Fore - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Fore subsistence is based on a system of swidden horticulture and pig husbandry that is augmented to a small degree by hunting and foraging activities. New gardens are cleared in forested areas using slash-and-burn techniques. After fencing, the plots are planted using a digging-stick technology. The most important crop is the sweet potato, which is the staple food for both people and pigs. Pigs are a major form of wealth among the Fore and successful pig raisers are much admired. Treated like valued pets, pigs live in close physical proximity to their keepers and are fed garden produce daily. Gardens also contain smaller amounts of other tubers (taro, yams, manioc), pitpit (Saccharum edule and Setaria palmifolia), maize, winged beans, bananas, sugarcane, and a variety of leafy vegetables and herbs. In recent decades, many new crops have been incorporated into Fore gardens, including lima beans, peanuts, cabbages, pumpkins, onions, and papayas. Coffee growing is a major commercial venture in which nearly all Fore participate.

Industrial Arts. As with many of their neighbors, the Fore have largely abandoned local manufacture of clothing, tools, and utensils, relying on articles of Western manufacture that are purchased with the proceeds from cash crops. House building and fencing of gardens and interhamlet pathways are the principal male industrial arts; utilitarian net bags, made of hand-spun bark string, are still manufactured by women. Prior to the 1950s, Fore also extracted salt for local use and for trade from the ash of Coix gigantea, an indigenous tall grass. This last industry has been superseded by the introduction of commercial salt.

Trade. Regional trade was always an important means by which Fore acquired goods not available locally. Trade items passed through complex networks of hand-to-hand transactions between established trading partners who rarely lived more than one day's walk apart. In general, stone ax blades came from neighbors to the north and west in exchange for locally manufactured salt, fur pelts, bird plumes, and betel nuts; black-palm bows and arrowheads were traded from the southeast for salt and piglets; occasionally, a few shells were obtained from Papuan peoples two days to the south for tobacco and net bags. However, nowadays most Fore rely on small stores and the periodic market in Okapa to obtain nonlocal goods.

Division of Labor. The Fore define only a few tasks as the exclusive responsibility of men or women. In gardening, men fell the trees while women clear the underbrush and pile the debris for burning. Women then do most of the soil preparation and planting while men build the enclosing fences. The cultivation, tending, harvesting, and transporting of most crops falls to women, but men are free to assist with these tasks if they so choose. Pandanus and tobacco are cultivated only by men as are a few ritually important, red varieties of sugarcane, bananas, yams, and taro. Women undertake the primary burdens of pig tending under the close supervision of men. Childcare again ultimately falls to women although men and older siblings regularly assist. Most food is prepared and cooked by women with men taking major responsibility for obtaining firewood and preparing the earth-oven fires. Women traditionally made all items of clothing and net bags, and men fashioned weapons, stone axes, and some items of personal adornment.

Land Tenure. Land rights are held communally by the male and female members of local clan groups who currently occupy the land and control access to it. Garden plots are allocated for the use of member families, and occasionally nonmembers will be granted temporary usufructuary rights. No Fore land is individually owned.

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