Garo - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditionally, the Garos living in the hills subsist by slash-and-burn cultivation. The iron hoe, chopper, and wooden digging stick are essential appliances. Human hands continue to be the principal tool. Very often in some areas a plot allotted to a family remains underused because of an insufficient number of workers and the low level of technology. To survive the erratic nature of the monsoons, mixed crops—both wet and dry varieties—are planted. A shifting cultivator plants a wide assortment of crops consisting of rice (mainly dry varieties), millet, maize, and many root crops, vegetables, etc. In addition to these cotton, ginger, and chili peppers are commonly raised as cash crops. All crops are harvested in October. At present the available strips of low and flat land lying between the hillocks or hills are used for permanent wet cultivation. The variety of crops cultivated is like that of the neighboring plains peoples. Such lands are owned individually. Additional production from such plots places the villagers in a better economic condition. The expansion of the modern economy and the steady increase of population are causing constant pressure on traditionally owned plots. The same plot is used almost continuously in some areas, thus leading to a decline in annual production. This trend is evident from the 1981 census report, which estimated that about 50 percent of the Garo people are now solely dependent on shifting cultivation and the rest use a part of a jhum plot permanently for growing areca nuts, oranges, tea (on a small scale), pineapples, etc. In this changing situation a producer may not always be a consumer; and reciprocity and cooperation do not exist as dominant forces in the socioeconomic life of this population.

Industrial Arts. Each family in a traditional context acts as a self-contained economic unit. Modernization has brought some changes in the socioeconomic sphere of this population. The Garos residing in the hills did not weave cloth a few decades back; they used to procure thick cloth known as kancha from the plains Garos. Now that the loom has been introduced in the hill areas, they weave dokmande (a kind of cloth) for commercial purposes as well as for their Personal use. Previously each family used to make pottery for its own domestic use, but nowadays the art is confined to a few families only who either sell it or barter it.

Trade. A few centuries ago the Garos were famous for headhunting. That practice constrained the neighboring Population of the plains from entering the hills. But people must exchange their produce to meet their requirements, and both hill and plains Garos needed such trade. Hence some trade started at border points on a very limited scale. Over time, these contacts grew into organized hutta (weekly markets) under the initiative of the Zamindars, who were subjects of the Muslim ruler. Initially cotton was sold outright or Exchanged for pigs, cattle, goats, tobacco, and metallic tools. In the beginning silent barter was possible because each party understood from long involvement the respective values of their goods. This process has continued to the present, with increasing involvement of traders from neighboring areas, and has now become fully monetized. Cotton, ginger, and dried chilies produced by the Garos are sold to the traders. The Garos in turn purchase pottery, metallic tools, and other industrial goods such as cloth from the traders.

Division of Labor. The division of labor between members of the household is as follows: the males are responsible for clearing jungle and setting fire to the debris for shifting cultivation, while women are responsible for planting, weeding, and harvesting. During the peak of the agricultural operations the men sometimes help the women. Construction and repair of the house are male duties. Men make baskets, while women carry crops from the field and firewood from jungle. Women look after the kitchen and prepare beer, and men serve the beer to guests. Women rear the children and keep the domestic animals. Both men and women sell firewood and vegetables in the market.

Land Tenure. Land for shifting cultivation is owned by the clan. Each village has a traditionally demarcated area of its own termed adok. This area is subdivided into plots that are used for cultivation in a cyclic order. The plots are distributed to the families. Allotment of the general plots is done by common consensus of the village elders, but the flat area for permanent wet cultivation is owned by individuals.

Also read article about Garo from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

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