Orokaiva - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The household is the basic unit of production and consumption, with swidden horticulture as the subsistence base. The main crop is taro, which occupies about 90 percent of the cultivated land. A variety of other plants are grown as well, including bananas, sugarcane, edible pitpit, and a few introduced cultigens such as pineapples, tomatoes, beans, and sweet potatoes. Although the Orokaiva traditionally tended coconut, sago, betel-nut, and a few other varieties of trees in gardens, Villages, and in the bush, their arboriculture was rudimentary in comparison to their precise and detailed attention to tubers, especially taro. In response to Australian pressure during the colonial period, rubber, coffee, and coconut palms for copra have been planted, providing the Orokaiva with a reliable and substantial cash income in recent years. A good deal of plant and animal food is obtained by foraging, especially in the tropical rain forest that covers most of the Northern District. Foraged animal foods include grubs, frogs, snails, rats, and bush eggs. Foraged plant foods are valued during the dry season, when roots, leaves, and fern fronds make up part of a meal. Fish are an important resource, being used not only for consumption but for trade. Hunting is less important; the usual quarry consists of small marsupials, birds, and pigs. Pigs, dogs, and fowl have been domesticated and each man has one or more small dogs that he uses for hunting but that are ultimately destined for the pot. Fowl are a useful source of meat, eggs, and feathers for decoration on headdresses, spears, etc. Domestic pigs are slowly disappearing from the villages, due to a government campaign to eliminate pig husbandry in an attempt to improve village hygiene.

Industrial Arts. Items produced include rafts and canoes, pottery, bark cloth (tapa) from the paper mulberry, mats and baskets of coconut and pandanus leaves, wooden bowls, rious musical instruments, and weapons.

Trade. Intertribal trade was mainly in animal products, betel-nut products, feathers, and certain artifacts known to be of high quality in particular districts. Although small in volume, trade was politically important in providing a motive for terminating warlike disputes.

Division of Labor. Cooperation among men is common during hunting and house-building. Cooperation of a total village is rare, but there are cooperative hunting and fishing expeditions. There is also a sharp sexual division of labor. Men hunt; prepare tools and equipment; make sago; plant all crops, both traditional (taro, yams, sweet potatoes) and introduced (rubber, coffee); maintain the yams and rubber; harvest rubber; and market coffee. Women cook, care for the sick, maintain the taro and sweet potatoes, harvest taro, and market root crops. Men and women both fish, build fences, collect firewood, maintain and harvest the coffee crop, and market rubber.

Land Tenure. Various land rights may be given to the clan branch, the lineage, or an individual, the relative significance of each varying with the locality and population density. More than one descent group may have rights in a single piece of land. In many instances, the clan branch functions as a reference group, with all land being associated with it. However, it may also function as a primary right-holding group for those hunting areas distinct from current garden land, Typically the grasslands. Primary rights to garden land are normally vested in the lineage. Nevertheless, all such land is ultimately identifiable with individuals who may distribute land (and property) prior to their death not only to their immediate family but also to more distant kin. Traditional tree crops are not planted in stands or groups like cash-crop trees but are widely scattered and are as likely to be planted on patrimonial land as on the land of affines or matrilateral kin. Inheritance of rights to trees usually does not bring rights to the land on which they stand.

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