The Tsembaga Maring swidden agriculture and animal husbandry, Simbai River Valley, Papua New Guinea

Resource System
Watershed and associated topography
Resource Units
Swidden agriculture products, pigs

Tsembaga Maring are a group of horticulturists who live in the highlands of New Guinea. The main resource upon which they relied on is swidden agriculture. The Tsembaga also practiced animal husbandry - the main domesticated animal being pigs. The Tsembaga derived little energetic value from pigs. Pigs did, however, play an important role in Kaiko, an important cultural ritual practiced by the Tsembaga people. Kaiko is a 5-25 year long ritual cycle that is coupled with pig husbandry and warfare. It is believed that the Kaiko acted as a self-regulating institution that governed and  prevented over-exploitation of the renewable resource (soil and soil fertility for swidden agriculture) that the Tsembaga relied on. The ritual of Kaiko operated in the following manner:

1) The Tsembaga people raise pigs, which requires more energy than is derived from their consumption.

2) The pig husbandry pigs becomes a main source of conflict between neighboring groups because they invade their swidden gardens. The greater the pig population, the greater the chance an accidental invasion of others' gardens will occur.

3) Ech time a garden is invaded, here is a chance that the person whose garden was invaded will kill the owner of the invading pig. Records are kept of such deaths which must be avenged during the next ritually sanctioned bout of warfare.

4) A Kaiko is called and most of the pig herd is slaughtered. The Tsembaga are then released from taboos prohibiting conflict with neighbors. Warfare begins with a series of fights that end in human casualties. Killings last until both sides have agreed on enough killing related to blood revenge from past injustices has been achieved.

5) The ritual cycle then begins anew with both the pig and human populations reduced to levels that will not cause ecological degradation.