Agricultural change in the Cook Islands: Studies in the human ecology of a Pacific microstate
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The Cook Islands are increasingly dependent on external aid, finance, technology and employment opportunities. Agricultural production, mainly for export, has failed as the mainstay of the economy, and many people have emigrated from rural areas. There is a history of rapid cultural change, which has increased as the Islands have become more dependent on New Zealand and other metropolitan centres. To analyse these changes, in the vital area of agricultural development, I have discussed theories of cultural adaptation and used case studies which involved both qualitative and quantitative research methods. International stratification appears to cause ecological instability in peripheral societies. Crop energetics illustrates the implications of change from traditional food crops to export/processing crops. Environmental degradation includes nutritional problems and. decline of valuable wet-land resources. Further rapid change will accentuate social disorganisation, with special implications for land tenure. 'Small-scale' social organisation is unsuited to plantation crops. New rural organisations include cooperatives and growers' associations. When planned from the 'top down', however, they have not been successful at servicing crops and marketing, tasks previously undertaken by the state. Agricultural entrepreneurs have demonstrated initiative in forming independent organisations, and they act individually as brokers between the village-family system and the business administrative system. Rural aid should repair both metropolitan-periphery and local inequalities, but socially-inappropriate projects have often eventuated, and the basic fact is neglected that technological change cannot occur or endure without changes to the whole of a rural system. The difficulties in maintaining growers' interest in export crops, and failures to provide satisfactory rural infrastructure, are discussed. Planning must be more closely related to local (Maori) values. The Rural Systems Approach is a suggested means for reorienting planning towards the goals of the farmer, farm family and rural community, so that change is controlled by the people affected. Self reliance in domestic food production is suggested as an example for autonomous development.