Human Ecology

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 149-159

First online:

Individuality and experimentation in traditional agriculture

  • Allen W. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Columbia University

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Most observers agree upon the existence among traditional agriculturalists of a conservative attitude toward innovations and upon this conservatism being the rational result of a well-adapted set of existing techniques in combination with a marginal level of subsistence. This view, however, fails to take account of the readily demonstrated existence of both individual differences in agricultural practice and systematic experimentation within traditional agricultural communities. Such individuality and experimentation are probably pervasive in traditional societies, and must be seen as an essential component of their adaptive processes, as important as the more familiar processes of traditional transmission.