Papua New Guinea


In Ngavalus, there are many different places used for learning. There is a school run and sponsored by the provincial government, some private schools run by the villages themselves, and the hausboi. The men are brought up and taught the traditions and history of the community in the hausboi. They learn the role men play in the community and about all of the responsibilities they have for maintaining the well-being of the village. It is here traditions and customs are passed down through storytelling and participating in everyday activities and specialized projects.


The community at Ngavalus is a matrilineal society, meaning an individual’s lineage is traced through their mother and the maternal ancestors. The definitions of the roles of men and women in the society span many generations. With the onset of modern times, there has been a blurring of the lines determining what men and women can or cannot do, but there are still distinctions of the roles played by either gender.


The people of Ngavalus live in close proximity and harmony with nature in a place where resources are abundant and the soil is fertile. The community’s methods of interaction with the environment are passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition; it is through legends and folk lore that the community remembers and records the usage of the commodities found in their environment.


Since Navunaram is reliant on agriculture, there is an abundance of food available to all members of the community throughout the year. While there are many crops grown in family gardens, fruit trees and vegetables grow around the community as well. There is an abundance of coconuts, oranges, bananas, cassava, and taro growing wild; all of which are key components of everyday meals. Navunaram also has a number of community owned chickens.


The highlands of East New Britain have no shortage of fresh water since it can be collected directly from streams and springs. However, the minimal amount of rainfall during the coastal dry seasons visibly impacts the lifestyle of those living in the areas, as is the case in Raluana and Matupit. During our stay in Raluana, it was necessary to regulate the amount of water we used for brushing our teeth and drinking because, as a result of the dry season, there was only one tank of drinkable water that was rapidly dwindling with the number of people using it.


Navunaram is a community with a population of two thousand. To manage such an expansive population, they have developed a unique social structure which acts as the technology by which the community functions. Navunaram covers enough land area to be determined as its own ward by the national government, but the community has organized itself even more to make it more manageable. Navunaram is divided into five zones, each covering a different section of the community. Each zone has an elected councilor whose job it is to address the needs of the people in that zone.


The roads in and around the cities in East New Britain are paved; however, the majority of roads which are not in close proximity to the cities are generally packed dirt or ash. These dirt roads are susceptible to washouts and as a result are often rutted or impassable during rainfall as the 2009 H.I.T. team experienced. On these rural roads, a journey of 13 kilometers may take between five and eight hours, while other times they may simply be impossible to pass due to mud and washout.


The main source of income for members of the Navunaram community is the sale of their agricultural crops. Every family in the community has a number of hectares of land where they grow subsistence and commercial products like peanuts, bananas, papayas, coconuts, tapioca, taro, and cocoa, which was their main cash crop. Due to the outbreak of the cocoa pod boar (CPB) many farmers are looking for new products since they can no longer rely on cocoa as a cash crop. Nutmeg has been introduced as a potential alternative to supplement the loss of cocoa sales.


The kina is the national currency for Papua New Guinea, and it is used in the mainstream marketplace. There is also a traditional form of currency used in the Tolai community called Tambu. Tambu is made from shells which were traditionally collected from a local snail. Their shells were gathered by leaving a piece of fruit on a coral reef and waiting for a few hours. After that time a significant amount of these small snails would have gathered on the piece of fruit. The snails are then collected and dried to isolate the shell from the snail.


Because Navunaram relies heavily on agriculture, all knowledge associated with it is passed down to each generation at an early age. As soon as they are able, children help with gardening and cultivation and parents and other family members pass on their knowledge and skills. However, Navunaram has a number of different educational centers as well. Community knowledge is shared at churches and community halls, while basic learning skills including reading, writing, and math are taught at community elementary schools.