Marianas Variety

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    Monday, December 9, 2019-12:51:08P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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The value of island land ownership

THROUGHOUT Micronesia, the incorporation of island societies into the Western market economy and the rising tide of privatization are washing away the collective ownership of land. The decline in traditional kin-based lawn ownership is now notable in many islands.

The importance of individual ownership was valued early on. Owning land not only provided the food and material necessary for subsistence, it also validated one’s social status. Families enjoyed owning land which was an important source of pride that increased the owner’s status among members of their households.

Ngaramaiberel Association members grow crops to increase the value of land.  Photo by Kambes KesoleiNgaramaiberel Association members grow crops to increase the value of land. Photo by Kambes Kesolei

Experts say the marked decline of individual ownership is related to the changing value of the land and its produce on the Western market.

The products of the land have lost much of their value as imports and the cash used to acquire them has become more accessible and desired as a result of the islands’ incorporation into Western markets.

Today, in many islands, remittances and government projects and employment are the preferred sources of income. The value of owning land continues to diminish.

Father Francis Hezel, the renowned Micronesian scholar, said “greater efforts should be made to educate people toward conservation methods that will preserve the value of the land and the ecosystem in the future. People must be taught that destroying mangrove swamps, reckless landfill, and practices that cause erosion will eventually harm them and the entire population….”

Others believe that the land tenure system should remain flexible enough to accommodate the needs of families and future generations.

On Saipan, a local landowner said he encourages his children “to look to other means of raising the cash they need to support themselves rather than selling our lands cheaply, only to regret it years later.”