Nauru is an island nation in Micronesia. It is the third smallest country in the world with an area of only 21 km² and a population of 11,200 individuals. Nauru has one of the lowest-ranked economies in the world. In 2017, the World Bank ranked its GDP as the 187th highest in the world at $114 million. However, because of Nauru's low population, it had a relatively high GDP per capita which the World Bank ranked as the 73rd highest in the world in 2007. Nauru achieved its most significant economic success during the 1970s and 1980s, but its economy declined in subsequent years. Some of the country's most critical natural resources include arable land, beautiful scenery, and phosphates.
Nauru's Natural Resources
According to a report from the commonwealth, agricultural land accounted for about 20% of Nauru's total area. Nauru's most important agricultural areas are situated close to the coast and around Buada lagoon. Most of the agriculture in Nauru is carried out on a small scale to provide crops for home consumption. Some of Nauru's most important crops include coconuts and bananas. In 2009 the government of Nauru estimated that the agricultural sector contributed 1.6% of the country's GDP. According to the FAO, Nauru's agriculture sector faces several challenges such as the country small size and its poor soils. The land tenure system in Nauru is also considered a major challenge to the development of the country's agriculture. Long years of phosphate mining have also had a devastating impact on the country's agriculture. Nauru is also affected by frequent droughts that reduce the amount of water for agriculture in the country. The soils in Nauru are also poor as they lack sufficient minerals such as potassium and nitrogen. The government of Nauru has partnered with several international bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization to improve the country's agricultural sector and improve the country's food security. Some of the measures put in place to grow the country's agrarian sector include educating farmers on the importance of new farming techniques such as irrigation and the use of fertilizers.
One of the most important crops cultivated in Nauru is coconuts. In 2016, the Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that the country produced more than 2,700 tons of coconuts. The data also indicated that from 1997 to 2016, the number of coconuts produced in Nauru had been increasing with the exception of 2011 when a slight dip in production was recorded. The organization estimated that about 1.2 square miles in the country's territory were under coconut cultivation. Apart from providing food, coconuts in Nauru are also important as they support the country's manufacturing industry.
Another important crop grown in Nauru is bananas. Most of the traditional varieties of bananas grown in Nauru were susceptible to black Sigatoka diseases, and the government spearheaded the introduction of varieties that were resistant to the disease. When the variety was introduced to Nauru, the Nauru government sought the help of the food and agricultural organization to improve their mass production. The organization introduced the use of tissue culture and narrow pit planting to the country's farmers which vastly improved the quality of the bananas they grew. The government estimated that the organization's efforts had benefited more than 300 farmers.
Nauru's large fish reserves are some of the country’s important natural resources. Some of the species of fish found within the country's territorial waters include marlin, yellowfin tuna, and sailfish. The commercial fishing sector is one of Nauru's essential industries as it contributed $ 1.1 million to the country's GDP in 1999. The Nauru government estimated that in 1999 approximately 50 people were employed full time in the country's commercial fishing industry. In 1992, the government estimated that the country's fishing fleet was made up of 218 powered skiffs and 130 paddling canoes. The government also owned two purse seiners one which sunk during the 1990s, and the other was chartered to a company from the Philippines. The most important form of commercial fishing in Nauru is trawling for tuna. In 1989, the government estimated that the trawlers could catch about 154 pounds of fish each day. Another major form of commercial fishing in the country is hand-line fishing which mainly targets shallow-water snappers. Scoop net fishing is also commonly carried out by expatriates. The government of Nauru also earns money by granting foreign nations licenses to fish within its territorial waters. Fish farming has been practiced in the country longer than in any other island in the Pacific Ocean. The most common varieties of fish reared in Nauru are tilapia and milkfish. Nauru has had a vibrant milkfish industry long before the arrival of the Europeans. Fish farming in Nauru is mainly practiced around the Buada Lagoon. Nauru is also considered among the premier sports fishing destinations in the world.
Nauru has large reserves of phosphates which are the most important natural resources. Phosphates were first discovered on the island in 1896 by a cargo officer, Henry Denson. Albert Ellis was later sent to Sydney to analyze the rock samples. After the discovery of phosphates on the island several companies sought to get the rights to mine the mineral. Jaluit-Gesellschaft obtained the rights to mine the phosphates and the rights were later transferred to the Pacific Phosphate Company. During the first year of mining, more than 11,000 pounds of phosphates were extracted from the country and shipped to Australia. The extraction of phosphates from Nauru has had a devastating impact on the country's environment and limited the potential of the rest of the country's natural resources.
Nauru has a variety of beautiful sites which are also the most vital natural resources. One of Nauru's most popular destinations is Anibare Bay. Despite the beautiful sites in Nauru, its tourism industry is relatively underdeveloped. The government estimated that only about 200 tourists visit Nauru each year.
Challenges Facing Nauru's Economy
The economy of Nauru faces several challenges such as mismanagement and the country's high unemployment rate. In 2011, the government estimated that the country's unemployment rate was 23%. Poor management caused the country to lose most of the fortune it had earned from phosphate mining.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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