Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 721–736 | Cite as

Root crops diversity and agricultural resilience: a case study of traditional agrosystems in Vanuatu (Oceania)

  • Julie Sardos
  • Sara Muller
  • Marie-France Duval
  • Jean-Louis Noyer
  • Vincent Lebot


In Vanuatu (Oceania), small-scale farmers’ subsistence still largely relies on the sustainable use and maintenance of a wide-ranging biodiversity out of which root and tuber crops provide the bulk of daily subsistence. In neighboring countries, foreign influence since the first European contacts, further associated changes and the introduction of new crop species have induced a loss of cultivated diversity. This paper presents a baseline study of the diversity of root and tuber crops in ten communities throughout Vanuatu. In a context where the smallholders’ agrosystems are increasingly considered as key components for the global conservation of crop genetic resources, this study provides clues to better understand the effective roles of biodiversity in traditional agrosystems. It also provides insights on the rationale behind the constitution of agricultural portfolios and discusses how the cultivated diversity allows communities to cope with changes and pressures. The paper also shows that recently introduced crops neither seem to have compromised agricultural diversity nor drastically changed the agrosystems in Vanuatu. On the contrary, such crops are used by farmers to strengthen the resilience of their agrosystems. A discussion then presents the idea of continuity through change and novelty as a critical factor for resilience. The paper concludes by discussing the role of indigenous agriculture and culture in ensuring food security and in development strategies in a larger context.


Agricultural resilience Agrobiodiversity Pacific Island Countries (PICs) Root and tuber crops Traditional agriculture Vanuatu 



