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CHAPTER 4

TIBET: Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land


The Reapers

(Excerpts)

The farmers depended not upon a great variety of resources but upon wise management of what was available to them. We talked to Gendum, a sturdy farmer from Kham, who proudly said, "I am a very good plowman and all the people in my village compliment my work and I know the best way to plow the fields." Gendum had lived in one of the valleys not too far below the grazing ranges. "We grow barley, wheat, white barley, small peas, and we grow yungma [turnip]," he told us. "We have very huge turnips…Women cut the turnips into small pieces with a sickle and we dry it and in the winter we feed them to our domestic animals." Except for turnips, he said, "it is not our habit to grow and eat vegetables. What we eat is tsampa, flour, meat, milk, curd, and this is rich food. We also grow mustard on many fields. When you crush these mustards into a powder and then boil [it] in a huge iron pot, then the oil of a very pure and good quality comes out. Since we don't grow vegetables, we don't use this oil for cooking. We make offerings of butter lamp with this oil."

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In addition to the heavy work in the fields, Chimi told us: "The women have to do most of the household work, in terms of cooking and everything. So that women have much more work than the husbands. The men do not do the household work, but they take the responsibility of the entire family—how to look after the members of the family. They shoulder the main responsibility of the family, but they don't do the household work."


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