Lagoon livelihoods: gender and shell money in Langalanga, Solomon Islands

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Maritime Studies, 2018, 17 (2), pp. 199 - 211
Issue Date:
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© 2018, The Author(s). Gender shapes livelihoods through access to resources and the distribution of benefits from economic activities. To work effectively with local people, resource management and community development initiatives should therefore be sensitive to the influence of gender on livelihoods. This paper considers gender in the context of broader social trends around livelihoods and focuses on a case study of shell money production and trade in the Langalanga Lagoon in Malaita Province, Solomon Islands. We pool data from several recent research projects with historical material from secondary sources. We find that the gender division of labour in the shell money value chain has changed somewhat over time, particularly in that women are now actively involved in trading. However, this shift has created friction due to norms about what kinds of activities are suitable for women, and who should control cash incomes. Whilst shell money remains one of the most important livelihoods in Langalanga lagoon, our findings also illustrate that the shell money value chain and the income earned varies considerably from family to family, with some making a better living than others. We argue that interventions seeking to improve livelihoods in coastal communities should thus be based on an understanding of differentiation within communities, and practitioners should consider whether interventions will result in community development, or may have the impact of increasing inequality between families.
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