Miyanmin - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Miyanmin are shifting cultivators and hunters and also keep small numbers of domestic pigs. People of the lowlands depend more on sago (Metroxylon sago ) and aquatic resources. People say that "taro is our bones." Taro ( Colocasia esculenta), produced using the slash-mulch technique, are the staple, with a variety of other traditional vegetables, such as squash, bananas, beans, and greens, also grown. Sweet potatoes ( Ipomoea batatas ) and introduced Western vegetables, such as commercial banana varieties, tomatoes, papayas, pineapples, and cabbages, have increasingly been grown around airstrip settlements both for subsistence and for their perceived commercial potential. Wild pigs, possums, wallabies, rats, cassowaries and other birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, insects, and other small terrestrial fauna continue to provide most of the high-quality protein in the diet. Hunting has declined around airstrip settlements, leading people to intensify pig husbandry. Cash sales of fruit and vegetables were part of the community Modernization plan that developed in the 1960s. Today, people of several communities with access to an airstrip realize modest incomes from such sales in markets at Telefomin and Tabubil, the town serving the Ok Tedi gold and copper mine. In villages, cooperative trade stores organized along kinship lines sell tobacco, salt, soap, rice, canned fish, cloth, kerosene, and similar commodities.

Industrial Arts. Traditional male crafts included the carving of war shields and clubs, arrow foreshafts and points, bows, and bamboo blades and spatulas, using implements of stone, cassowary bone, pig tusk, and rat's tooth, and cane work for hafting and personal adornment. Women made string bags and personal ornaments for everyone, pandanus1eaf mats, raffia skirts, and bark cloth. Few are trained in Western trades, though some men have picked up particular skills while pursuing contract labor. The fashioning of scrap metal into useful objects, such as arrow points and prongs, graters, and sickles, is common.

Trade. Traditionally, there was modest trade among parishes in capital and prestige goods such as palm-wood bows, arrow points and foreshafts, stone tools, shell ornaments, plumes, and cuscus fur. Individuals might visit kin and friends in other parishes to collect raw materials at their source. Participation in regional trade networks was disrupted by endemic warfare, although the eastern Miyanmin did maintain a trade relationship with a riverine group on the Lower May.

Land Tenure. Cognatic parishes and patrilineages claim land and may assert this control in relation to other parishes and, in modern times, within parishes with an airstrip settlement where there is pressure on agricultural and forest resources.

Division of Labor. There is a marked but flexible sexual division of labor in all spheres. In agriculture, men engage in tree clearing and women remove branches and undergrowth and do the planting. All sexes weed and, while women do most of the routine harvesting, men harvest some of the taro for feasts and ceremonies. In construction, men gather timber, do structural work, and lay the roof, while women gather leaves for roofs and clay with which they make the hearths in all houses. Men hunt the larger and more distant game, although women and children may serve as beaters in pig hunts. Women hunt possums, bandicoots, and rats as well as smaller animals.

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