Carib of Dominica - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The major source of income for most residents of the Carib Territory is banana farming. Some subsistence crops continue to be raised by most households, but since the 1970s there has been a growing trend to purchase more and more of the food consumed. A very few Carib have steady employment that frees them from having to farm. Several others are self-employed as truck drivers, shopkeepers, carpenters, and masons. The Carib council established a food shop, an auto-repair shop, and a concrete-block making operation in the 1980s, and a few Carib own and run small stores as family businesses.

Industrial Arts. Some Carib work part-time making canoes and baskets for sale to outsiders, and a few continue to make canoes and baskets for their own use, but both practices are declining. These canoes are used for fishing in the sea, but only in calm weather, and most fishing expeditions merely acquire enough for the households of the fishermen and perhaps a few relatives. Surpluses are sold to any who gather on the beach at the end of the day. Until 1980 or so, most males were experienced at cutting lumber from local trees and constructing homes. Today, however, more and more new homes are being built of concrete and imported lumber.

Trade. Aside from selling farm goods to outside merchants, some households trade baskets and a few canoes, the only other important exchange items.

Division of Labor. In the past, Carib culture was characterized by a clear sexual hierarchy and a strict division of labor, women having exclusive responsibility for cultivating, harvesting, and processing food. Today women are less politically dependent, and men share fully in agricultural production. Until the mid-1960s, men still relied on friends to help them clear new gardens in the forest and perform other heavy labor such as house building, but modern houses now last much longer and chemical fertilizer enables today's farmers to cultivate the same garden plot for many years before it becomes necessary to clear new land. Young women and adolescent girls are expected to do laundry, carry water, perform kitchen chores, clean house, and care for younger siblings and other close relatives. In contrast, young men and adolescent boys have much leisure for games and idleness. They work very hard at specific tasks, but they are not kept nearly as busy as their female counterparts.

Land Tenure. The Carib have consistently resisted privatizing landholdings. Even though gardens and house sites are considered "owned" by individuals, no deeds or legal titles exist for such holdings within the Carib Territory. Prior to the independence of Dominica in 1978, this land was a reservation, but collective title is now held by the Carib council. Because of a lack of surveys, there are frequent internal boundary disputes between farmers who cultivate adjoining gardens.


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