Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Money and Rice

– A folktale of the Pgaz K’Nyau (Cgauz Karen)

 
In the lifestyle of the Pgaz K'Nyau, we believe that rice is of the utmost importance. Our ancestors said that, "If we have enough rice to eat, then everything else will follow on of its own accord." (Bu mei koov auf, taj le av gaz qu keiz le hki sei) Our ancestors told us tales to warn us repeatedly of this, to give us illustrations of this, to make us aware, to teach us and to help us grasp its significance unswervingly in our lives. They told us:

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Once upon a time, the money god said to the rice god that even if there were no rice he could continue to live. The rice god said to the money god that this was not so. If you don't have me, you cannot live. However, the money god stuck to his opinion. Because of this, the rice god went away from the money god and hid in a cave which no one could enter, because the mouth of the cave was opening and closing all the time.

  
The next morning the children and grandchildren of the money god were crying. The money god tried to pacify the children and grandchildren by giving them money, but however much he gave them they would not stop crying. By chance the money god spotted a small amount of rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, so he gave it to his children and grandchildren to eat and it turned out that the children and grandchildren stopped crying quite nicely.

  
The money god thus understood that the only thing which could make his children and grandchildren stop crying was rice, so he asked his servants to enquire where the rice god had run off to. The servants made enquiries and found that the rice god had hidden in a cave that was very difficult to get into. The person who can go into the cave must be very swift and nimble. The money god called the Indian pipit (htof hpgiv bird) and asked it to go and get the rice god back out of the cave. The htof hpgiv flew into the cave and catching the rice god, flew out again with him. When the bird was flying out of the cave, the mouth of the cave pinched the bird's throat just a little, and made its wattle move down onto the back of its neck, where it is to this day. When the rice god returned the children and grandchildren had rice to eat once again. The life of the money god and his children and grandchildren returned to its usual happy state.

 
We believe that rice is the object-person that gives us real life, and we also believe that having enough to live and sufficient to eat is the mainstay of our lives. We cultivate our fields, planting rice and other food crops, and we know that we are not rich with property and money, we know that we will not be rich and wealthy, that we just have enough rice and other food crops to eat through the years, but we choose to carry on our lives in this way.

 
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This is the ideal of our ancestors, who passed on to their children and grandchildren over many generations, as in their teachings, which say:

 
Work the right amount, eat the right amount of food,

Work with your hands, eat with your mouth,

Don't be greedy, don't be avaricious.

 

Maz auz hpai krev, auf auz hpai baf.

Maz cu duf auf kaux pooz.

Naj gaj t’geiz nez tez t’geiz.

 

(This version was written by Thaworn Kamphonkun, and is included in his book on Pgaz K’Nyau Rotational Farming. This book is published in Thai. An English version exists, but is not yet published. Used with permission.)

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