New model for protecting customary land in Vanuatu

Posted: May 30, 2012 in Land, Vanuatu

In a historic decision Chiefs of Mangaliliu and Lelepa communities have decided to protect their customary tribal lands by putting a community lease over their land.

In an emotional community meeting in Mangaliliu last week of over 200 people, the Chiefs of Naflak tribal and Chiefs on Lelepa granted their land to all the people of Mangaliliu and Lelepa. All Lelema Chiefs signed a letter and sent it to the Minsiter of Lands and the Director General describing the leased area and calling for a halt on all other leasing in North Efate.

“People cheered and cried as all the chiefs of the Naflak tribes and on Lelepa Island stood up, one by one, and said that they would give their land to the community” said Chief Murmur, the chair of the Lelema Chiefs Land Use Planning Committee. “We fought to win our land back at independence, and then we have leased it. Now we have found a way to protect it for future generations”.

After two years of land use planning work with our legal advisor, Siobhan McDonnell, and the help of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre we understand all the major issues around land use in our area. “We need to make sure that in the future there is enough land for all Lelema people to have a house and garden. We decided to fence our land by placing a lease over it, to protect our customary land from other people leasing it”.

In the first lease of its kind the North Efate Chiefs have decided to lease their land but maintain customary management of the land within the boundaries of the lease. “We met with the Director General of Lands, Joe Ligo, last Thursday and he said that the Lands Department will partner with us and will support us to make the community leases we need to protect our land and to provide support to survey the boundaries of the new leases. He also agreed to halt any other leases in the North Efate area until our leases over tribal land  and Lelepa Island are ready” said Chief Murmur. “We would like to thank the DG and the Lands Department staff for supporting North Efate chiefs and people to protect our tribal lands”.

The proposed community lease areas include tribal land around Saone, Fatanlima and Awako in North Efate and also the whole island of Lelepa (see attached map).

For more information please contact: Siobhan McDonnell, Legal Advisor Vanuatu Cultural Centre: 5680748 or

  1. Kihei Soli Niheu says:

    kAMEHAMEHA iii DID THE SAME THING for his nation and people. Unfortunately, with the help of corporate america, the sugar plantation owners and the missionary descendants, they imprisoned our Queen with the help of the u.s. miltary. Never let foreign business interest get a hold of your parliement.

  2. Tane says:

    Sadly, it will not make any difference if the U.S. wants the land; they will just take it and create their own land reforms. Hawai’i is a prime example where the U.S. invaded, took over and belligerently occupied the Hawaiian Kingdom. Hawaii’s lands were private lands with allodial title; it made no difference to the U.S. who seized the lands and displaced the Hawaiian subjects who owned the lands. Their celebration is premature since it means nothing to the U.S.A.

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