Bonnemaison Both t h e profound c u l t u r a l d i v e r s i t y of t h e i s l a n d s and peoples of Oceania and t h e v a r i e t y of n a t u r a l environments have t h e i r i n f l u e n c e on t h e t y p e s of food production

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Custom and money: i n t e g r a t i o n o r breakdown i n Melanesian systems of food production

J. Bonnemaison

Both t h e profound c u l t u r a l d i v e r s i t y of t h e i s l a n d s and peoples of Oceania and t h e v a r i e t y of n a t u r a l environments have t h e i r i n f l u e n c e on t h e t y p e s of food production.

f a c t , Melanesian c i v i l i z a t i o n c o n s t i t u t e s a 'whole', a k i n d of harmonious ' a g r o - c u l t u r a l ' e q u i l i b r i u m i n s i d e which n o t one of t h e component p a r t s can b e t r e a t e d s e p a r a t e l y .

Groupings and t y p e s of h a b i t a t , s o c i a l s t r u c t u r e s of f a m i l i e s and 'clans', t y p e s of 'chiefdom', methods of exchange, l a n d t e n u r e , c h o i c e of food crops and rhythm of work are a l l mutually i n t e r d e p e n d e n t , t y p i f y i n g a s o c i a l and c u l t u r a l o r g a n i z a t i o n where t h e economic c h o i c e s are governed by t h e l o g i c of a system of c u l t u r a l exchanges and p r e s t a t i o n s .

I n

This l i n k between a g r i c u l t u r a l s t r u c t u r e and c u l t u r a l foundation i s one of t h e e s s e n t i a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of t h e Melanesian systems of food production.

p l a n t a t i o n a g r i c u l t u r e , and more r e c e n t l y of urban growth and of t h e demand f o r food p r o d u c t s , an e v o l u t i o n h a s

occurred t h a t , as w e s h a l l see, has an enormous s i g n i f i c a n c e . Great i n n o v a t i v e c a p a c i t i e s are i n f a c t i n t e r m i n g l e d w i t h a s t o n i s h i n g b a r r i e r s ; and f a i t h f u l n e s s t o t h e c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e goes hand i n hand w i t h a s e a r c h f o r new procedures.

The p r e s e n t e v o l u t i o n can o n l y be understood by r e f e r e n c e t o a world of t h e v e r y r e c e n t p a s t which s t i l l remains a l i v e and i s i n f a c t making a resurgence: t h a t of 'custom'.

Under t h e e f f e c t of

P r i n c i p l e s of t r a d i t i o n a l a g r i c u l t u r a l food production Oceanic a g r a r i a n systems are founded on meticulous

h o r t i c u l t u r e and t h e almost complete dominance of r o o t crops.

Every c u l t i v a t e d p l o t i s a c a r e f u l l y tended garden where a v a r i e t y of p l a n t s are mixed t o g e t h e r

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each of them b e i n g t h e o b j e c t of s p e c i a l o r almost i n d i v i d u a l a t t e n t i o n .

On t h e numerous s m a l l c o r a l a t o l l s of P o l y n e s i a and

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26 . .

Micronesia, where t h e exposed s u r f a c e n e v e r l i e s more than several metres above sea l e v e l and where t h e sandy s o i l i s b a r r e n and permits l i t t l e more than a good growth of t h e coconut palm, t h e people e s t a b l i s h t h e i r gardens i n t h e lowest areas. There they d i g o u t ' p i t s ' up t o several

metres depth i n o r d e r t o reach t h e underlying pocket of s o f t water (Barrau 1961; see a l s o Doumenge 1966). Each of t h e s e p i t s w i l l become a micro-garden: t h e Polynesians w i l l make i t i n t o a kind of 'basket' f i l l e d w i t h e a r t h and humus gathered from t h e h i g h e s t p a r t s of t h e a t o l l , o r sometimes t r a n s p o r t e d from neighbouring i s l a n d s .

p l a n t e d i n t h e s e p i t s .

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a

Taros and b r e a d f r u i t are then

On t h e h i l l y i s l a n d s of Melanesia, t h e yam i s s i m i l a r l y t h e s u b j e c t of meticulous a t t e n t i o n .

s l o p e s of volcanoes o r c o r a l i n e r a i s e d p l a t e a u x , Melanesian gardeners use a s i n g l e digging s t i c k f o r hand-boring h o l e s of up t o 1 o r 2 metres i n depth. These h o l e s are then f i l l e d w i t h l i g h t s o i l (humus and s u r f a c e l a y e r s ) t h a t h a s o f t e n

come from o t h e r h o l e s s p e c i f i c a l l y dug f o r t h a t purpose;

f i n a l l y a mound of similar l i g h t s o i l i s b u i l t up over t h e hold, t h e dimensions of t h e mound being determined by t h e s i z e of yam d e s i r e d and sometimes reaching 1 metre i n h e i g h t and 2 metres i n diameter. Thus i n each garden t h e farmers r e c o n s t i t u t e a series of v e r t i c a l micro-sites t h a t are i n e f f e c t e c o l o g i c a l ' i s l a n d s ' where s o i l c o n d i t i o n s have been a r t i f i c i a l l y r e c r e a t e d .

of t h e mound i s t h e 'queen' yam, i n o t h e r words a g i a n t yam whose growth, i f p r o p e r l y guided, w i l l occupy t h e e n t i r e depth of t h e hold.

g i a n t yam, smaller secondary yams, t a r o s and kava r o o t s are p l a n t e d i n c o n c e n t r i c c i r c l e s .

On middle and lower

The yam seed p l a n t e d a t t h e crest

On t h e s a m e mound, and a l l around t h e

I n New Caledonia, t h e

biZZon

r e p l a c e s t h e r a i s e d mound as t h e n u t r i t i v e matrix: t h i s i s a c r e s c e n t of r a i s e d e a r t h s e v e r a l metres i n l e n g t h where several g i a n t yams are p l a n t e d

' i n company'.

garden but t h e

biZZon,

around which t h e secondary p l a n t s !I are grown.

Here too t h e u n i t of c u l t i v a t i o n i s n o t t h e

Such scrupulously c a r e f u l p r e p a r a t i o n s are n o t confined t o t h e yam. I n New Caledonia i n p a r t i c u l a r , b u t a l s o i n t h e New Hebrides, t h e t a r o grown i n t h e most mountainous areas forms t h e b a s i s of an i n t e n s i v e h o r t i c u l t u r e w i t h complex h y d r a u l i c arrangements.

bamboo channels t o a system of l e v e l l e d terraces, each of which c o n s t i t u t e s a small i r r i g a t e d garden of s e v e r a l square

c

Water i s l e d through s t o n e o r

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metres; t o g e t h e r , t h e terraces w i l l ogten cover an e n t i r e slope.

The more i n t e n s i v e t h e Melanesian method of h o r t i - c u l t u r e , t h e g r e a t e r t h e corresponding tendency towards m i n i a t u r i z a t i o n .

very l a r g e (between 500 and 1000 sq. metres on average) each man opens between t h r e e and f o u r gardens according t o t h e s i z e of h i s family and t h e amount of h i s needs, c u l t u r a l o r economic. The o b j e c t i s t o r e c r e a t e a series of favourable micro-sites

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sometimes dug v e r t i c a l l y , sometimes r a i s e d up

and spread o u t h o r i z o n t a l l y

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t h a t i n e f f e c t are e n t i r e l y a r t i f i c i a l e c o l o g i c a l i s l a n d s i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e p r e v a i l i n g n a t u r a l c o n d i t i o n s of t h e p l o t . I n each of t h e s e i s l a n d s t h e growth p o t e n t i a l of t h e chosen p l a n t s i s encouraged t o t h e maximum.

On i n d i v i d u a l garden p l o t s t h a t are never

h

The a i m of t h i s h o r t i c u l t u r e i s n o t production i n q u a n t i t y . It i s less d e s i r a b l e t o h a r v e s t a l a r g e number of yams than t o o b t a i n a few t u b e r s which i n r e l a t i o n t o c u l t u r a l norms w i l l be luxury products. T r a d i t i o n a l food production i s t h u s based on a concept of h i e r a r c h y : each micro-site i n t h e yam garden h a s been c r e a t e d i n o r d e r t o

develop a g i a n t t u b e r which w i l l f i g u r e prominently i n systems of exchange and s o c i a l o b l i g a t i o n ; around t h e g i a n t t u b e r grow secondary p l a n t s f o r day-to-day consumption.

