Alternative Indicators of Wellbeing for Melanesia

alternative indicators vanuatu

Resource Access

The vast majority—92%—of ni-Vanuatu households in rural areas (where 75% of the population reside) have access to customary lands which both house and feed all but 5%. People with access to customary lands are, on average, happier than those without access.

Roughly 10% of those with access to customary lands are admittedly unsure of their boundaries.

Less than 10% of those with access to customary lands have parcels under active formal or informal lease agreement, with roughly half of those with lands under lease agreement reporting no future plans with leased lands once the agreement(s) expires.

When asked the relative size of accessible customary lands, 88% reported it being enough or more than enough to meet their family’s needs.

It was discovered that 93% of households report having full or partial access to forest resources, and 80% reported full or partial access to marine resources.



Indigenous languages remain widely practiced in Vanuatu. They are the first languages learned for 92% of ni-Vanuatu and, of those indigenous first learners, 94% report strong comprehension as well as ability to speak their indigenous language.

Traditional knowledge, measured through ones understanding of the traditional planting calendar, family history and place, and local flora and fauna, is quite strong with 97% of respondents having a strong or moderate understanding. Traditional wisdom, however, measured through ones understanding of traditional stories, dances, songs, and games passed down for generations, is relatively weak with 47% deficient in all categories.

Traditional production skills are quite prevalent with members of 41% of ni-Vanuatu households able to perform 10 common tasks and 61% able to perform 5 basic tasks, including planting and harvesting crops, roasting food, producing medicines and producing materials used for housing—all skills that reduce dependency on cash for decent livelihoods...



 In July 2011, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 65/309 titled “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development”.  The resolution states that happiness is  a fundamental human goal and universal aspiration; that GDP by its nature does not reflect that goal; that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption impede sustainable development; and that a more inclusive, equitable, and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance well-being and happiness.