chapter  2
Coconut Trees in a Cyclone: Vulnerability and Resilience in a Melanesian Context
Pages 20

The above metaphor encapsulates the predicament facing some of the most vulnerable people in Melanesia today. One could easily reinterpret these ‘trees’ as households, the ‘cyclone’ as an unavoidable adverse event (or shock) such as a significant rise in imported food prices and ‘falling over’ as falling below a socially acceptable minimum standard of living (that is poverty). While the tree that is likely to succumb to the storm is considered to be ‘vulnerable’ to the cyclone’s effects (and the greater the chance that the tree will fall, the more vulnerable that tree is), so too are individuals or households vulnerable to the effects of unanticipated shocks that would see them fall into poverty or, if they are already poor, plunge deeper into poverty. In contrast, just like the tree that remains standing following the cyclone, those households that are able to withstand the effects of an adverse shock without falling into poverty are resilient.