Where was the home of the DoDo Bird??

If you are wise enough to know about this extinct flightless phenomenon, you would know that it was confined to the island of Mauritius! I was lucky enough to spend a day in Mauritius last spring. Mauritius is a very small country located off the coast of Madagascar. It is a very unique place for a variety of reasons. First of all, Mauritius is well-known for being a very multi-racial country. A history of slave trades from Africa and India, in addition to vast and varied immigration movements, has made the Mauritian people nearly indistinguishable from an ethnical standpoint. European, Indian, African and Chinese influences are the most prominent, but decades of intermarriages have created a unique breed of people. Census commissioners struggle to classify the ethnic diversity of the nation. Most citizens are completely unaware of their heritage and background. The United States is another nation that is considered multi-racial, but when one is asked for his background/heritage, he is likely to know where his family descended from prior to immigrating to the U.S. The lack of identity amongst the Mauritian people makes it a very unique culture to study, albeit a very frustrating culture for census commissioners.

Another distinguishing factor about Mauritius is that it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Mauritius is a very small island that first delved into overpopulation after WWII when significant medicinal improvements were implemented. The article Living in a Small, Crowded Room: Scenarios for the Future of Mauritius describes the overcrowding issue in Mauritius by comparing it to an overcrowded household. Imagine you live in a small, one-bedroom apartment. Over the years you continue to buy more and more furniture, making it very difficult to move around the apartment efficiently. Then you have a child. You move your stuff into the living room and give the child the bedroom. Then you have another child, and move that child into the bedroom with your first-born. As time progress, you and your children accumulate more and more junk and the apartment becomes more and more crowded. Population growth is very detrimental to the small island of Mauritius. The island, like the one-bedroom-apartment, is continuing to become more and more crowded. There are 571 people per square kilometer. Compare this to the world’s average of 45 per square kilometer. Talk about crowded!

Not only are there obvious human limits for this country, but there are also very obvious natural resource limits that are of concern. The relatively high standard of living that exists for the people of Mauritius, in addition to their strong tourism industry and high demands on irrigation, place serious stress on the water supply for the country. Despite the fact that Mauritius receives ample rainfall and has developed an innovative system of aquifers that store water efficiently out of the rainy season, the country remains in the category of water-poor countries.

So what does a country like Mauritius do when its’ human and natural resource limits have reached their peak? All water and land resources are currently being utilized. How does Mauritius plan to grow and improve its’ economy? Should it attempt to increase the productivity of what it has through rapid technological progress? Should activities in less productive sectors be reduced? Many may argue for this, but if it were to occur, wouldn’t the people currently working in these sectors likely organize to resist this attempt? I am interested to hear YOUR thoughts!

Some current initiatives being taken delve into the agricultural realm. Mauritius’s main export is sugar. 90% of the cultivated land in Mauritius is sugar cane. The IFAD organization is currently working to encourage Mauritius’s diversification of agriculture to eliminate risk developed by a strong reliance on sugarcane and to ensure future opportunities for agricultural growth.

In addition, the IOM organization has recognized that the Mauritius population lacks skillsets necessary to maximize productivity on the island. Therefore, it is encouraging circular migration so that Mauritain citizens can travel globally to acquire necessary skills and perspectives that will allow them to return to Mauritius with valuable human capital tools.

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2 Responses

  1. Great title! You’re trivia definitely drew me in! Mauritius sounds like an anthropologist’s dream with the multi-racial population of people that don’t identify with any heritages. It would be very interesting to study the cultural interactions on the crowded island. Being such an overcrowded, the IOM might be better off encouraging circular migration more for the purpose of seeking abroad employment. If population and unemployment are on the rise while resources are nearing their peak, moving overseas might be the best option for some Mauritians.

  2. interesting point ej! the only question is if people would be willing to move to a new country. Mauritians are very proud of their unique culture and heritage so this might be a difficult decision for people.

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