, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 21-55

Ecology and community dynamics of Kubo people in the tropical lowlands of Papua New Guinea

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Abstract

Kubo producer-units (families and independent bachelors) could have been self-sufficient in the production of bananas but chose not to be. Nor did they seek self-sufficiency in the production of any combination of staple carbohydrate foods (bananas, tubers, sago flour) or, in the long term, strive for balance in the exchange of food with other producer-units. Despite the fact that bananas, which provided 50% of people's energy needs, were a delayed-return crop Kubo communities were very unstable. This instability and the failure to choose the option of self-sufficiency were connected and were mediated through intense intracommunity sharing that, ultimately, served to negotiate a concern with sorcery. The people grew bananas in the way they did, not out of environmental necessity, but to accommodate the crop to the needs of sharing and, thereby, facilitate community living.