Rachel Smith (Max Planck - Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change, University of Cambridge / University of Lucerne)
This paper explores hopes and uncertainties surrounding the production and distribution of kava, a soporific beverage traditionally grown and consumed across the Pacific islands. Burgeoning international markets means demand for this commodity has soared, and kava is now widely spoken of as ‘green gold’ by rural farmers in the small island nation of Vanuatu, where it has become the main export commodity. Kava’s natural properties and methods of cultivation mean it is imagined as having a huge potential for growth and investment, in the broad sense of these terms. However, producers and distributors must deal with a range of risks and uncertainties: volatile markets, theft and biopiracy, food and drug safety standards, geopolitics and diplomacy, and climactic and natural disasters in a nation identified as the ‘riskiest’ in the world.
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