Post-World War II Guåhan

A year after the surrender of Japanese forces, the naval government was re-established as an interim measure until it could be replaced with a permanent civil government. Of top priority during the immediate post-war period was rebuilding from the devastation of the war. Early efforts to reinvigorate agriculture were thus limited to biological control projects. Agriculture fell under the Department of Internal Affairs, which was monitored by naval personnel until the passing of the Organic Act (1950) when a transition to civilian employees occurred. Much of the same pre-war projects were later revived to include home economic education, extension work, and production assistance. These projects were staffed by Farm Advisors performing various tasks to include collecting statistical data, providing manual labor, making deliveries to government stores, and teaching on demonstration farms.[1]Randall Workman, Anne Workman, Victor Artero, “A Chronological History of Agriculture and Development of the Cooperative Extension System on Guam,” Prepublication Draft. College of Agriculture … Continue reading

Agricultural Cooperatives 1945. From the Collection of the Guam Public Library System.

From the mid 1940s to 1950, agriculture was reported to be difficult to revive as a major industry. Crops that once served as key export products such as copra and corn were no longer grown in substantial quantities.[2]Pedro, Sanchez, Guahan Guam: The History of Our Island (Agana, Guam: Sanchez Publishing House, 1990), 272. Furthermore, land once farmed by CHamoru hands were either confiscated for military defense purposes and recreational use or taken for the government farm.[3]Anne Perez Hattori, “Guardians of Our Soil: Indigenous Responses to Post-World War II Land Approproation on Guam,” in Farms, Firms, and Runways: Perspectives on U.S. Military Bases in the Western … Continue reading Some available parcels were deemed unsuitable for farming due to the destruction caused by the American bombardment. This disconnect from the lands prevented many families from continuing to live subsistence lifestyles. Guam’s transition to a wage-earning economy urged many to seek employment among the jobs that provided various services for the military.[4]Laura Souder, “Psyche Under Siege: Uncle Sam, Look What You’ve Done to Us” in Conference Proceedings, Ninth Annual GASW Conference, Agana, Guam. Farm labor was also lost as a result of the Organic Act. With their newly acquired U.S. citizenship granted by the Act, young people enlisted in the military or set out for higher education in the United States.[5]Robert Underwood, “Excursions into Inauthenticity: The Chamorro Migrant Stream,” Pacific Viewpoint XXVI 1985), 160-184.

Farming-Governor’s Palace Agana Post World War. From the Collection of the Guam Public Library System.

Throughout the 50s, several Governors had attempted to rejuvenate local agriculture to its “pre-war glory”.  Governor Carlton Skinner attempted to reduce the island’s dependency on shipping imports through the creation of a Food Defense council whose purpose was to encourage the public to farm various crops and livestock. [6]Sanchez, Guåhan Guam, 319. Under Skinner, the number of livestock had increased in addition to the amount of land cleared for farming. Improving livestock production was also the goal of the Joseph Flores administration (1960-1961), which imported bulls for breeding and designated large tracks of land for hog raising. An upgrade to the cattle industry and expansion of the hatchery project were also conducted under Flores. [7]Ibid., 336.

GPLS - L150. From the Collection of the Guam Public Library System

The goal to make Guåhan more “self-sufficient” continued to be an objective for Flores’s successor – William B. Daniel (1961-1963). His “back to the soil” movement served as a promotional campaign to expand the capacity of the Department of Agriculture. [8]Ibid., 340.  Under the Daniel administration, the department received 70 acres of land in Mangilao for its administrative office and other facilities. Poultry facilities were expanded and repairs were made to hog and dairy barns. An air-conditioning system was also supplied for a humidity-controlled feed storage room.

MARC – GC20-1. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.
MARC GC20-861. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.

Daniel’s “back to the soil” drive also served as an educational campaign to encourage local residents to take up home gardening. Land was provided for demonstration farms in Yigo and Talafofo and equipment was made available to local farmers. Such equipment was also used to clear more land designated for farming and livestock production. Daniel’s Operation Guam Friendship brought livestock from Texas to Guåhan for local breeding projects. The arrival of the bulls brought Daniel much delight that he requested they be escorted to his office to capture the moment.  

Carabao and tractor on the field. From the Collection of the Guam Public Library System.

The agricultural developments of the 50s and early 60s were thwarted due to a series of typhoons – Typhoon Nancy in 1961, Super Typhoon Karen in 1962, and Typhoon Olive in 1963.[9]Ibid. Typhoon Karen sits in the collective memory of the people who consider it to be among the most traumatic in our island’s history. Sustained winds of roughly 173 miles per hour with gusts up to 207 miles per hour intensified, taking nine lives and damaging $100 million dollars worth of infrastructure. As a result, the island was placed under martial law and President John F. Kennedy declared Guam a disaster area. The storm coincided with the resignation of Governor Daniel, thus leaving then Secretary of Guam Manuel Guerrero to address the island’s needs.

