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Economic Shocks: Reducing Vulnerability and Increasing Resilience in the Pacific

Household vulnerability and resilience to economic shocks is a three-year research project examining economic shocks in two Melanesian countries: the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Sellers at the central market, Luganville, Vanuatu

It is a collaborative research project involving RMIT University, Oxfam Australia, Deakin University and the University of the South Pacific. Funding: Australian Agency for International (AusAID) through their Australian Development Research Awards.

Project overview

The Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and other Pacific are increasingly vulnerable to external shocks which include events outside the countries’ control such as economic shocks and natural disasters. Recent examples of economic shocks are the large increases in the prices of both food and fuel during 2007 and 2008 and the subsequent Global Economic Crisis (GEC).
While vulnerability at a national level is well-documented, very little is known regarding vulnerability and resilience at a household level in these countries.

The project employed mixed methods to answer the following research questions:

  1. Which households in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are most vulnerable to economic and other shocks?
  2. What have been the impacts of the recent food, fuel and economic crises on households in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; and
  3. How have households in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu responded to recent shocks and how effective have these responses been?

By examining how shocks affect individual households, as well as understanding how households are resilient, the research aims to provide important evidence to help design and target policies that protect households from the effects of future shocks.

Fieldwork was conducted across 12 sites in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in 2010–11 and consisted of 1,000 household surveys, more than 50 focus group discussions, and a number of key informant interviews. Six of the sites were re-visited approximately two years later to assess how things are changing in the communities. In the latest round of fieldwork, smartphone technology was used to conduct the household survey. Thanks to Neil Penman at SMAP Consulting.