University of California Press. 1968. 280 p.
The current economy of the Fouta-Djallon is a mixture of subsistence agriculture and a growing commercial sector. Animal husbandry is practiced, although cattle raising is not as dominant in the Fouta as it is in other Fulɓe areas. Although the need for money for consumer goods and for the expenses of ceremonies is increasing, the growing of basic food crops is scarcely commercialized. From the point of view of the Fulɓe peasants, money is unattainable from agriculture, and yet money has become a necessity. The result is a proliferation of the means by which people obtain money (other than by selling basic food crops) and a developing commercial sector of the economy.
We have described the impact of money and markets on village organization during the colonial period. In this chapter we shall be concerned with the economy of a village during the period from 1966 to 1967. The influence of the colonial period remains strong. Colonial rule destroyed the self-sufficiency of the rural population, and created a strong demand for European goods. Furthermore, it created a large reservoir of laborers, who needed money to pay the newly introduced taxes. This reservoir of labor has not decreased, because there is a continuing need for money and a lack of opportunity for earning it in the countryside. It is in n this perspective that we must view the economy of Hollaande.
The women's garden is intensively, annually cultivated and is planned, cultivated, and maintained by women. 1 Moreover, women distribute the harvest. Each wife in a polygynous marriage has her own garden. However, although the woman works her garden (with the aid of her children), she does not own the land. Her husband, or another man, owns the land, and if a woman is divorced, she loses her rights to that land. The harvest from the garden feeds the woman, her children, and her husband. The ceremonial obligations of both the woman and her husband will also be met from the produce of the garden. If there is a surplus, the woman has the right to sell it at a market without the consent of her husband, because the produce is viewed as belonging to the woman by virtue of her labor.
The women's garden has become a critical source of food, at last since 1900. This conclusion is supported by a study of a series villages composing the misiide of Ndantaari in the neighboring region of Pita done by the Mission Demographique de Guinée:
The total of women's gardens covered 21 hectares which is nearly half the area cultivated in fields. It is this fundamental observation which explains where the major part of the subsistence of these peasants comes from. The calories furnished by women's gardens is much greater than that coming from the fields of fonio [emphasis in original] (1955: 26).
In short, the garden provides a greater part of the diet of the inhabitants of the Fouta-Djallon than does the grain harvested from the fields. The relative importance of the garden is due to three factors.
The family therefore has to make do on whatever money he sends them and on the harvest of the garden.
When the women's gardens were developed and why are unknown. Unfortunately, traditional Fulɓe history was not concerned with the work of women. We do not know if the garden was an innovation of the Fulɓe, or whether they adopted the practice from the Diallonke who inhabited the Fouta-Djallon prior to their arrival. 2 Jacques Richard-Molard has proposed an explanation for the origin of the suntuure.
It is poverty which has pushed the Fulɓe woman to work in the women's garden. By the ritual laziness of her husband, by the erosion of the fields, and by the default of the captives [serfs] in many modest families, it has become necessary to cultivate the women's garden in order to complement the procluction of the fields. The women's garden always keeps this complementary character but it is a vital supplement, which explains the care with which it is exploited (1944: 222).
It is evident that this theory is unsatisfactory, for poverty does not necessarily lead to such development. However, Richard-Molard was the first to point out the great importance of the women's gardens, and he goes on to note that the Fouta-Djallon, given its physical characteristics and its already advanced state of erosion, is overpopulated. « Over-population, » or the high density of population, could be sustained only because of the women's gardens. He concludes his discussion of the gardens by stating:
Pushed by necessity and constrained by conquest and victory, the Fulɓe had to develop expert cultivation practices because they were so numerous and because the mountain mass had already been severely affected by the disastrous exploitation of earlier cultivators. These cultivation practices have perhaps made Fulɓe women the most expert cultivators in Black Africa (1944: 226).
Richard-Molard was in the Fouta-Djallon in 1942. Since that time the importance of women's gardens has increased, not declined.
In the village of Hollaande the primary crops of the women's gardens are
Crops of secondary importance are
There are also several plants:
(for which I do not know the English equivalents) whose leaves are used in sauces. Within the compound, where the women's gardens are, are also many fruit trees. However, these fruit trees are not a part of the women's gardens, for they are not maintained by the women nor do they belong to the women. The fruit trees usually belong to the proprietor of the compound, who is always a man. When a woman plants a tree, the tree will be inherited by the person who inherits the land of her garden. The most common fruit trees are orange trees, mango trees, avocado trees, papaya trees, and kola trees.