As a result of Typhoons Karen and Olive, millions of dollars in relief flooded into Guåhan. The use of rehabilitation funds for economic development and capital improvements under Guerrero set the precedent for future governors who experienced natural disasters during their terms. Throughout the 60s and 70s, development projects either garnered support or opposition. Plaguing the Guerrero administration were debates surrounding his urban renewal campaign which involved the expansion of several villages. Typhoon-proof buildings were erected and private developers were given government land to build subdivisions of low-cost concrete homes. While many supported the idea of giving Guåhan a facelift, others questioned the cost such housing would have on the residents of Guåhan and the degree of control the governor had over land matters.

Typhoon Karen. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Cente.r.
Typhoon Pamela. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center..

This period of subsequent typhoons offered harsh blows to the farmers. Guåhan farmers suffered a setback in crop production and the destruction of their facilities. Many were discouraged from taking up the shovel again. This disconnect with the farm also coincided with massive construction of public facilities and permanent housing.[10]Ibid., 345. Local families transitioned from more rural living spaces and lifestyles into newly built subdivisions which presented unique challenges for growing the foods that previously sustained them. Many adapted by building extensions of their living spaces to include outside kitchens where food preparation and social gatherings were traditionally conducted.[11]Hunter-Anderson and D.R. Moore A Study of Eight Post-World War II Resettlement Villages on Guåhan. Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, Division of Historic Resources. Sanchez, Guåhan … Continue reading Furthermore, many transformed their cookie cutter lawns into miniature home gardens. While this new space may not have allowed for larger quantities or varieties of crops to be planted as before, families adapted by planting food that took up less real estate such as citrus trees or donne’ plants.

Important to consider with regard to changes in post-war agriculture is the lifting of the navy security clearance which served as an impediment to Guåhan’s economy.[12] Ibid., 344. A measure put in place prior to WWII, it was reimplemented upon the return of the U.S. naval government. The security clearance allowed the navy to control persons and cargo entering and exiting the island thus restricting local business, trade, and travel. Soon after the Korean War, many felt that there was no longer a need for the clearance. Eventually, President John F. Kennedy Executive Order 11045 in 1962, which discontinued the security clearance.

With the lifting of the security clearance, Governor Guerrero sought various ways to stimulate economic growth. In his 1963 report to Department of Interior, he stated “Launched to create a more stable civilian economy with emphasis placed on the development of agriculture, fishing, tourism, and possibly manufacturing on a small scale.”[13]Te’o Ian Fairbairn, “Agriculture on Guam: Observations on Problems and Research Needs,” South Pacific Commission Occasional Paper No. 1 (March 1977): 3. Like other Pacific Island Nations at the time, Guåhan explored the possibilities of developing a tourism industry. Tourism, according to Guerrero’s philosophy, was to provide Guåhan with a “permanent economy” – one less reliant on the activities of the military. In 1963, Guerrero established a tourism commission. The building of several hotels soon followed along with the construction of the Guam International Air Terminal (1966). Partnerships with several airlines connecting Guåhan to the United States, Japan, and Micronesia ensured a steady flow of visitors.

The growing tourism industry had a huge impact on the post-war agricultural industry. Not only did it provide another job market for locals, further reducing the amount of available labor for farming, but it also led leaders and the general public to question the viability of an agricultural industry on Guam.[14]Sanchez, Guåhan Guam, 402-403. For Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo (1975-1978), both the tourism and agricultural industries were intertwined with the latter having the potential to supply tropical food stuffs not only to foreign markets, but local markets and hotels booming with tourists wanting a “taste of paradise”.[15]Ibid., 385. His vision materialized in the form of the “Green Revolution” – a policy to develop agriculture, a fishing industry, local manufacturers, and to achieve great self-sufficiency overall for the island.

Agricultural Products 1970. From the Collection of the Guam Public Library System.
AgricultureExp006. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.
CopraFarm010. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.
ShrimpFarm007. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.

For Bordallo, this was a timely initiative in line with social movements in the mainland calling for a shift from consumptive society to productive community: 

The time has come to transform the consumptive and dependent economy of Guam into productive self-sufficiency. This will not occur until new industries locate on island and local productivity develops. An infusion of funds is necessary to construct an infrastructure to support such development[…] To fully realize the economic potentials of tourism, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, transshipment, and to meet our social obligation to ensure the provision of decent, safe, and sanitary homes, the island of Guam needs assistance.[16] Fairbairn, “Agriculture on Guam”, 2.

Gone were the boom years of the sixties and early seventies. The 70s called for creative solutions to address the island’s increased costs of shipping and imported foods and decreases in revenues.

In 1976, Typhoon Pamela disrupted life for the people of Guåhan, once again presenting challenges to the farming community. In 1975, the number of persons employed in agriculture totaled to 111 (98 males and 13 females) out of a total of 34,938 employed in all industries.[17]Ibid. Following a severe typhoon in 1975 and Typhoon Pamela in 1976, the number of persons employed in agriculture decreased to an estimated 35 full-time employees and about the same number of part-time farmers.[18]Letter from Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo in “A Public Market Feasibility Study: The Prospect of Agriculture on Guam” prepared by the Department of Commerce, Government of Guam, June 30, 1997: ii. For the Bordallo administration, however, relief and rehabilitation funds once again afforded Guåhan the opportunity to reconstruct and explore viable economic ventures. For Governor Bordallo, this included the construction of the Guam Public Market at the Paseo de Susana in Agana.[19]Hong K. Sohn, “A public market feasibility study: the prospect of agriculture on Guam” Economic Research Center, Government of Guam, July 1977. In line with his Green Revolution campaign, the Public Market was to serve as a central location for farmers marketing their produce and livestock. Non-food vendors such as handicraft makers were also welcomed to further attract visiting tourists.

