Agriculture on Savu & Rai Jua

Savunese culture is ecologically fitting for such an arid environment. The traditional clan agreements on land control and water distribution ensure that the land is carefully managed and not over exploited. Their gardens form a well structured ecology, emulating a tropical forest with diverse species of trees and shade plants.

Rice field

Agricultural production on Savu includes corn, rice, roots, beans, livestock (meat/milk) and seaweed, which was introduced by Japanese interests, in the early 1990s. Pigs, goats and chickens are commonplace in the villages. Those farmers who depend on mixed crop gardens or on mung bean fields are generally better able to manage during times of poor rain but are seemingly less successful when the rains are good. Corn, as a single crop, remains the predominant staple on Savu, though most farmers try to plant several different fields to increase their chances of at least one successful harvest. Cotton is the main crop on Raijua, where the standard of living is below that of Rai Hawu. It is used to make traditional textiles.

Corn is planted in late November, December and harvested from February through to March; rice and also mung beans are planted later, usually in January, after soils are well saturated with rain. In
El Niño years, farmers are frequently misled by initial rains, which offer promise but then cease. Most farmers keep some seed reserves if they are forced to plant a second time during the wet season. Rarely do farmers have sufficient seed reserves for a third attempt at planting and by the time such a third planting seems necessary, there is little likelihood of success. By mid-March the rains begin to diminish and it is no longer possible to plant corn with any expectation of a good harvest.

Prior to the corn harvest, the poorer segments of the population survive on ‘reserve foods’, primarily cassava, dry fish, dry/smoked meat, pumpkins, some sweet potato, forest yams and sugar supplies from tapping lontar palms. The locals spend a good deal of time climbing palms to collect nectar, to make a nutritious syrup that can also be made into syrup and rock sugar.

Collecting palm nectar

The ubiquitous coconut palm is harvested for its coconut oil, extracted from the coconut milk. The coconut and palm timber is used to build traditional homes, while their fronds are used for thatched roofing. Trees (particularly Neem - Azadirachta indica) are a source of animal fodder as well as fire wood. The Sugar palm is also a useful tree, while many species grown under it are manured by chickens, goats and pigs.

Savunese agriculture demonstrates many aspects of
permaculture design. However, with increased access to the island comes the threat of invasive species. Given the arid nature of the islands, few species present problems - but when one comes, it invariably presents serious problems. Recently, a small sticky shrub with small red flowers has spread around the islands on arid slopes. It belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae, originally from Central America. It presents a problem because animals that feed on it become sick.

View from Kota Hawu in Lii Ae (Liae)

A common sight along the pristine coastline are giant clam shells, used to evaporate seawater for the salt left behind.

Sun dried salt production

Water buffalo

Copyright © 2006 Ina Tali/Francesca Von Reinhaart.


Add us to your favourites!

Parts of this website require Flash Player.

<font color="#FF8040" size="2" face="Garamond"><br><br>Needs Flash Player.<br><br>See info below.<br><br></font>