Archive for the ‘Vanuatu’ Category

(Photo by Eric Lafforgue)

Honorary Curator of the Vanuatu Museum, anthropologist Kirk Huffman says land is working in Melanesia – contrary to the view supported by AusAID, foreign economists and others. He says they need to rethink the sense of linking our self-sufficient, superior Pacific with an failed western development model.

“Land has been working for Melanesians, and working well for Melanesians for thousands of years. It’s just that, I guess, any sort of project that economists, development economists are involved in – because they only think about money – they think that land is not working for someone unless it’s making money.

“That’s a bit ridiculous in Melanesia where you’ve got the world’s highest percentage of people who are still basically self sufficient and still living on their own traditional land. The land is actually the biggest employer in the whole of Melanesia! It doesn’t just sort of hand out shillings at the end of every week like in the White Man’s World. In the White Man’s World money has become the God. Everything is focussed around this thing called money. If you look at money, modern money, from a Melanesian point of view the closest comparison you can make is that it’s rather like an addictive drug. It’s useful and beneficial in small quantities but if you over-do it it can become addictive and very socially divisive.
“Around the coast of the island of Efate in Vanuatu I think something like just over 60 per cent of the land has been alienated. And this is very rapidly. And the thing is it’s being promoted as, sort of, development. It does seem to me a little bit strange that something that is promoted as development is something that essentially means that traditional land custodians essentially lose control over their land.”There must be a better way around all this. OK, if you want development – right, one needs this, one needs that – we all know that. But let’s have the kind of development that is relevant for us. You know, we don’t need outdated and faulty economic theory forced onto, essentially, almost self sufficient island nations and cultures. Because if you pull them into the modern, highly unstable financial situation a little glitch or a hiccup or a collapse on the far side, the isolated side of the world like, for example, the United States or wherever, you could actually affect people in Melanesia. And it’s not fair! You’d think economists would actually learn something. It needs economists to respect the fact that there may be parts of the world that their type of economic theory does not fit.

“It’s actually a clash of cultures between a Western, money obsessed, capitalistic, individualistic system against Melanesian systems which are actually much, much older, a lot more sophisticated, a lot more communally orientated, a lot more geared to self sufficiency and profound thinking about ways of looking at the environment where you’re actually part of the land. The land is actually part of you.”



Via Vanuatu Daily Post

The pilot study report “Alternative Indicators of Well-being for Melanesia” was launched at the Chiefs’ Nakamal on Thursday. The study is a joint report of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Vanuatu National Statistics Office, and Vanuatu Kaljarol Senta (VKS). It has been endorsed twice by leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Jamie Tanguay, co-ordinator of the project to establish indicators for well-being in Melanesia, started his presentation by explaining the need to change the way progress is measured in Melanesia.

On the one hand, Vanuatu is regarded as a Least Developed Country (LDC). The broad criteria involved in being awarded LDC status are low gross national income: we are down at 141 on the World Bank’s latest listings. Then there is “weak human assets”. With a labour force of less than 100,000 and only 30% of the country receiving secondary education, we are definitely weak. And then there is economic vulnerability, and especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Earthquakes and natural disasters like cyclones also bring us down to LDC level. That said, LDC countries tend to be typified by war, genocide, disease, starvation, homelessness, pollution and lack of clean water. We have none of those.

And on the other hand, the New Economics Foundation and Lonely Planet have seen fit to describe Vanuatu as the ‘Happiest Country in the World’.

Jamie Tanguay emphasizes that for far too long economists have used income and expenditure patterns to paint a picture of a society’s well-being. “We have failed to develop an international standard for measuring well-being.”

He continues: Vanuatu is lucky. Because Vanuatu still has a vibrant traditional economy that has served it well for thousands of years. It has supported a population several times larger than the present one with enough healthy organic food for all men, women, and children, and continues to do so for most ni-Vanuatu today. It supported living conditions for extended family units – with housing, cooking and sanitation facilities – supported community organization by providing places for congregation and interaction, and continues to do so for most ni-Vanuatu today. The traditional economy is culture. It is how society organizes itself to provide for the livelihoods of its members.

