The population of the Falklands is almost exclusively of British birth or descent. Many can trace their origins in the territory back to the nineteenth century. Part of the present workforce on the Falklands has South American roots, mainly from Chile, or come from St-Helena (an island near Ascension Island).
The capital Stanley composes three quarters of the population (about 2’200 inhabitants) the rest being dispersed over the two main islands and some neighbouring islands (about 600 inhabitants). Only 15 islands are inhabited out of 700 in the archipelago. The word camp or settlement is used to express inhabited regions outside Stanley and their inhabitants are nicknamed campers. Most are sheep farmers (some already live mainly from tourism) but their number is declining as also is the size of the livestocks of the exploitations.
In addition to the islanders, one must also include 2’000 people forming the British military garrisons, most of whom are in the RAF. Mainly stationed at Mount Pleasant base with some others at Mount Kent, these military people do not come into much contact with the civilian population. This is for several reasons: they live 50kms from Stanley, the only town on the island and their base possesses all facilities for leisure and amusement. They are only stationed on the island for 4 to 6 months which does not encourage making contacts with people. Because of its structure, this professional army is not really integrated in the society and is actually a class apart.
Daily life in the Falklands
The inhabitants of Stanley lead a simple life which is rustic but fairly affluent, however, life in the camps, on the other hand, is less easy.
The standard of living of the inhabitants is stable and there is no unemployment. The cost of living is practically the same as that in England apart from imported products and for tobacco and alcohol which is subject to quite heavy taxes.
In Stanley the people live in little wooden houses which are painted in gay colours. The main heating and cooking fuel was, until fairly recently, peat which is extracted in bricks and dried. It is not ideal for it makes a lot of dust and burns at variable temperatures. Most people have now replaced it with propane.
The Falklands are clean and orderly: there is no dirt, no waste products, no insecurity, no stealing and even less violent crime. There is no fast food, neon signs, traffic lights or big supermarkets. In short the Falklands are a haven of peace, the kind of place which is becoming more and more rare these days!
In general the food is typically English, tea with home made cake is also a custom. The local specialities are composed of lamb, mutton, beef, trout and also garden vegetables. There is a bit of fruit which is imported, like many other products, from England or Chile. The climate offers no possibility of developing farming on a big scale so the people grow their own vegetables in greenhouses. Deliveries of food are regularly made to the settlements. When they are warned by radio of the arrival of a plane the inhabitants must chase away any intruders on the landing strip (sheep, geese, sea gulls).
During the summer when the temperature reaches a maximum of 22°C (January), it is time for pleasant bathing and especially games and very popular sporting competitions: horse racing, football, rugby, golf, river fishing. These gatherings also occur in February / March and coincide with the end of shearing when specialists from New Zealand or Australia participate in sporting jousts of the fastest shearer. The best are capable of shearing a sheep in one minute, taking off the wool in one piece.
Numerous activities take place in Stanley and few villages in the world can boast of having 40 sports clubs and associations of all kinds (scouts, theatre, dance, music, games, handicraft...). In spite of the great number of activities available the pubs, which are open everyday, remain the favourite meeting places for discussions of the islanders. They drink, laugh, sing and forget their isolation in them.
There are few television programmes but video films can be rented. There are more local programmes on the radio and the BBC is available, not forgetting the indispensable radio transmitter which is the most used means of communication of the campers. There are no portable phones.
School is free and compulsory for all children from 5 to 16 years of age. The FIG (Falkland Islands Government) provides staff, material and supplies from one end of the isles to the other. Two schools in Stanley provide education for children during the whole of their school years and 3 little establishments function in the big farms (Port Howard, Goose Green, North Arm). The young children, living in isolated farms, receive private lessons from travelling teachers for two weeks in six. The little establishments and the travelling teachers are supported by the Camp Education Unit based over the radio network or telephone and it also helps by giving homework to children between teacher's visits. The older children have lessons in Stanley and live with families. For university studies the students usually go to Great Britain.
Text: © M.Chabod / F. Bettex • Photos: © Fabrice Bettex / Mysterra