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Geography, climate and population
Fiji is a country in the South Pacific Ocean composed of 332 islands of which only 110 are inhabited. The country has total area of 18 270 kmē. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, with total areas of 10 429 kmē and 5 556 kmē, represent 57 percent and 30 percent of the total area of the country respectively. Two smaller islands, Taveuni with a total area of 435 kmē and Kadavu with a total area of 408 kmē, account for a further 4.6 percent of the land area, and most of the remaining islands are very small. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 14 provinces and 1 dependency (Rotuma). The capital city is Suva.
The agricultural area, which is the sum of arable land, permanent crops and permanent meadows and pasture, is estimated at 425 000 ha, which is 23 percent of the total area of the country. In 2013, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 250 000 ha, of which 66 percent (165 000 ha) consisted of temporary crops and 34 percent (85 000 ha) of permanent crops (Table 1).
The islands form a group of high islands of volcanic origin, with barrier reefs, atolls, sand cays and raised coral islands. Both Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are mountainous, with peaks rising to 1 323 m and 1 032 m above sea level respectively. The uplands of both islands were formerly covered in tropical rainforest, but much of this has now been replaced with secondary forest and grassland on the lower slopes. Farmland occupies most flattish lowland, and large areas on both islands are under cultivation for sugarcane. In fact, more than half of the cultivated area consists of three crop types only: coconuts (26 percent), sugarcane (17 percent), roots and tubers (10 percent) (FAO, 2015).
The different geological origins and climates of the islands and their isolation from other islands have all contributed to provide Fiji with a large number of different ecosystems with a very rich diversity of flora and fauna (SOPAC, 2007).
Fiji has a tropical marine climate. The wet and tropical cyclone season are from November to April. The dry season is from May to October. Only 20 percent of the rain falls during this period, unevenly distributed over time and location. The average annual temperature in the country is 27°C, while the highest temperature is 32°C and the lowest temperature 18°C (WAF, 2015). Average annual rainfall ranges from 1 500 mm on the smaller islands to over 4 000 mm on the larger islands.
In 2015, the total population was about 892 100, of which around 46 percent was rural (Table 1). Population density is 49 inhabitants/kmē. The average annual population growth rate in the 2005-2015 period was 0.8 percent. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87 percent of the population (WAF, 2015). The two major urban areas are Nadi and its peri-urban area in the west of Vita Levu and the Suva-Nausori corridor in the southeast of Viti Levu (SOPAC, 2007).
In 2014, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Fiji 90 among 188 countries, while the Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranks it 87 among 155 countries, for which information was available. Life expectancy is 70 years and the under-five mortality is 22 per 1000 births, both progressing from 66 years and 27 per 1000 in the 1990s. With no significant distinction between boys and girls, around 97 percent of the children in 2012 are enrolled in primary education and 83 percent in secondary education (World Bank, 2015). In 2015, 96 percent of the population had access to improved water sources (100 and 91 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 91 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (93 and 88 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) (JMP, 2015).