Kapingamarangi - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Kapinga people continue to subsist on local products, especially coconuts, breadfruit, pandanus fruit, and taro. Of these, only taro requires constant care, which has intensified since the 1880s when Cyrtosperma largely replaced Alocasia. This variety of taro grew faster and larger than the native one and quickly became a staple. Coconut groves have largely replaced Pandanus groves to accommodate the copra trade, the income from which has been augmented by government and municipal salaried jobs and the sale of handicrafts. Cash income is used to buy foods such as rice, coffee, sugar, tea, tinned fish, and candies; tools and utensils; and, recently, gasoline for the outboard engines that have largely replaced sails on the canoes. Imports are retailed by a cooperative, a branch of the Pohnpei Federation of Cooperatives, which buys copra from local producers.

Industrial Arts. Traditionally, Kapinga produced a variety of implements, using wood for houses, canoes, handles, paddles, breadfruit grating stands, poles, digging sticks, traps, and outrigger-canoe parts. Coconut husk was made into sennit cord and the cord into ropes and coir nets. Hibiscus and breadfruit bast was used for clothing and cordage. Shells were used for cutting, scraping, and abrading tools, and coconut and pandanus leaves made thatch and a variety of mats. Pandanus leaf was also used for canoe sails and, woven with a backstrap loom, clothing. Since World War II many of these items have been produced for the handicraft market, which yields a significant percentage of the income of Porakied Villagers on Pohnpei. The copra trade allowed Kapinga to replace their shell tools with metal counterparts, and since the 1950s locally produced fishing lines and netting fiber have been replaced by mail-order nylon and other synthetics. Canvas sails have replaced those made from plaited pandanus leaf.

Trade. Other than copra production and commercial fishing and handicrafts on Pohnpei, the only other significant trade—again on Pohnpei—has been that of trade friendships between Kapinga and their Micronesian neighbors, usually involving the exchange of fish for vegetable foods.

Division of Labor. As in most Pacific societies, the division of labor is based mainly on gender and age. Women Control the domestic sphere, centered in the residence compounds, where they cook, wash clothes, care for children, and do craft work (basketry and mat making). Women leave their compounds to help relatives in other compounds and to work in their taro patches, located on one of the central islets and three other outlying ones. The quintessence of manhood is fishing, but men also harvest fruit from trees and construct and repair houses and gear. Men also made both their own and women's wraparound skirts from hisbiscus and breadfruit bast before people adopted imported cloth. Because women are responsible for scheduling meals (and assessing food needs that require harvest trips to outer islet groves and taro gardens), they have a lien on men's time and canoes. Men have to schedule their work around the needs of their households.

Land Tenure. Kapingamarangi is typical of Oceanic atolls in its identification of relations regarding land with relations among kin. On a cultural level, land and kinship are defined in terms of each other. Every transaction in land, therefore, implies some sort of kin relation. Kapinga distinguish taro plots from "land," i.e., dry land used for groves. Taro plots are always owned by individual persons while "land" proper is owned either individually or, more often, by kin groups. Rights to dry land are either ownership rights or use rights. Ownership of land involves using it at will for any and all of its purposes, including residence; harvesting food, leaves, and wood; planting; and graves. Owners can also convey the land by will or gift. Use rights involve using land for some of its purposes (usually harvesting food, leaves, or wood) only with the permission of its owner. The application of these principles exemplifies the structure of kin relations and groups. Residence compounds are owned by descent groups called madawaawa, whose members are descendants of a former owner reckoned through both males and females. Garden land was and still is owned by individual persons or, more commonly, by cognatic descent groups called madahaanau. A person's or group's land usually consists of a bundle of rights in several plots scattered over different islets with part of the bundle coming from each parent.

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