Qashqa'i - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The vast majority of Qashqa'i subsist on a mixed pastoral-agricultural economy. The nomads are more dependent on their sheep and goats, whereas the villagers place a greater reliance on agriculture. They sell surplus live animals once a year, usually in cities, and dairy products (fresh and clarified butter, dried curds) in villages and town markets. The animals provide meat for the Qashqa'i on ceremonial occasions and also whenever one is slaughtered because of injury or illness. The people consume diverse dairy products, primarily yogurt, sour milk, butter, cheese, and dried curds. The nomads rely heavily on their wide territories for meat from game animals and for gathered foods of many kinds. Their staple food is bread baked both from the wheat that they cultivate in winter and summer pastures and from wheat that they purchase. Women weave many items from the yarn they spin from the raw wool of their sheep and from the raw hair of their goats—including knotted pile carpets (for which the Qashqa'i have been internationally famous since the nineteenth century), various flat weaves, saddlebags, horse covers, and tent fabric. Most of these items are used in Qashqa'i tents or given as gifts within the group, but some are sold in villages and urban bazaars.

Division of Labor. Men, women, and children share the tasks of nomadic pastoralism and agriculture. Men and boys tend the sheep and goats, herd the camels, care for the pack animals (camels, mules, donkeys), pitch the tents, lead the seasonal migrations, cultivate the crops, trade in markets, and hunt. Women and children perform most of the chores connected with the home. Women care for children, cook, bake bread, weave, tend animals near the tent, collect water and fuel, and gather wild fruits and vegetables. Boys assist their fathers, and girls help their mothers. During the migration and in any kind of crisis, all of the people help with whatever work is necessary. Among the Qashqa'i who live in villages, men cultivate fields and negotiate economic affairs, and women and children are responsible for domestic tasks. For the nomads in particular, a fairly equitable social and economic relationship exists between men and women.

Land Tenure. Until the national land reforms of the 1960s, the Qashqa'i derived their rights to use pastures and agricultural land through membership in their tribal groups. Tribal leaders held control over territory and distributed land rights. In the 1960s, when the government nationalized Iran's pastures and confiscated much of the cultivable land, most Qashqa'i lost their customary rights. The shah's government had not yet adequately formulated a new system of land tenure for the pastoralists when the 1979 Revolution occurred. Despite much talk about land reform, the Islamic Republic has continued to avoid any systematic reorganization of land tenure. It does, for the moment, recognize the private rights of individual users of pastoral and agricultural land, especially if they can demonstrate and prove past occupancy and use of the land.


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