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close this bookAgroforestry in the Pacific Islands: Systems for Sustainability (UNU, 1993, 297 pages)
close this folder2 Pacific Island agroforestry: Functional and utilitarian diversity
View the documentIntegration and sustainability
View the documentDiversity of function
View the documentBases for innovation and sustainability
View the documentAgroforestry and national development goals
View the documentExisting models and the need for appropriate innovation

Integration and sustainability

In traditional Pacific Island societies, aspects of living such as for estry, agriculture, housing, medicine, and tool making were not com partmentalized into economic sectors. Instead, they were parts of an integrated system of production tailored to the environmental condi tions and material needs of each island society. As most of the sys tems that evolved in the Pacific contained both annual crops and trees, they were true agroforestry systems. While not unchanging, these tree-rich systems had a high degree of stability and would fit into Janzen's category of sustained-yield tropical agro-ecosystems (SYTA). The "resilient permanence" of these traditional Pacific agro-ecosystems rested on seven "principles of permanence" that made possible their continuing operation for centuries or millennia.

The systems (Clarke 1977)

  1. did not depend on external energy subsidies or extra-system nutrient sources - i.e., no imported fuel, fertilizers, or other imports were required;
  2. did not receive applications of poisonous agricultural chemicals or eutrophic materials to pollute the environment;
  3. had strongly positive net energy yields - i.e., for every joule of energy invested, 18-20 joules of food energy were returned;
  4. used only renewable resources as inputs - e.g., trees for fencing, ash as fertilizer- rather than imported, often non-renewable, inputs such as inorganic fertilizers derived from phosphate deposits or fossil fuels that took millions of years to form;
  5. were structured so that the resources supporting agriculture (energy, land, vegetation) were equitably spread throughout the community rather than being concentrated in the hands of a few or in urban areas;
  6. contained resources that were looked upon as productive capital to be preserved - i.e., attempts were made to preserve for future generations a habitat and set of resources only slightly modified from what parents had themselves inherited; and
  7. were based on polyculture and a diversity of tree and non-tree crops, wild plants, and animals rather than on monoculture or on specialized animal production.