The six main islands have rainforest-covered volcanic mountains, deep narrow valleys, and coastal belts lined with coconut palms and ringed by reefs. Most of the smaller islands are coral atolls in various stages of development.
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The climate is equatorial. Most people live in small settlements along the coast of the large islands and rely on subsistence farming with taro, rice, bananas, and yams being the main crops. Agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, is the mainstay of the economy, and the principal exports are timber, fish, copra, and palm oil.