Guadalcanal - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The people of Guadalcanal are slash-and-burn horticulturalists whose principal crops are yams, taro, sweet potatoes, and bananas. Although every head of household will raise a herd of pigs, for coastal peoples the bulk of the day-to-day protein intake is supplied by seafood: fish from the open sea, as well as crustaceans and shellfish gathered from the reefs. Bonito is a great delicacy, but it is unavailable during the season of the monsoons when the winds are too dangerously high for the canoes. The consumption of pork is reserved for important occasions such as weddings or funerals. Fishing is done from plank canoes or from the shore. While there are wild pigs on the island, hunting is not often indulged in and contributes very little to the household diet.

Industrial Arts. House construction is the most time-consuming of necessary tasks, and it is usually done by a party of kinsmen; it is not the work of specialists. Canoe building, however, is a specialized skill, and only a few men in the Village are held to be fully capable of it. The canoe builder will lend his skills freely to fellow clansmen, but he expects compensation for his work in the form of strings of shell money from anyone not so related. Most other tools used in day-today living that are made locally are relatively simple: fishing lines, digging sticks, and the like. Other items once manufactured locally, such as knives, axes, articles of clothing, and household utensils, have been replaced by store-bought items of Western manufacture.

Division of Labor. Men clear and prepare gardens and build fences, houses, and canoes; they also fish both from the shore and at sea. Women gather shellfish and crustaceans from the reefs and do most of the day-to-day tending of the gardens (weeding, harvesting). Planting is a cooperative effort between men and women. What little hunting that occurs is done entirely by those few men considered particularly adept at it. Domestic chores are the province of women, though many tasks, including tending small children, is often passed along to older daughters. Interisland trading expeditions were traditionally carried out by groups of men of the village, but with the enforcement of colonial interdictions against raiding, such trade no longer requires the large defensive fleets of the past.

Trade. While each household is largely capable of securing an adequate subsistence, there was trade between coastal Villages and people of the interior, as well as overseas trade with other islands in the vicinity—in particular with Langalanga Lagoon, on the west coast of Malaita, and with people of San Cristobal Island to the southeast. Langalanga was the source of the shell money used as a currency in trade and for Ceremonial purposes such as the payment of bride-price. In trade for these strings of shell disks, people of Guadalcanal provided surplus pigs and vegetables. San Cristobal was a principal source of porpoise teeth, also used as currency and in Ceremonial exchange, and Guadalcanal provided tobacco in return. Trade with the interior parts of Guadalcanal Island involved the exchange of shell disks, porpoise teeth, salt, coconuts, and limes for tobacco, dogs' teeth, bowls, and shields. Trade was and still is carried out between individuals who have formed a partnership relationship, which is passed along from father to son or from maternal uncle to nephew. Most often, the traders from Langalanga voyage to Guadalcanal with their trade goods, and, though less frequently, the people of Guadalcanal sometimes make the opposite trip. The large canoes in which trading voyages are made are themselves a trade item made on Florida Island and by the people of Marau Sound on the extreme east coast of Guadalcanal.

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Robert Reed
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May 10, 2016 @ 7:07 am
From satellite imagery I see large triangular crop patterns or fields that look like they are planted and maintained by humans. When I "zoom in" it appears to be the tops of coconut trees. These patterns are widespread and very obvious. Does Guadelcanal have large coconut groves and are coconuts processed for export?

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