Implications For The Evolution Of Intensive Cultivation

If immediate food needs doom would-be cultivators to chronic under-investment of labor, how does intensive agriculture evolve? The model suggests two possible answers. First, exogenous factors could affect reward amounts and discount rates. If agriculture becomes more profitable or less risky (given the same level of labor investment), or if foraging becomes less profitable or more risky, the household will increase its allocation of labor to agriculture. This prediction is consistent with Price and Gebauer's (1995b) assertion that agriculture is adopted most readily in areas of resource abundance, in contrast to the traditional view that agriculture is a desperate invention to deal with food scarcity (Childe 1965; Cohen 1977). Second, endogenous factors could affect an individual's time preferences. Alternative sources for immediate food needs could eliminate the effects of hunger altogether.

Neighbors to Mikea are Masikoro intensive cultivators. Savanna farmers have access to better soils and more dependable and predictable rainfall, as well as surface water sources that can be used for irrigation. Cheap pesticides and herbicides have been made available in recent years. Masikoro farmers experience higher rewards with less risk, and so discount future harvests to a lesser degree.

Masikoro farmers have at least two sources to meet their immediate food needs that detract little from their farming labor: storage, and the market economy. Stored agricultural foodstuffs provide a constant source of immediate food value. Farmers subsist off these stores while waiting for the next harvest. They can also sell their surplus, or their surplus labor, to earn cash. Cash retains its value over time, and can be used to obtain food whenever the household is in need. Masikoro farmers use their cash to purchase foraged products from the Mikea, thus gaining the same immediate gratification that Mikea gain from foraging.

Storage of large surpluses would be an effective way to limit preference switches between immediate and delayed rewards, favoring investment of future-oriented capital. Caches of seeds found in Archaic-period rockshelter sites in Kentucky and Arkansas suggest that storage predates intensive cultivation by millennia (Gremillion 1997b; Fritz 1997). These stores probably represent buffers of predictable, seasonal food stress. How could enough food be stored to support a household during the proceeding agricultural cycle? Surplus on this order of magnitude can only be produced by intensifying labor input, and intensification is impossible without stored foods from the previous year.

One possibility has been suggested by Flan-nery's (1986a) study of the emergence of agriculture at Guila Naquitz in Oaxaca, Mexico. In a computer simulation of foraging and incipient cultivation, Reynolds (1986) predicted that people would be more likely to practice experimental food producing strategies in wet years, and conservative strategies during dry years. Flan-nery (1986b, 503) suggests that adaptation moves fastest when the two states alternate; new strategies are introduced in wet years and then rigorously selected in dry years. This may be the case here. Surplus for storage is produced during an extremely good year, and then in the bad year that follows, large stores lead to more intensive labor investment.

Trade represents another source of immediate food value. Foragers and farmers may develop symbiotic relationships. Foragers assure immediate food needs so that farmers can invest intensively in higher-yielding agricultural pursuits Farmers provide the majority of calories in the diet. The classic example is the relationship between the foraging Mbuti and Efe and their farming neighbors in the Congolese rainforest (Turnbull 1965). Relationships of this sort may have occurred at the origins of settled agriculture in the Levant, where foragers and farmers co-existed (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995). The need to exchange immediate and delayed-return foods may help to explain the origins of the market economy.

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