Development possibilities and customary land tenure in the Pacific : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies, Massey University
In parts of Africa and the Pacific, the majority of land remains in customary tenure, perhaps in modified form. This thesis explores the question of whether it is possible to retain customary land tenure in a development context. Major development agencies such as the World Bank have, at times, placed pressure on developing countries to convert customary land into forms of tenure more compatible with boosting agricultural production. The Vanuatu constitution specified upon the nation's independence in 1980 that all land was to be returned to the custom owners. This thesis investigates how Vanuatu has grappled with the apparently conflicting objectives of customary tenure and economic development. An attempt was made to give the issue maximum possible focus by choosing the West Coast of Tanna Island as the location of study. Here, urbanisation and infrastructural development is attempted in surroundings where the majority of land has never been removed from customary tenure. The very small areas alienated during the colonial period have become the principal localities for such development. Must customary tenure or modernisation triumph, one over the other, or is it possible to achieve some of the benefits of modernisation without betraying the intent of the Vanuatu constitution? The thesis comes to no simple conclusion, but examines closely how this contradiction is unfolding and suggests that there are grounds for optimism, while noting the unrelenting nature of the forces for change.