Island Nation Favors 4-Legged Currency

Vanuatu government encourages trade in shells, tusks, pigs
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2007 1:42 PM CST
A market in Port Vila, Vanuatu. In Vanuatu, cash is increasingly giving way to traditional forms of exchange.   ((c) PhillipC)
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(Newser) – Vanuatu, a former Anglo-French colony once called the world's happiest country, is de-emphasizing cash in favor of traditional forms of exchange: shells, necklaces, grass mats, and pigs. The Telegraph travels to the South Pacific, where Vanuatu's government decreed a "Year of the Traditional Economy," encouraging citizens to reject consumerism and embrace alternative understandings of wealth.

In 2005, Vanuatu's council of chiefs decreed that suitors could no longer pay a bride price in cash and must use pigs and yams. UNESCO is helping set up "banks" for traditional currencies and pegging exchange rates. One of the most valuable currencies is a rare hermaphroditic pig found on only one remote island. "We've realized that money isn't everything," said one anthropologist. (Read more Vanuatu stories.)