Cultural Anthropology

Food Procurement Systems an Introduction



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Pastoralism:
The Most Sustainable Food Getting System

Of the four food getting systems, pastoralism is the most substantial because there are less restrictions and more resources to gain from this system. The following explains what pastoralism is and why it is the most stable, sustainable method system of food getting.

There are four food getting systems; Foraging, Agriculture, Horticulture, and Pastoralism (Kottak 2008). Foraging is a system consisting of hunting and gathering. People in this society hunt animals and gather plants, seeds, and other natural resources that can be used for food consumption. Agriculture is an intensive system of farming. Land is reused over and over which necessitates a laborious process for the societies that use this system as their means of cultivation. Horticulture is an extensive system of planting and growing crops. Societies who use horticulture as their means of cultivation move often and fallow their land (Kottak 2008). They use simple tools, and labor is less intensive than those of other societies. Pastoralism is defined as herding; however, this definition does not seem to fully describe the whole process of food getting used by these societies.

Pastoralism in whole is the method of food getting by herding domesticated animals, specifically herbivores, animals that feed mainly on grass and/or plants (O'Niel 2008). Pastoralists herd animals such as cattle, reindeer, horses, goats, sheep, and other domesticated animals. Animals serve several purposes in pastoralism societies. They are considered "tools of the trade" in means of production (Kottak 2008). Animals are used for food, transport, leather, wool, and ceremonial purposes.

There are two forms of pastoralism; nomadism and transhumance. Simply put, the difference between the two forms is the way in which they migrate their herds. Nomadic pastoralists continuously move their herds based on season and climate changes as these affect the animals' food source. Because of this frequent movement, their residence is always temporary. For the most part, these pastoralists are self-sufficient. In addition to herding, they supplement their diet by hunting, gathering, and fishing. However, they do exchange and trade with agriculture and horticulture societies. Partnership with agriculture and horticulture societies provides means to additional resources as pastoralists exchange and trade with these societies.

Transhumance pastoralists also migrate their herds, but these pastoralists incorporate agriculture into their method of food getting as they reside in permanent villages. In these societies, one group consisting usually of men, go with the herd and the other group, consisting mostly of women, stay and tend to the farming.

Pastoralism is the most stable, long-term system of food getting because this society is not limited to one method of obtaining food. These societies are able to cultivate their own food using agriculture, horticulture and foraging systems. Pastoralists are not limited to one area of land, and their animals provide them with means of production, transport, and tangible items such as clothing and leather. Furthermore, even though these societies are self-sufficient, they also trade with other societies; so no matter what kind of circumstances arise, their resources will never be restricted.

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