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Federated States of Micronesia : Kosrae


The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is an independent sovereign island nation made up of four states from west to east: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. It comprises approximately 607 islands with 700 km2 of area in the Western Pacific Ocean spread over almost 2,700 km longitudinally just north of the equator, some 4,000 km southwest of the main islands of Hawaii. Each of its four states is centered round one or more main high islands, and all but Kosrae include numerous outlying atolls. The capital is Palikir, located on Pohnpei, the largest city being Weno, part of Chuuk. The country has seven official languages and the total population is 107,000. Population growth remains high at more than 3% annually but is offset somewhat by net emigration. In 2004 the FSM signed an Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States, which provides funds to the national government's budget until 2023 and establishes a trust fund for use in perpetuity after 2023.

Like that of the US, the FSM Constitution provides for three separate branches of government at the national level - Executive, Legislative and Judicial. It contains a Declaration of Rights similar to the US Bill of Rights, specifying basic standards of human rights consistent with international norms. It also contains a provision protecting traditional rights. The Congress of the FSM is unicameral with fourteen Senators - one from each state elected for a four-year term, and ten who serve two-year terms, whose seats are apportioned by population. Currently, Chuuk has six seats, Pohnpei four and two each are held by Yap and Kosrae. The President and Vice President are elected to four-year terms by the Congress from among the four-year Senators and the vacant seats are then filled in special elections.

The FSM has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of over 3 million km2, or roughly equivalent to 75% of the land area of the European Union. However, only 0.02% of that area is covered by land, making transport to outer islands very difficult. Economic activity in the FSM consists primarily of subsistence farming, fishing and tourism. The islands have few mineral deposits worth exploiting, except for high-grade phosphate. With one of the most productive tuna fishing grounds in the world, the ocean is clearly the country’s most important natural resource. Yet, while the value of tuna harvested within its EEZ every year is about US$200 million, the vast majority is fished by foreign vessels and the FSM earns only US$20 million annually from the sale of licensing fees. Construction of cold storage and tuna processing plants in Pohnpei and Kosrae is increasing national involvement in the commercial fishing sector.

Renewable Energy & Eco Housing

Electricity is regulated at a state level so consequently there are four electricity utilities, each with its own tariff structures, generation and distribution networks. Of the four utilities, only the one in Pohnpei has hydroelectric generating capacity; the others all rely solely on diesel generators. The Yap utility is the only one that has diesel mini-grids on some of its outer islands; the other utilities operate only on the main islands.

Experience with renewable energy   has in the past been with solar home systems for outer islands, solar fridges, solar systems for telecommunication, solar freezer systems and solar pumps, limited wind energy use for water pumping, and small-scale hydroelectricity generation (2 MW on Pohnpei). The wind resource has not been properly assessed, but the hydrological potential of FSM (mainly Pohnpei) has been found to be 6.9 MW. The solar resource, depending on the island, is good to very good (5.5 kWh/m2/day as a yearly average). The Micronesian Seminar, a research-pastoral institute founded by the Catholic Church, produced a recent video on the potential of renewable energy sources.

The Assistance to the Energy Sector in Five ACP Pacific Island States (REP-5) programme, funded under the 9th European Development Fund, was begun in January 2006, and ran until December 31st 2009. The bulk of REP-5 funding in the FSM was allocated mainly to the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in all four states. In Yap, Chuuk, and Pohnpei the focus was rural electrification of outer islands, whereas on the single-island state of Kosrae the five PV systems installed for its airport, legislature, governor's office, hospital, and power plant have been connected to the main utility grid. Further detailed information can be obtained from these four sites. 

Up until recently the 8,000 people on Kosrae mostly relied upon five Caterpillar engine generators that have a combined capacity of 4,580 kilowatts according to the Kosrae Utilities Authority. However, in 2012 it was reported the state would soon have a new 1.5 MW wave energy system capable of providing 85% of the island’s power by 2015 with solar and hydro contributing the remaining 15%. This is a joint venture between the utilities authority,  Ocean Energy Kosrae and Ocean Energy Industries, a New Jersey-based company that is supplying the wave device called WaveSurfer. The company describes the WaveSurfer as a ‘point absorber’ whose main power conversion and generation parts are completely submerged at the depth of between 8 and 25 metres thus protecting the device against damage from extreme storms.

