Tandroy - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Tandroy economy is based upon a mixture of pastoralism and horticulture, supplemented by gathering. The transhumant herding of zebu cattle has been described as the basis of Tandroy religious and social life. As well as supplying milk, meat, and leather, their herds are an important determinant of status and wealth. The Tandroy are renowned, moreover, for their hecatombs. Sheep, goats, and chickens are also kept. Crops include maize, manioc, sorghum, sweet potatoes, legumes, groundnuts, and cucurbits; the dry climate of Madagascar prohibits rice agriculture. Although most villages now possess at least one plow, the triangular spade remains in extensive use, particularly in districts such as the southwest, which are least touched by socioeconomic change. Cultivation is mostly for subsistence: besides extensive sisal plantations in the lower Mandrare region, only groundnut production is commercialized on any large scale; the decline in traditional export crops, such as cotton, has been accompanied by an increasing dependence upon imported rice. What remains of the forest is a source of charcoal and house timbers, as well as supplies to pharmaceutical companies, and there are some localized fishing industries. Despite the provision of government wells, the shortage of rain remains a serious problem, and the periodic famines, which in the past led to migrations within the Androy and into the neighboring regions, now fuel the rural exodus to Toliary and the north. Between 16 percent and 30 percent of the Tandroy are reckoned to live outside the Androy. Nearer at hand, many work as agricultural laborers in the sisal concessions.

Industrial Arts. Part-time or seasonal silversmiths, sewing-machinists, and cobblers and carpenters who specialize in the manufacture of carts and coffins are found among the Tandroy; blacksmiths nowadays are few. In the villages, basketry and raffia work are still common, but the weaving of dyed cottons is now more or less restricted to the production of loincloths and shawls for ceremonial use. Most other traditional crafts, such as silk weaving and pottery making, have fallen into disuse. The weaving of goat's wool, which was introduced in the colonial era, particularly in the southwest, was not an indigenous craft and has since declined.

Trade. Stores, mostly under the control of Indo-Pakistanis, Chinese, and Malagasy from the highlands, are found in the urban centers, which also have weekly markets at which rural Tandroy sell homegrown produce in small quantities and purchase soap, pots, material, and other goods. Traders on foot hawk tobacco and other contraband in the villages.

Division of Labor. In addition to the important dual symbolic classification of religious activities, manual labor, too, is organized by age and gender. Collecting water and firewood, preparing and cooking food, raising poultry, child care and household duties, sowing, weeding, harvesting, mat making, weaving, and spinning are all classed as female activities, whereas herding, milking, slaughtering and butchering, collecting honey, constructing houses, burning the forest, and preparing the fields are classed as male. This classification is modified somewhat in ritual activities and also by demographic factors, status, and wealth.

Land Tenure. The greater part of the land is still unregistered. Although it is conceptualized as clan territory, in which individuals enjoy customary rights, the settlement of people is subject to local government controls. Reports differ as to whether tenant farming and sharecropping are known in the Androy; this lack of agreement may reflect political and demographic variation. Individuals work variable combinations of shifting and permanent fields, but only a very small part of the land is cultivated (estimated at less than 5 percent), the rest being pasture. Land use today is in a critical state, with deforestation, population pressure, overgrazing, and the accelerating stabilization of the south. Conflicts, which previously led Tandroy either to extend their territory or to migrate, are not infrequent, particularly over cultivable fields, transhumance, and grazing rights. If a conflict cannot be settled by the communities concerned, then government officials intervene.

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