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Economy, agriculture and food security
The total population economically active in agriculture was around 23 000 inhabitants (2009), amounting to 16 percent of the economically active population. Of the total population economically active in agriculture 39 percent were women. In 2009, the gross domestic product (GDP) was US$1 473 million of which agriculture accounted for 5 percent.
Maldivians rely on natural rainfall for agriculture. The main crops are maize, sweet potatoes, millet, almonds, sugarcane, pineapples, taro, cassava, and a number of tropical fruits and vegetables. Fruits, such as sweet bananas, papaya, mangoes, limes, star-apples and guavas are grown within the compounds of each family’s property together with a few vegetables.
The Maldives depend on imports for most food requirements and income that is generated by the two main activities, fisheries and tourism, is used to meet import requirements (Shabau, 2008). Fish is the main export product, followed by that coir and copra that are produced from the coconut palms. Recently, attempts have been made to encourage people to return to farming rather than depending on imported goods such as rice, which is the staple food, and wheat. Uninhabited islands, especially those next to the inhabited, are often leased to individuals, or villages, who become responsible for the maintenance of the island’s vegetation, coconut trees and imeber. Coconut production is the dominant agricultural activity and a large variety of local timber is grown for domestic use. Watermelons are grown mainly on Thoddoo Island in the Alifu atoll. Some villagers keep goats and chickens although space is limited (Lamberti, 2007).
The impact of the tsunami in December 2004 was felt across the country, rather than in certain parts or regions. About 100 000 people, or one-third of the population, were severely affected. While loss of life, fortunately, was low, damage on many islands was great, especially hitting tourism on which the economy depends heavily. Of the 198 inhabited islands, 53 suffered severe damage and 10 percent of the islands were destroyed. Schools, clinics and pharmacies were destroyed on some 50 islands. According to the National Disaster Management Centre 64 schools, 30 health centres, and 60 island administrative facilities needed to be reconstructed or rehabilitated. In total, more than 5 000 buildings were damaged (ADB, 2006).