Harvest of the Palm in Timor-Leste

Andrey Damaledo (Bappeda NTT)


In his classic Harvest of the Palm, Fox argues that ‘lontar production provides (a) time to engage in a variety of activities, (b) the ability to alter, at some risk, other aspects of the economy and, with this ability, (c) the means to adapt these subsystems, in a reasonably short time, to changing conditions (1977: 40). Fox developed this argument based in his comparative analysis the lontar economy in among the Rotenese and the Savunese and the swidden economy of those of the Sumbanese and West Timorese. Little is known, however, on the extent to which lontar economy is practised among the East Timorese people. This paper takes Fox’s idea further by exploring the lontar economy among different East Timorese societies. It focuses on lontar mode of production and the reproduction the lontar juice into the local gin (tua mutin
and tua sabu). The aim of this paper is to analyse the diversity of palm production and reproduction and how it contributes to different modes of livelihood adaptation. In doing so, this paper examines two different ethnolinguistic palm-tappers groups, the Galolen people in the highland of Manatuto and the coastal Tokudedo people in Liquisa.

Keywords: Palm economy, livelihood, East Timor, adaptation, diversity.