Sambia - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Sedentary Gardening dominates the Sambia economy, supplemented by modest pig herding, and, traditionally, extensive hunting for game by men. Sweet potatoes are the main staple. Taro is also significant. Yams are a seasonal and largely ceremonial crop. All planting and harvesting is done by hand, predominantly by women. Men, however, slash-and-burn the land first and participate in harvesting. Additional indigenous crops include sugarcane, pandanus fruit and nuts, wild taro and yams, and a variety of local greens, palms, and bamboo hearts. European kitchen vegetables are today plentiful, especially green beans, corn, and tapioca, supplemented by potatoes, tomatoes, and peanuts. Commercial crops include coffee, which is now predominant, as well as chilies. Traditional hunting was mainly for opossums and native marsupials, birds, and cassowaries. Fishing for freshwater carp and eels was traditional but sporadic. All meats were on occasion smoked for preservation and eventual consumption or trade. In addition to pigs, domestic animals include dogs and chickens.

Industrial Arts. There are specialists in a few native crafts, but not industrial arts, in villages. Weaving of grass skirts and string bags is done by women; armbands, headbands, arrows, bows, and all military gear are made by men. Sacred art is rare, and masks and carvings are not made.

Trade. Vegetable salt bars, bark capes, feather headdresses, and dried meats and fish were all traded traditionally with the neighboring Wantukiu and Usurumpia tribes and as far south as the Purari Delta. Women today bring homegrown produce to local markets.

Division of Labor. The sexual division of labor is striking and rigid among the Sambia. Women do most of the gardening, weaving, cooking, and child care. Men hunt, fish, and are responsible for war and public affairs. Most household chores, except house construction itself, are female activities. Men and women share the harvesting of feast crops and nowadays of coffee gardens.

Land Tenure. All land and watercourses are owned by Individuals and clans as corporate groups. Fishing, hunting, gardening, and foraging rights are inviolable, and use rights may be extended to distant kin, in-laws, or trade partners. Landlessness is nonexistent.

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