Most peasant farmers and herders, who constitute the great majority of the world’s actual food producers, aren’t necessarily better off than hunter-gatherers. Time budget studies show that they may spend more rather than fewer hours per day at work than hunter-gatherers do.
Specifically, in each area of the globe the first people who adopted food production could obviously not have been making a conscious choice or consciously striving toward farming as a goal, because they had never seen farming and had no way of knowing what it would be like. Instead, as we shall see, food production evolved as a by-product of decisions made without awareness of their consequences.
Conversely, there are mobile groups of food producers. Some modern nomads of New Guinea’s Lakes Plains make clearings in the jungle, plant bananas and papayas, go off for a few months to live again as hunter-gatherers, return to check on their crops, weed the garden if they find the crops growing, set off again to hunt, return months later to check again, and settle down for a while to harvest and eat if their garden has produced. Apache Indians of the southwestern United States settled down to farm in the summer at higher elevations and toward the north, then withdrew to the south and to lower...
Aboriginal Australians who never reached the stage of farming yams and
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