Lakher - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Lakher engage in most of the major subsistence activities (i.e., hunting, fishing, animal domestication, and agriculture). Jhum agriculture (in which jungle is cut, permitted to dry, burned, and seeded) is practiced. Three implements only are used in the process: the hoe, dao (machete), and axe. While at least one report noted that the Lakher used terracing as a method, Regional climate (which is dry) and terrain (which is quite steep) suggest otherwise. Maize, millet, cucumbers, pumpkins, rice, a variety of other vegetables, spices, cotton (for the manufacture of cloth), and tobacco (for personal use) are grown in the jhum fields. Rats, elephants, bears, snakes, dogs (eaten only by men), goats (eaten only by men), and various wild birds are hunted and consumed. Gayals (used as a means of monetary exchange and in festival sacrifices), cows (for meat only), pigs, dogs, cats, pigeons, and chickens (for meat and eggs) are domesticated by the Lakher. Fish, crabs (freshwater) , and mussels are among the river creatures sought for consumption. Horses (because of their use as pack animals), leopards, tigers, and cats are not consumed.

Industrial Arts. Lakher manufactures include a variety of bamboo and cane baskets, mats, trays, and sieves (all produced by men), nonornamental metalwork (daos, knives, hoes, and axes), tools associated with cloth production (i.e., spindles, spinning wheels, and cotton gins), cotton cloth (plain), dyed cloth, various items manufactured by unmarried women and widows for domestic use (e.g., gourds, gourd spoons, plates, flasks), pipes (for smoking tobacco), jars, and certain implements of war (e.g., bows, arrows, daos, and spears before the acquisition of guns).

Trade. Trade is not a major part of the Lakher economy. During the imperial period, currency was acquired through the sale of rice to the British for military rations, the sale of cotton and sesame to the Arakanese, the transport of goods between Lungleh and Demagiri (for Lungleh merchants), and the sale of copper cooking pots (purchased, along with salt, from these same merchants) to the Chin. Bees' nests are also collected, with the wax being extracted and traded by the Lakher.

Division of Labor. Men and women participate fully in the economic life of the community. Parry has noted that women are as integral a part of the agricultural cycle as their male counterparts. He has also noted that Lakher women enjoy considerably more personal freedom than their counterparts who inhabit the Indian plains. Some tasks are reserved exclusively for either males or females. Textile manufacture (weaving and dyeing) is the province of women, and the production of earthenware items may be undertaken by unmarried women and widows only. Men produce baskets, hunt, fish, go fowling, cut jhum fields, and construct or repair houses. Women gather firewood and water, weave, feed and care for domestic animals (e.g., pigs), prepare meals, and participate fully in certain aspects of the agricultural cycle (weeding, cleaning, and harvesting).

Land Tenure. Village lands are owned by the village chief and are cultivated by members of the village only with the permission of the village chief. In exchange for the use of this land, there is a dues structure that each household must abide by. Sabai is the fee (usually amounting to one basket of rice) that must be paid to the village chief in recognition of his chieftainship. The chief must also be paid a separate fee ( rapaw ) for the privilege of cultivating his land. If a Household has jhum land within the territory of more than one chief, then these fees must be paid to each chief. These lands are passed on as an inheritance within the chiefs family. His eldest son is his heir (thereby inheriting all village lands) and successor (assuming the mantle of rule upon the death of his father). Individual ownership of land does not appear to be permitted, though each household is allowed to select its jhum once the appropriate place for cultivation has been specified by the village chief and council of elders.


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