Dinka - Economy



The Dinka practice a mode of horticulture that complements and balances their cultural devotion to pastoralism, and it is hard to imagine a mode of livelihood that is better suited to their habitat. Millet provides the staple crop; normally there are two plantings per homestead each year. Maize, sesame, pumpkins, okra, and cassava are also cultivated. Although men engaged in the heavy work of clearing secondary forest for gardening sites, women perform the far greater part of the horticultural labor. Men in their twenties and thirties manage and tend the large herds of Dinka cattle. As the rainy season abates and the rivers and streams become more shallow, Dinka also catch many species of fish and, occasionally, hippopotamuses. Game is hunted intermittently. Few items of traditional Dinka material culture lasted longer than the people who manufactured them.

Division of Labor. The cultivation of primary food crops is largely a feminine domain, as is cooking and collecting water from bore wells or rivers. Young boys are introduced to the responsibilities of adulthood by tending small flocks of sheep and goats. Stock rearing, breeding, and tending is an adult-male responsibility. Men manufacture spears, fishing hooks, and cattle ropes from local materials, and women create cooking utensils, baskets, and sleeping mats.

Land Tenure. Access to cultivation and grazing areas is defined by membership in named patrilineal descent groups. Membership, by birth, allocates these rights to all individuals who attain adult status. Traditionally, land and cattle were owned collectively. Neither cattle nor land could be "sold" or otherwise alienated from members of patrilineal birth groups.

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