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Palm sago: further thoughts on a tropical starch from marginal lands

CollectionsANU Resources, Environment & Development Group (RE&D)
Title: Palm sago: further thoughts on a tropical starch from marginal lands
Author(s): Townsend, Patricia K
Keywords: Papua New Guinea
toxic effects cadmium mining
tropical starch
Sago palms
marginal land
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP), Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School for Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP) Working Paper: No. 49
Conclusion: I have attempted to suggest what we might mean by “intensification” with respect to sago, with respect to planting, selection of varieties, managing stands, and harvesting. I should make it clear at this point that I am not retracting my long-standing contention that the Saniyo are most usefully seen as hunter-gatherers rather than farmers, particularly when attempting to understand their society and culture and to make relevant comparisons with other parts of the world. But over the years I have laboured that point in a variety of venues. More recently, Jim Roscoe has argued it even more convincingly (Roscoe 2002). I think it is now safe to suggest that even these most un-intensive of sago gatherers engage in varied management practices in their agro-forestry. As they moved into new situations, such as the larger and more permanent settlements at riverside or airstrip locations, these techniques of intensification that were already known to them became more conspicuous in practice. While total population had not increased, pressure on sago resources near new settlements had increased. Even so, in the upper Sepik during the early 1980s, the practices related to intensification were only slight. Planting a cutting of sago was still a rare event, and it was practiced to diversify the varieties available for cultural reasons. Thinning and pruning to manage sago stands for better yields, using newly available metal bush knives and axes, was more noticeable after two decades of post-contact change, but the technology of sago pounding and washing had not changed significantly.


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