Society for Economic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Over the last couple of years, as the kava export market has greatly expanded and there have been huge price rises in Vanuatu. With limited access and growing distrust formal financial institutions, ‘grassroots’ kava farmers often speak of ‘investing’ in their ‘green gold’, seeing it as an alternative to banks. As a business, with kava one can start from zero, requiring no capital except customary land and their ‘sweat’, but one can gain more than through urban work or overseas migration. Kava prices are the object of speculation, and even those with well-paid work are encouraged to invest their money in kava ‘futures’. Kava planting is conducive to good citizenship and ‘self-reliance’, a transition from dependency on aid and foreign investment and building up the community and nation. But Vanuatu has been named the world’s most vulnerable country to natural disasters, and there are growing worries about the impact of climate change, as well as the volatilities of global commodity markets, and threats of legal interventions.