Saturday, February 2, 2013

Agriculture of Kiribati

Agriculture in the general sense is not on a large scale in Kiribati. Rural existence is based on the cultivation of the coconut tree for food and housing, with a proportion of the produce being used for a monetary income from the sale of copra. Most protein foods come from the ocean and the lagoons. Apart from coconut and marine life, the other component of the diet is swamp taro or "babai" (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) or giant swamp taro which is grown in pits dug to the water table, and into which various forms of compost are added (Ali, 1987). The pits vary in size from a few square metres to a quarter of a hectare or more.
Copra is the only exported agricultural product. Efforts are being made to establish breeds of pigs, poultry and goats suitable for local breeding. Table 1 contains information on goat numbers, domestic meat production in Kiribati and various imports.

2. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONESThe climate of Kiribati is pleasant from April to October, when the north-easterly winds predominate. During the rest of the year, westerly gales occasionally bring heavy rains. Despite the moderate to heavy rainfall, occasional severe drought does occur and this is attributable primarily to the extremely low elevation of the islands and the soil porosity.
Figure 1. Map of Kiribati
Source: The World Factbook
Temperature normally ranges between 230 C and 340 C with a mean of 280 C, although much higher temperatures have been recorded. The average rainfall generally ranges between 1240 mm in the South to 3125 mm in the north. However, the rainfall range is from 782 mm per annum on Christmas Island to 3385 mm on Washington Island.
The Northern part of the Republic of Kiribati is on the average 100 C cooler than those islands in the Southern part. Prevailing winds are easterly and hurricanes are unknown. All the islands consist of coral reef formations rising no more than 4 metres above sea level, except for Banaba which rises to 81 metres and has more fertile soils than other low atolls.
Table 1. Kiribati statistics of ruminant livestock numbers, mutton, 
milk and beef and veal imports for the period of 1997-2007.
Goat nos. (,000)n.rn.rn.rn.rn.rn.rn.rn.rn.r.n.rn.r*
Chicken meat production (Mt)297297297310391442442459++459470+480+
Pig meat production (Mt)672672672744764848848860876880900
Total meat production (Mt)96996996910541155129012901319133513501380
Mutton imports(Mt)7373470303923618679n.r
Milk imports, fresh (Mt)694020205**88234n.r
Beef & veal imports (Mt)618202020811***2744870n.r