Lur - Economy

The traditional subsistence activity of the Lur is pastoralism. As much as half of the Lur population may be engaged in nomadic herding of sheep and goats, although some experts believe the proportion of pastoralists is now much smaller. Like most nomads of the Zagros, Lur herders spend six to eight months with their flocks in the low-lying pasture lands, usually from October to April. In the dry season (May to September), the herders move to high mountain pastures. The longest migration takes about 25 days and covers a distance of about 240 kilometers. The more settled Lur emphasize agriculture over herding; wheat and barley are the major crops. They tend to live in permanent villages year-round, whereas the nomadic groups live in permanent buildings only in the winter. For the other eight months of the year, the nomads live in black goat-hair tents, which are made by women.

The Lur take their agricultural and pastoral products to markets, where they purchase goods manufactured elsewhere in the country. Itinerant traders and merchants have established long-standing commercial relations with the Lur, especially with the pastoralists. They extend credit to their trading partners during the fall and winter season and collect the debts in summer, when the surplus dairy products and animals born in the previous winter become available for the market. High interest rates, however, sometimes 100 percent semiannually, have greatly undermined the economic base of the nomadic household. Nearly 30 percent of the region's herds of sheep and goats are owned by urban-based merchants. Most households are burdened with perpetual indebtedness. Despite this systematic exploitation, the Lur nomads, along with other pastoral groups, continue to provide meat, dairy products, wool, and hides for the rest of the nation.

The Lur believe that their success as herders is determined by personal qualities and luck. It is only the wealthiest portion of the population, however, that is usually able to maintain or increase its wealth. The majority of the population requires economic support from the upper strata of society, which control larger herds, require labor for their herds, and can provide work and salaries for those of the lower strata. Lower-strata members have fewer animals, must work for others to make up for their lack of sufficient capital in animals, and are usually obliged to offer the labor of their sons to larger herd owners, so that control over their sons is also weakened. Lur claim that as equals they are free to opt out of dependent contractual relationships, but doing so means that they must find support from another source, which is usually not easy to do.

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