Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Manam are fishers and subsistence gardeners who practice slash-and-burn horticulture. Because of the relatively poor soil and lack of groundwater, a limited variety of crops is grown. Most important among them are taro, sweet potatoes, cassava, and bananas. Yams, prevalent on the mainland, do not grow well on Manam. Tree crops, such as breadfruit, coconuts, and Canarium almonds, supplement the vegetable diet. Fishing is seasonal, the monsoons hindering fishing on the south side of the island. Pigs are an occasional source of protein but are most important as wealth items used in both local and External trade. Other domesticated animals include chickens and dogs. The latter, primarily raised for hunting and protection, are sometimes eaten. Copra, sold either locally to distributors or directly to the Copra Marketing Board in Madang, is the only cash crop. Coffee and cacao, important mainland cash crops, are not viable on Manam. At present, cash from copra is used to buy rice, tinned meat, fish, and other imported foods purchased at trade stores on the island.
Industrial Arts. In comparison with many mainland People, the Manam practice relatively few industrial arts. They produce no pottery, carved slit drums, dyed grass skirts, woven baskets, or net bags; instead, they obtain these items from mainland trade partners. Their most important craft, in the past and to a lesser extent at present, is the construction of outrigger canoes. While men used to sail large canoes on trading expeditions to the mainland, canoes are now used only for travel between villages and to carry passengers and cargo on and off boats going to and from the mainland. Carving is men's work. In addition to canoes, other items carved include masks, combs, betel-nut mortars, coconut-shell containers, headrests, and canoe paddles. Women used to make their own pandanus-fiber skirts, while men made their own bark belts. Commercial clothing has replaced these items although they are still worn for special dances and ritual performances.
Trade. In the past men visited their mainland trade partners (taoa) to exchange pigs, Canarium almonds, betel nuts, and tobacco for sago, ritual paraphernalia, and dogs'-teeth and boars'-tusk valuables. The institution of hereditary trade partners still functions, although trips to the mainland are now made by motorized canoes and boats. There are also small markets, a Western innovation, at the mainland and at the mission stations on Manam where women sell produce and betel nuts, tobacco, Canarium almonds, etc.
Division of Labor. The primary division of labor is Between men and women. Men are the main participants in all activities associated with the sea: the construction and use of canoes, fishing, and overseas trading expeditions. While both men and women work in the gardens, the bulk of the routine labor of planting, weeding, and harvesting is performed by women. Men help with the heavy labor associated with the initial clearing of new gardens and construction of fences, and some husbands also help their wives with planting and weeding. Only men, however, climb large trees to harvest bread-fruit, Canarium almonds, coconuts, etc. Both men and women tend pigs, but only men slaughter them and distribute the meat. Only women cook food, chop and gather firewood, and fetch water. Both sexes are involved with the production and sale of copra.
Land Tenure. Land is communally controlled by kinship groups, while other productive resources such as trees are Individually controlled. Both men and women can inherit land and other productive resources from both paternal and maternal relatives. However, men inherit more resources than do women and as land becomes a scarce resource fewer claims of access to land through maternal relatives are permitted by matrilateral kin.