Nayaka - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Nayaka know of many species of flora in the forest, whose various parts they utilize for culinary and medicinal purposes, as well as for barter and for fabricating their shelter, tools, and utensils. In the forest they gather roots (mainly of wild yams), nuts, berries, and fruit; they fish; they collect honey from wild bees' nests; occasionally they trap birds; and they sometimes hunt deer with their dogs. They collect forest produce such as soapnuts and spices to sell to their neighbors and to traders from the cities. Nayaka also take up a variety of casual employment, which usually requires expertise acquired through a food-gathering way of life (e.g., clearing jungle paths and guiding hunting expeditions). The nature of these jobs changes in response to changes in the surrounding environment. Viewing the forest as a generous provider of food and all other material requirements, Nayakas are flexible and opportunistic in their choice of occupations, and they frequently shift from one to another. Each family operates independently, and a heterogeneous economy arises around the core of the traditional food gathering, which is highly valued. The Nayaka have no tradition of animal husbandry or cultivation. A few families every now and then acquire a few chickens, or even a cow, which they keep for only a short period. Similarly, every once in a while a few families cultivate small plots of paddy, which they barely maintain and subsequently abandon. Most Nayaka plant some fruit trees near their huts. They keep dogs that feed on leftovers. Their Children occasionally adopt as pets young monitor lizards and parrots found in the forest.

Industrial Arts. Nayaka manufacture various containers, baskets, and mats from bamboo and grass for their own use. Occasionally they make simple coconut spoons, wooden pots, and pestles and construct bamboo fences and huts for their non-Nayaka neighbors.

Division of Labor. The Nayaka have little division of labor based on gender. Spouses pursue most subsistence activities together and also share domestic pursuits to a considerable degree. Families, even single adults, are generally self-sufficient.

Land Tenure. Nayaka live and utilize resources wherever they wish to within the territory they occupy.


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