Burusho - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Burusho engage in most subsistence activities. Small breeds of cattle, yaks, goats, and sheep are kept (goats and cattle for meat and dairy purposes). Ducks, crows, golden eagles, vultures, chickens, pheasants, chickores (red-legged partridges), pigeons, and doves are hunted. A small number of wild fruits are gathered. Cats are kept as household pets. Agriculture is at the heart of the Burusho cycle of subsistence. Crops include potatoes, garlic, beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, mulberries, apples, walnuts, almonds, plums, pears, cherries, grapes, millet, wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, rice, spices, cucumbers, tobacco, and flax. Fields are terraced on mountain-sides. These are irrigated by a complex system of drainage conduits. Wooden agricultural implements are the norm, though iron-tipped plowshares, iron hoes, spades, forks, shears, and sickles are also used.

Industrial Arts. Some of the more important items made by the Burusho are convex iron grills (for cooking), wooden trays (for flour kneading), goat's-hair products (rugs, saddlebags, and ropes), animal-skin boots, handiwork (in stone, bone, and horn), moccasins, woolen garments, baskets, farming implements of iron and wood, woven cloth, blankets, and various utensils (for food preparation, consumption, and storage).

Trade. Trade between the Burusho and their neighbors has been negligible since antiquity. In exchange for personal services (as laborers, porters, and burden bearers), Chinese caravanners provided cooking implements, cloth, tea, silk, and other commodities to Burusho traders. The Burusho also obtain food from Nagir by means of barter and the exchange of money (though cash has always been in scarce supply in Hunza). The Burusho obtain salt (once mined locally at Shimshal) from Pindi and Gilgit. Most luxury items from India, Turkestan, and central Asia are purchased by the Burusho at markets in Gilgit.

Division of Labor. Occupational specialization based on gender designations does not obtain. Men and women share in such varied activities as threshing, winnowing, load carrying, and in the socialization of children. Family cooperation in most matters is the Burusho norm. Although there is no formal prohibition against the performance of certain tasks by either gender, heavier work tends to be done by males (e.g., wall construction, plowing and irrigation), while other tasks are assumed by females (e.g., child rearing, care of vegetable patches, and the management of the household food supply).

Land Tenure. The majority of Hunza families are free-holders. Land remains in these families from generation to generation. Taxes are not levied against a landowner during his lifetime or upon his death. In antiquity, the mirs owned parcels of village land and these were farmed by means of forced labor. In this century, reforms have led to the leasing of this land to tenant farmers who pay a small fixed fee to the mir once the land begins to produce its yield.

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