TERRITORY: HUMAN GEOGRAPHY
The vegetation is limited to bread trees, coconut palms and pandanus as well as mangroves that lap the areas immediately close to the seas. The local fauna is typical of other Pacific islands, with the absence of endemic mammals and the presence of birds and fish. Popular animals include turtles and the coconut crab. Beyond the problems related to nuclear contamination, these islands also have to deal with those related to the greenhouse effect. To verify the real changes in climate and sea level, some Australian scientists have been conducting constant monitoring since 1993 in a scientific station located on the Majuro atoll. The protected areas, which cover an area equal to 0.7% of the national territory, include: the conservation area of the Jaluit atoll (69,000 hectares), which has been part of the Ramsar program since 2004, the convention for the wetlands of international importance; the marine area of Likiep atoll; Borak Atoll and Jemo Island.
The country’s economy (which in 2007 had a GDP of US $ 149 million and a GDP per capita of US $ 2,517) is based on the primary sector, even if this only participates for 10.3% in the formation of the gross domestic product. and employs a fifth of the workforce. According to smber, agriculture is mainly based on the cultivation of bananas, cassava and coconut palm (from which copra is obtained). Fishing is important (especially oysters) also thanks to the sale of licenses for foreign boats, especially Japanese and Chinese. § Mineral resources are scarce; Phosphates are extracted at Ailinglaplap. Manufacturing is based almost exclusively on the transformation of agricultural products and crafts. The secondary sector participates in the formation of the GDP for 19.1% and employs 7.8% of the active population. The country collaborates with Australia on both the scientific and economic fields; this in fact, with Japan, Taiwan and, to a greater extent, the USA, provides the Marshall Islands, in the form of financial assistance, with the largest share of state revenues. However, the government, under the 1993-97 five-year development plan, made proposals to reduce dependence on foreign aid. Faced with a high budget deficit and a high rate of inflation, the government has launched a series of measures aimed at reducing public spending and promoting the private sector. The main objective was the rationalization of public employment: not only the number of employees was reduced, but also the amount of salaries and subsidies of government executives. At the same time, attempts were made to enhance the archipelago’s resources by developing traditional economic activities and introducing new ones. Two economic cooperation agreements were signed with China, in 1993 and 1995, with the aim of increasing the fish industry and, at the same time, the cultivation of oysters was encouraged. But in 1998, when the authorities recognized the Taiwanese government, agreements with China cracked. § Many hopes of increasing state revenues are also entrusted to the development of tourism and in this perspective the hotel reception capacity has increased. There is a port and an airport in Majul. The country exports copra, coconut oil, crafts and fish and imports food, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco; main trading partners are the USA, Japan and Australia, in addition to China for exports and New Zealand, Singapore, Fiji, China and the Philippines for imports. The country was censored by the OECD as a tax haven; however, some measures against money laundering have been introduced. Overall, the tertiary sector participates in the formation of GDP for 70.6% and employs 71.8% of the workforce.
Discovered by the Spaniards between 1526 and 1529, they were revisited in 1788 by Captain Marshall from whom they took their name. Annexed in 1885-86 by Germany, which later aggregated them to the colony of German New Guinea, the Marshall Islands were occupied at the beginning of the First World War by Japan, to which they were then entrusted by the League of Nations (December 1920). in 1935. Conquered by US forces in February 1944, after World War II the Marshall Islands were awarded by the UN Security Council in trusteeship to the US.
CULTURE: GENERAL INFORMATION
The lifestyle of the residents of the Marshall Islands is still based on the hierarchical and kinship relationships between the members of the different clans; however, even if the leaders responsible for the distribution of the lands are men, society still retains a strong matriarchal imprint and practices linked to forms of reciprocity. Indigenous customs also survive in the forms of craftsmanship, from fabrics (remember the muu-muu, traditional women’s clothing, decorated with floral motifs) to the processing of bags and baskets with pandanus leaves, from wood carvings to the ancient art of construction of boats, in particular canoes (there are many races and regattas that take place in the waters of the Marshall Islands). Traditional music is still played on the ukulele, there is dance jobwa (accompanied by the throwing of sticks adorned with colored plumes) and stories and legends are handed down orally, especially related to the sea. Furthermore, the sea, an element that has influenced much of the local culture, is traditionally the main source of supply for food: fresh fish, in fact, characterizes many of the local dishes, garnished with rice, spicy sauces or with coconut and crabs. giants, accompanied by breadfruit and taro fruit. However, the archipelago has also known modernity, imported by Westerners, which has affected life practices and eating habits. In fact, there are also foods with a high protein content and drinks such as beer, wine and spirits, which cause the proliferation of diseases related to diabetes. Habits related to the consumption (and abuse) of tobacco are also widespread. On a literary level, it should be remembered that, in addition to traveler literature – among which the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, who painted these islands as paradisiacs in his travel stories, stands out – an anthology has recently been published (Al In Aelon Majol, 2005) in which some local authors have collected and published their texts.
The artistic production of the islands focuses on the decoration, whose predominant motifs, taken up both in the tattoo and in the weaving, are connected with the sea. Skilled navigators, the residents of the Marshall Islands are famous for their curious “ stick charts ”, in which the emerged lands are represented by shells and the routes by strips of coconut palm leaves. Personal adornments include shells and flowers. Well known are the braided coconut fiber breastplates worn by warriors, shark-toothed weapons and mats decorated with geometric patterns.