Saturday, July 5, 1980

Interviewing Josiah About Lotuko Agriculture

Lohutok, Sudan
It rained most of the morning and some of the afternoon.  I read the rest of the CIMMYT publication about rapid surveys for planning agricultural innovation or research.  It motivated me to start structuring what I am doing.  I need to get crackin' on a thesis outline revision and some tentative ideas for a formal survey.
I talked to Josiah this afternoon.  Tomorrow they are going to have a meeting after church to form a cooperative for buying grain.  The grain can be purchased from Equatoria Trading Commission which is headquartered in Juba.  The grain can be purchased in Juba for 15 Sudanese pounds or in Torit for 22 pounds.  That compares with the merchants' price of 30 or 36 pounds.
Josiah told me that there is no person in authority who allocates the gardens.  Apparently, for the mountain gardens, a group of people decide they will make gardens in a certain place.  If someone wants to go along with them, he can.  They then, as a group, decide the boundaries of each person's garden.  Josiah says that there is plenty of land.  I guess that is why there can be such an informal arrangement for deciding who gets what and how much land.
According to Josiah, there is shifting cultivation out on the plains as well as the mountains.  That makes sense.  In the valley, cultivation is continuous.  On the mountains, fields can be farmed for 2 to 4 years with a 10 year fallow.  On the plains, fields can be cultivated for 3 to 6 years with a 15 or maybe 20 year fallow.  Weeds are the problem which necessitates rotating to fallow on the plains.  Weeds are not so big a problem on the mountains.  This I have observed.  I wonder why the cultivation period and the fallow period both are shorter on the mountains?  Faster nutrient cycling?  More rain?
There are 7 clans in Lohutok by Josiah's count.  A given clan does not live in a particular village.  Neither do village or clan divisions determine who goes together to clear a garden such as on the mountain.  One can only marry someone from a different clan.
Cattle, goats, sheep and chickens are owned individually.  Some people apparently have quite a few cattle and goats while others have few or none.  During the civil war, the Arabs and Taposa took or killed the animals.  Since then, the herds had to be built up from nothing.  When someone accumulated enough money he could perhaps buy a goat.  That is how the recovery began.
I get the impression that there are gender roles but that they are not strictly adhered to.  Hoeing the gardens tends to be done by men but women also hoe.  The women tend to be the ones who gather the weeds into piles if my observations are representative.  When planting is done with communal labor, it is the owner and his best friend and their wives who gather the weeds into bunches according to Josiah.  It is very important to take up all the weeds so they do not regerminate or prevent the crop from starting by smothering it.  (Apparently this is not true in some areas of the Imatong mountains.)  Weeding may also be done collectively.  For collective labor the owner of the garden must provide food and beer.  Weeding tends to be done by women but I have seen many men do the weeding also.
During school hours, children who do not go to school guard crops from monkeys and birds.  The children who go to school are supposed to relieve them by guarding the crops after school hours.  If all children went to school, I do not know how this job would get done.  It is not uncommon for a family with 4 children to put 2 in school and keep 2 at home to work.  Compulsory eduction and crop protection could be very conflicting goals.
Josiah said that perhaps three-fourths of the farmers have mountain gardens.
Josiah mentioned rural-urban migration as a contributing factor in the food shortage.  The drought was the main factor.  The rains did not fall much from July to October.
School vacation is from December to April which is the hot dry season.
Josiah said it could be difficult to get many people into a cooperative because they are not educated.  They might think the government should give them grain or that the government was taking their money to use for other projects.  This could hold a lesson about the feasibility of a credit program or herbicide and fertilizer programs.  The people might have difficulty understanding and implementing them.

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