The development of insecurity in Vanuatu and beyond: seeking new ways to evaluate land and livelihood

McMahon, T 2012, The development of insecurity in Vanuatu and beyond: seeking new ways to evaluate land and livelihood, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title The development of insecurity in Vanuatu and beyond: seeking new ways to evaluate land and livelihood
Author(s) McMahon, T
Year 2012
Abstract The study presents an alternative view of development to that of the 'standard' model, using the Pacific nation of Vanuatu as a case study and proxy for many like states throughout the Pacific, in Africa and in parts of Asia and the Americas.

In Vanuatu, all rural households and many urban households engage in subsistence-based livelihoods. Worldwide, more than half the planet's population continue to be engaged in subsistence-based livelihoods, yet the 'standard' model indicators measure these livelihoods in the terms of the market economy.

This study contends that subsistence-based livelihoods need to be understood in terms appropriate to subsistence, not to market economies.

Vanuatu was chosen as the case study because it is well known to the author through three years living and working there. Since 2000, there has been large-scale withdrawal of land from traditional patterns of use, as a consequence of a land 'boom', with expatriate investors now holding large areas of land in leasehold.

Four research questions are posed about subsistence-based livelihoods, and each of the questions is investigated using an innovative model, based on analysis of large scale data sets, of which Vanuatu has an extensive collection.

First, a valuation of the costs of land withdrawal from traditional use is undertaken, which provides a proxy value of returns to the subsistence livelihoods based on that land. This method challenges the validity of the imputation of consumption or production costs methods favoured by the World Bank among others.

Second, a series of projections of optimal land use distribution are undertaken to assess the impact of land withdrawals on subsistence-based production. The results are moderated by comparison with the nearby island of Tikopia, in the Solomons, which has an extensively documented history of natural resource management.

Rural and urban livelihood patterns are then compared using the livelihood framework analysis model of Frank Ellis (2000), one of a number of researchers working with the U.K. Department for International Development on sustainable livelihoods. While the methodology is employed, this study takes issue with the formulation of the model, and the selection of variables when subsistence-based production is present. The study uses access to resources, measured by percentage participation as the unit of measure, not cash or cash equivalent terms.

The final task broadens the study to a group of 58 countries - all the LDC countries, most of the top ten HDI countries and India and China, the transitional giants. An index is compiled which measures and combines five factors of resilience to food insecurity, measured in access and percentage participation terms and against a contextual background of increasing world food insecurity. The group of countries are ranked, and the results are compared with rankings in the HDI and International Poverty Lines.

The study concludes that the metaphoric measures of the 'standard' model of development may greatly undervalue subsistence-based production, and this probable error in formulating the problem indicates why aid is often unsuccessful, and sometimes harmful to those it is meant to benefit.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Keyword(s) Subsistence
livelihoods
development
models
political economy
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