CoGent Network

Darwin Initiative "Upgrading and broadening the new South-Pacific International Coconut Genebank"

Country information


No registered coconut genebank



Mr Henry Capelle, Agro-forestry Officer
Ministry of Resources and Development
Majuro, Marshall Island
Phone: (+692) 625 3206
Fax: (+692) 625 3005/3821

Marshall Islands Green Dwarf (MIGD)
(Image: R. Bourdeix)

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a Micronesian nation consisting of 29 atolls each made up of many islets and 5 islands in the central Pacific located 4 to 14°N and 160 to 173°E. The atolls and islands are situated in two parallel chain-like formations known as the Ratak (Sunrise or eastern) group and the Ralik (Sunset or western) group. The total number of islands and islets in the whole Republic is approximately 1225 spreading across a sea area of over 2 million km². The total land area is about 181 km². The mean height of land is about 2 m above sea level. In 2003, the population of RMI was estimated at 56,429 inhabitants.

In RMI, there are no commercial coconut plantations and all coconut land is managed by smallholders, whose land areas vary from 0.8 to 6 ha. Various consultants estimate that 90% of land is under coconut in the outer islands and about 25% for the Majuro and Kwajalein atolls. The coconut is primarily a subsistence crop managed by family members. After meeting the domestic needs, the surplus is converted to copra and marketed for cash income. The other significant crops are breadfruit, pandanus, pumpkins and cabbages and small amounts of bananas. Coconut is very much a part of Marshallese culture and has several uses, of which the main ones are drinking nuts, cooking nuts, domestic fuel, toddy/sap of the unopened spathe (flower), syrup, sugar, vinegar, roof-thatching, baskets, and handicraft material.

The varieties of coconuts in RMI are mainly Tall with few Dwarfs planted close to dwellings. In 1960’s a Tall variety with large nuts from Yap State was introduced into a few areas. The Dwarf is used for drinking and for tapping sap/toddy (locally called jekaro). The Dwarf variety is not suitable for copra.

Coconuts are by far the most important cash crop and have sustained the economy for more than a century. The contribution of copra, however, varied enormously from atoll to atoll. The average production is 6698 tons of copra which is 47% of the potential of 14 287 tons. Copra production fluctuates due to variations in weather as well as copra prices.

From 1885 to 1979 when Tobolar Copra Processing Company was set up, copra continued to be the major export earner. Since 1979, coconut oil and copra cake resulting from copra processing became the major export earner.

More info: pdf.png Conserved coconut germplasm from the Marshall Islands (2.0MB)

Collaborative Activities between BIOVERSITY/COGENT and the Marshall Islands

1. Capacity Building

a) Technical assistance/expert advice
In 2000, one expert visited Marshall Islands to assist in coconut germplasm collecting, characterisation and conservation in Marshall Islands.

b) Training and human resources development
One local coconut researcher was sponsored by COGENT to undergo staff development training in 1999 on the STANTECH.

c) COGENT meetings/workshops
No COGENT –sponsored or –initiated meetings or workshops have been held in the country.

2. Research Projects

So far, only one project was carried out in the country, which is implemented by the Department of Agriculture.

3. Financial Support and Funding

ADB provided funding support for one coconut project in the Marshall Islands amounting to US$11,000, with the national government giving counterpart financing of US$6,875.

4. Summary of Activities and Accomplishments, Marshall Islands

 1. Capacity building
 a) Technical assistance provided by experts to the Marshall Islands




 Jean Pierre Labouisse

2 – 9 November 2000

Coconut germplasm collecting, characterisation and conservation in Marshall Islands

 b) In-country training courses conducted with Marshall Islands research participants


Course/Training Activities


No. Trainees/







 c) Local researchers trained in other countries


Dates, Country

Training Course

 Henry Capelle

30 Jun – 9 Jul 1999, Vanuatu

Stantech Training Course

 d) BIOVERSITY-COGENT meetings/workshops held in the Marshall Islands







 2. BIOVERSITY-COGENT projects in the Marshall Islands

 Project Title



Funding (US$)

 a) Collecting, evaluation and charaterization of coconut genetic resources in Marshall Islands

Department of Agriculture







As of November 2009

Prepared by:
Yeow Giap Seng, COGENT Programme Assistant

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