Manus - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The household is the basic economic unit. The subsistence base for rural Villagers is arboriculture and swidden agriculture (traditional for mainland villagers) or fishing (traditional for islanders). Agriculturalists harvest sago palms and various tree fruits and nuts, and they grow taro, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and bananas. Fishing people catch many varieties of reef fish and some pelagic species, as well as the occasional shark or sea turtle. Almost all villages maintain coconut palms: coconut is an important food and source of cooking oil; many Households use it to produce copra for occasional sale and in some areas it is an important commercial crop. Cocoa is also an important commercial crop in a few areas. Many households grow small quantities of leafy greens, squash, sugarcane, and bananas, and areca (betel) nuts, and betel peppers. Pork is important for feasts, and so in most villages a few pigs are reared. Indigenous food sources are supplemented by Imported items, especially rice, tinned fish and meat, biscuits, tea, coffee, sugar, beer, cigarettes, and twist tobacco. These are available in small village shops and in greater variety more cheaply in Lorengau and Lombrum.

Industrial Arts. Before colonization, people produced a range of manufactured items. By the mid-1900s, imported substitutes displaced most indigenous manufacture, though most houses and canoes are still made of local materials. Handicraft production is reviving in some areas, for sale to tourists.

Trade. Manus originally had a complex system of trade that reflected village ecological differences, primarily between mainland agricultural villages and island fishing villages. This fish-for-starch trade weakened after World War II as mainland villagers, and in some instances islanders, moved to the coast and took up both agriculture and fishing. However, there remain many markets between pairs of island and mainland villages, but by about 1970 these generally had become cash-only rather than barter markets. In addition, many Villages had access to special natural resources: clay for pots, obsidian for knives and spear points, beds of shell for shell money, etc. By about 1970, imported manufactures replaced these items and trade for them largely disappeared. Some Villages carry fish and agricultural produce to Lorengau and Lombrum for sale in the marketplaces, and they buy and sell there from each other as well.

Division of Labor. The sexual division of labor is pronounced, though weaker than it had been. Men make housing (including village buildings like aid posts, schools, and churches), canoes, and sails, tend coconut and sago palms, and do some preparation of gardening land. Women do much other agricultural work, including pounding and washing sago, splitting and scraping coconuts, and preparing oil. Women also clean the house and its nearby area and village paths. In fishing villages, both men and women fish in nearby waters, but usually only men fish outside the surrounding reef. In some villages, different fishing techniques are clearly restricted to men or women. Although men claim formal Control, in many villages women exert strong informal influence on much ceremonial activity. Villagewide cooperation for communal projects is difficult, as the villagewide structures that could be activated to induce cooperation are relatively recent and weak. An important division of labor for many Villagers is between migrants and residents. Migrants remit money, important for the economic well-being of residents. In return, residents perform ritual and social activities necessary for the social and spiritual well-being of migrants (e.g., life-crisis and healing rituals).

Land Tenture. Land rights are inherited and there is almost no land sale. Parcels of land belong to agnatic groups, with sections of such parcels controlled by the group Members who garden or build on them. In fishing communities, agnatic groups commonly hold marine rights, but the complexity of the system of tenure varies. Usually, areas of the surrounding reef and sea are claimed by agnatic groups, but specific parcels are not controlled by individuals in the way land is. In some villages there is ownership of fishing techniques of different sorts and of the right to catch certain species of fish. In the past these rights may have been of Economic significance, but presently they are of little significance among subsistence fishing people. In principle, land in urban areas can be bought and sold by individuals as private property. However, some village groups claim to be ancestral owners of urban land and they have tried to assert that ownership.

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