Food production appears t o follow a hier,archy set by

c u l t u r a l and a e s t h e t i c c r i t e r i a . The same p r i n c i p l e s apply t o t h e production of l a r g e f l e s h y t a r o s t h a t are c u l t i v a t e d with maximum care i n t h e b e s t p a r t s of t h e garden

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sometimes

i n t h e c e n t r e , sometimes on t h e periphery, o f t e n on t h e colluvium and scree a t t h e b a s e of s l o p e s . Their production allows each person t o maintain h i s p o s i t i o n i n t h e system of o b l i g a t i o n s t h a t i n t r a d i t i o n a l v i l l a g e s c o n s t i t u t e s t h e rhythm of s o c i a l l i f e .

When t h e 'ceremonial' t u b e r s have been h a r v e s t e d , t h e p l o t i s then put back i n t o c u l t i v a t i o n f o r a second season, although t h i s t i m e t h e crop production h a s more o r i e n t a t i o n towards f o o d s t u f f s and i s t h u s much more e x t e n s i v e : crops grown are second-grade t a r o s and yams, but a l s o , and more f r e q u e n t l y , s w e e t p o t a t o e s , manioc, Xanthosoma t a r o s ( ' d r y t a r o s ' ) , maize, sugar cane, papayas, bananas, kava r o o t s , etc.

I n t h e Melanesian environment, t h e h i e r a r c h i c a l n a t u r e of t r a d i t i o n a l crop production has been developed t o i t s

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l o g i c a l extreme. The p l a n t s of p a t r i m o n i a l custom, i . e .

CoZocasia t a r o s and Dioscarea yams, are t h e s u b j e c t of an e l a b o r a t e study and c l a s s i f i c a t i o n which goes as f a r as d i s t i n g u i s h i n g 80 s u b - v a r i e t i e s o r t y p e s of t a r o and 50-80 types of yam. Each v a r i e t y h a s a p a r t i c u l a r name, i t s own v e g e t a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and a p a r t i c u l a r c u l t u r a l weighting o r ' p r i c e ' c o d i f i e d i n t h e system of exchange. Criteria f o r c l a s s i f i c a t i o n vary according t o i s l a n d and c u l t u r a l p r a c t i c e s , but g e n e r a l l y speaking f l e s h y t u b e r s w i t h t h e g r e a t e s t growth p o t e n t i a l are accorded t h e h i g h e s t p l a c e i n t h e t r a d i t i o n a l c l a s s i f i c a t i o n , and are thus p l a n t e d i n t h e b e s t p a r t s of t h e garden.

The concept of a h i e r a r c h y among t h e c u l t i v a t e d p l a n t s l e a d s on t o one of a s e l e c t i o n of p a r t i c u l a r a g r i c u l t u r a l techniques f o r d i f f e r e n t varieties of p l a n t . L i t t o r a l villagers(man

soZmta)

t h u s s p e c i a l i z e i n yam c u l t u r e , each small area possessing i t s own varieties and techniques of c u l t i v a t i o n . S i m i l a r l y , upland o r i n t e r i o r v i l l a g e r s (man bus) s p e c i a l i z e i n t a r o c u l t u r e , e i t h e r dry o r i r r i g a t e d , t h e c u l t i v a t i o n always being l i n k e d t o a choice and a h i e r a r c h y of varieties which varies according t o p l a c e and c u l t u r a l p r a c t i c e .

I n t h i s c a r e f u l and h i g h l y i n t e n s i v e h o r t i c u l t u r e aimed a t t h e production of luxury goods, enormous demands are made on working t i m e , p a r t i c u l a r l y s i n c e t r a d i t i o n a l a g r i c u l t u r a l t o o l s and equipment are, o r were, p r i m i t i v e and less used.

Clearing w a s done by f i r e and s t o n e axe

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today, by bushknife

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and t h e huge t a s k of preparing t h e garden w a s , and s t i l l i s , l a r g e l y performed by hand o r w i t h t h e a i d of a digging s t i c k ; i t i s t h e s a m e w i t h weeding and c l e a n i n g of t h e garden,

e r e c t i o n and maintenance of yam s u p p o r t s , c o n s t r u c t i o n of t e r r a c e s f o r c u l t i v a t i o n , e t c .

I n t h e systems of t r a d i t i o n a l custom, man l i v e s in symbiosis w i t h t h e garden, and a d j u s t s h i s rhythms t o t h o s e of v e g e t a l production. Even o u t s i d e t h e p e r i o d s of c l e a r i n g and a c t i v i t y , f a m i l i e s w i l l v i s i t t h e i r garden every day and spend s e v e r a l hours t h e r e : f o r i n a d d i t i o n t o being a p l a c e of work, t h e garden i s a l s o a s o c i a l t e r r i t o r y where s m a l l groups come t o g e t h e r f o r meetings and d i s c u s s i o n s .

Economy of exchange, economy of abundance

It cannot r e a l l y b e s a i d t h a t t h e r e i s s c a r c i t y i n t h e Melanesian economy, u n l e s s t h e r e h a s been some cataclysm

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such as a d e v a s t a t i n g cyclone. On t h e contrary, t h e r e i s a s i g n i f i c a n t s u r p l u s of production over and above simple s u b s i s t e n c e . This i s n o t t h e case w i t h t h e h o r t i c u l t u r e of t h e small Polynesian and Micronesian a t o l l s , where n a t u r a l c o n d i t i o n s are s o h a r s h t h a t without t h e a d d i t i o n a l c o n t r i - b u t i o n of f i s h i n g t h e crop gardens would b e incapable of

feeding a very dense population. I n Melanesia, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e h i g h e r i s l a n d s , t h e o v e r a l l f e r t i l i t y of t h e n a t u r a l environment and t h e s k i l f u l c h a r a c t e r of farming procedures g i v e r i s e i n t h e m a j o r i t y of cases t o high y i e l d s . I n t h e context of t h e t r a d i t i o n a l m i l i e u , t h e Melanesian garden

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t h e ' c o r a l garden' a l l u d e d t o by Malinowski

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i s t h e o r i g i n of an economy of abundance.

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6*

It h a s been c a l c u l a t e d t h a t d i e t s i n t h e 'custom'

environment are l a r g e l y adequate

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2600 t o 3000 c a l o r i e s p e r day

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and r e l a t i v e l y v a r i e d . To sugar cane, numerous f r u i t s , t u b e r s and b a s i c s t a r c h y foods are added small q u a n t i t i e s of farmyard a n i m a l products.

only occurs during r i t u a l ceremonies, i t i s n e v e r t h e l e s s e a t e n r e g u l a r l y s i n c e such f e a s t s are numerous.

Although t h e consumption of pork

I f t h e Melanesians spend long hours each day i n t h e i r gardens i t i s n o t because they are driven by a problem of s u b s i s t e n c e . They could i n f a c t ensure t h e i r s u b s i s t e n c e w i t h l e s s expense and w i t h much less work. The i n t e n s i v e h o r t i c u l t u r e is aimed a t t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of c u l t u r a l wealth whose v a l u e l i e s i n t h e economy of exchange. Furthermore an a t t r a c t i v e and well-maintained garden i s always a s o u r c e of p r i d e t o i t s owner and t h e r e i s a l s o a certain s e n s e of competition between neighbouring c u l t i v a t o r s . I n t h e y e a r s where a r i t u a l c y c l e i s planned, an even g r e a t e r e f f o r t w i l l b e expended on t h e gardens and mote a t t e n t i o n w i l l b e l a v i s h e d on t h e g i a n t . t u b e r s ; on t h e o t h e r hand, tensson and a c t i v i t y d e c l i n e during normal y e a r s , when n o t h i n g i s t o happen; t h u s t h e economy of abundance goes hand i n hand w i t h an economy of l e i s u r e .