Waste Minimisation & Recycling

Solid waste disposal is a major environmental issue throughout the FSM and an important source of inshore marine pollution. There are several public dumpsites but most are not properly located or constructed and maintenance is minimal or non-existent. These critical deficiencies are now being addressed and the FSM National Solid Waste Management Strategy 2010-2014 details the current state of waste collection services, disposal facilities that range from open dumps to the semi-aerobic landfill on Kosrae and recycling activities throughout the four states.

Water Management & Security

On the high islands of the FSM, the majority of the public’s water supply comes from surface water (rivers and individual roof catchments) or fresh-to-brackish groundwater (springs and shallow hand-dug wells). In several places groundwater from deep-drilled wells (bores) is also available. In the outlying islands and along the coastal fringes of the main islands, rainwater catchments provide the bulk of potable water supplemented by water drawn from freshwater lens. There are approximately 70 public or community water systems in the FSM. Of these, only 5 serving the main islands feature any type of treatment and even here, water is not consistently safe due to inadequate system maintenance and irregular supplies. Water quality and resultant health concerns have been a major issue in FSM. In April 2000, an outbreak of cholera on Pohnpei, affected approximately 3,500 persons and caused 20 deaths, was the result of poor wastewater control. The FSM, along with other Pacific island countries participated from 2004-2008 in the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) project to further improvement of drinking water quality and significant reduction in pollutants entering the fresh and marine water around Pohnpei and Chuuk States. A second phase of IWRM demonstration projects from 2009-2014 has been implemented with extensive documentation   and videos available from this site. Among the four FSM states, it was reported in May 2011 that only Kosrae is not able to provide safe drinking water.

Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production

Agriculture is the most important primary activity in the nation because of its contribution to employment, wage income, export earnings and subsistence production. Agricultural activities provide over 60% of the food consumed, and employ almost 50% of the labor force on a full-time or seasonal basis. With one exception, fully commercial agriculture does not exist. On Pohnpei, a commercial pepper farm has been started with extensive cropping of about 100 acres targeted for production over the next five years to supply both the local tourist market and export markets. White pepper is being produced as a cottage industry, and is primarily sold locally to tourists. A small kimchee factory operates on Pohnpei using locally grown cucumber and head cabbage. In Kosrae, citrus is a significant cash crop with limes and tangerines being exported. Periodically, Yap exports bananas, other vegetables, fruits, and betel nut to Guam and Palau.

Copra remains the ubiquitous cash crop throughout the FSM, but production has decreased substantially due to low prices for copra coupled with increasing sterility of the coconut palms. Primary industrial processing occurs on Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap. Ponape Coconut Products, Inc. continues to develop a number of coconut oil products including laundry soap, shampoo, body and hair oil, cooking oil, liquid soap and suntan oil. Some high quality charcoal is also being produced from coconut shell on Pohnpei as a by-product of the coconut oil industry. The copra processing plant on Chuuk manufactures laundry soap and plans to produce a similar variety of products as the Pohnpei plant in the near future. Yap processes fiber from coconut husks into brooms, brushes, ropes and mats.

Climate change is predicted to significantly impact the agricultural sector and increase the vulnerability of islanders. Rainfall and temperature fluctuations are likely to affect yields and the types of crops grown. Increased intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones and droughts, loss of soil fertility, salinisation, sea water inundation of low-lying arable soils and increase in pests, diseases and invasive species are also projected consequences of climate change. In response, the FSM government is working to improve the resilience of agricultural systems by controlling and eliminating pests, reviving traditional food preservation practices and encouraging farmers to add more organic matter to soils. Ongoing research efforts are focusing on sustainable agricultural systems, and disease resistance in citrus and banana. In Kosrae and Chuuk, projects are underway to evaluate the salt-tolerance of sweet potato, swamp and colocasia taro, and provide improved varieties using tissue culture technology. Marine projects include black pearl and sea cucumber production in Pohnpei, and in Yap community projects are using invasive fish and land crabs as feed to improve chicken, egg and swine production.

