Vanuatu is an island archipelago in the western South Pacific with over 80 islands spanning about 810 miles (1300km) in distance, north to south, between the outermost islands. The region has rich biological diversity and is considered to be included within the Coral Triangle, a region recognized as the global center of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation. 90% of households fish and consume fish and their food security depends upon healthy oceans. Most of those families also farm the land, directly tying their food security to forestry and fishery practices. In Vanuatu connections between ocean, land, harvesting and conservation are explicit and immediate.
Vanuatu is also home to broad cultural diversity and vitality, with over 100 active languages still in use among 260,000 inhabitants, known as ni-Vanuatu. In a world where a language disappears roughly every 14 days, such rich diversity encompasses a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge managed within complex social communities. The Malvatu Mauri, or National Council of Chiefs, is a formal advisory body of chiefs recognised by the constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu. Members of the Council are elected by their fellow chiefs sitting in district councils of chiefs. The Council plays a significant role in advising the government on all matters concerning ni-Vanuatu culture and languages. ("Mal" means chief, "vatu" means stone, island, or place, and "mauri" means something that is alive.)
Vanuatu has strong and active movements which support small-scale, artisan livelihoods. While classed by the United Nation's as one of the world's poorest countries, there is a widespread and active campaign to recognize that well-being is not always best measured in strict monetary terms. The Vanuatu government and Chiefs' council stress the importance of supporting the vitality of traditional value systems as integral to Vanuatu's future and ability to adapt to climate change, population changes and encroaching economies of scale which are impacting the region's diversity with great speed and consequence.
On rethinking development and well-being for Vanuatu, by the Christensen Fund
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund Ecosystem Profile, East Melanesian Islands Biodiversity Hotspot
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