Chamorro Village004. From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.

After years of operation, the Guam Public Market – located at what is commonly referred to as The CHamoru Village – would become embroiled in controversy regarding the government’s commitment to the farming community. For years after the war, local farmers addressed the difficulty of establishing a place to call their own. Several structures had to be resurrected throughout the years as a result of typhoon damage. Even when in operation, the market was criticized for being poorly maintained. Some expressed frustration in the change of the market’s location and conversations continued regarding whether local vendors or the Department of Agriculture should hold authority over the space. Many farmers were hopeful that the Guam Public Market would finally address their needs, but the increasing number of tourism attractions and vendors demonstrated what they felt was a sign of the government’s neglect toward them and its economic priorities. Generations of farmers continued to voice their requests for a farmer’s market in 2013 until the current facility in Dededo was built in 2016.[20] “Farmers Market, Flea Market Opening Stalled,” Pacific Daily News, published on March 14, 2016,

This generation of farmers, although fewer in number than their pre-war ancestors, grew up in a world of post-war agricultural trends. The 60s and 70s witnessed a promotional shift from manual labor to research and education.[21]Workman, Workman, and Artero, “A Chronological History of Agriculture,” 7. Established in 1952, the Territorial College of Guam in Department of Agriculture welcomed the Department of Agriculture to teach courses in Animal Husbandry, Chemistry, Entomology, and Home Economics. In the 1960s, a morning radio show and Sunday articles in a local newspaper provided farming and agricultural information to the public. Consultant specialists were also brought in to create dialogue between Guåhan staff and Hawaii’s extension programs. By 1973, the Department of Agriculture had transferred authority for research and extension functions over to the University of Guam (awarded Land-Grant status in 1972). Only a year later was the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences established and included an agricultural experiment station, Guam Cooperative Extension, and a Home Economics and 4H Youth program.

AgricultureExpo005 - From the Collection of the Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.

By the 1970s, the island was impacted by global social movements. The decolonization movement in the Pacific sparked an increase in the political consciousness of the CHamoru people. Pride in their indigenous identity birthed a cultural renaissance which coincided with a growing tourism industry. Local grassroots movements included language revitalization programs and newfound interest in traditional arts. CHamorus also called for deeper connections with the land and sea and firmer environmental protections.

Land disputes continued to sour relationships between CHamoru families and the military well into the late 20th century. In an attempt to assert CHamoru rights over land, Guåhan leaders authored the CHamoru Land Trust Act in 1975.[22]Hattori, “Guardians of Our Soil”, 198-199. The act intended to provide public lands to CHamorus for residential, agricultural, or commercial ventures, but was not implemented until 1993 due to delays in the appointment of members to the commission. Action was finally taken after much pressure by local activists. Noteworthy is the community of dispossessed CHamorus led by the late Maga’låhi Angel Santos of the organization, Nasion CHamoru.

From its inception, the CHamoru Land Trust Act intended to promote agriculture. The Act provided cheap land rental rates of $1 a year per acre, called for the supervision of crop quotas, and provided loans and tax exemptions for leasees pursuing agricultural ventures.[23]Joseph Martinez, “An Agricultural Introduction to the Chamorro Land Trust Act,” in Proceedings of the Workshop on the Future of Agriculture on Guam. When in operation, the CLTC addressed several challenges. For one, separate rules and regulations were needed to address the distinct needs of subsistence farmers and commercial farmers. Secondly, the commission had to deal with a number of “squatter” cases as some leasees failed to use their lots for agricultural purposes and built either temporary or more permanent concrete shelters. Government responses to such acts of defiance continued to be a topic of debate in the late 20th century considering that the commission intended to address CHamoru dispossession in the first place. In recent years, the CLTC has been challenged in court by individuals (most notably Dave Davis) claiming the commission is inherently racist for denying non-natives access to these public lands. The CLTC thus continues to be entangled in contemporary issues surrounding CHamoru sovereignty and settler colonialism.

Due to the various factors mentioned above, the demographics of the Guam farming community has changed dramatically since World War II. Data from the early 2000s show that there are more farmers ages 65 years and over and less 35 years of age and below.[24]Bucayu-Laurent and Hollyer, “Some History and Trends of Agriculture on Guam,” 15. While the community is comprised of mostly CHamorus, there are members from Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Micronesian, White, and other backgrounds. There are also a larger number of male farmers than females, whose main occupations are non-agricultural, a shift since 1987. The farming community may continue to evolve as more conversations are had about our colonial history and food sovereignty. Local organizations such as Guåhan Sustainable Culture continue to provide education and generate awareness of Guam’s food insecurity through research and community projects.

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