This economy of abundance t h u s produces a s u r p l u s t h a t i s s y s t e m a t i c a l l y exchanged along c u l t u r a l c i r c u i t s whose p a t t e r n varies from i s l a n d t o i s l a n d . There i s , f o r example, t h e p r i n c i p l e of t h e grade system t h a t o p e r a t e s throughout t h e n o r t h e r n i s l a n d s of t h e New Hebrides. This i s based i n fact on competition i n exchanges, a t t h e end of which emerge t h e 'Big Men'

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t h e most powerful men i n t h e s o c i a l group.

S o c i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n i s t h e r e f o r e based on a s t r a t i f i c a t i o n i n t o grades o r h i e r a r c h i c a l t i t l e s . Most men w i l l a t t a i n

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t h e lowest grades, f o r which i t i s s u f f i c i e n t t o k i l l one, two o r t h r e e p i g s of d i f f e r e n t v a l u e , t o have an adequate number of mats, t a r o s and yams t o feed and supply t h e

p a r t i c i p a n t s , and t o 'pay' f u r t h e r f o r t h e l i f t i n g of 'taboos and t h e wearing of badges and r i t u a l masks, e t c . The t o t a l cost of t a k i n g a grade i n c r e a s e s w i t h t h e rank of t h e t i t l e : f o r t h e h i g h e s t grade of t h e h i e r a r c h y , sometimes more than a hundred p i g s w i l l be s a c r i f i c e d .

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I I

In such a system, t h e acquired wealth i s never hoarded, b u t s y s t e m a t i c a l l y given.

admittance t o a h i g h e r grade w i l l on t h e eve of t h e ceremony have no more wealth t h a n any o t h e r person. It i s j u s t t h a t over t h e y e a r s he w i l l have given generously of h i s s u r p l u s t a r o s , g i a n t yams and tusked p i g s t o o t h e r c l a n s and family l i n e s . On t h e day of t h e ceremony h e i s only r i c h t o t h e e x t e n t of t h e number of g i f t s he has made t o t h o s e around him which are going t o b e r e p a i d . Very o f t e n , t h e Big Man w i l l

r e c e i v e more than he previously gave o u t :

i s i n d e b t , and l a t e r on w i l l need t o redeem h i m s e l f , o f t e n by a d d i t i o n a l borrowing.

The Big Man who i s a candidate f o r

from then on he The c i r c l e i s endless.

The winner, o r t h e person who reaches t h e h i g h e s t grades, i s t h e one who n o t only s e t t l e s h i s d e b t s , b u t

succeeds i n making t h e o t h e r s h i s debtors. H e i s t h e s t r o n g e s t because he h a s been t h e most generous.

and generous manipulation of t h e exchange networks t h a t t h e Big Man accedes t o power.

about t h e system:

men are 'bound' r a t h e r than on t h e c o n t r o l of t h e m e a n s of production. As w i t h h o r t i c u l t u r e , t r a d i t i o n a l stock-rearing s p e c i a l i z e s i n t h e production of luxury goods t h a t are s y s t e m a t i c a l l y r e d i s t r i b u t e d through t h e mechanism of debt.

It i s through a d r o i t Thus t h e r e i s n o t h i n g c a p i t a l i s t i c t h e economy i s based on t h e d e b t s by which

The same system i s followed i n t h e southern i s l a n d s , where t h e r e are such complicated procedures as t h e toka.

The toka i s a r i t u a l c y c l e which b r i n g s t o g e t h e r s e v e r a l l o c a l groups and l e a d s t o a whole complex exchange of dances and material goods, p a r t i c u l a r l y of t h e huge glabrous (smooth- skinned) p i g s t h a t are t h e most esteemed v a r i e t y on Tanna.

For one o r two y e a r s a t r i b a l group prepares f o r t h e toka

as follows: i t n o t only composes new songs and dances, b u t a l s o rears a s i z e a b l e herd of p i g s and p l a n t s l a r g e gardens f o r t h e c u l t i v a t i o n of t h e g i a n t yams and kava r o o t s t h a t w i l l be o f f e r e d . On t h e day planned f o r t h e r i t u a l , t h e c y c l e of dances w i l l be exchanged between t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s and then a l l t h e material goods t h a t make up t h e group's

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wealth w i l l b e f r e e l y o f f e r e d t o t h e i n v i t e d v i l l a g e s

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on condition t h a t t h e y r e t u r n t h e favour l a t e r on, of course.

Through t h e s e d i f f e r e n t processes

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of which only t h e most s p e c t a c u l a r are being described

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t h e t r a d i t i o n a l economy reveals another of i t s b a s i c p r i n c i p l e s :

a s s o c i a t i o n .

t h a t of

The Big Man who emerges a t t h e head o f a s o c i a l group i s always t h e r e through t h e work of t h e 'company' t h a t h e h a s been a b l e t o regroup around him, even i f t h i s has been

done by him i n d i v i d u a l l y making each of i t s members h i s debtor.

It i s t h e success of an i n d i v i d u a l , but has only been made p o s s i b l e by t h e emergence of a group s t r u c t u r e .

s i m i l a r l y , t h e c h i e f s who govern t h e exchange mechanism and thereby a t t a i n p r e s t i g e are only t h e r e through t h e a s s o c i a t i o n of a l l t h e men i n t h e l o c a l group, who work hard t o g e t h e r over a long period and undergo severe d i s c i p l i n e f o r t h e sake of a s u c c e s s f u l toka.

I n t h e t o k a ,

I n a sense, t h e genius of Melanesian c i v i l i z a t i o n l i e s i n t h i s concept o f a s s o c i a t i o n . Each person i s h i s own master

-

master of h i s own garden, h i s crops and t h e p i g s h e has r a i s e d . The ground i s t h e i n a l i e n a b l e property of t h e

c l a n , and each member has t h e r i g h t t o i t s u s u f r u c t . I n t h e t r a d i t i o n a l economy t h e r e are thus no wage-earners, no

employers o r workmen and c e r t a i n l y no p r o l e t a r i a t . Everyone i s l o r d of h i s own domain.and master of h i s work. Y e t , even with such freedom, t h e men l i k e t o form groups: they create what i n Pidgin are known as 'companies' t h a t are bound by

common a l l e g i a n c e t o a chief o r Big Man, and w i t h i n which t h e wealth acquired by h o r t i c u l t u r e , r e a r i n g of ceremonial p i g s and manufacture o f mats o r s h e l l money, c i r c u l a t e s unceasingly.

The t r a d i t i o n a l company i s t h e r e f o r e a more o r less formal i n s t i t u t i o n t h a t meets t o plan a common goal, w i t h t h e s o c i a l p a r t n e r s p r a c t i s i n g t h e exchange of r i t u a l goods both amongst themselves and e x t e m a l l y .

Consequently t h e t r a d i t i o n a l economy f u n c t i o n s on two l e v e l s . The f i r s t , a s s u r i n g t h e maintenance of c u r r e n t

alimentary needs, remains confined t o t h e household and forms t h e u n i t of production t h a t can be termed 'domestic'. The second, concerned w i t h t h e production of v a l u a b l e o r r i t u a l wealth, can only b e understood i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e 'company' and t o a much l a r g e r u n i t of production, t h a t of t h e t o t a l i t y of s o c i a l p a r t n e r s l i n k e d t o g e t h e r by t h e same p r o j e c t and involved i n t h e same c u r r e c t of exchange. The scale of t h e

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32

1

u n i t v a r i e s according t o t h e degree of p o l i t i c a l o r g a n i z a t i o n o r i n f l u e n c e of t h e Big Man who h a s been a b l e t o d e f i n e t h e s t r u c t u r e of t h e group; i t ranges from t h e simple family

network t o t h e c l a n o r t o a l l i a n c e s between d i f f e r e n t l i n e a g e s ; i t can even u n i f y t h e e n t i r e s o c i a l group, several v i l l a g e s o r a whole i s l a n d region.

