Motu - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditionally, Motu grew yams and bananas, with other minor crops, in Garden plots scattered along the shore and over the coastal hillsides, maintained clusters of coconut palms near their Villages, reared pigs (primarily for ceremonial purposes), fished, and gathered shellfish and crabs. They did not, however, produce enough staple food to meet their needs, so they augmented their food stores by trading fish, pottery, and Ceremonial ornaments with their neighbors and overseas trading partners.

Industrial Arts and Division of Labor. Traditionally, there were no specialist craft workers among the Motu. The only division of labor was sexual. All men fished, sailed on the hiri, and constructed canoes, houses, and fishing nets. All women gathered crabs and shellfish, manufactured pottery, cooked, and fetched water. In the gardens, the soil was first broken by men and then weeded and cleared by women, but crops were planted, tended, and harvested by both sexes together.

Trade. Trade transactions usually took the form of reciprocal gift exchanges, but on the hiri direct baiter supplemented gift exchange. Gift exchanges involving ceremonial valuables (mainly arm shells and other ornaments, pigs, and yams) occurred between individuals and groups in different villages or iduhu at feasts with dancing, often associated with mortuary rites, and between kin and affines during marriage ceremonies. Except for a few commercial fishermen, Motu have not tried to find commercial markets for their traditional produce or to introduce new cash crops.

Land Tenure. In theory, Motu hold that rights to use or alienate any piece of land are shared by all descendants, through males or females or both, of the person who is known to have first cultivated or occupied it. In practice traditional rights to residential or garden land were mainly exercised by agnatic descendants, since males and their immediate Families tended to live in the residential section (iduhu) and cultivate the land of their fathers, whereas females married out. In colonial and postcolonial times, however, when Motu sold land for cash sums that were easily divisible, all descendants of the original occupant shared in the proceeds.

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