Factorial correspondence analysis


Centre International pour la Recherche et le Développement


Fond Français pour l’Environnement Mondial


Ministry of Agriculture, Quarantine, Fishery and Forestry


Pacific Island Countries


Root and tuber


  1. Adger, N. 2000. Social and cultural resilience: Are they related? Progress in Human Geography 24(4): 347–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antheaume, B., and R. Lawrence. 1985. A l’aide ou trop d’aide ? Evolution des économies vivrières dans le Pacifique insulaire. Etudes Rurales 99–100: 367–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aryal, K.P., A. Berg, and B. Ogle. 2009. Uncultivated plants and livelihood support—A case study from Chepang people of Nepal. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 7: 409–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrau, J. 1956. Le milieu et l’agriculture traditionnelle en Mélanésie. Annales De Geographies 65: 362–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bharucha, Z., and J. Pretty. 2010. The roles and values of wild foods in agricultural systems. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B 365: 2913–2926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bird, M., G. Hope, and D. Taylor. 2004. Populating PEP II the dispersal of humans and agriculture through AustralAsia and Oceania. Quaterny International 118–119: 145–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bonnemaison, J. 1996. Les fondements géographiques d’une identité. L’archipel du Vanuatu Essai de géographie culturelle. Livre I: Gens de pirogue et gens de la terre. Paris: ORSTOM Editions.Google Scholar
  8. Brussaard, L., P. Caron, B. Campbell, L. Lipper, S. Mainka, R. Rabbinge, D. Babin, and M. Pulleman. 2010. Reconciling biodiversity conservation and food security: Scientific challenges for a new agriculture. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2: 34–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burton, I., R.W. Kates, and G.F. White. 1993. The environment as hazards, 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, J.R. 1984. Dealing with disaster Hurricane response in Fiji. Honolulu, Hawaii: Pacific Islands Development Program/Suva: Government of Fiji.Google Scholar
  11. Campbell, J. R. 2006. Traditional disaster reduction in the Pacific Island communities. GNS Science Report 2006/38.Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, J.R. 2009. Islandness: Vulnerability and resilience in Oceania. Shima: The International Journal of Research Into Island Cultures 3: 85–97.Google Scholar
  13. Chaïr, H., D. Cornet, M. Deu, M.N. Baco, C. Agbangla, M.-F. Duval, and J.-L. Noyer. 2010. Impact of farmer selection on yam genetic diversity. Conservation Genetics 11: 2255–2265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chappell, M.J., and L.A. LaValle. 2011. Food security and biodiversity: Can we have both? An agroecological analysis. Agriculture and Human Values 28: 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke, P.A. 2007. Aboriginal people and their plants. New South Wales, Australia: Rosenberg Publishing, Dural Delivery Centre.Google Scholar
  16. Clarke, W.C. 1977. The structure of permanence: The relevance of self-subsistence communities for world ecosystem management. In Subsistence and survival. Rural ecology in the Pacific, ed. T.P. Bayliss-Smith, and R.G. Feachem, 363–384. London: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Connell, J. 1978. Taim bilong Mani: The evolution of Agriculture in a Solomon Island Society. ANU Development Studies Centre Monograph no. 12. Canberra: ANU.Google Scholar
  18. Coyne, T. 2000. Lifestyle diseases in Pacific communities. Noumea: Secretariat of the Pacific Community.Google Scholar
  19. David, G. 2003. La gestion des risques comme base de la viabilité des sociétés de l’Océanie insulaire. In Espaces tropicaux et risques Du local au global, ed. G. David, 353–364. Paris: Presses Universitaires d’Orléans - IRD.Google Scholar
  20. Denham, T., S. Haberle, and C.J. Lentfer. 2004. New evidence and revised interpretations of early agriculture in Highland New Guinea. Antiquity 78: 839–857.Google Scholar
  21. Feeny, S. 2010. The impact of the global economic crisis on the Pacific region. Melbourne, Australia: RMIT, Oxfam Australia and Oxfam New-Zealand.Google Scholar
  22. Fisk, E.K. 1962. Planning in a primitive economy: Special problems of Papua New Guinea. Economic Record 38: 156–174.Google Scholar
  23. Holling, C.S. 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4: 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Horrocks, M., and P.D. Nunn. 2007. Evidence for introduced taro (Colocasia esculenta) and lesser yam (Dioscorea esculenta) in Lapita-era (c 3050-2500 cal. Yr BP) deposits from Bourewa, Southwest Viti Levu Island, Fiji. Journal of Archaeological Science 34: 739–748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Horrocks, M., J. Grant-Jackie, and E. Matisoo-Smith. 2008. Introduced taro (Colocasia esculenta) and yams (Dioscorea sp.) in Podtean (2700-1800 years BP) deposits from mé Auré Cave (WMD007), Moindou, New Caledonia. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lacy, W.B. 1994. Biodiversity, cultural diversity, and food equity. Agriculture and Human Values 11: 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lauer, M., A. Simo, S. Aswani, B.S. Halpern, L. Campanella, and D. La Rose. 2013. Globalization, Pacific Islands, and the paradox of resilience. Global Environmental Change 23(1): 40–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lebot, V. 1999. Biomolecular evidence for plant domestication in Sahul. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 46: 619–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mace, E.S., P.N. Mathur, L. Izquierdo, D. Hunter, M.B. Taylor, D. Singh, I.H. DeLacy, G.V.H. Jackson, and I.D. Godwin. 2006. Rationalization of taro germplasm collections in the Pacific Island region using simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. Plant Genetic Resources 4: 210–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Métais, E. 1988. Au commencement était la Terre: Réflexions sur un mythe canaque d’origine. Talence: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.Google Scholar
  31. Muller, S. 2010. Le jardin Mélanésien et la mondialisation: Quand l’agrobiodiversité révèle la dynamique des espaces au Vanuatu. Thèse de Doctorat, Université de Strasbourg.Google Scholar
  32. Padoch, C., and M. Pinedo-Vasquez. 2010. Saving slash-and-burn to save biodiversity. Biotropica 42: 550–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Radanielina, T., S. Carrière, and G. Serpantié. 2007. La diversité des plantes cultivées dans la région de Fianarantsoa. In Transitions agraires, dynamiques écologiques et conservation. Le « corridor » Ranomafana-Andringitra (Madagascar), ed. G. Serpantié, B.M. Rasolofoharinoro, and S. Carrière, 85–96. Paris: IRD-CITE.Google Scholar
  34. Regenvanu, R. 2010. The traditional economy as a source of resilience in Vanuatu. Sydney, Australia: Aidwatch.Google Scholar
  35. Sardos, J. 2008. Conditions du maintien de la biodiversité des plantes à racines et tubercules cultivées au Vanouatou: Diversités spécifiques et variétales et gestion de ces diversités. Thèse de Doctorat, Montpellier SupAgro.Google Scholar
  36. Sardos, J., D. McKey, M.-F. Duval, R. Malapa, J.-L. Noyer, and V. Lebot. 2008. Evolution of cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) after recent introduction into a South Pacific Island System: The contribution of sex to the diversification of a clonally propagated crop. GENOME 51: 912–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sardos, J., J.-L. Noyer, R. Malapa, S. Bouchet, and V. Lebot. 2012. Genetic diversity of taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott) in Vanuatu (Oceania): An appraisal of the distribution of allelic diversity (DAD) with SSR markers. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 59(5): 805–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sauer, C. 1969. Vegeculture: An horticultural system based on vegetative reproduction of root and tuber crops. Land and Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  39. Scherr, S.J., and J.A. McNeely. 2008. Biodiversity conservation and agricultural sustainability: Towards new paradigm of ‘ecoagriculture’ landscapes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 362: 477–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Siméoni, P. 2009. Atlas du Vanouatou (Vanuatu). Port-Vila: Géo-Consulte Publishing.Google Scholar
  41. UN. 2015. The United Nations. Accessed 1 March 2015.
  42. Vienne, B. 1984. Gens de Motlav. Publication de la Société des Océanistes, N°42, Paris: Musée de l’Homme.Google Scholar
  43. Vlkova, M., Z. Polesny, V. Verner, J. Banout, M. Dvorak, J. Havlik, B. Lojka, P. Ehl, and J. Krausova. 2011. Ethnobotanical knowledge and agrobiodiversity in subsistence farming systems: Case study of home gardens in Phong My commune, central Vietnam. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 58: 629–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Walkenhorst, T. 2005. Crop diversity and genetic erosion on the South Pacific Island of Mungiki (Bellona). Master Thesis, University of Kassel.Google Scholar
  45. Weightman, B. 1989. Agriculture in Vanuatu: A Historical Review. Portsmouth, UK: Grosvenor Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Sardos
    • 1
  • Sara Muller
    • 2
  • Marie-France Duval
    • 3
  • Jean-Louis Noyer
    • 4
  • Vincent Lebot
    • 5
  1. 1.Bioversity InternationalParc Scientifique Agropolis IIMontpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Faculté de Géographie et AménagementUniversité de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  3. 3.UMR AGAPCIRADMontpellier Cedex 5France
  4. 4.CIRADMontpellier Cedex 5France
  5. 5.UMR AGAPCIRAD, CARFVPort-VilaVanuatu

Personalised recommendations