Alternative economic development on customary land in Fiji : how indigenous entrepreneurs blend customary and modern strategies : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of International Development, at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
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This thesis explores an alternative view of Pacific Indigenous entrepreneurs, showing they are weaving together strands of reciprocity, communal activities, traditional knowledge systems and elements of conventional economic practices to enable contextually diverse opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. By highlighting this enabling perspective, this thesis challenges the conventional development view that Pacific Indigenous entrepreneurs are ineffective and that customary land, upon which many of their businesses are based, is a barrier to development. This negative conclusion stems largely from modernist thinking and using conventional economic tools to measure business success. This thesis promotes Pacific Indigenous entrepreneurs and customary land as providing viable development options, by exploring a culturally embedded way to measure a customary land-based business. Findings contribute to a wider understanding of what constrains or enables iTaukei (Indigenous Fijians) entrepreneurs’ agency in bringing about positive change. A ‘hopeful’ post-development approach is utilised to study customary land and development as this approach seeks to expand the field of valid experience, prioritises human assets and agency and supports the ethos of people-centred diverse economics. Fieldwork focused on a Fijian customary land-based business and involving other stakeholders was undertaken during August and September 2018. This study was shaped by the Fijian Vanua Research Framework and an actor-oriented approach. Alongside these approaches, the ethos of Critical Appreciate Inquiry was utilised in this study. The case study findings show the success of the business was predominantly due to honouring customary land practices, which enabled the business to access resources, knowledge and provided a sustainable way to enter the formal economy. Informal partnerships were the basis for the socially and culturally embedded nature of this business, which both ensured support for the business and meant the business reciprocated with the community, thereby achieving inclusive development. These findings have important implications for how Indigenous entrepreneurs, in various cultural contexts, can be better acknowledged for their contributions to development and supported to do business.