‘Twenty Toea has no power any more’: property, customary tenure, and pressure on land near the Ramu Nickel Project Area, Madang, Papua New Guinea

James Graham Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Granting customary land tenure to Papua New Guinean citizens was a major step in the unique development of the Nation. Those who promoted it as a policy surely meant to encourage more than a narrow right to alienate, or otherwise dispose of land for minimal economic gain. Yet under pressure from large scale extractive industry, this seems the best that can be hoped for. “Twenty toea has no power now” examines this contemporary reality, one
facing customary land owners in the vicinity of the Ramu Nickel development on the Rai Coast. Through attention to current concerns, and the question of whether “land” should be reducible to a simple “economic” asset to be realized through marketing produce or cash cropping, I argue for a deeper investigation of, and commitment to, the principles that make customary tenure viable
as a foundation for a vital social form. I suggest that governance regimes that assume property as the natural basis for human sociality do not do enough to recognize or support diverse life-ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-322
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Pacific Studies
Issue number2/3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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