Shahsevan - Economy



Subsistence, Commercial Activities, and Trade. Shahsevan nomads raise flocks of sheep and goats—the former for milk and milk products, wool, and meat, the latter only in small numbers, mainly as flock leaders. Camels, donkeys, and horses are used for transport. Most families raise chickens for eggs and meat, and a few keep cows. Every family has several fierce dogs to guard the home and the animals against thieves and predators. Bread is the staple food. Some nomads have relatives in villages, with whom they cooperate in a dual economy, sharing or exchanging pastoral for agricultural produce. Most, however, must sell milk, wool, and surplus animals to traders in order to obtain wheat flour and other supplies. Some work as hired shepherds and are paid with 5 percent of the animals they tend for every six-month contract period. Others go to towns and villages seasonally for casual wage labor. Every camp is visited almost every day by itinerant peddlers, but householders go on shopping expeditions to town at least twice a year (e.g., during the seasonal migrations). Most purchases are made on credit, against the next season's pastoral produce. The wealthiest nomads raise flocks of sheep commercially and may own shares in village lands as absentee landlords.

Industrial Arts. Shahsevan women produce a variety of colorful and intricate flat-woven rugs, storage bags, and blankets, and some produce knotted pile carpets, but these are all for domestic use and figure prominently in girls1 trousseaux. Since about 1970, however, these Shahsevan artifacts have been recognized by the international Oriental-carpet trade, and hard times and escalating prices have forced many nomads to sell items that were never intended for the market.

Division of Labor. Herding, milking, shearing, and the marketing of produce are the work of men, who also see to the erection and maintenance of tents. The household head is rarely at home during the day unless he has guests. Younger men and boys help with the herding and fetch fuel. Women and girls may fetch water, but they normally stay in camp to run their households. Their main regular chore, at least once a day, is baking flat bread over the hearth; for home consumption, they also turn milk into cheese, yogurt, and butter, as well as cooking both regular and ceremonial meals, weaving, and keeping the insides of the tents clean.

Land Tenure. Although the pasturelands are legally owned by the state, each tireh has rights to defined areas in summer and winter quarters. Each full member usually has rights to a specific share of these pastures, rights that, with consent of fellow members, may be rented or sold for cash. Similarly, nomads who have sold or lost their grazing rights, as well as outsiders from the villages or towns, may rent grazing land for their animals from owners who have surplus land to dispose of. They may join the camp of the owner as "client" members of the community or set up separate camps of their own.


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