The Island Food Community of Pohnpei was established in 2004 to promote the production, consumption, local marketing and, if feasible, export of locally grown island foods in order to regain the dignity of relying on home food production, attain a great degree of food security for the state, rescue cultural values and improved health of the people. This NGO combines traditional research with public awareness activities. For example, investigating which local plant varieties are richest in essential micronutrients, such as zinc, and in the beneficial carotenoids used to construct vitamin A. Emblazoned with the reminder to ‘Grow and Eat YELLOW’ – a reference to the finding that a yellow-orange colour is often a sign of high carotenoid content in bananas and pandanus fruit – the public awareness materials describe the health benefits linked to consumption of these fruits, chiefly protection against vitamin A deficiency and a variety of chronic ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.


The four FSM states each have their own international airport capable of accommodating medium-size aircraft. Each airport has new terminals designed to meet the needs of steadily increasing air traffic. Continental Air Micronesia provides international and interstate passenger and cargo services within the FSM and to and from Honolulu and Guam, presently using Boeing 727 aircraft. Air Nauru also offers some service to points in the FSM. The regional hub is located in Guam, where it is possible to connect to a wide range of airlines.

Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing

The FSM Visitors Board provides information on all four states but each island has its own distinctive cultural and natural attractions. Yap is notable for its ‘stone money’ (Rai stones), large disks usually of calcite, up to 4m in diameter, with a hole in the middle. The islanders, aware of the owner of a piece, do not necessarily move them when ownership changes. There are five major types: Mmbul, Gaw, Ray, Yar and Reng, the last being only 30cm in diameter. Their value is based on both size and history, many of them having been brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most coming in ancient times from Palau. Approximately 6,500 of them are scattered around the island.

Chuuk is one of the world's most famous diving destinations. Better known as "Truk Lagoon" to divers, it offers the best wreck diving in one location anywhere in the world. More than 70 Japanese ships, planes and submarines rest on the bottom, virtually undisturbed for the past 60 years. The legacy of Operation Hailstorm, the decisive World War II battle between the Japanese Imperial Fleet and Allied carrier attack planes, they are now an underwater museum and marine sanctuary.

Pohnpei is known for its energetic dances and also for the relaxing drink sakau, a kava-like brew. Much is still to be learned about the mysterious ruined city of Nan Madol. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and it contains nearly 100 artificial islets - stone and coral fill platforms - bordered by tidal canals. Called the Venice of the Pacific, it used to be the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur dynasty that united Pohnpei's estimated 25,000 people from about AD 500 until 1500, when the centralized system collapsed.

Kosrae attractions are varied and numerous, focusing on history, culture, and the environment. It is one of the places in the world that has true ecotourism. Trekking through forests and mountains, quietly canoeing in the mangrove channels, marveling at Neolithic ruins, or diving pristine reefs and sunken ships are just some of the many activities awaiting the traveler. Project Micronesia is a documentary investigation into the identity of Kosrae using video, photo and oral history to examine the rapidly changing culture of the island since occupation by Japan during World War II and the lasting effects of these events.

Biodiversity & Protected Areas

The most comprehensive inventory of distinct ecosystems and species currently available was prepared in 2002 in support of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. A subsequent Blueprint for Conserving Biodiversity   was developed in 2003 that identified 53 conservation targets. Based on these targets, 130 Areas of Biological Significance were identified of which 24 were designated as high priority sites for protection. Given limited government resources, the wide geographical dispersal of the islands, and the concentration of land ownership and marine use rights in private (family and clan) hands, the decision was made to build a strategy based on community-led resource management assisted by government but avoiding insofar as possible government-led interventions.

The FSM Biodiversity Clearing-House Mechanism is an information exchange system established by the Government and College of Micronesia to assist FSM to implement its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Bionesian is a blog about Pacific biodiversity issues and reported extensively on the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. Geomicronesia is a spatial data repository representing the collaborative efforts of FSM and US partners. The Coral Reef MPAs of East Asia and Micronesia project aims to establish a concise, useful and up to date inventory of MPAs and MPA networks with coral reefs and related ecosystems together with associated information in East Asia and Micronesia Regions, and to extract summary information by analyzing them. The FSM was one of the Reef Resilience Toolkit case studies.

