Author:Trisia Farrelly (Massey University)
Paper short abstract:
Vanua Boumā are striving to apply the western-based approaches to community based ecotourism development they have learned from ‘outsiders’ to <em>vanua</em> as their core cultural values in order to create their own ‘business <em>va’avanua’</em> for renewed social harmony and sense of place.
Paper long abstract:
In 1988, Vanua Boumā (the Boumā tribe) of Taveuni, Fiji approached the New Zealand government to help them find an economic alternative to commercial logging on their communally-tenured land. As a result, in 1990, the Boumā National Heritage Park was established with each landowning clan developing a community-based ecotourism enterprise. This was a project supported by the Fijian state’s neoliberal agenda to generate revenue via the establishment of this and other community conservation areas in Fiji. The projects were developed with funding and consultation from NZAID and their New Zealand-based management services consultants. While the success of community-based ecotourism projects are normally measured by their economic and environmental sustainability, living life <em>va’a vanua</em> (the <em>vanua</em> way) is Vanua Boumā’s measure of ‘success’ and implies social integrity and harmony. Although management under external advice provided a solid foundation for the development projects, this presentation discusses the ways in which Vanua Boumā are facing the challenges of redirecting and hybridising these ecotourism initiatives whereby they feel they can truly ‘own’ them as their ‘life projects’ (Blaser, Feit & McRae, 2004). The people of Boumā are attempting to do this by creating an indigenised form of entrepreneurship based firmly on the principles and practices of <em>vanua</em> as a complex localised, historicised, and politicised human-environment relationship and way of living. Contrary to the traditional treatment of indigenous communities by development practitioners and researchers, the Boumā people are not passive recipients of change but are determined to reinvent the business of community-based ecotourism as a more meaningful and sustainable ‘business <em>va’avanua’</em>.