Enhancing agroforestry in Vanuatu: striking the balance between individual entrepreneurship and community development

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Adinsall, C, Glencross, KS, Rihai, N, Kalomor, L, Palmer, G, Nichols, JD & Smith, G 2015, 'Enhancing agroforestry in Vanuatu: striking the balance between individual entrepreneurship and community development', Forests, Trees and Livelihoods, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 78-96.

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Increased engagement in the cash economy is influencing a shift from traditional agroforestry gardening systems to monoculture cash cropping in many areas of Melanesia. This shift in farming practices is resulting in unsustainable practices such as increased clearing of native forests in key catchment areas. Yet there is still no consensus on how to successfully integrate the cash economy and political institutions to work within communal structures sustainably. Understanding the role of formal and informal institutions can reveal how best cultural values, the cash economy and governance can support sustainable development and resilience. Rural smallholders livelihoods and their engagement with formal and informal institutions were explored in 12 villages across the SANMA province in Vanuatu. The rural communities with the most diverse livelihood opportunities were those with good access to land, services (such as roads, regional and international markets, medical centres and education) and social support networks. Engagement with formal institutions such as government departments, non-government organisations and industry and market based entities was relatively limited to communities with good access to urban areas. Men dominated formal employment in the private and government sectors. Remote communities counterbalanced the lack of access to formal institutions and markets with a high level of engagement in informal institutions. The most important informal institutions for social support were women’s groups, which engaged in minor economic activities. Communal land tenure and traditional Ni-Vanuatu (people of Vanuatu) agroforestry perennial gardens were described as key livelihood assets and fundamental to their well-being. Promoting increased plantings of native tree species for resource production in these traditional agroforestry gardens presents one opportunity that can be inclusive of male and female smallholders. This research highlights the importance of informal community and culturally based social protection systems in supporting successful smallholder-based agroforestry enterprise development activities operating in a rural Melanesian context.