Barí - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Traditionally, the Barí diet was based on the cultivation of manioc and Musa (bananas and plantains), fishing, and hunting. Sweet manioc was the major crop, contributing over 80 percent of the calories in the diet and occupying over 70 percent of cultivated land area. Yields were more than 18 metric tons of roots (wet weight) per hectare per year. Of the twenty-odd additional crops, only Musa made up a substantial fraction of the diet. Barí men averaged 400 to 500 person-hours/year engaged in farming, women a bit less. The caloric input Output ratio of Barí horticulture was about 1:30. The animal protein in the diet came from fish (75 percent) and game (25 percent). Most fishing was done with spears, between temporary stone weirs constructed at named spots in the rivers. Men built one weir, women the other, and men did the spearing. Fishing return rates varied with rainfall; the Barí did more fishing, up to 15 days per month, in the driest months when returns were greatest, than in the wettest month, when they might not fish at all. Yearly mean fishing returns were around 350 grams per person-hour. Hunting took the place of fishing in the wettest months, although hunting return rates did not fluctuate with rainfall. Bows and arrows were the weapons of the hunt, which gave a yearly average return of about 135 grams per person-hour (butchered weight). Barí men spent about 1,500 person-hours/year in hunting and fishing combined, the monthly proportions varying with rainfall, although the monthly combined total of 125 person-hours was remarkably constant.

The contemporary Barí own several hundred head of cattle, which take up a good deal of the time of many younger men. Cash cropping of rice, beans, and cacao also occupies many people, although virtually all families still maintain a traditional manioc field. Land clearing for pasture has reduced the abundance of game dramatically, and commercial overfishing downstream as well as agricultural runoff have driven the bocachicos ( Prochiloidus reticulatus ), which once comprised two-thirds of the fish catch, to near extinction. Fishing and hunting are still practiced, but are becoming avocational. Some off-reservation Barí, particularly in Venezuela, work as ranch hands.

Industrial Arts. Traditional Barí material culture included fewer than forty items. Only arrows and women's skirts, both important in ritual exchange, were produced in surplus. There were no specialists; all adults were able to produce all items appropriate to their sex. It appears that all artifacts required at least one step in their manufacture to be performed by an individual of the opposite sex from the eventual owner.

Trade. Although the ritual exchange of arrows and skirts was clearly not an economic transaction, it was sometimes accompanied by gifts of utilitarian items such as knives and drinking gourds, these gifts being the closest approach the traditional Barí made to commerce. The contemporary Barí buy clothes, tools, and so forth from small shopkeepers.

Division of Labor. Although the Barí have a typical South American tropical-forest division of labor (males clear fields, fish, and hunt; females harvest, cook, and weave), it is notable for its flexibility and for the tight interdependence of sex-specific activities.

Land Tenure. Traditionally, individuals obtained usufruct to cultivated areas by the act of planting them. There are no records of local groups disputing territorial boundaries. Off-reservation Barí in some cases now own parcels of land individually, according to Venezuelan and Colombian law. The question of individual possession of cultivated tracts, including pastures, within the reservations, has not yet come to a head.

Also read article about Barí from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: