Tikopia: the story of a society how made the choise to become sustainable

Tikopia is a very small (5 km²) and remote island located in the state of the Salomon Islands. Although the area is mainly inhabited by Melanesian populations, the 1200 Tikopia natives which live almost in autarky are from a polynesian background. This island is one of the finest examples of traditional sustainable development.

It is said that the Polynesian arrived there 3000 years ago. On arrival they released theirs crops and domestic animals in the island and started to burn the forest in order to cultivate lands and to hunt local species.

700 years later many local species had been depleted so people started to grow more and more pigs, a traditional animal of the polynesian diet, in order to replace those wild animals in their feeding.

1000 years later, the general state of the island was very critical, natural resources where gone, in addition of the disappearance of many animals, there was a strong soil erosion and the island was overcrowded by people.

The only solution for this endangered society was to radically change theirs habits if they wanted to survive in Tikopia.

And they did so:
Instead of slash and burn based agriculture, they started to do forest gardening, which means to grow useful trees and bellow, low growing plants, thus, the whole island was turned into a giant garden. A really important decision was to slaughter all the pigs around 1600 AD. The islanders found out that it was more efficient to eat the crops feeding the pigs than to eat the animals. They also stated a strong birth control, the population growing very little during centuries.

This is how the Tikopian community survived until now as a stable and peaceful society. Their agriculture is so sustainable that they could live like that thousands of years more in their highly productive and symbiotic island.

Of course, some "little things" such as global warming are probably gonna break soon or late the equilibrium achieved by this society with it's natural environment but how cares about Tikopia ?


robino's picture

cool to know! Tikopia

The name alone resonates already strongly ... thanks 4 sharing :) - should we also open up a nomad-friendly hut over there?

rene's picture

That's right, I was not

That's right, I was not thinking on the name;)
No need to open a nomad hut, natives are said to be extremely welcoming with foreigners. Hospitality is deeply rooted in their culture.
Anyway good luck if you wabt to go there, ther is 3 boats a year;)