TUVALU is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls. Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone covers an oceanic area of approximately 900,000km. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. Its population of 10,837, makes it the third least populous sovereign state in the world, with only the Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants. In terms of physical land size, at just 26sq.km, Tuvalu is the 4th smallest country in the world., larger than the Vatican City, Monaco and Nauru. Its small size and population, along with natural resources, makes Tuvalu the smallest economy by GDP.
The 1st inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians. In 1568, Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana was the 1st European to sail through the archipelago, sighting the island of Nauru during his expedition in search of Terra Australis. In 1819, the island of Funafuti was named Ellice’s Island; the name ELLICE was applied to all 9 islands after the work of Alexander George Findlay (1812-1876). The islands came under Britain’s sphere of influence in the late 19th century, when each of the Ellice Islands was declared a British protectorate by Captain Gibson in 1892. Tuvalu became fully independent within the Commonwealth on 1st October, 1978. On 17th Sept, 2000, Tuvalu became the 189th member of the UN.
The traditional community system still survives to a large extent on Tuvalu. Each family has its own task or SALANGA, to perform for the community such as fishing, house building or defence. The skills of a family are passed on from parents to children. The women of Tuvalu use COWRIE and other shells in traditional handicrafts. Most islands have their own FUSI —— community-owned shops —— similar to convenience stores, where canned foods and bags of rice can be purchased. Another important building is the FALEKAUPULE or MANEAPA (the traditional meeting hall) where important matters are discussed.
The Tuvaluan language and English are the national languages of Tuvalu. The cuisine of Tuvalu is based o the staple of coconut and the many species of fish found in the ocean and lagoons of the atolls. Desserts made on the islands include coconut and coconut milk instead of animal milk. The traditional foods, eaten in Tuvalu, are pulaka, taro, bananas, breadfruit and coconut. Tuvaluans eat seafood, including crab, fish from the lagoon and ocean. A traditional food source is seabirds (Black Noddy and White Tern), with pork being eaten mostly at FATELES (parties with dancing to celebrate events). Pulaka is he main source for carbohydrates. Seafood provides protein. Bananas and breadfruits are supplementary crops. Coconut is used for its juice, to make other beverages and to improve the taste of some dishes. Flying fish are caught as a source of food and as an exciting activity, using a boat, a butterfly net and a spot-light to attract the flying fish.
Education, in Tuvalu is free and compulsory between the ages 6 and 15yrs. Motufoua Secondary School is located on Vaitupu. Students board at the school during the school term, returning to their home islands each school vacation. Fetuvala High School is a day school operated by the Church of Tuvau and is on Funafuti.
A traditional sport, played in Tuvalu, is KILIKITI, which is similar to cricket. A popular sport, specific to Tuvala, is ANO, which is played with 2 round balls of 12cm diameter. ANO is a localised version of volleyball.
Transport services are limited. There are about 8kms of roads. The streets of Funafuti are unpaved. Tuvalu is among a few countries that DO NOT HAVE RAILROADS. The single airport is Funafuti International Airport. It is a tarred strip. Air Pacific, the owner of the Fiji Airlines operates services thrice a week (Tues, Thurs and Saturdays) between Suva and Funafuti ——– a 68-seat plane. The Princess Margaret Hospital on Funafuti is the only hospital in Tuvalu.