The Dietary Repertory of the Ngandu People of the Tropical Rain Forest: An Ecological and Anthropological Study of the Subsistence Activities and Food Procurement Technology of a Slash-and-Burn Agriculturist in the Zaire River Basin
Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus
Food acquisition and consumption behavior of the Ngandu, who are a Bantu people living in the Zaire basin, is described. The utilization of plants and animals as foods is examined from food diaries recorded over a long period of time by two informants.
The Ngandu are multi-subsistence strategists, utilizing widely and predominantly the resources of the forest. The Ngandu are almost self-sufficient with respect to their dietary needs. The food plants consumed by the two informants include 24 species of cultivated plants (representing 20 genera, 16 families) and 22 spp. of wild gathered plants (22 gen., 18 fam.) plus one unidentified sp. and 10 mushrooms. The animal foods consumed include 37 spp. (24 gen., 18 fam.) of fish, 12 spp. (10 gen., 8 fam.) of reptiles and 21 spp. (11 gen., 8 fam.) of insects.
The cultivation of cassava as the basic staple food is maintained by less labor-intensive efforts which make it much easier for the Ngandu to engage in various other subsistence strategies such as hunting. They use elaborate hunting techniques which enable them to utilize a wide variety of animal foods. For this reason, they have not needed to develop symbiotic relationships with the hunter-gatherers which are found between the Mbuti and the neighboring agriculturists in Eastern Zaire. Their self-sufficiency, which has been established by a thorough utilization of the forest resources, has been of substantial importance both in the process of territorial expansion and in the stability of the forest habitation. Complicated food taboos which seem contradictory to a maximal utilization of and conservation of resources are observed, and serve as socially regulating factors. Although such food restrictions may be a factor contributing to the reproduction of the forest resources as is the case with the Mbuti, the existence of the agriculturalists with their diversified subsistence strategies may act as an unfavorable factor which will lead to a shortage of the forest resources.
Key Words: Zaire basin; Food ecology; Ngandu; Tropical rain forest; Subsistence strategy; Food consumption pattern; Forest habitation.
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