'E da dravudravua e na dela ni noda vutuni-i-yau' : customary land and economic development : case studies from Fiji : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirement of the degree of Doctor in Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, Aotearoa
The purpose of this research is to determine how indigenous Fijian communities have been able to establish models of economic undertaking which allow successful business development while retaining control over their customary land and supporting community practices and values. External critics frequently emphasise that customary practices around land restrict economic development and undermine investments in the Pacific. There is also assertion that within the Pacific islands, culture and customary measures are mostly viewed as impediments of hopeful development. This research seeks to switch-over these claims by examining how customary land and measures facilitate successful business forms in Fiji.
Along with the overarching qualitative methodology - a novel combination of the Vanua Research Framework, Tali Magimagi Research Framework, and the Bula Vakavanua Research Framework - a critical appreciative enquiry approach was used. This led to the development of the Uvi (yam - dioscorea alata) Framework which brings together the drauna (leaves) representing the capturing of knowledge, vavakada (stake) indicating the support mechanisms for indigenous entrepreneurship on customary land, uvi (yam tuber) signifying the indicators for sustainable development of indigenous business on customary land, and taking into consideration the external factors and community where the indigenous business is located. Case studies on three successful indigenous Fijian businesses based on customary land were conducted in two geographical locations in Fiji, and methods included talanoa, active participant observation, and semi-structured interviews.
This study found that customary tenure and cultural values can support socially embedded economic development activities in the Pacific. It also reinstates the inherent value of customary land as an intergenerational resource aiding self-determined and inclusive development, including economic activities that provide holistic returns to communities as in socio-cultural contributions and community development initiatives. The businesses were able to be sustainable by devising mechanisms that balance daily business and community contributions. The study concludes that locally-driven development on customary land could be a model for alternative forms of economic development, thus, helping to reshape understanding of economies in Fiji and the wider Pacific.