Mandak - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Mandak combine subsistence agriculture with raising and selling coconuts and cacao beans. Main subsistence crops include taro, sweet potatoes, and yams, varying in significance regionally. Gardens are located from 1 to 3 miles inland from coastal settlements. Also grown are bananas, papayas, beans, leafy green vegetables, melons, breadfruit, pineapples, and a variety of nut and fruit trees. In earlier times, sago served as a famine food and is still occasionally processed today. In coastal areas, fishing provides varying amounts of fish seasonally, along with shellfish and occasional sea turtles. The Mandak raise pigs and chickens, the former for ceremonial exchanges, the latter for small-scale special occasions. Men occasionally hunt feral pigs for less-important social events. Marketing Coconuts and cacao beans provides the Mandak with a reliable, though fluctuating, income. A few individuals in each village operate small trade stores, selling canned meat, coffee, tea, sugar, kerosene, and other items.

Industrial Arts. Items produced locally from coconut and pandanus leaves and other plant fibers include: large food-carrying baskets for women, smaller baskets for men and women, lime pouches, sitting mats, and rain covers. Also crafted are small bamboo and large hollow-log slit gongs, fishing nets, single-outrigger canoes, and log rafts. Canoes and fishing nets are no longer made in some areas. Polished-shell bead strands used in ceremonial exchanges, shell pendants, and arm bracelets are produced in some areas. Production of white-shell bead strands ceased after World War II, after a local leader forbade their use in exchanges in preference to red-shell strands produced elsewhere.

Trade. Before island settlements moved to the coast in the first decades of the twentieth century, coastal women traded fish for vegetable foods with inland women. Items traded Between individuals in different villages, within or beyond Language areas, include: shell valuables (red-shell bead strands), shell bracelets, pigs, rituals and ritual paraphernalia, song-dances, and magic spells.

Division of Labor. Labor cooperation varies contextually from small networks of individuals sharing an enclosed Garden, to larger groups cultivating gardens for a special mortuary feast, to an entire village cooperating in fishing and Ceremonial feast preparations. Gender demarcates the division of labor: men clear secondary-growth areas for gardens and fence them against pigs, while women plant, tend, and harvest the root crops; men fish, while women gather shellfish. In building houses, men perform the heavier work while women prepare the palm-frond roofs. Women do the daily cooking, generally in individual household earth ovens, while for feasts they cut and peel root crops to be cooked in large earth ovens constructed by men. Both sexes cooperate in harvesting coconuts and preparing them for market and in collecting cacao beans. Men take the copra to market in trucks, usually rented, with male drivers.

Land Tenure. Land is generally owned by lineages, but it is used for subsistence gardens in flexible arrangements with affines and offspring of male lineage or clan members. Off-spring may gain permanent rights to portions of their father's land at his death by making certain exchanges to members of his lineage or clan at his mortuary feast. In situations where a lineage or clan has few members and no heirs (clan or paternal offspring), someone with other ties to the clan may establish claims to clan land by making contributions to mortuary feasts of the last remaining clan members. In some areas, a man or woman may claim land rights from his or her mother's or father's paternal kin at the latter's death, by making an Exchange at a mortuary feast to the deceased's lineage. Land transfers were complicated by colonial laws that required cash payments for land leaving the clan.

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