Agta - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The most salient economic activity of the Casiguran Agta, until the 1960s, was hunting. Men spent a major part of their time hunting large game (wild pigs, deer, monkeys) with bow and arrow or borrowed homemade shotguns. Their economy for many hundreds of years has revolved around an institutionalized exchange relationship with non-Agta farmers. Until recently, the main feature of this exchange was the trade of wild meat for starch foods from farmers. As the game declined during the 1960s, the Agta gave more and more of their economic time to working as unskilled laborers for the growing farming population. In 1984 Agta men gave only 6 percent of their daily activity time to hunting. Agta are no strangers to agriculture. They have helped non-Agta farmers seasonally in their fields since prehistoric times, and they were cultivating small slash-and-burn fields of their own when first observed by Spaniards in the eighteenth century. Each year about 25 percent of Agta families make tiny desultory fields that average one-seventh of a hectare in size. In a good year these fields produce enough rice (their main starch food) to feed the population for only 15 days. Only 6 percent of the daily activity of all adults (both men and women) is given to working in these fields. The biggest single economic activity of the Agta is collecting forest products for trade. The main product was formerly wild meat. In the 1980s it was rattan. In 1984 men spent 25 percent of their daily activity in rattan collecting, and women, 17 percent. They also work frequently on nearby farms for wages (12 percent of the daily time of men, and 6 percent of women).

Division of Labor. There is a very weak division of labor between the sexes. Women participate with their husbands in hunting on about half of the hunting trips (in Cagayan some women even secure game with bow and arrow themselves). Both sexes contribute equal amounts of time to work in their own gardens. Both sexes collect forest products for trade, and both work as casual laborers for farmers. Both men and women collect firewood for their own hearths, and both engage in housebuilding, carrying water, etc. Only women weave baskets and mats, and only women wash clothes. Only men spear fish in deep water on coral reefs, and only men climb high trees to collect wild honey.

Land Tenure. Agta do not own land, nor usually show interest in doing so. Land tenure is a foreign concept to them. Instead, they see land as a free good.

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