Sustainable rural livelihoods, micro-enterprise and culture in the Pacific Islands : case studies from Samoa : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) in Development Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis is about the relationships between sustainable livelihoods, micro-enterprise and culture in Samoa. The 'sustainable livelihoods approach' provides a basis for analysis. The research focuses on one livelihood strategy, micro-enterprise, in order to illustrate and explain issues that are important in supporting sustainable livelihoods in Samoa. Micro-enterprise is regarded as a livelihood strategy that, if successful and sustainable, can support livelihood outcomes for rural Samoan people, and reduce poverty. The sustainable livelihoods approach is reviewed and the thesis argues that culture is integral to sustainable livelihoods, but existing theory and frameworks do not incorporate cultural aspects in a way that provides a sound theoretical basis for this research, or any sustainable livelihoods analysis. The thesis argues that culture is interwoven into each of the components of the sustainable livelihoods framework, and in fact culture is a context in which livelihoods exist. Each of the components provides an entry point for analysis of the relationships between culture and livelihoods. This concept was used as a basis for an analysis of rural livelihoods in Samoa, where fa'aSamoa was found to be interwoven with almost every aspect of rural livelihoods in a complex and influential way. A revised definition of a sustainable livelihood, and a revised framework were then developed which were more appropriate for this research. A strength of sustainable livelihoods theory, and the related frameworks, is that the theory embraces flexibility, and could thus be adapted to incorporate cultural aspects in this way. The thesis reviewed business enterprise in Samoa, and described the relationships between fa'aSamoa and business enterprise. The research revealed both harmonies and tensions between fa'aSamoa and business which influenced the success and sustainability of business enterprise. Two 'types' of small and micro-enterprise were identified in Samoa (with a continuum between): private sector enterprises and traditional 'sphere ' enterprises. 'Traditional sphere' enterprises, in order to be sustainable, normally operate within the cultural context of fa'aSamoa, ensuring that relationships, trust and harmony within the family and community are maintained and social and cultural assets, which provide a sense of identity and security, are sustained. The field research described in the thesis focused on two separate groups of micro-entrepreneurs in Samoa, fine mat weavers and village-based coconut oil producers. The case studies described the outcomes the micro-entrepreneurs aspire to, the risk, adversity, and challenges they face, and the work of the non-government organisations (NGOs) that support them. The case studies illustrated and further developed concepts developed in previous chapters, and also demonstrated just how the relationships between fa'aSamoa and sustainable livelihoods were expressed in practice. In the fine mat weaving case study there was considerable harmony between fa'aSamoa and the livelihood strategy. However, in the village-based coconut oil case study there were some tensions between fa'aSamoa and the venture that were causing vulnerability. The thesis concluded that understanding the relationships between culture, and sustainable livelihoods is critical for ensuring that good judgements are made about development intervention and policy. The revised sustainable livelihoods framework, and the concept of using the components of the frameworks as multiple entry points for analysis, provided an appropriate and useful theoretical framework for understanding the relationships between fa'aSamoa, sustainable livelihoods and micro-enterprise in Samoa.