Sio - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Shifting cultivation, mainly of yams in fenced grassland plantations divided into household plots, absorbs the largest share of domestic labor and is the basis of subsistence. Subsidiary crops include bananas, taro, sweet potatoes, edible pitpit, sugarcane, and introduced cultigens such as squash, manioc, and corn. Economic trees include coconut, sago, betel nut, and pandanus. Cattle have been added to the traditional domestic animais: pigs, dogs, and chickens. Fishing by a variety of techniques and reef collecting contribute significantly to the food supply. Feral-pig hunting by means of fire, dogs, and bows and arrows, a ritual associated with the annual burning of the grassland in preparation for cultivation, is the only productive form of hunting. Over the years, coconut plantings that were greatly extended beginning in the late 1930s have been a principal source of cash income. Attempts at cultivating dry rice, peanuts, and coffee failed. Current efforts and plans focus on timber, cocoa, cattle, and wet rice cultivation on cut-over hillsides.

Industrial Arts. Principal crafts are pottery—cooking pots made by women by means of the paddle-and-anvil technique—and outrigger canoes. Many objects in daily or frequent use—stone axes, mats, wooden bowls, bark cloth, bows and arrows, and drums—were imported.

Trade. External trade helped to alleviate seasonal food shortages and also brought a variety of goods, some of which were retraded. Pots, fish, and coconuts were traded for taro and sweet potatoes from the interior. In the Sio view, pottery was the basis of their trading, not only with the interior peoples but also with neighboring coastal peoples and the Siassi Island seaborne traders who visited them twice annually.

Division of Labor. Pig hunting and most of the work in yam cultivation, canoe and house building, and festive cooking are done by men. Pot making, weaving net bags, daily cooking, and much of the work in pig tending are done by women. Both men and women fish, though by different methods, and both prepare and sell copra. Cooperation beyond the household is at its widest in the annual pig hunts and in building houses and canoes. Traditionally, digging-stick teams of three to six men did the heavy work of tilling the ground for planting; aside from that work, the labor of members of a household was sufficient.

Land Tenure. Ownership of estates consisting of scattered and named tracts of land is vested in patrilineal lineages. Each lineage is headed by a senior male who is styled "father of the land" ( tono tama ) and whose superior knowledge of genealogy and histories of landholdings is brought to bear in the event of disputes. Gardening land, however, is not scarce and disputes are rare. Moreover, since tillage teams whose members are frequently affines or maternal relatives garden together, people regularly enjoy temporary use rights to land that belongs to lineages other than their own.

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