Ontong Java - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The main indigenous foods are fish, coconuts, and taro ( Cyrtosperma chamissonis and Colocasia esculenta); other local food includes bananas, sweet potatoes, shellfish, turtles, chickens, and pigs. At present, imported foods such as rice, flour, sugar, and canned products are purchased at one of several small stores in each village and make up approximately 50 percent of the total diet. With its long reef and large number of islets, Ontong Java has very valuable resources for trade, especially copra and bêche-de-mer. The money earned from selling these goods is used to purchase a variety of commodities Including imported food, tools, clothing, gasoline, outboard engines, and fiberglass boats.

Industrial Arts and Division of Labor. The main division of labor on the atoll is based upon sex. Men fish and dive; women care for young children, tend gardens, and plait. Traditionally men made clothing out of hibiscus fibers on a backstrap loom, but at present clothing material is usually Purchased in stores. Many Ontong Java people, especially male migrants living away from the atoll, also participate in the Westernized economic system in the Solomon Islands. They work as teachers, businesspeople, laborers, church officials, and medical workers and in other occupations and professions.

Land Tenure. The land-tenure system must be understood in terms of the settlement patterns and kinship groups. Patrilineal descent groups ("joint families") have rights to most land where coconut trees are planted, including most of the islets other than Pelau and Luangiua. On the latter, rights to house sites and taro gardens are inherited through women.

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