In Vanuatu:
• 79% of ni-Vanuatu have access to customary lands (92% of those living in rural areas).
• 90% of ni-Vanuatu know their customary land boundaries.
• 88% of people feel they have enough or more than enough customary land to meet their needs.
• 95% of people with access to customary lands make their homes and grow food for personal consumption on that land.
And all that is just for a start.

Jamie Tanguay knows the Vanuatu economy to be different to one based on cash. It has been the task of his team of economists and statisticians to establish the values that count most in Vanuatu. They reached to the furthest corners of the country (where people are clearly more happy than their cousins in Port Vila and Santo). Nevertheless, Ni-Vanuatu decision makers, says Tanguay, “risk steering their country in a direction guided by Western values and not the professed Melanesian values they once vowed to uphold at the time of Independence.”

True Melanesian values were the basis of discussions amongst many groups of people. These values went far beyond land and resource access. Cultural practice and community vitality were important. The outlook of women and church leaders had also to be considered. And ceremonial activity was also critical.

“Perhaps the most intriguing finding from this study on ni-Vanuatu well-being is that of TORBA Province, the northern most province in the country with the lowest GDP per capita and least access to markets…in effect the most ‘economically handicapped’ and, coincidentally, the Province with the highest subjective well-being (or, happiness) of any other province by a significant amount,” Jamie Tanguay said. “It is also the province with the highest perceived equality, highest levels of trust in neighbors, most positive assessment of traditional leaders, highest rates of community interaction, and the list goes on.”

The VKS production unit have also made an excellent film which to be made available as DVD and made available for public viewings toward the end of September.

The PDF of the full report is now available for download through the VNSO website  here.


By Timothy Gaio Jnr

Black Man Town must say no to the World Trade Organization (WTO). There are so many examples of self-reliance here. Blackman Town is a role model our nation needs to learn from in order to build up the national economy.

The question is: how we can as a nation build our economy so that even the grassroots also can benefit from it?

Speaking from a Man Tanna point of view, Tanna as an island and a society is now experiencing economic growth. I am not a statistician or an economist to weigh and measure the island’s economic growth rate. However speaking from my personal observation and experience, I can say that money making is quick down there. There is a massive inflow of millions of dollars into the money making machine in Tanna and Tafea.

Let us look at a simple equation of economy. A farmer plants his island cabbage and when he harvests it, he wishes to earn some money from it. He therefore sells some along the main high way. He in turn makes some money. He goes home and wants to eat rice. Brother Tom operates a small store where he goes and buys 1 kilo of rice for 200vt. This is the beginning of economic growth, owned by the people and benefitting the people.

Our President Iolu Abbil is a former manager and former inspector of cooperatives in the islands which were set up prior to independence to form the foundation of our national economy. An article in Daily post February 1, 2012 reads, “Wai cooperative in Lolowai Ambae shoots up to Vt59 Million, a profit of 8 Million and shares of Vt2 Million.” Does that not reflect an economic boom for the island and country? The article says Wai Cooperative comes second to Lakatoro Consumers. However, how much more could this figure compare to Black Man Town local economic producers?

The problem is not about money, but how we can make it. We have the product, which we call our natural resources, plus our quality human resources. Long term plans to earn money out of our own resources should be the focus of the planners of our economic development.

The problem is that we want fast food, short cuts and money under the table to implement fast decisions which may lead our country to poverty. Our leaders must think constructively and not only to reflect other people’s thoughts and motives.

Compare Bon Marche to the reality now that we have passed the bill ratifying the WTO Accession. Today I walk to Bon Marche and buy a bundle of Island cabbage for 150vt while sometimes in the Market a bundle is sold for 200vt. World Trade Organization is an economic system that allows big companies to reduce the prices of their products. But selling at very low prices automatically kills our little businesses that we have operated for years to put food on the table every day. 200vt cash may sound a lot, but this is the standard of our economy.

Economic outcome is an end product, which begins with the producer and ends with the consumer. We build our infrastructure and keep the bulk of our money. World Trade Organization and its system builds its infrastructure and takes our money away. It leaves us with nothing: therefore we borrow and borrow again.

To conclude, Black Man Town – you have already set the platform for economic growth. Let us be challenged to protect our economic development – firstly to achieve our individual Provincial Goals, then our National Government Goals.


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