Although I have described the suntuure as the woman's garden, the husband plays an important role, for it is the obligation of every husband to provide land for his wife's garden. Formerly, the residents of Hollaande did not own the land on which they built their gardens and houses. The fact that the land was owned by the Fulɓe was indicated by the payment of the farilla to the Fulɓe proprietor of the land. The farilla was drawn only from the maize. The husband, who borrowed the land, was responsible for paying the farilla, not the wife who labored in the garden. Many women claimed ignorance of how much farilla was given from their harvest. Today, there is not a single household head in Hollaande who owns all of his compound. He may have bought some parts of it, or feel that he owns parts he has recently added, but all the men in the village must continue to pay farilla on maize. The payment of the farilla does not, however, mean that the proprietor of the land can repossess it if it is occupied. When put in these terms, the villagers were unanimous in their agreement that the Fulɓe could no longer dispossess them. In short, the proprietorship of the compound land is passing from the Fulɓe into the hands of the former serfs of Hollaande.
Women's gardens are cultivated annually. This is possible because of continual fertilization. During the. long dry season all the « garbage » of a household and the manure of goats, sheep, and cattle are spread in the garden. The women are quite cognizant that the fertility of a garden depends on the extent of fertilization. All the women maintained that the older a garden - the longer it had been under continual cultivation - the greater its fertility. The tool used for cultivation is the ubiquitous daba, or hoe. The hoe is used for digging up roots, turning over the soil, and weeding.
The end of the previous year's agricultural cycle is marked by the harvesting of taro. Taro is immediately replanted, marking the beginning of the agricultural cycle. During the month prior to the coming of the first rains in May the women begin systematically hoeing-under all the remaining plants from the previous year. They soften and turn over the soil, adding additional organic material to it. As they do this, they remove all the taro not yet harvested and replant for the coming season. 3
When the entire garden has been hoed, it is ready for the planting of maize. The women frequently do not finish this process by the time of the first rains, and the three weeks following are marked by a flurry of activity, the women spending ten to twelve hours a day working in their gardens. The timing for the planting of maize is crucial to the success of the crop, because the first rains are usually followed by a dry period of two weeks to a month before it rains more frequently. If the corn is planted too early, the kernels will dry up and die in the earth. If they are planted after there has been too much rain, the taro will already have begun to grow and its leaves will block the sunlight from the corn. If the timing has been right the maize will appear before the taro. 4
The last of the basic crops to be planted is manioc. Stalks of manioc saved from the previous year are cut into small lengths and placed in little mounds. Of the various crops planted in the garden manioc requires the least amount of care and fertilization. Whereas corn and taro will not grow in newly expanded gardens, manioc will. 5
The termination of planting in the garden does not mark any slack in work for the women. When the maize reaches approximately seven to twelve inches in height, the first weeding is done. When the maize attains the height of approximately two feet, the women commence the arduous process of covering their entire garden with leaves. This process takes from two to three weeks, depending on the size of the garden and on how many children a woman has to help her. The leaves are cut from the scrub in the hills near the village, which requires a walk of two to five kilometers The leaves used in this process are known as foyon (a generic term not referring to any particular plant or leaf, but to any leaves used in this process). Jacques Richard-Molard has observed that the function of the freshly cut leaves covering the garden is to preserve the warm humidity of the soil, without which taro will not grow well. Furthermore, it is an excellent method of protecting the soil, rich in organic material, from the hard rays of the sun, which otherwise would sterilize the manure (1944: 224). With the completion of this phase, work in the garden eases. The women then shift their attention to the fields.
The harvest comes at a time when food is at its scarcest and when many families are living primarily on taro. Thus it is a particularly joyous time. It begins with the maize harvest about three months after planting. Immediately after harvesting, preservation procedures are begun. Maize that is to be eaten for the rest of the year is left to dry on the stalks before being removed. However, families take maize off the stalks before this time to roast or boil. For a month before this the men of the family bring large pieces of wood to feed the fires that will dry the maize. The fires built by the men are constructed in one house in the compound, and the maize is left inside to dry for one to five days, depending on the size of the harvest. Maize, fire dried, can be kept for a full year. With the completion of drying the maize, the women return to their garden to weed and loosen the earth around the remaining crops.
By August or September the manioc planted a year and a half earlier is ready to be dug up. Manioc will keep in the earth, but once harvested will spoil rapidly. Therefore, only what will be consumed immediately is removed from the earth. The rest is left to be cut and dried after the end of the rainy season. Taro begins to mature at about the same time as manioc. Taro can be stored out of the ground in its original state much longer than can manioc, but it is nevertheless also cut and dried. Harvesting the taro takes place in two phases. The first harvesting is done when the taro leaves are dry - the sign it is ripe. This is done on a day-to-day basis depending on the needs of the family. The second harvest is systematic and takes place toward the end of the dry season. The woman begins at one part of her garden and works until the entire garden has been covered, systematically turning over the earth, removing the taro, and preparing her garden for the next planting cycle. This whole process requires about three to four months of work.
