Kilenge - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Although they live on the coast, the Kilenge derive their primary subsistence from swidden horticulture rather than the sea. They slash- and-burn their gardens in the volcanic soils on the lower slopes of Mount Talave. Individual gardens are devoted to one of the three staple root starches (taro, yams, sweet potatoes), but they also contain up to twenty other types of plants, both native food (sugarcane, cassava, bananas) and various introduced fruits and vegetables. A single garden produces for no more than three years, then lies fallow for Between ten and twenty years. Gardens are planned so that they will normally feed a family and the family's pigs and still provide a nonstorable surplus for ceremonial events. People Commonly use coconuts for food and drink. Fish caught in the Lagoon (with nets, hooks, explosives, or poisons), shellfish gathered from the reef, and marine animals occasionally Supplement the diet, as does sago flour. Hunting wild pigs, cassowaries, and other birds and mammals contributes a little to the diet. Today, Kilenge also eat imported food (mainly rice and canned fish but also flour, canned meat, biscuits, etc.) purchased at local, group-owned trade stores. Villagers get money for their purchases through the production of copra (dried coconut meat), remittances from relatives in town, or the rare casual wage-labor opportunities offered by the Catholic mission or government station. The limited money available (1981 income estimate of less than $100 U.S. per capita) also pays school fees, purchases imported items (clothing, kerosene, soap, tobacco, etc.), and supports Ceremonial activities.

Industrial Arts. The Kilenge are capable of producing most material items needed for daily life, although they rely increasingly on imported substitutes. All adult men should be able to build their own houses and canoes, but men with expertise in a given field are recognized as master artisans and are called on by others to supervise house building and canoe carving, to repair a fishnet, or to decorate ceremonial artifacts. Steel tools such as axes, adzes, and saws have completely replaced the traditional stone tools.

Trade. Local markets rise and fall sporadically. Regional trade has suffered with the decline of the Siassi trade system, but men grow tobacco for sale to other New Britain groups and women produce dancing skirts for the same market.

Division of Labor. Whenever possible, the Kilenge conduct work as a social, not a solitary, activity. Men clear the gardens, plant some crops, provide infrastructure (houses, canoes, fishnets), fish, butcher pigs and large sea animals, organize ceremonies and produce ceremonial paraphernalia, and control political activity. Women plant other crops, tend and harvest gardens, organize the household, prepare food for daily and ceremonial use, look after children, sweep the Village, and gather shellfish from the reef. Both men and women make house walls and roof thatching, participate in required government and communal labor, and produce copra.

Land Tenure. Groups, rather than individuals, hold title to land. Most garden land (whether in use or fallow) and productive reef sections are controlled by localized men's house organizations ( naulum). Recently cleared primary forest is controlled by the cognatic descendants of the clearer, but over time control reverts to the clearer's men's house group. Individuals own the gardens and trees they plant on group land. A government-backed attempt to introduce individual landholding met with little success in the early 1980s.

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