Tim Anderson: Land and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea

By Stilwell, Frank | Journal of Australian Political Economy, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Tim Anderson: Land and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea


Stilwell, Frank, Journal of Australian Political Economy


Tim Anderson

Land and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea

Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, 2015, 222pp.

A central lesson from Tim Anderson's latest book is that the 'modernist' view of land as a commodity does not sit well with Melanesian cultures. Land is crucial for livelihood, most directly in subsistence agriculture and small-scale farming but, more generally, as a basis for food security, village cooperation and development strategies that are equitable and sustainable. By contrast, marketisation, 'land grabs' and the reorientation of land-uses to production of crops for export tend to exacerbate dependence and vulnerability to external sources of corporate power and market volatility.

The book provides a wealth of data on how livelihoods are actually constructed in PNG, often in 'hybrid' forms that combine farming products for local consumption with some cash-cropping, some work as roadside sellers and maybe factory employment too. Typical income levels associated with these activities are presented and the tensions carefully considered, including gender issues. The results of the author's own pilot surveys of family food consumption are also included.

This 'down to earth' view of the economic and social conditions can be compared with the stances taken by international agencies ostensibly concerned with 'development'. …

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