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Accepted Paper:

Closing the frontier, opening doors: Local cash crop production, large-scale resource extraction and the shifting frontier in Pomio, Papua New Guinea  
Tuomas Tammisto (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines a communal cocoa project in Papua New Guinea not only as a source of income, but as an infrastructural strategy by the community. With it, the community seeks to control their land and labour and end frontier conditions under which labour and resources are made cheaply available.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines a cocoa project of a Mengen community in Pomio (Papua New Guinea). The project was locally initiated and funded by an NGO as part of a grant given to the community for its conservation efforts. The community members wanted to plant cocoa in order to develop a reliable source of income that could be combined with swidden horticulture, their main livelihood activity. In the past, people had cultivated copra, but with falling commodity prices and the deterioration of buying infrastructure, copra production in the area had ceased to be profitable. Pomio is a remote, rural and poor district with large forested areas and limited state services and infrastructure. From the 1990s the area has been a frontier for logging and plantation companies to procure cheap labour, land and resources.

I examine the communal cocoa project in relation to local land use, previous forms of agricultural production and the shifting frontier conditions. With the cocoa project, the community sought to reverse the frontier conditions and consolidate their control of their own land and labour. The cocoa project, like previous cash crop production, was for the community not only an inalienated source of income, but part of a spatial and infrastructural strategy of establishing ‘doors’, as people called them. These ‘doors’ were places that strengthened the community’s presence in a particular area and points of access to other important places, better transport and markets.

Panel Irre09a
Agricultural infrastructures in a failed ecology I
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -