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WALLIS AND FUTUNA
Wallis and Futuna, in full Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, French Territoire des eles Wallis et Futuna, self-governing overseas collectivity of France consisting of two island groups in the west-central Pacific Ocean. The collectivity is geographically part of western Polynesia. It includes the Wallis Islands (Uvea and surrounding islets) and the Horne Islands (Futuna and Alofi). The capital is Mate’utu, on Uvea.
The island of Uvea takes its European name, Wallis, from its 18th-century British discoverer, Capt. Samuel Wallis, but the indigenous name is of much greater antiquity. Uvea and Futuna are sometimes confused with islands of the same or similar names elsewhere. Uvea is sometimes confused with Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. Futuna has a namesake among the islands of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides), and folklore suggests that both the Futuna in Vanuatu and the Stewart Islands (Sikaiana) in the Solomon Islands were settled from Futuna in the pre-European era. Total land area 54 square miles (140 square km). Pop. (2008) 13,445.
Uvea is a volcanic island, but it is relatively low, rising to a maximum elevation of only 476 feet (145 metres) at Mount Lulu Fakahega. Its total land area is 29 square miles (76 square km). Uvea is surrounded by a barrier reef with some 20 uninhabited islets, which have a maximum elevation of 200 feet (60 metres). The reef is broken by passes that give boats access to the main island, and the area between the reef and the island is a sheltered fishing ground.
All three islands receive adequate precipitation. Uvea has no permanent streams, but there are numerous streams and wells on Futuna. Alofi is without fresh water and has no permanent settlements.
The soils of Uvea and Futuna islands are of limited fertility, and a number of factors restrict agricultural production. Only about one-fourth of the available land is suitable for cultivation. The system of land tenure, which is based on customary ownership by kin groups, has resulted in a fragmentation of land parcels. Traditional agricultural practices alternate two or three years of cropping with long fallow periods, and there has been a cumulative deterioration of the soil.
The territory’s climate is tropical with high humidity. Two seasons are fairly well delineated. The hot, rainy period, during which tropical storms may occur, lasts from November to March and has average temperatures in the high 80s F (about 31 °C). A dry, cooler season with trade winds from the southeast lasts from April to October, with average temperatures in the low 80s F (about 27 °C).
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