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Cultivators as collectors: the influences of globalization on subsistence agriculture on Tongoa Island (Vanuatu)

Abstract : On Tongoa Island (Vanuatu), a garden is an enclosed area, protected by human action from the dense and invasive vegetation and where horticulturists maintain close relationships with plants. Maintaining gardens’ diversity is fundamental to secure daily staple food and provide a place for ceremonial purposes. Social life is thus heavily dependent on gardens. In this paper, based on personal ethnographic and ethnobotanic data, I wish to expose and analyse relationships between gardeners and plants in the context of globalization. Since people have explored the oceans, food crops have been exchanged and domesticated, from one island to another. Because root and tuber crops need to be reproduced by vegetative propagation, their natural dispersion throughout the Pacific Islands is not possible. Therefore, the history of these staple plants is closely interwoven with human migrations. Nowadays, gardeners purchase new cultivars at local grocery stores or at specialised stores located in Port-Vila (the capital) or through trade with other people. Specific knowledge about plants is passed on in order to maintain and increase agricultural sustainability. Cultivating many varieties of food crops is a prestigious sign of talent for the gardener, who can keep a neat plot; some consider themselves to be proper “collectors”. Here we argue that the study of cultivated plants through the example of Tongoa subsistence agriculture makes the case that gardens are not isolated places where a local tradition or « kastom » would have been preserved, but are instead the place where contemporary Vanuatu is expressed and illustrated in all its complexity.
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Contributor : Maëlle Calandra <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 2:22:57 AM
Last modification on : Monday, February 10, 2020 - 9:12:02 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01172165, version 1



Maëlle Calandra. Cultivators as collectors: the influences of globalization on subsistence agriculture on Tongoa Island (Vanuatu). 10th ESfO Conference « Europe and the Pacific » – Session 16 « Relating subsistence agriculture with socio-environmental mutations in Oceania », European Society for Oceanists (ESfO), Jun 2015, Brussels, Belgium. ⟨halshs-01172165⟩



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