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Growing Coconut Palms in the Pacific Islands: Colliding Knowledge and Values

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Coconuts provided commodities for the West in the form of coconut oil and copra. Once colonial governments established control of the tropical Pacific Islands, they needed revenue so urged European settlers to establish coconut plantations. For some decades most copra came from Indigenous growers. Administrations constantly urged the people to thin old groves and plant new ones like plantations, in grid patterns, regularly spaced and weeded. Local growers were instructed to collect all fallen coconuts for copra from their groves. For half a century, the administrations’ requirements met with Indigenous passive resistance. This paper examines the underlying reasons for this, elucidating Indigenous ecological and social values, based on experiential knowledge, knowledge that clashed with Western scientific values.
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Keywords: Indigenous knowledge; coconut oil; coconuts; copra; ecology; resistance; science

Appeared or available online: March 5, 2020

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