronesia)
Sandfish sea cucumber spawning induction work being carried out in Pohnpei
Masahiro Ito, College of Micronesia

On smaller islands and atolls, subsistence or artisanal fishing is often the principal livelihood. But overharvesting, lack of regulation and poor environmental practices, are threatening inshore and near-shore fishing resources. As traditional customary fishing rights have broken down, modern regulations have failed to effectively manage marine resources although "cooperative management" through the use of local fishing groups and community representatives is being actively encouraged.

Construction of cold storage and tuna processing plants in Pohnpei and Kosrae is increasing national involvement in the commercial fishing sector. And Yap, a major shareholder in the Yap Fishing Corporation, is investing US$20 million to modernise its fishing fleet. A National Plan of Action to deter illegal and unregulated fishing is also being developed.

Turning the tide

Climate change is predicted to significantly impact the agricultural sector and increase the vulnerability of islanders. Rainfall and temperature fluctuations are likely to affect yields and the types of crops grown. Increased intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones and droughts, loss of soil fertility, salinisation, sea water inundation of low-lying arable soils and increase in pests, diseases and invasive species are also projected consequences of climate change. In response, the FSM government is working to improve the resilience of agricultural systems by controlling and eliminating pests, reviving traditional food preservation practices and encouraging farmers to add more organic matter to soils.

Pohnpei yams are probably among the biggest in the world (Sonster Hedgar)
Pohnpei yams are probably among the biggest in the world
Sonster Hedgar

Ongoing research efforts on the islands are focusing on sustainable agricultural systems, and disease resistance in citrus and banana. In Kosrae and Chuuk, projects are underway to evaluate the salt-tolerance of sweet potato, swamp and colocasia taro, and provide improved varieties using tissue culture technology. Marine projects include black pearl and sea cucumber production in Pohnpei, and in Yap community projects are using invasive fish and land crabs as feed to improve chicken, egg and swine production.

Climate change is also a significant threat to the sustainability of both subsistence and commercial fishing. Increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea level and changing currents could lead to increased coral bleaching, ocean acidification and reduced supply of nutrients, which in turn would disrupt complex food webs and impact the abundance and migration patterns of tuna and other fish species.

To mitigate against these effects, efforts to manage coastal resources will be critical. In April 2010, a vulnerability assessment was conducted, focusing attention on the outer-islands given their high vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise. Meanwhile, the national government has adopted a nationwide climate change policy to address the adverse impacts of climate change on communities to ensure sustainable livelihoods and preserve the natural heritage, diverse customs, traditions and natural resources in all the islands.

Statistical information
  • Country: Federated States of Micronesia
  • Area: 702 sq km
  • Population: 107,434 (July 2009 est.)
  • Population growth rate: -0.2% (2009 est.)
  • Life expectancy: 71 years (2009 est.)
  • Ethnic groups: Chuukese 48.8%, Pohnpeian 24.2%, Kosraean 6.2%, Yapese 5.2%, Yap outer islands 4.5%, Asian 1.8%, Polynesian 1.5%, other 6.4%, unknown 1.4% (2000 census)
  • Languages: English (official and common language), Chuukese, Kosrean, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi
  • Inflation: 2.2% (2005 est.)
  • GDP purchasing power parity: US$238.1 million (2008 est.)
  • GDP per capita: US$2,200 (2008 est.)
  • GDP composition by sector: agriculture: 28.9%; industry: 15.2%; services: 55.9% (2004 est.)
  • Land use: arable land: 5.71%; permanent crops: 45.71%; other: 48.58% (2005)
  • Major industries: tourism, fish processing, craft items
  • Agricultural products: black pepper, breadfruit, taro, tropical fruits and vegetables, coconuts, bananas, cassava (tapioca), sakau (kava), betel nuts, sweet potatoes, pigs, chickens, fish, Kosraen citrus
  • Natural resources: forests, marine products, deep-seabed minerals, phosphate
  • Export commodities: fish, black pepper, sakau (kava), betel nut

Date published: May 2010

 

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I need more information on how FSM is working to sustain the... (posted by: Richie)

 

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