Tairora - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Tairora derive most of their subsistence from a wide variety of gardens. Sweet potatoes are the dominant root crop, although yams and taro are also major sources of carbohydrates, especially in the south. Tairora are sophisticated horticulturalists, employing fallowing, mounding of sweet potatoes, and ditching of gardens; in the south, elaborate systems of bamboo pipes are used to irrigate taro gardens. Other important crops include legumes, maize, bananas, sugarcane, and leafy greens; tree crops include pandanus nuts and, in some areas, betel nuts. Domestic pigs are a major source of protein, but they are generally killed and the pork exchanged only on ceremonial occasions. Hunting and collecting also yield food, especially in the more heavily forested south where both game and wild plant foods are more abundant; everywhere, however, game has special salience in rituals and ceremonial prestations. The forests, and to a lesser extent the grasslands, also serve as the source of countless raw materials for manufacture, medicines, and ornamentation. In recent decades various cash crops have been tried by Tairora, with coffee being the most successful; in the north, cattle raising has also become an Important source of monetary income.

Industrial Arts. Apart from structures, such as palisades, fences, bridges, and houses, a partial inventory of locally produced goods includes weapons (bows, arrows, clubs, spears [in the north], and shields); implements (digging sticks, wooden spades [in the north], adzes, knives, and daggers); and string bags, pandanus sleeping mats, and bamboo cooking tubes (with wooden cooking cylinders also manufactured in the north). Locally made traditional clothing for both sexes includes skirts or sporrans made of pounded bark strips or rushes and, in the north, wooden "codpieces" for men.

Trade. From neighbors at lower elevations to the east, Tairora obtain black palm for arrow shafts and bow, adze, and axe staves; bark cloth for capes worn by both sexes; and shells for ornamentation. Stone adze blades were traded in from any sources available and, in the south, Tairora were important distributors in the Baruya salt trade. Major export items include rush skirts, string bags, and plumes. By the 1980s, many of these items had been replaced by Western goods that were now available in indigenously owned trade stores.

Division of Labor. Except for modern skills such as auto mechanics or carpentry that are known only to a few, there is no occupational specialization, although some individuals are renowned as exceptionally good weavers of string bags or arrow makers. Each man is able to build houses and fences, clear garden land, hunt, and fashion his own weapons and implements, just as all women are gardeners and skilled in making string bags, sleeping mats, and items of clothing for both sexes. Construction tasks are male responsibilities, as are clearing garden land, fencing, and ditching; women are charged with planting, weeding, and harvesting of crops, with the exception of tree crops, bananas, sugarcane, yams, and taro, which are the province of males. Both sexes collect wild plant foods opportunistically. Cooking of vegetable foods is largely a female task, while men generally both butcher and cook domestic and wild meats.

Land Tenure. In principle, all land, whether for gardening or forest resources, is held by patrilineal descent groups, though residence in itself usually confers rights of usufruct. However, when land disputes arise, claims to land associated with either one's father's or mother's clan are usually stronger than those based solely on residence, with elders called upon to authenticate both genealogy and history of use. Water-courses, paths, fences, and hamlets or village open areas are generally considered the common property of all who live in a settlement.

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