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For A New Coconut Research And Development Strategy In Vanuatu

At the end of the 19th century in the New Hebrides archipelago, coconut cultivation geared towards copra production was developed on colonial estates, then from the 1930s onwards by smallholders, who saw it as a means of gaining a foothold in the trading economy. The expansion of coconut plantings transformed farming systems, led to changes in the plants cultivated and resulted in increased dependency on copra exports. The recent drop in copra prices is severely affecting the economy of a Pacific island country like Vanuatu. The production methods and low income derived from a declining commercial crop no longer meet the needs of stakeholders in the coconut commodity chain, and can no longer take up the challenge faced in the coming decades with the increasing requirements of a fast growing population. The country therefore needs to rethink its development strategy, by reconverting its farming systems and seeking new outlets for its coconut-based products. The author presents an overview of coconut research achievements and prospects in relation with the development priorities for the coming years. He discusses the possibility of replanting senescent coconut groves on coral terraces, introducing food crops in old coconut plantations, promoting new coconut by-products and the decentralized production of copra oil for use as a biofuel.

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