Abor - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The major Subsistence activities are hunting, fishing, gathering, agriculture, and barter of surplus crops for basic necessities and luxuries. Slash-and-burn (or jhum ) agriculture is the norm. Forest and undergrowth are cut, dried, and burned, after which seeds are planted. Soil fertility is maintained for a period of one to three years using this method. Agricultural land is graded according to latent fertility, and crops are assigned accordingly. Major crops include rice, five varieties of Job's tears, four types of finger millet, foxtail millet, maize, and namdung (Perilla ocimoides, the seed of which is eaten whole or ground). Green vegetables grown include mustard, country bean, pumpkins, white gourds, small onions, soybeans, flat beans, eggplants, bitter gourds, french beans, small mustard plants, potatoes, tomatoes, and enge ( Colocasia antiquorum ). Fruits grown include jackfruit, oranges, papayas, bananas, and pineapples. Condiment crops are limited to chilies, ginger, and sugarcane. Cotton is the most important of the several fiber crops grown. Finally, tobacco is also raised. Gayals, dogs, pigs, goats, and chickens are the most important of the animals domesticated by the Abor. The Abor do not have a currency of their own with any item of value (i.e., having a practical or decorative use) being used as money. Metal items are valued by the Abor, and the metal cauldron ( danki ) imported from Tibet is particularly treasured.


Industrial Arts. Bamboo, wood, cane, clay, stone, glass, metal, cotton, and wool are used as raw materials. Manufactured items include yarn, woven cloth, personal attire (e.g., for daily, ceremonial, and military use), ornaments (e.g., for ear, neck, waist, and wrist), household furniture, baskets, utensils for the preparation and storage of food (e.g., bamboo containers, wooden gourds, and metal pots), and implements of war (e.g., bows, arrows, swords, shields, helmets, spiked wristlets, and bamboo spikes or panjis ).


Trade. Surplus goods are bartered by the Abor in exchange for various necessities and luxury items. Market relationships exist among the Abor themselves and trade routes link them with markets in Nayi Lube (Tibet), Along, Pangin, and Pasighat (the latter three being in Siang Frontier Division). For example, raw hides and chilies are traded by the Boris in Tibet for rock salt, woolen cloth, raw wool, Tibetan swords and vessels, ear ornaments, and brass bangles. They exchange salt, iron, and some utensils for other items with neighboring groups. With the establishment of Along, Pasighat, and Pangin as administrative centers, Abor traders from throughout the region come to these towns to barter their goods. In addition to barter, currency is also used as a medium of exchange.


Division of Labor. While some tasks such as child care and cooking are shared in some cases by men and women, gender-based demarcation of responsibilities is followed in others. For example, weaving is the province of women, while the cutting and burning of trees and brush for jhum is a male task. Generally speaking, women assume primary responsibility for cooking, maintenance of domestic animals, and the seeding, weeding, and harvesting of jhum fields.


Land Tenure. Each village has its own territorial boundaries. Within these, the land belongs to the families inhabiting the village. Roy has suggested that clan ownership of land obtains in some older villages, though this is not the general norm. Lal and Gupta suggested that in Minyong villages, the dominant clan(s) is (are) the majority landholder(s). Theoretically all land belongs to the village. However, the families that constitute a village have the right to cultivate the land that they claim as their own.

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