I have t r i e d i n t h i s a n a l y s i s t o e x p l a i n how Melanesian c i v i l i z a t i o n forms an i n d i s s o l u b l e whole, and how t r a d i t i o n a l food production i s i n s e p a r a b l e from an economic context where t h e a i m i s t h e exchange of ceremonial wealth between t h e v a r i o u s membersofthe s o c i a l group; and how t h i s l e a d s t o t h e t y p i c a l l y Melanesian i n s t i t u t i o n of t h e 'company', i n o t h e r words an a s s o c i a t i o n of f r e e men bonded t o each o t h e r by d e b t s and counter-debts t h a t are c o n s t a n t l y being c o n t r a c t e d between i n d i v i d u a l s .

The challenge t o t h e t r a d i t i o n a l economy:

coconuts

'

' C h r i s t and

The problems a r i s i n g from t h e c o n t a c t between Melanesian and European c i v i l i z a t i o n s are complex. L e t us simply n o t e h e r e t h a t t h e a r r i v a l of t h e m i s s i o n a r i e s , followed by t r a d e r s and p l a n t e r s , w a s expressed i n t h e i s l a n d worlds as an

a s s o c i a t i o n of two themes

-

t h e C h r i s t i a n r e l i g i o n and t h e coconut p l a n t a t i o n . For t h e m a j o r i t y , conversion m e a n t t o embrace a new f a i t h and a new p a t t e r n of production. This change w a s once expressed t o m e i n very simple t e r m s by Melanesians:

rod blong m a n e

-

t h a t of t h e Whites. Thus one day w e k i l l e d ' our p i g s and made fewer gardens, and i n s t e a d w e p l a n t e d

coconut palms' ( s e e a l s o Allen 1968; Brookfield 1972;

Bonnemaison 1 9 7 4 ) .

' W e abandoned t h e rod blong kastom f o r t h e

I n f a c t , i t w a s on t h e i s l a n d s where C h r i s t i a n i t y spread t h e most r a p i d l y t h a t coconut p l a n t a t i o n s developed t o t h e i r maximum e x t e n t . Preoccupied w i t h o t h e r s u b j e c t s , t h e most h e a v i l y ' C h r i s t i a n i z e d ' Melanesians abandoned t h e production of ceremonial wealth.

In c e r t a i n l i t t o r a l zones, coconut palms have taken over most of t h e a v a i l a b l e space; t h e economy of exchange and t h e i n t e n s i v e h o r t i c u l t u r a l cropping a l r e a d y described have disappeared a l t o g e t h e r . The gardens, deprived of t h e i r c u l t u r a l a s p e c t s and denied t h e i r 'necessary s p a c e ' , have d e c l i n e d i n both number and area and have ceased t o be t h e p i v o t of s o c i a l l i f e . Most of t h e s o p h i s t i c a t e d techniques

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of c u l t i v a t i o n have been abandoned. An important f a l l i n y i e l d s has r e s u l t e d :

15-20 kg obtained annually i n t h e t r a d i t i o n a l system, average y i e l d s i n t h e l i t t o r a l areas today are only 5-6 kg p e r r o o t . The gardeners compensate by growing new p l a n t s under easier techniques

-

Xanthosoma t a r o s , manioc and sweet potatoes.

On t h e i s l a n d of Aoba, where coconut palms occupy t h e whole of t h e area below an a l t i t u d e of 300 m y t h e yam h a s been

p r a c t i c a l l y abandoned and gardens are confined t o a few manioc r o o t s and beds of sweet potatoes.

compared w i t h i n d i v i d u a l yam r o o t s of

But what does i t mat.ter i f gardens are inadequate!

w i t h t h e money earned by copra, it i s p o s s i b l e t o buy rice and t i n n e d meat o r f i s h . I n a d d i t i o n t o t h e convenience i t provides, imported food h a s f o r a l o n g t i m e been doubly attractive because of a c e r t a i n i n h e r e n t s o c i a l p r e s t i g e i t possesses.

For

I n some i s l a n d s , an e q u i l i b r i u m has n e v e r t h e l e s s been maintained betweer, those areas used f o r food c u l t i v a t i o n and t h o s e devoted t o p l a n t a t i o n s . But t h i s e q u i l i b r i u m i s v e r y quickly upset once population d e n s i t i e s exceed a t h r e s h o l d of more than 30 persons p e r sq. km (Bonnemaison 1977).

However, on man .bus' l a n d above 300 m i n a l t i t u d e , where ' t h e coconut palm grows poorly, food production has remained important.

t h e man soZwota whose shrunken gardens are no l o n g e r adequate.

The man b u s . are f i n d i n g t h a t such a b i a s g i v e s them t h e means of i n t e g r a t i n g themselves i n t o t h e market economy and of having access t o t h e 'rod

w a s c l o s e d t o them. Furthermore, t h i s p r a c t i c e renews a v e r y o l d b a r t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p between l i t t o r a l and mountain peoples, who c o n s t a n t l y exchanged t a r o s f o r yams and mats f o r p i g s ;

t h e

man

bus t h u s n e g o t i a t e d t h e i r r i g h t s of access t o t h e seashore whence they c o l l e c t e d s a l t w a t e r , c r a b s and coconuts;

and t h e man soZwota obtained t h e food s u r p l u s e s t h a t would It h a s even developed t o t h e p o i n t of sales t o

blong m a n e ' which u n t i l now

otherwise be l a c k i n g between two yam h a r v e s t s . . * Today t h e commerce i s most o f t e n c a r r i e d o u t between one man and another, o r between r e l a t e d f a m i l i e s , b u t i n some c a s e s s m a l l l o c a l markets have been e s t a b l i s h e d c l o s e t o transit zones o r t o l i t t o r a l s t o r e s ; t h e bush women come

t h e r e t o s e l l t u b e r s grown on t h e mountain s l o p e s . The change from a l i t t o r a l peasant s o c i e t y i n t o a s o c i e t y of p l a n t e r s h a s brought about a s o c i e t y t h a t i s a b s o l u t e l y dependent on o t h e r s f o r food production.

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It i s w i t h i n t h i s o v e r a l l context of change and

spontaneous i n t e g r a t i o n i n t o t h e commercial economy t h a t w e can p l a c e t h e general problem of food supply t o t h e towns i n an i s l a n d environment. Following t h e development of

commercial p l a n t a t i o n s , urban growth c o n s t i t u t e s t h e second g r e a t economic and s o c i a l phenomenon introduced by t h e western world. The e f f e c t s of t h e l a t t e r on Melanesian i s l a n d

s o c i e t i e s are a l s o extremely important.

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Urban growth and p a t t e r n s of food supply

Two urban zones e x i s t i n t h e New Hebrides: V i l a , t h e a d m i n i s t r a t i v e c a p i t a 1 , a n d Sante (Luganville). The population of t h e s e two towns showed a marked i n c r e a s e a f t e r World War II. Melanesian migration t o t h e towns a c c e l e r a t e d during t h e e a r l y 1960s, culminating between 1970 and 1973 w i t h what has been c a l l e d t h e 'boom'. I n 1967, t h e urban population made up 13.2 p e r cent of t o t a l population.

t h e urban population w a s e s t i m a t e d a t 20,656 persons, o r 21.7 per cent of t h e t o t a l population of t h e New Hebrides;

of t h e s e , 15,887 w e r e i n Greater V i l a . More t h a n two-thirds of t h e urban population are Melanesians

-

i n h a b i t a n t s of p e r i p h e r a l v i l l a g e s and, more p a r t i c u l a r l y , migrants from r u r a l areas. These migrants, c u t o f f from t h e i r o r i g i n a l environment, c o n s t i t u t e an important market; a t t h e p r e s e n t t i m e they number almost 6000 i n V i l a . In a d d i t i o n , n e a r l y 20,000 t o u r i s t s pass through V i l a every y e a r and are c a t e r e d f o r by v a r i o u s h o t e l s and r e s t a u r a n t s .

products i s t h u s i n c r e a s i n g from y e a r t o year.

I n June 1975,

The demand f o r food

Generally speaking, t h e dependence on overseas f o o d s t u f f s remains pronounced. T o t a l food imports by sea r o s e i n 1975 t o 595 m i l l i o n FN'H, o r 25 per cent of t h e t o t a l v a l u e of imports. Rice i s t h e most important component w i t h 3217 m e t r i c t o n s imported i n 1975 a t a v a l u e of 97 m i l l i o n FNH;

i n t h e same y e a r t h e r e were imports of canned m e a t t o t h e v a l u e of 54 m i l l i o n FNH.