The Micronesia Conservation Trust with headquarters in Pohnpei supports biodiversity conservation and related sustainable development for the people of Micronesia in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of Palau (ROP), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the US Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). On 5 November 2005, led by then President Remengesau of Palau, the five Micronesian nations came together in a joint commitment to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. Covering 6.7 million square kilometers of ocean, the Micronesia Challenge represents more than 20% of the Pacific Island region - and 5% of the largest ocean in the world.  The Challenge will help protect at least 66 currently identified threatened species, 10% of the global total reef area and 462 coral species - that is 59% of all known corals. The Unofficial Micronesia Challenge Blog provides further updates.

The Conservation Society of Pohnpei, founded in 1998 by a group of concerned citizens, is the premier conservation organization in the FSM. The Society is a member of Micronesians in Island Conservation and amongst other things is working with the Nature Conservancy to restore the environmental integrity of Ant, a now-uninhabited atoll that lies nine miles southwest of Pohnpei. In addition to supporting the healthiest population of giant clams (a threatened species) in Pohnpei, Ant Atoll is one of the best remaining seabird nesting islands in Micronesia. In 2007, thanks to persistent lobbying from local conservationists, all 2,300 acres of Ant Atoll became Micronesia’s second official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. And on February 4, 2010, the Pohnpei State Government declared the atoll an official state-protected area, adding the site to the ever-broadening portfolio of protected areas that comprises the Micronesia Challenge.

The Kosrae Conservation & Safety Organization was started in 1998 and has implemented various environmental projects. For over a decade Seacology has supported a number of projects in the FSM whereby local communities have established forest reserves, mangrove sanctuaries and marine protected areas in exchange for improved buildings and water systems. The Island Research & Education Initiative initiate and implement their own projects with an atlas of the FSM being their largest undertaking.

Integrated Development Planning

The 15th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit held in Pohnpei 2011 reported on measures to coordinate and implement regional strategies to assist their member jurisdictions. These include the Micronesian Challenge, the Regional Invasive Species Council and the Micronesian Center for a Sustainable Future.  The latter is based at the University of Guam that already had a Green Initiative and in 2009 established their Center for Island Sustainability that organises annual conferences. All these initiatives should help the FSM towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and further already significant progress detailed in their first status report published in 2010.

Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures

As related in these articles,   and in other reports climate change and sea level rise is hitting the FSM hard. Local people talk of how their beaches are disappearing, shoreline palm trees have started toppling into the ocean and coastal roads are eroding. Saltwater intrusion is also an ever-increasing problem for many of the low-lying atolls, causing extensive damage to taro patches and breadfruit trees, on which the island communities rely for their sustenance. In December 2008, waves and tidal surges of up to three metres swept across many low-lying atolls, causing severe flooding and damage to crops. The President and Congress of FSM quickly responded with a US$1.4 million Emergency Food Relief Program. Climate change is also a significant threat to the sustainability of both subsistence and commercial fishing. Increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea level and changing currents could lead to increased coral bleaching, ocean acidification and reduced supply of nutrients, which in turn would disrupt complex food webs and impact the abundance and migration patterns of tuna and other fish species.

The FSM has recently embarked on several projects to address the impact of climate change. The Asian Development Bank is providing support for a ‘climate mapping’ project that will identify infrastructure and human settlements requiring protection and/or relocation due to projected sea level rise and the increased frequency/intensity of adverse weather events. With support from the Global Environment Facility, a second project is underway in Kosrae to ‘climate proof’ infrastructure that will be adversely affected by climate related environmental changes. In addition, FSM is party to the Green Micronesia Initiative spearheaded by the Chief Executives of the Micronesian governments. This aims to increase energy efficiency by 20%, increase energy conservation by 20% and expand renewable energy to achieve 30% power generation from renewable technologies. The target date for achieving all these measures is 2020.