For the tribe the ituri forest is everything; they view the forest as a scared place in the world, since there is an ample amount of food all year long. There unique traditional economy is run on the basis of survival and not surplus. The mbuti only take what they need and feel that working to gain more than what you need is pointless. That’s why when deciding what to produce, the mbuti tribes or bands always search for the essentials of living, along with scared items for ceremonies or rituals. The mbuti people like live in small bands and that band decides what they need.
They also distribute the goods according to who needs it. The people are very social among the tribe, they like to work together and spend time with family and friends when there not searching or hunting for goods. The ituri forest has an ample amount of supply throughout the year; it contains many mushrooms, roots, berries, nuts and herbs and a variety of leafy vegetables. The forest is also a provider of medicines. The mbuti use the forest to treat many different kinds of illnesses including headaches, eye inflammation, heart pains, toothaches, pen wounds, toe rot and even hemorrhoids. All of which are treated by natural substances that contain leaves, tree bark, stems, plants, roots and berries. The mbuti people try to make use of all the things the forest has to provide. The mbuti tribe divides up the work based on gender; both males and females have specific roles to play in their survival. The mbuti live in huts that are mainly made by the women of the tribe. Each hut holds one family if factors remain constant such as weather conditions.
The huts are made out of tree stems as the base structure and then covered with bark and long leaves as a protection from wind, sun, heat, rain and dirt. Women are responsible for the building of the huts, however before the construction occurs everyone helps gather the materials needed. Hunting and gathering of game is mainly done by the men of the tribe. While sometimes females also gather berries and materials. The mbuti men and women both wear a loincloth made out of bark that is softened and hammered until it is long and smooth.
Women have a longer loincloth, theirs hang down close to the ground; where men just have the cloth covering their genitals; making it more effective to wonder throughout the forest in search for game. They wear their clothes not for protection but for socialistic reasons. The Mbuti people are very spiritual and have many rituals where they thank the forest and everything it has provided them with. There are many items produced that are significant when having special occasions and reciting rituals.
Black paste made from burnt ashes and fat from distinct animals are smeared on the body. The black paste is a significant ritual that is supposed to bring the person physically and psychologically closer to the forest. An important ceremonial event occurs after a good hunt where charms made out of tree vines and wood are placed on the body of the hunters. The mbuti also cover their arms with bracelets that are made from animal teeth, feathers, animal skin and wood. Ceremonies and rituals are also a way for the mbuti people to socialize and to spend time together.
Items produced that have no need for survival or spiritual rituals and ceremonies are used for leisure activities. Spin tops, mainly used by the children, are made out of nut sections of the shell which is spun on the ground. Gambling exists in the mbuti cultural as well, though primarily played by the adults, children sometimes play. Seeds are dried out and thrown on the ground to make a total number that is a multiple of four. Those who have a multiple of four win the game and take the remainder of the seeds. Tug-of-war is another popular game that incorporates the whole band.
The rope is made out of vines from trees where a group of people are on either sides of the vine and pull it in their direction. Such games were played to pass time, have fun and to strengthen bonds between the members of the groups. The pygmy people rely on hunting- gathering for sustenance and collection of food. They employ essentially four different methods of hunting namely, hunting in groups with spears for large mammals, hunting alone with bows and poison tipped arrows for monkeys, and hunting in groups with bows and iron tipped arrows for duikers and other mid-sized mammals.
The animals they eat include crabs, shellfish, ants, larvae, snails, pigs, antelopes, monkeys, fishes, and honey. The vegetable component of their diet includes wild yams, berries, fruits, roots, leaves, and cola nuts. Mbuti’s are very small in height only averaging about four feet and are very thin and stocky. Since their hunting techniques are not technological advanced they have adapted to make themselves invisible in the forest. Mbuti men although short have the ability to kill an elephant with only short-handed spear.
Hunting tools that are produced include spears, and bow and arrows; all of which are crafted by hand with help of fire (fire makes the spears and bows sharp when heated and hammered down). There are also nets made out of tree stems and bark to help hunters capture animals. Although many hunters roam throughout the forest with no weapons they believe that they belong to the forest so there is no need for fear, the only danger is what lies outside the forest Hunting for monkeys is a solitary activity the success of which depends upon the stealth of the hunter.
The hunter would travel quietly listening and looking out for monkeys feeding on the tress. He attempts to anticipate the direction of the troop movement and positions himself accordingly, usually under a fruit bearing tree. The hunter then attempts to shoot the monkeys as they approach using his poison tipped arrow. The great majority of the arrows are lost as they lose their targets i. e the monkey. The hunter then goes to fetch the monkey that has been hit and takes it back to his own clan. Net hunting is used mainly for the collection and hunting of antelopes.
These nets are generally produced by women and owned by married men or outstanding hunters. The mbuti’s hunting technique is to rig nets, about 1 meter high and up to 100 m long, end-to-end in a semicircle, reaching 1500 m in perimeter, then to drive all the game inside toward the nets. Small game, such as Gambian rats, porcupines and mongoose often escape by slipping underneath the net or through its 7-centimeter mesh. Large game, animals weighing over 30 kilograms, can break through. Thus the net hunt is especially adapted to the capture of duikers, small antelope.
The animal is then captured and killed used suitable tools. The hunting methods the Mbuti people use is regarded as efficient and effective since none of the resources or animals gathered are being wasted; this is because the Mbuti people do not hunt more than what they need except when they use the excess hunt for trade with other villagers. Also, given the circumstances, the Mbuti people normally hunt in bands in order to increase their catch or to succeed in hunting larger preys such as elephants.