443 m e t r i c t o n s o r 12 m i l l i o n

FNH,

t o which must be added n e a r l y 50 metric t o n s (11 m i l l i o n FNH) t h a t w e r e imported by a i r .

Imports of v e g e t a b l e s by sea reached

There are several reasons f o r t h e importance of t h e s e imports.

during t h e era of l a r g e p l a n t a t i o n s , when workers were f e d w i t h p l a t e s of b o i l e d r i c e on t o which t i n s of m e a t had been

i n v e r t e d . These h a b i t s were t h e n t r a n s m i t t e d t o t h e home v i l l a g e s of t h e workers, and t h e n t o t h e urban areas.

New consumption h a b i t s were e s s e n t i a l l y adopted

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The p r i o r i t y given t o copra production throughout t h e Group, t h e p r e s t i g e of having imported foods t h a t are l i n k e d t o an e x t e m a l power, and t h e p o l i c i e s of commercial e n t e r p r i s e s , have a l l favoured t h e c o n t i n u a t i o n of t h i s s t a t e of a f f a i r s . Other f a c t o r s c o n t r i b u t i n g t o t h e emphasis on 'food

dependency' are t h e l a c k of o r g a n i z a t i o n i n t h e l o c a l market f o r food production and t h e i n t e r n a l l o g i c of t r a d i t i o n a l a g r i c u l t u r a l systems whose a i m i s n o t commerce b u t exchange.

c

o^ For several y e a r s , govemment o f f i c e r s have been system- a t i c a l l y t r y i n g t o develop t h e l o c a l food production, and I r e s t r i c t i o n s on vegetable imports

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p a r t i c u l a r l y p o t a t o e s

-

are applied during t h e season of l o c a l production.

p o l i c y would h a r d l y have achieved any success had n o t t h e Melanesian s o c i e t y i t s e l f organized i t s o m response t o t h e new conditions of economic demand. Today an i n c r e a s i n g l y important component of t r a d i t i o n a l food product ion i s being i n t e g r a t e d i n t o t h e commercial c i r c u i t s , w h i l s t t h e c u l t i v a t i o n of f r e s h and European v e g e t a b l e s i s b e i n g augmented s o as t o b e t t e r respond t o t h e needs of urban populations.

n o t i c e a b l e evidence of t h i s i s provided by t h e development and recent importance of t h e l o c a l town market, e n t i r e l y managed by t h e Melanesians themselves.

Y e t t h i s

The most

The V i l a market. The V i l a market, e s t a b l i s h e d by

Tonkinese market-gardeners a f t e r t h e w a r , w a s taken over a f t e r t h e i r d e p a r t u r e by t h e v i l l a g e r s of E f a t e . The market h a s been s t u d i e d by Brookfield i n 1965,(1969), P h i l i b e r t i n 1972

(1976))and more r e c e n t l y by Ward and Smith (1976). Ward i s t h e most up-to-date and t h e b e s t q u a l i f i e d t o d i s c u s s t h e market. I w i l l simply c i t e a few of i t s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . For s e v e r a l y e a r s t h e market h a s been h e l d on t h r e e mornings p e r week i n t h e streets of t h e town. One of i t s f e a t u r e s i s t h a t t h e market i s h e l d and conducted almost e n t i r e l y by women, w i t h very few men p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n t h e commerce. Apart from a few c u r i o s and s h e l l s , t h e goods s o l d i n t h e market c o n s i s t l a r g e l y of t u b e r s and f r u i t s produced i n Melanesian gardens

-

t a r o s , yams, manioc, s w e e t p o t a t o e s , Chinese cabbages bananas, coconuts, l i m e s and kava r o o t s , etc. I n 1965, Brookfie4d found only a s p o r a d i c and p e r i p h e r a l market a c t i v i t y , i n d i c a t h g only a s l i g h t i n t e g r a t i o n of

v i l l a g e s on E f a t e i n t o t h e commercial economy.

and Ward, on t h e o t h e r hand, discovered a v e r y d i f f e r e n t s i t u a t i o n ; Ward found t h a t t h e t o t a l number of vendors i n t h e market reached 365 i n one week. Some vendors travel i n by t a x i from v i l l a g e s a t c o n s i d e r a b l e d i s t a n c e s from V i l a ,

P h i l i b e r t

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36

forming themselves i n t o groups t o pay f o r t r a n s p o r t . Over one y e a r , t h e t o t a l annual sales i n t h e V i l a market can be estimated a t $A220,000 (20 m i l l i o n FNH). The q u a n t i t y of v e g e t a b l e s , t u b e r s and f r u i t s a v a i l a b l e each week i n t h e market i s around 1 7 m e t r i c tons.

s i g n i f i c a n t and p o i n t t o a s o l i d i n t e g r a t i o n w i t h t h e c o m e r c i a l and monetary economy.

Such f i g u r e s are very

..

I n a d d i t i o n , comparison between products s o l d i n 1965 and 1976 shows a marked advance i n sales of r o o t crops, which are mainly consumed by Melanesians. I n 1965, sales of r o o t crops i n t h e market r e p r e s e n t e d only 17 p e r c e n t of t o t a l sales, w h i l s t t h o s e of European p l a n t s and v e g e t a b l e s reached 27 p e r cent. I n 1976, sales of European v e g e t a b l e s counted f o r no more than 5 p e r cent of t o t a l sales, w h i l s t t h o s e of Oceanic t u b e r s had r i s e n t o 4 1 p e r cent. This change i n goods on sale i s p a r t l y caused by t h e disappearance of non- Melanesian producers and vendors; it f u r t h e r p a r a l l e l s t h e a l t e r a t i o n s o c c u r r i n g i n t h e demographic composition of V i l a , being a response t o t h e demand c r e a t e d by t h e i n f l u x of

Melanesian migrants t o t h e urban area.

It can t h u s b e estimated t h a t t h e urban market produces 10-15 p e r c e n t of V i l a ' s s u p p l i e s of f r e s h and European v e g e t a b l e s , and probably as high a f i g u r e as 70 p e r c e n t of t h e town's s u p p l i e s of Oceanic t u b e r s .

The o f f i c i a l system of c o l l e c t i o n and d i s t r i b u t i o n . Melanesian c u l t i v a t o r s on E f a t e have another means of s e l l i n g t h e i r produce i n t h e town.

ments ('Fed Coop' and 'SCAF') o r g a n i z e t r a n s p o r t c i r c u i t s , i n conjunction w i t h a g r i c u l t u r a l t e c h n i c i a n s from t h e Depart- ment of A g r i c u l t u r e , f o r t h e c o l l e c t i o n of food products over t h e whole of t h e i s l a n d

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p a r t i c u l a r l y from t h e northern- most v i l l a g e s . Those i n t h e s o u t h , n e a r e s t t o V i l a , d i r e c t t h e i r sales e x c l u s i v e l y towards t h e urban market.

d i s t r i b u t i v e s t o r e i n t h e h e a r t of t h e town then r e d i r e c t s t h e c o l l e c t e d produce t o h o s p i t a l s , schools and o t h e r i n s t i t u t i o n s and t o s m a l l r e t a i l s t o r e s ; i t a l s o s e l l s t o i n d i v i d u a l buyers.

The co-operative depart-

A c e n t r a l

The d i s p o s a b l e production, t h r e e - q u a r t e r s of which comprises Xanthosom t a r o s and bananas, reaches almost 200 m e t r i c t o n s p e r annum, r e p r e s e n t i n g a t o t a l v a l u e of some 3 m i l l i o n FNH; t o t h i s must b e added another 50 metric t o n s of t u b e r s c o l l e c t e d by b o a t from neighbouring i s l a n d s . Following t h e advice of a g r i c u l t u r a l t e c h n i c i a n s , t h e

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proportion of European vegetables is tending t o i n c r e a s e from y e a r t o y e a r

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p a r t i c u l a r l y tomatoes, which f e t c h a good p r i c e . Furthermore, SCAT exported 50 metric t o n s of t u b e r s t o t h e New Caledonian market during 1975, although none i n 1976. I n p o i n t of f a c t t h e market i s s t i l l t o o disorganized f o r s t a b l e p a t t e r n s t o b e e s t a b l i s h e d , and t h e s i t u a t i o n appears t o vary considerably from one y e a r t o another.

