Using Trust Structures to Manage Customary Land in Melanesia: What lessons can be learnt from the iTaukei Land Trust Board in Fiji

The World Bank
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Land and Poverty Conference Website, 2014, pp. 1 - 25 (25)
Issue Date:
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At a time when external influences seek access to customary land in Melanesia for commercial gain (including mineral exploration, forestry, palm oil, agriculture and tourism), we question what institutional arrangements best serve customary landowners in administering their land. Fiji has recorded genealogies since the 1880s and is, as a result, potentially better placed than its Melanesian neighbours. Commercially, Fiji has benefited from the establishment of the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) in the 1940s as a quasi-governmental body that has administered all customary land in Fiji on behalf of indigenous groups. In 2011 the NLTB changed its name to the iTaukei Land Trust Board (iTLTB). The iTLTB employs 60+ professional staff, and has demonstrated in Fiji that leasing is an instrument that can render the freedom of doing business on customary owned land. We review the iTLTB using a research design of phenomenological transdisciplinarity. We find the iTLTB model offers a template that can be encouraged in wider Melanesia (rather than incorporated land groups), but its operation needs constant review in order to nurture aspects that assuage fear of loss of control from the landowners’ perspective whilst assuring stability and certainty to potential investors.
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