No or very little resources and human resources are wasted in the process of hunting; gathering too since it’s an easy task which is done by an individual only who gathers fruits and sometimes honey for the nuclear family of his. In the mbuti there is no such thing as surplus, for a variety of reasons. The surplus is valued very highly in many cultures although mbuti’s do not feel the need to take more than what is needed for survival yet if there are some items that are left over they are used for ceremonies such as the charms. The mbuti live unmaterialistic lives in the sense that physical possessions are not valued.
Since the mbuti’s are foragers it is impossible to move around with a surplus supply of goods. Since there is no fear that there will ever be a shortage of game and vegetation in the forest there is no need to create surplus; even though, the mbuti’s have the capability to create and to do so. The mbuti feel as if creating a surplus of goods is a waste of time. If they have everything required for survival, there is no need to search for more. They would rather spend their time with other members of the tribe celebrating life and honoring the forest for providing them with everything.
Economic aspects of the reciprocity between Mbuti and villagers have been maintained for a long time. Starch foods from villagers’ gardens make up a significant part of Mbuti diet year-round. Mbuti provide villagers, on an irregular basis, with “prestige foods” such as meat and honey from the forest. They help clear and harvest the gardens and participate in seasonal fishing expeditions. Mbuti also provide diverse forest products such as thatching and construction materials, firewood, medicinal plants and edible mushrooms. Exchange relations between Mbuti and villagers are not rigidly defined; there are no fixed terms of trade.
Cash is rarely involved and exchanges may even take the form of gift giving. Mbuti, as nomads, are highly unpredictable in what they will provide and when they will provide it. Villagers, on the other hand, have a fairly predictable yearly cycle of activities centered on the preparation, planting and harvesting of their gardens. women who are most often involved in initiating, negotiating and terminating trade relationships with the village, and it is primarily the village women with whom exchanges are executed. A large proportion of exchanges a woman makes are with the wife of her husband’s traditional trading partner.
Exchanges of meat and honey in particular are usually made with this person. These “tributes” of prestige foods are probably crucial in maintaining the stability of long-term ties. However, women establish many other trading relationships on their own initiative. Although the prospect of acquiring meat or honey in the future is probably an important factor in the willingness of the village to enter new associations with the mbuti, it is most often the labor of women rather than forest products which villagers receive in exchange for food and material goods.
Tasks which women perform for villagers include agricultural work, maintenance tasks such as collecting wood and water, and collection of forest products used in building and maintaining village houses. Cultivated foods procured by mbuti women in exchange for labor form the mainstay of the diet, and women retain control over the distribution of all foods they procure. Men also provide labor for villagers, particularly when patches of forest are being cleared for gardens. A man may also on occasion take meat directly to his village patron, rather than allowing his wife to make the exchange.
Men, however, request payment in non-food items such as implements, clothing, tobacco and marijuana much more often than women. Trading relationships established by women can become very important during times of food shortage, when villagers may be unwilling or unable to continue providing food for their traditional mbuti trading partners. An household or even the entire band may then initiate a formal relationship with another village or villager, frequently ones with whom the women in the group have already established informal ties. A group may also temporarily join another band that is associated with a wealthier village.
This joining of bands is often the result of kin ties of women in the group. The mbuti women have considerable freedom in their choice of subsistence strategies. They decide how much time to spend gathering or working in the village. They may work alone, or cooperate with other women in procuring food. They also have considerable influence over group decisions, particularly those regarding the location of camps. Since women routinely carry up to three-quarters of their body weight in food from the village, camps which are located long distances from the village represent much greater work effort than those which are close.
In contrast, men’s preferred hunting sites are usually very far from the village. It is rare for an mbuti camp to be located more than a day’s walk from the village; most are within a four-hour walk. Although never totally out of touch with villagers, Mbuti spend a great deal of time in the forest. They are considered by all, including themselves, as the forest people, being the most familiar with the forest and the most efficient at extracting its resources. There is no monetary value on the exchange for items that is needed for the mbuti efficiency.
Since the forest doesn’t provide them with any sort of metal they exchange goods such as game and vegetation with villagers for iron blades and metal pots. This is the only time when they create a surplus of goods. Exchanging food for metal items is Pareto efficient. Since the mbuti have an abundant supply of natural resources this is considered a very fair trade because in return they are receiving goods that will make daily tasks much easier. Although there is no need for metal items in the mbuti cultural, the metal acts as an efficient way to make food and kill game by having pots and blades for their spears and bows.
Trade amongst the band rarely happens and the need to have fair reciprocity is rare. Kinship is amongst everyone in the tribe even if there is no blood relationship. The mbuti tribes have set up different rules regarding, what to produce, how to produce and how to distribute. Everything produced in the mbuti society has a significant role; whether it is for survival, spiritual ceremonies or simply for leisure activities. They hunt and gather their food, along with rare visits to the surrounding villages. Also the goods are divided on the basis of who needs what.
They are a very social tribe and care for one another even they have no blood relationships. One cannot simply compare the mbuti society to any modernized or westernized society because what is important to one is not important to the other. Westernized societies are mainly self-interested desiring profit and surplus where the mbuti society are mainly focused on living and socialization amongst the society; each having different motives. From looking through the view point of the mbuti, one can answer that question by stating what they are producing is effective in meeting the needs are fulfilled.
However, looking through the view point of the modernized society one would answer that question by stating that the production of goods are not meeting the needs for the society because what is being produced is only fulfilling survival and spiritual needs. They are not utilizing their full capability to produce goods furthermore there is significant opportunity costs. Although, the mbuti could convey that there society is economically efficient as they are getting the highest benefit from the economies resources. Both societies have different wants and needs that shape the way they live and perceive life.