Usino - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Actívities. The Usino Subsistence base has changed little in the past four generations. The production of taro, bananas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and yams characterizes the swidden horticultural economy. Coconuts, betel nuts, papayas, and tobacco are also cultivated in village plots. Garden produce is supplemented by bush foraging, fishing, and the hunting of wild pigs, cassowaries, bandicoots and other small marsupials, birds, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and insects. Pig husbandry is practiced to a lesser extent than in the highlands. Although most Usino men have engaged in contractual labor on the coast for a year or two, at present Usino access to wage labor is minimal. Until the late 1980s, attempts at commercial Production of coffee, rice, and peanuts were unsuccessful, and cattle projects have engendered few profits.

Industrial Arts. Usino people traditionally manufactured carved wooden bowls, one of their major items of exchange. Additional handicrafts include canoes, drums, bark cloth from the paper mulberry tree, woven bamboo mats for house walls, pandanus baskets, spears, bows, and woven-fiber net bags.

Trade. Usino is an entrepreneurial community, Economically and geographically intermediate in several important trade networks extending across the Ramu Valley. Unlike neighboring highland areas, the Usino bush abounds with wildlife and is a source of feral pigs, cassowaries, bird of paradise plumes, Victoria pigeon and hornbill feathers, lizards, opossum meat and fur, and mussel shells for lime. In addition to being richer in natural resources than the bordering Mountain groups, Usino produces wooden bowls, betel nuts, tobacco, taro, and coconuts—lowland products highly valued by upland groups. Usino's location, intermediate between two mountain ranges, ensures its entrepreneurial role as goods from the Bismarck Mountains flow through Usino to the Finisterres and vice versa. Usino's position as a trading center allows it to survive as an in-marrying group, maintaining exchange relationships with outside groups by means other than marriage.

Division of Labor. A relatively sharp sexual division of labor characterizes Usino life. Men work collectively at hunting, carving canoes, building garden fences and houses, planning and conducting exchange ceremonies, and performing harvest and initiation rituals. They also perform planting and hunting rituals and magic, curing, manufacture of tools and weapons, and public oratory. Women are primarily responsible for child care, cooking, collecting firewood, weaving net bags, and weeding and harvesting gardens. Girls begin these tasks at about age 5, while boys are relatively free to play until adolescence. Women cooperate with men in several tasks, collecting grass for thatch, hunting small rodents and carrying home the meat, clearing the undergrowth in new gardens as men fell the large trees, making lime, planting gardens, Preparing sago, and preparing vegetables while men undertake the cooking at public feasts. Both men and women fish, but by different methods. Recently women have joined their husbands in the production of cash crops.

Land Tenure. Parish membership entails hereditary land rights to a particular associated terrritory, collectively owned by a group of patrilineal kin. Usufruct is usually transmitted according to patrilineal inheritance rules, but cognatic principles play a large part in determining land-use alternatives. Despite the patrilineal ideal, a majority of men actually utilize land obtained through affiliation with mothers or wives. Although a person relinquishes ownership rights to his natal territory if he leaves and his children become members of another parish, most people maintain limited hunting and fishing rights in their native parish by virtue of strong family ties and continuity of use. Because no discernible population pressure yet exists, borrowing land is relatively easy; a man and his children can eventually gain rights to land of another Usino parish by helping the owners cultivate the land. Ideally, children inherit land from their father if he has paid bride-price and child-price. Otherwise, children remain Members of their maternal parish, and they inherit land accordingly.

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