Pacific Islanders’ Food-Sharing Customs Ensure Resiliency in Face of Disaster

The Pacific Islanders are not strangers to disasters. Over the millennia, islanders have been enduring disasters. copedWith and adapted to disasters such as tropical cyclones or tsunamis, as also unpredictable shifts in precipitation patterns that can lead to droughts or floods.

Low-lying atolls and narrow coastlines are the most common coastal areas in the Pacific region. This makes them vulnerable to extreme environmental conditions. However, Pacific Islander communities have developed resilience through adaptive local cultural practices, knowledge, and other means.

These subsistence practices were especially helpful to rural Pacific Island communities during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit in 2020. Many Pacific Island governments stopped the spread of the virus among their citizens by closing all borders. imposingThese restrictions on movement also created hardships due to job losses and disruptions in supply chains.

Our recent studyPublished in Marine PolicyThe organization is led by its partners. Locally Managed Marine Area Network, we found that despite early concerns, Pacific Island communities across seven countries — Papua New Guinea, Palau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia and Solomon Islands — remained relatively resilient through 2020, when some of the worst effects of the pandemic were being felt around the world. That’s because they were able to fall back on existing customs of food sharing and on their knowledge of food production techniquesThis will ensure food availability throughout the period.

Strong social networks among Pacific Islanders have been a key factor in ensuring resilience to food system shocks within and between islands. Relationships were formed during the Cold War. ceremonialTrade between islanders was also intended to aid these communities in obtaining or bartering for goods that were needed during natural disasters or crop failure.

This is an excellent example of it. The Kula ring was first described by Bronislaw Malinowski, an anthropologist, in his 1922 tome. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. The Kula ring is a traditional trade alliance that links east New Guinean communities. The main purpose of the Kula ring was to reciprocally exchange two goods with local symbolic value — long, red shell necklaces called soulavaThey were traded for white shell bracelets called Mwali.

An ax from Milne Bay Province, and a Mwal Shell from the Trobriand islands, traditionally used in the Kula ring trade alliance, are on display at Sydney’s Macleay Museum.

Through this trade, ordinary goods, such as food items, were also traded on the side. This created lasting relationships between groups who could offer assistance to one another in recovering from disasters.

This type of food sharing helped ensure survival in these communities. Other strategies that promoted resilience via bet hedging were also used in trade alliances. This includes crop diversification, surplus food production, preservation, storage, maintenance of tenure borders (land or sea areas where kinship groups control natural resources access and use), and cooperation between family groups and clans. Many of these practices still exist today and are visible in communities that have been most resilient to sudden shocks or natural disasters.

In 1990, Tropical Cyclone Ofa struck Samoa. Even though coconut, an important cash crop, was severely damaged, local communities remained resilient through community cooperation, cohesiveness, and food exchange. In some cases village chiefs ordered farmers to plant fast growing crops on communal lands. Many villages revived the old practice of pit fermentation of breadfruitTo ensure a steady supply of food, it is important to take immediate action after cyclones.

When conducting surveys for the Marine Policy reportWe also found that rural communities in Papua New Guinea were simultaneously affected by the severe drought in 2020 and the pandemic hardships in 2020. They began bartering goods and relying on sago palm cultivation to supplement their agricultural activities.

One Palauan man answered our survey noted, “It is part of our culture to share food with others,” adding that he and other fishermen “started sharing more than we normally do because we couldn’t sell our catch, especially when COVID-19 started, and there were no tourists coming.”

A female respondent was asked to Fiji, where many villages were ravaged by Tropical Cyclone Harold at the beginning of April 2020, just before the government imposed travel restrictions related to pandemics. reported that, “Some farms were affected during the cyclone and, on top of that, we couldn’t go to town to buy groceries because of travel restrictions. So, we were depending on seafood.”

These sentiments were repeated across the Pacific where rural residents relied on their ancestral knowledge of salting fish, tending to taro patches, as well as using techniques passed down from previous generations.

Disasters in the Pacific region can be expected. The eruption on January 15 of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, with more power than an atomic bomb, createdA tsunami was felt as far as Japan and California. It had also caused a devastatingImpact on infrastructure in low-lying Tonga islands and destruction of crops due to ash fall

But there are already signs of resilience. Tongan communities throughout Oceania have galvanized to organize shipments of food supplies and aid — demonstrating the strength of social networks that can be nearly instantaneously activated. In the coming weeks and months, food sharing and knowledge about food preservation will be used to help communities through this period of hardship.

This article was created by Earth | Food | LifeThe Independent Media Institute has created a project called.

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