Invasive alien species : a threat to sustainable livelihoods in the Pacific? : an assessment of the effects of Wasmannia auropunctata (little fire ant) and Achatina fulica (giant African snail) on rural livelihoods in the Solomon Islands : a dissertation presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies, Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Invasive alien species (IAS) are a global phenomenon and are recognised as a driver
of environmental change which can affect the well-being of people in a multitude of
ways. Despite this, the role of IAS in local livelihoods has received relatively little
attention. Influencing all three of the sustainable development pillars (social,
economic, environmental), IAS should be recognised as a significant development
issue. But they are not. As such, IAS issues are new to many sectors and governments
and therefore largely go unseen and un-actioned.
Contemporary rural livelihoods in the Solomon Islands are heavily reliant on
subsistence/semi-subsistence agriculture. Following a livelihoods’ framework
developed for the Solomon Islands, this thesis explores the influence IAS have on rural
livelihoods in this country. Using two qualitative case studies, Wasmannia
auropunctata (little fire ant) and Achatina fulica (giant African snail), this study
investigates how vulnerable/resilient rural livelihoods are to the effects of IAS and the
implications IAS have for sustainable development in the Solomon Islands.
The effects of IAS on rural livelihoods are complex and at times contradictory. W.
auropunctata for the most part is not negatively affecting the dominant livelihood
strategy (subsistence/semi-subsistence agriculture) practised in the Solomon Islands.
While there are some social impacts associated with W. auropunctata, overall
Solomon Island households can be considered resilient to this IAS. Achatina fulica is
a different story. This species is negatively affecting the subsistence/semi-subsistence
agricultural sector on which so many rural Solomon Island households depend. This
has resulted in households implementing negative livelihood diversification measures
as they fail to cope or adapt to the snails’ presence. Unlike for W. auropunctata,
Solomon Island households have not demonstrated any resilience to A. fulica.
Understanding how rural livelihoods are affected by various stressors and adverse
events can help to design development policies and interventions geared towards
building better lives for all people. This can only occur however, if the full range of
shocks are recognised. To date, this is not the case for IAS, and as such, they are still a significant missing component of development policy.