Human Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 21–49 | Cite as

Land tenure and transfer in Chimbu, Papua New Guinea: 1958–1984—A study in continuity and change, accommodation and opportunism

  • Paula Brown
  • Harold Brookfield
  • Robin Grau


A long-term study of land tenure, land transfer, and succession in one subclan of the Chimbu in the Papua New Guinea highlands takes up the relations between the agricultural cycle, family, and population growth in a period of rapid commercialization and cash cropping. Over a generation, land was held and allocated within families, among families within the subclan, and to kin and affines in neighboring groups. The land tenure, ownership, and use system allows for a very great deal of individual movement and land gifts, temporary or long-term, by land owner to kin and friends. Despite an agnatic ideology, individuals and local groups opportunistically accommodate to land needs. As cultivation becomes more intensive and semi-permanent, there appears to be a progression from fluidity of land rights in the clan or subclan to anchoring of rights and boundaries to individuals and families. It is suggested that this characterizes Chimbu land tenure; it is not a postcolonial phenomenon.

Key words

land tenure land transfer Papua New Guinea highlands agricultural system 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paula Brown
    • 1
  • Harold Brookfield
    • 2
  • Robin Grau
    • 2
  1. 1.State University of New York at Stony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Research School of Pacific StudiesAustralian National UniversityAustralia

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