segments for each quarter, using similar boundaries. These portions, in turn, are further split . . . into parcels for each of the “families” or unnamed lineages. . . .
Because each man in the lineage is entitled to the use of a portion of the land, the lineage head cannot refuse to allot a piece of it to each household head in the lineage. Once land is parceled out, it stays within the lineage and reverts to the quarter elder or other original “owner” only when a lineage dies out or some other unusual event occurs. Thus, although a town chief, a quarter elder, or a lineage head is, like a paramount chief, called “owner of the land,” each is really a steward, holding the land for the group he represents.
Actually, in everyday situations, the head of the household to whom lineage land has been allocated is spoken of as the owner of the land. He decides which bit of “his” land he will work during a given year and which portions he will allow to lie fallow. Most farms are individually owned by the heads of the households and are worked with the help of the farmer’s household group and cooperative work groups.
Thus, even though chiefs are the official owners of the land among the Kpelle, the powers of these chiefs appear to be significantly restricted. Since ordinary individuals make most of the daily decisions regarding the actual productive use of the land, these individuals are, in a sense, also its “owners.”
Intensive horticulture and paramount ownership commonly imply partial redistribution. Marshall Sahlins (1963) highlights the important differences between pure and partial redistribution by comparing the distributional systems of Melanesian and Polynesian societies. As he notes, most Melanesian societies have had small-