Two projects in a village fisheries development program illustrate contradictions concerning self-reliance for rural islanders and the state in the Pacific island Republic of Vanuatu. Efforts to extend involvement in a capitalist mode of production, and so diversify the monocrop coconut economy and encourage national self-reliance, encounter an established form of simple commodity economy in which islanders seek to preserve their own version of self-reliance in ways that constrain development projects. The paper examines why fishing projects are not producing full-time fishermen as planners expected and suggests how islanders are able to appropriate the projects, shaping them to fit into a local way of life in which “no one is a full-time anything.” Projects that are not financially viable may nevertheless be successful when viewed within the context of a simple commodity economy characterized by intermittent production for the market in response to cash requirements, and by opting out of production for the market in response to dissatisfaction with social and economic conditions. [Vanuatu, self-reliance, fisheries, development, simple commodity economy]
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