A t the p r e s e n t t i m e , according t o a survey by t h e J o i n t O f f i c e of Development Planning, t h i s o f f i c i a l c o l l e c t i o n

system provides 24 p e r c e n t of t h e s u p p l i e s of market products and European vegetables, and a s i m i l a r proportion of t h e

t o t a l supply of t u b e r s ; i t p a r t i c u l a r l y provides food f o r schools and h o s p i t a l s .

From t h e above i t can b e seen t h a t t h e t o t a l q u a n t i t y of r o o t crops and Melanesian f r u i t s s o l d i n V i a approaches 700 metric t o n s

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500 metric t o n s i n t h e Melanesian market (estimated from Ward's f i g u r e s ) and 200 metric t o n s c o l l e c t e d by t h e o f f i c i a l agencies. With t h e 'unconnected' I s l a n d population and t h a t of t h e p e r i p h e r a l v i l l a g e s reaching almost 8000 persons, t h e consumption of t u b e r s p e r head i n t h e urban areas can b e estimated a t between 0.2 and 0.3 kg p e r day under e x i s t i n g c o n d i t i o n s of supply. Y e t t h i s f i g u r e i s misleading: f o r f i r s t l y i t t a k e s no account of t h e

numerous i n v i s i b l e inflows coming from relatives i n t h e v i l l a g e s

-

each v i s i t o r a r r i v a l being accompanied by a g i f t of t u b e r s ; secondly it d i s r e g a r d s t h e numerous t i n y food gardens t h a t have been c l e a r e d by t h e migrants i n s i d e t h e urban perimeter, even though t h e i r production i s d i f f i c u l t t o e v a l u a t e .

w i t h t h e i n v i s i b l e inflows i s e q u i v a l e n t i n q u a n t i t y t o t h e amount s o l d i n t h e market o r by SCAF. Thus i n d i v i d u a l consumption probably reaches 0.4 kg p e r day, which i s w e l l below t h e amounts of 1.2-1.4 kg consumed d a i l y i n t h e r u r a l areas. It follows from a s t u d y of 1975 f i g u r e s and t h e p r e s e n t p a t t e r n of consumption t h a t between 50 and 60 p e r cent of t h e t o t a l food consumption of t h e urban Melanesian population i s dependent on imported products, p a r t i c u l a r l y r i c e and t i n n e d foods.

It can b e assumed t h a t t h i s production t o g e t h e r

Nevertheless, t h e dynamism i n h e r e n t i n t h e p r e s e n t s i t u a t i o n may i n t h e long term change t h e f a c e t s o f the

problem. Whether i t i s occurring through the o f f i c i a l agencies o r whether t h e g r e a t e r p a r t i s due t o t h e spontaneous growth of t h e urban market, Melanesian food production i s c l e a r l y

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38

b e i n g i n t e g r a t e d t o an i n c r e a s i n g e x t e n t i n t o t h e commercial c i r c u i t s . Food c u l t i v a t i o n is becoming t h e second l a r g e s t source of p r o f i t , a f t e r copra, f o r t h e Melanesian v i l l a g e s of E f a t e and some of t h e neighbouring islan'ds. However, it i s g e n e r a l l y known t h a t t h e g r e a t e r t h e f a l l i n copra p r i c e s , t h e g r e a t e r t h e emphasis on food products, and t h a t t h e l a t t e r tend t o d e c l i n e when t h e copra market rises. Thus t h e

a d a p t a t i o n i s n o t t a k i n g p l a c e without a c e r t a i n degree of s p e c u l a t i o n .

The response of Melanesian systems of crop production t o t h e demands of urban markets: t h e case of E f a t e

With few exceptions, Melanesian food production h a s adapted i t s e l f t o t h e growing demands of t h e urban markets without any r e v o l u t i o n i n methods of production. Indeed t h e E f a t e gardens t h a t feed V i l a continue t o b e c u l t i v a t e d

according t o t r a d i t i o n a l rhythms and h o r t i c u l t u r a l techniques.

During t h e f i r s t y e a r of c u l t i v a t i o n , gardens are e s s e n t i a l l y devoted t o yams; t h e s e occupy t h e c e n t r e of t h e . p l o t and are surrounded by a l t e r n a t i n g bananas, manioc (cassava),

Xanthosoma

t a r o s , etc. Yam p l a n t i n g s are l a r g e l y of t h e s o f t v a r i e t y , which are p a r t i c u l a r l y valued on E f a t e and from

amongst which t h e g i a n t yams w e r e formerly chosen f o r r i t u a l s . Although of a lesser complexity t h a n i n t h e p a s t , t h e

techniques of t h i s s o f t yam c u l t i v a t i o n are s t i l l i n t e n s i v e and meticulous (small mounds, h o l e s , s u p p o r t s , e t c . ) and are e s s e n t i a l l y o r i e n t e d t o family consumption and t o s o c i a l p r e s t a t i o n s .

Once t h e s o f t yams of t h e f i r s t season have been

harvested, t h e p l o t ceases t o be a custom garden. E s s e n t i a l l y i t becomes commercialized. I n s t e a d of f u r t h e r p l a n t i n g s of s o f t yams, t h e r e are only s w e e t p o t a t o e s , manioc, ' s t r o n g yams',

Xanthosoma

t a r o s , cabbages and s p o r a d i c European vegetables. Sometimes t h e c u l t i v a t i o n is continued f o r a t h i r d y e a r , i f s o i l q u a l i t y i s favourable. The ground w i l l then l i e f a l l o w f o r several y e a r s b e f o r e t h e c y c l e i s resumed.

In North E f a t e , where t h e a v a i l a b l e space i s g r e a t e r , t h i s double a i m of production

-

customary on t h e one hand and commercial on t h e o t h e r

-

i s expressed by having s e p a r a t e p l o t s . Thus gardens used f o r family consumption and custom yams can be d i s t i n g u i s h e d from o t h e r p l o t s where t h e predom- i n a n t p l a n t s are r o o t crops of e x t e r n a l o r i g i n d e s t i n e d f o r sale.

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I n t h i s way Melanesian s o c i e t y d i f f e r e n t i a t e s between t h o s e t u b e r s which are p a r t of t h e customary h e r i t a g e

- Dioscoma alata

yams and

Colocasia

t a r o s

-

and t h e imported t u b e r s t h a t are o u t s i d e t h e custom system of r e f e r e n c e . The former belong t o what i s customary r a t h e r than what i s

c o m e r c i a l . The l a t t e r , even though they have f e a t u r e d f o r a long t i m e i n t h e e a t i n g h a b i t s , are f r e e from custom;

t h e y form a p a r t of t h e 'rod blong mane' i n t h e same manner as t h e buZuks ( l i v e s t o c k ) and European p l a n t s , and f o r t h i s reason can be s o l d without r e s t r i c t i o n . This d i s t i n c t i o n between customary and imported p l a n t s e x p l a i n s why t h e former are rare and s o l d a t a h i g h e r p r i c e i n t h e V i l a market.

example,

CoZocasia

t a r o

-

a custom p l a n t

-

i s s o l d i n t h e V i l a market a t 39 FNH p e r kg, while Xanthosoma o r F i j i t a r o

-

of e x t e m a l o r i g i n

-

only s e l l s a t 1 9 FNH p e r kg. I n t h e same way, manioc s e l l s a t 1 9 FNH p e r kg and sweet p o t a t o e s a t 23 FNH, w h i l e yam r o o t s a t t a i n a p r i c e of 4 1 FNH (Ward 1 9 7 6 ) .

