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Business serves society: Successful locally-driven development on customary land in the South Pacific

Scheyvens, Regina and Banks, Glenn and Vunibola, Suliasi and Steven, Hennah and Meo-Sewabu, Litea (2020) Business serves society: Successful locally-driven development on customary land in the South Pacific. Geoforum, 112 . 52 - 62. ISSN 0016-7185

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This article examines how land under customary forms of tenure can provide the opportunity for a variety of different forms of economic activity that provide social, economic and cultural returns to communities in ways that other forms of tenure – particularly individualised title – simply could not do. Commentators have regularly asserted that customary practices around land ‘constrain’ economic development and impair investments in the Pacific. However the seven case studies of locally-owned agriculture and tourism businesses operating on customary land in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Fiji which are profiled here demonstrate that customary forms of tenure can be the basis for highly effective forms of economic development. These businesses are characterised by production systems that reflect cultural and environmental connections to land, as well as a distributive politics that is strongly guided by social connections and custom. The research found that customary land has inherent value as a tool for self-determined forms of development that can produce a diverse range of inclusive and sustainable forms of development. Customary land ownership is not necessarily a barrier to economic development but, rather, an asset that can support culture, the environment and socio-economic needs of indigenous people. Surrendering or transacting away land for short-term gain certainly does not necessarily produce sustainable forms of business, development, or relief from poverty, in the way that these successful indigenous entrepreneurs have done. We conclude that locally-driven development based around customary resources can be a very effective approach to economic development in the rural South Pacific, and indeed a model for those seeking ‘alternative economic forms’ more broadly. This exploration of how land is successfully used for business in the Pacific thus helps to reshape understandings of economies in the Pacific, and beyond.

Item Type: Journal Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alternative economic development, Pacific, Customary land, Socially embedded, Business, self-determination
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: Fulori Nainoca - Waqairagata
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2020 03:45
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2020 03:45

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