For

Thus t h e content of t h e urban market shows f e a t u r e s t h a t c a n . o n l y b e explained by r e f e r e n c e t o an underlying c u l t u r a l system. Yams are p a r t i c u l a r l y lacking. The New Caledonian market's demand f o r t h i s t u b e r c t ~ ? f i n d no s o u r c e of supply f o r t h e same reason.

remains domesticated and i n d i v i d u a l i z e d w i t h i n t h e framework of t h e r e s t r i c t e d family, w i t h a g r i c u l t u r a l techniques such as t h e o r g a n i z a t i o n of work showing only a s l i g h t evolution.

This response of Melanesian s o c i e t y through i t s own customary s t r u c t u r e i n d i c a t e s a f l e x i b i l i t y of a d a p t a t i o n b u t a t t h e same t i m e it may i n t h e long term prove a handicap.

t h e general context of conservatism, t e c h n i c a l innovations are poorly accepted; t h u s t h e imported t u b e r s , whose methods of c u l t u r e are c l o s e s t t o t h o s e of t h e p l a n t s of t h e

customary h e r i t a g e , are much more e a s i l y adopted than t h e European crops and f r e s h v e g e t a b l e s , whose techniques of c u l t i v a t i o n d i f f e r from t h e normal h a b i t s . And t h e t y p e s of company o r s o c i e t y t h a t work w e l l i n r e l a t i o n t o 'rod

blong mane'

-

s t o c k r e a r i n g , copra, production co-operative

-

encounter many more d i f f i c u l t i e s as soon as t h e y touch upon t h e s e n s i t i v e and p e r s o n a l i z e d food garden

-

t h e h e a r t of custom and t h e economy of exchange.

Furthermore t h e economy

For i n

Women appear t o b e p a r t i c u l a r l y a c t i v e i n t h i s dual context of change and f i d e l i t y t o t h e p r i n c i p l e s o f c u s t o m . For i t i s t h e women who have e x c l u s i v e l y c o m e r e d t h e commercial f u n c t i o n s .

b u s i n e s s of men, and it would b e a loss of ' f a c e ' f o r a man This i s l a r g e l y because custom i s t h e

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40

t o s e l l t u b e r s t h a t are f o r g i f t s o r exchanges.

however, have shown t h a t t h e y are f r e e r t o undertake t h e commerce i n t u b e r s . I n most c a s e s , it i s n o t t h e men who have imposed a commercial r o l e upon t h e women: it i s t h e l a t t e r who have s e i z e d i t f o r themselves. The V i l a market i s t h e c r e a t i o n of t h e women of E f a t e , who have a l l o c a t e d t h e s e l l i n g ' areas amongst themselves and who form themselves i n t o groups f o r organizing t h e conveyance of t h e i r produce by t a x i t o V i l a . Women appear t o be an agent and motor of development i n Melanesian s o c i e t y

-

something t h a t h a s n o t y e t been s u f f i c i e n t l y grasped i n Melanesia.

Women,

The o t h e r n o v e l t y i n t h e p a t t e r n of food-growing i s t h e r e c e n t appearance of Melanesian ' e n t r e p r e n e u r s ' s p e c i a l i z i n g i n t h e production of imported r o o t crops and European

vegetables. There are several of t h e small-scale e n t r e - preneurs i n North Efate. Their manpower no l o n g e r comprises family h e l p e r s , but i s s a l a r i e d , and t h e e x t e n t of t h e i r e x p l o i t a t i o n i s g r e a t e r t h a n t h a t of o t h e r v i l l a g e r s . t h e p o i n t of view of t h e techniques of c u l t i v a t i o n used, t h e more s p e c u l a t i v e choice of c u l t i v a t e d p l a n t s and t h e volume of commercial produce, t h e y have gone beyond t h e domestic economy. Those e n t r e p r e n e u r s very o f t e n l i n k t h e i r a g r i c u l t u r a l e x p l o i t a t i o n t o t h e c r e a t i o n of l i v e s t o c k

p a s t u r e s , and they would s e e m t o act as 'animators' of t h e i r v i l l a g e communities.

From

These small-

from neighbouring i s l a n d s who have married women of t h e i s l a n d ; t h i s advantage h a s been used t o o b t a i n r i g h t s t o land, which i s t h e n developed. They have a ' d e - t e r r i t o r i a l i z e d ' a t t i t u d e ; t h e y have no more 'custom', n e i t h e r do they f e e l i n any way a t t a c h e d t o t h a t of E f a t e .

t h e ways of ' b i s n i s blong mane'. T h e i r uprooting h a s caused a break w i t h t h e custom world.

supply almost 10 p e r c e n t of t h e vegetables consumed i n V i l a . The a g r i c u l t u r a l t e c h n i c i a n s are f i n d i n g them t h e b e s t p u p i l s and are a d v i s i n g them t o o r i e n t a t e t h e i r c u l t i v a t i o n f u r t h e r towards t h e product ion of f r e s h vegetables.

o r medium-sale e n t r e p r e n e u r s are immigrants

They look t o t h e f u t u r e and t o A t t h e p r e s e n t t i m e t h e y

The case of t h e a g r i c u l t u r a l and market gardening s o c i e t i e s of Tanna

For over t e n y e a r s , Tanna h a s been t h e scene of a most i n t e r e s t i n g micro-case of -development : t h e GAMS (Groupements a g r i c o l e s e t maragehers) and v a r i o u s o t h e r a g r i c u l t u r a l and market gardening companies are p a r t i c u l a r l y noteworthy as they

are modelled e n t i r e l y on p r e - e x i s t i n g t r a d i t i o n a l s t r u c t u r e s .

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Custom i s s t i l l very s t r o n g on Tanna, e s p e c i a l l y on t h e c e n t r a l p l a t e a u x of t h e i s l a n d known as Middle Bush.

area, which probably because of f a i t h f u l n e s s t o i t s own

customary h e r i t a g e c o n s i s t e n t l y r e f u s e d t o accept C h r i s t i a n i t y and then l a t e r on t h e cargo c u l t t h a t spread throughout t h e i s l a n d , t h e coconut palm grows b u t does n o t y i e l d f r u i t . Thus copra i s n o t a p r o f i t a b l e a c t i v i t y . When t h e l o c a l a g r i c u l t u r a l companies w e r e c r e a t e d , t h e y set themselves t h e task of supplying t h e V i l a urban market w i t h home-grown

I n t h i s

i

F v e g e t a b l e s , p a r t i c u l a r l y p o t a t o e s .

A g r i c u l t u r a l d i f f i c u l t i e s are non-existent; s o i l s are f e r t i l e , t h e climate i s more temperate than i n t h e rest of New Hebrides and t h e men are n a t u r a l l y s k i l f u l gardeners.

The problem w a s t o form and then guide t h e production s o c i e t i e s and t o p l a n a system of d i s p o s a l and r e g u l a r d i s t r i b u t i o n t o V i l a .

These l o c a l a g r i c u l t u r a l companies have brought out q u i t e n a t u r a l l y t h e c l a n and v i l l a g e s o l i d a r i t i e s .

r e s p e c t , t h e f a i l u r e of t h e f i r s t attempt w a s s i g n i f i c a n t . A l a r g e GAM w a s c r e a t e d f o r t h e whole of Middle Bush,

grouping t o g e t h e r several d i f f e r e n t v i l l a g e s : although i t w a s e s s e n t i a l l y based on neighbourhood t i e s , i t d i s i n t e g r a t e d very quickly, showing t h a t t h e grouping w i l l only e x i s t t o t h e e x t e n t of i t s foundation on s m a l l t e r r i t o r i a l groups corresponding t o c l a n and ' a l l i e d ' family l i n e s . The p r e s e n t GAMS, comprising t h e f r u i t s of t h i s d i s i n t e g r a t i o n and o t h e r s c r e a t e d l a t e r on, correspond t o small o r medium-sized

s o c i e t i e s fused t o g e t h e r by t h e bonds of common t e r r i t o r y and t h e c i r c u l a t i o n of customary goods of exchange.

I n t h i s

The fragmentation of i n d i v i d u a l r i g h t s i n t h e t r a d i t i o n a l environment h a s never c o n s t i t u t e d an o b s t a c l e . Each l o c a l a g r i c u l t u r a l company groups t o g e t h e r t h e f i e l d s belonging t o d i f f e r e n t owners i n such a way t h a t t h e whole corresponds t o one and t h e same t e r r i t o r i a l u n i t .

nothing i n custom t o oppose a communal use of t h e ground.

Each person knows h i s t e r r i t o r i a l r i g h t s very p r e c i s e l y , b u t i n p r a c t i c e h e may c u l t i v a t e in a completely d i f f e r e n t area.

It i s even considered good manners t o lend one's own l a n d and t o agree t o work t h e ground t h a t one i s o f f e r e d ; t h i s s t r e n g t h e n s t h e bonds between t h e members of t h e s o c i a l uni%.

The u s e of garden l a n d s i s t h u s open t o most of t h e members of t h e group, on c o n d i t i o n , of course, t h a t t h e y do n o t indulge i n p e r e n n i a l c u l t u r e o r t h e p l a n t a t i o n of trees. The s o c i e t y t h u s h a s no d i f f i c u l t y i n c r e a t i n g i t s l a n d base out of t h e d i s p e r s e d l a n d r i g h t s of i n d i v i d u a l s .

I n f a c t , t h e r e i s

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From t h e beginning, t h e work of t h o s e ' a g r i c u l t u r a l companies' w a s d i r e c t e d and guided by t h e o f f i c i a l s and t h e a g r i c u l t u r a l t e c h n i c i a n s ; b u t t h e l a t t e r took care t o l e t t h e people organize themselves and t o l e a v e them masters of t h e i r own choice. The p r o f i t s w e r e a t f i r s t r e t a i n e d f o r repayment of t h e l o a n s of seeds and f o r u s e i n f u t u r e i n v e s t - ments; l a t e r , they w e r e f o r t h e purchase of a v e h i c l e t o serve as t r a n s p o r t and during t h e rest of t h e t i m e as a taxi.

Some companies have opened a s t o r e , where imported products are s o l d according t o co-operative procedures. The a l l o c a t i o n of work t a k e s place through t h e s o c i e t y , which i t s e l f

nominates i t s own o f f i c e r s .

The s o c i e t y formed i n t h i s way reactivates a t r a d i t i o n a l s t r u c t u r e

-

t h e p r i n c i p l e of ' a s s o c i a t i o n '

-

but w i t h i n t h e context of a modem economic p r o j e c t . The 'rod blong mane' i s added t o t h e a n c i e n t ways of custom, b u t does n o t i n t e r f e r e : f o r t h e way of g i a n t yams, glabrous o r smooth-skinned p i g s , r i t u a l s and exchanges i s s t i l l maintained s e p a r a t e l y w i t h o t h e r l e a d e r s and under o t h e r conditions.

Moreover, i t i s s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t t h e l o c a l a g r i c u l t u r a l companies have only succeeded on Tanna among l o c a l groups whose custom-based cohesion h a s remained v e r y s t r o n g , p a r t i c - u l a r l y among pagan and John From peoples. The C h r i s t i a n s , who are o f t e n much more involved i n t h e p l a n t a t i o n economy and i n migrations t o t h e towns f o r work, and whose s o c i a l s t r u c t u r e s would appear t o b e much more fragmented, have n o t succeeded s o much in forming a g r i c u l t u r a l companies.

W e should f i n a l l y n o t e t h a t t h e t e c h n i c a l advice of t h e agronomists i s r e a d i l y accepted i f i t concerns new p l a n t s , f r e s h o r European v e g e t a b l e s t h a t do n o t form p a r t of t h e h e r i t a g e .

gardens t h e men of Tanna s t i l l recognize only one a g r i c u l t u r a l l a w , t h a t of t h e i r a n c e s t o r s , and one s o l e a i m

-

t h a t of t h e economy of exchange. The market economy i s unable t o o b t a i n a foothold i n anything concerning custom ( t r a d i t i o n a l gardens and p i g s ) .

p r i c e of t h e i r p r e s e r v a t i o n and t h e i r i d e n t i t y , no doubt they are r i g h t .

On t h e o t h e r hand, w i t h i n t h e i r yam o r t a r o

The people of kastom b e l i e v e t h a t t h i s i s t h e

Nevertheless t h e ' a g r i c u l t u r a l companies' are running i n t o a grave problem

-

t h a t of t r a n s p o r t and communication w i t h V i l a , t h e i r p r i n c i p a l o u t l e t , s i t u a t e d a t a d i s t a n c e of

several hundred kilometres.

a c c e p t s loadings of v e g e t a b l e s on t h r e e of i t s f l i g h t s p e r The company Air Melanesiae

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c

week, but t h i s e n t a i l s t h e a d d i t i o n of around 28-30 FNH per kg t o t h e p r i c e of t h e t r a n s p o r t e d cargo. The Tanna produce t h u s runs i n t o d i r e c t competition w i t h t h e market gardens of E f a t e , which are favoured because of t h e i r proximity.

a d d i t i o n , one cannot be s u r e of t h e r e g u l a r i t y of t h e arrivals, f o r as a u n i t of t o u r i s t weight t r a n s p o r t e d t o Tanna i s more v a l u a b l e than t h a t of tomatoes o r l e t t u c e s , Air Melanesiae f r e q u e n t l y s a c r i f i c e s t h e l a t t e r f o r t h e former. S i m i l a r l y , even i f m a r i t i m e l i n k s are beginning t o b e organized i n response t o t h e needs of t h e l a r g e s t i s l a n d of t h e southern d i s t r i c t , t h e y are n e i t h e r s u f f i c i e n t l y r e g u l a r n o r r a p i d (one o r two b o a t s p e r month). There i s t h e r e f o r e much loss through poor connections, bad weather and d e f e c t i v e packing. Those r e s p o n s i b l e are t h u s t r y i n g t o o r i e n t t h e i s l a n d ' s production towards t h e most e a s i l y - preserved v e g e t a b l e s , p o t a t o e s i n p a r t i c u l a r , whose s t o r a g e and t r a n s p o r t can b e c a r r i e d o u t without too many shipping problems. Although t h e market f o r e a r l y v e g e t a b l e s i s more p a r t i c u l a r l y t h e p r e s e r v e of t h e market gardeners of E f a t e , such a system of r e g i o n a l d i v i s i o n of production would appear t o o d i f f i c u l t t o c a r r y

I n

out without r i g o r o u s planning.

To o b t a i n a production t h a t i s r e g u l a r , d i v e r s i f i e d and phased i n t o d i f f e r e n t p e r i o d s i s n o t easy i n an i s l a n d

environment i n view of t h e problems of t r a n s p o r t , of

c o n d i t i o n s and e s p e c i a l l y of o r g a n i z a t i o n . Nevertheless i t i s thought t h a t t h e Group's requirements of v e g e t a b l e s w i l l soon be m e t , a t l e a s t during t h e 6-month season of production;

t h e next g o d i s t o arrive a t complete s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y . I n 1976, Tanna produced n e a r l y 150 metric t o n s of p o t a t o e s , o r t h e e q u i v a l e n t of 3 m i l l i o n FNH value:

200 metric t o n s are a n t i c i p a t e d .

1 2 t o 15 m e t r i c t o n s per h e c t a r e without f e r t i l i z e r . This production, predominantly achieved through t h e l o c a l a g r i c - u l t u r a l companies, can b e i n c r e a s e d s t i l l f u r t h e r . The production of o t h e r vegetables i s e q u a l l y important.

p r i n c i p a l problem i s t o spread o u t t h i s production over t i m e i n such a way t h a t i t can m e e t urban needs n o t only f o r a few s e l e c t months b u t throughout t h e whole year.

i n 1977 Yields are e a s i l y reaching

The

I n t h e meantime, t h e example of t h e l o c a l a g r i c u l t u r a l

8 companies of Tanna shows t h a t t h e a d a p t a t i o n of a modern-type economic p r o j e c t t o a very t r a d i t i o n a l s o c i e t y i s n o t only p o s s i b l e but even f a c i l i t a t e d when t h e cohesion of community s t r u c t u r e s based on custom l i n k s i s maintained. Y e t e q u a l l y t h i s i m p l i e s t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n of a c e r t a i n number of

Figure

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