Extending a garden is the responsibility of the husband, who must first provide the land. In the past a villager of Hollaande had to ask the Fulɓe proprietor of the land for his permission. During colonial times he might buy the land from him. Both these practices have nearly disappeared, as the former serfs now regard the compound land as almost their own. The second step is to enclose the proposed extension within a fence, again the work of the husband. With the completion of the fence, the wife takes charge. She clears the area, and then burns the dried vegetation. A new plot requires a great deal of manure. As the manure is gathered over a period of weeks it is mixed in with the earth. This work is done during the dry season, and with the first rains the plot is ready for its first planting. Manioc (and sometimes fonio) can be planted, but maize and taro will not grow due to the lack of sufficient nutrients. It is only after the third year that taro and maize will begin to grow, and even then not well. It generally takes six to ten years before a new garden begins to attain the productivity of the older gardens.
Gardening is essentially the work of the women, but there is one vital task the men perform, namely, building and maintaining the fence that surrounds the compound and the garden. Without a fence a garden would not last a day because of the great number of animals (goats, sheep, and cattle) which abound in the village. Finding a way to prevent each type of animal from entering poses its own particular problem. Cattle will knock down a fence if it is not strong enough. Goats and sheep will jump over a fence if it is not high enough. And, of course, termites continually eat the wood of a fence, aiding the rapid process of natural decay. The main problem in fence-building is the shortage of wood. To find the necessary wood requires a walk of five to eight kilometers one way. One load is enough for perhaps five feet of fence. For a fence of thirty yards (a small compound) eighteen trips are required. Furthermore, a fence will last without repair only three years. The shortage of wood has become so great that several men in Hollaande have taken to digging large ditches surrounding their compounds and making earth walls in which they plant sisal, whose thick growth and thorns will keep out animals. The advantage of ditches and earth walls is that they are relatively permanent in contrast with wood fences. The disadvantage of such a technique manifests itself when someone wants to expand his compound; the labor and time required to dig the ditches exceeds that of hauling wood for the fence.
There is one difference between former-serf villages and Fulɓe villages with respect to the division of labor in the women's gardens. At Hollaande men occasionally aid their wives in the gardens during the peak work times of preparing the gardens after the first rains and planting the maize. Although this is not typical, it does indicate the critical importance of the women's gardens and the recognition by certain men of this fact. It is also no accident that the crop with which the men help is maize, for it is the most important crop in ceremonies.
Work in the garden is performed mainly by a woman with her unmarried daughters and uncircumcised sons. Each wife of a husband works her own garden without the aid of her co-wives, except at certain peak work times - the planting of corn and the bringing of leaves to cover the garden. A woman's daughters work as hard in the garden as she does herself. As a woman gets older, she can call on her married daughters for their assistance, or can ask for the help of an older grand-child for several days when she needs assistance. Of the characteristics thought by the men to make a good wife, the ability to maintain a productive garden was of great importance.
Work in the garden, in marked contrast to that in the fields, continues for the whole year. During the dry season a woman spends three to four hours a day harvesting taro, manioc, and hoeing the area. The rest of the day is spent cleaning, cutting, and drying the taro and manioc. This is also the time when manure is gathered from the surrounding fields (which become pasture during the dry season) to spread in the garden. The coming of the first rains marks the beginning of feverish activity that does not end until the woman has finished covering her garden with leaves. During this time a woman spends six to eight hours a day working in her garden. In general, a woman does not work in her garden when there are ceremonies, markets, or during peak work times in the fields (sowing, weeding, and harvesting).
The crops of the garden are not considered of equal value, which is reflected in their distribution. The maize harvest is destined primarily for ceremonial occasions and only secondarily for direct household consumption; the taro and manioc harvests serve an opposite purpose. Control of the distribution of the different crops varies accordingly. Maize is subject to greater control by the head of the household; and it is the husband who is directly responsible, and who actually gives the farilla from the maize. Decisions regarding the distribution of maize, and the balance between household consumption and ceremonial outlay, are made by both husband and wife. Moreover, there are instances when a husband stores a portion of the maize harvest for himself. The root crops (taro and manioc primarily, along with sweet potatoes) are the province of the woman who cultivates them. She controls the distribution and consumption of these crops. However, her decisions are based on « intuition. » She does not make a quantitative assessment of her needs for the year.
As part of their control over distribution, women have the right to sell the surplus from their gardens at the market, and to keep for themselves the money they receive. However, the amount sold is small. Women sell taro and manioc by the small basket (korun) when dried, or in small bunches of five or six roots when whole. 6 To give an indication of the small quantity of root crops sold, we might note that to start a garden, twenty-five baskets or more of taro (debeere, or 2000 korun) are required. Thus, a woman selling two koroy of taro per week at the market - a large amount - would be selling very little in relation to her harvest.
Maize is sold at market by the women of Hollaande even less than taro and manioc, because it is a food required at all ceremonies. All household heads indicated that at some time during 1966 they had to buy maize at the market in order to meet their ceremonial obligations. It is the most highly preferred food from the garden. Combined with sour milk, it is the most desired food at ceremonies. Taro is said to have been the food of the serfs, because the serfs were more dependent on the harvest of the garden than were the Fulɓe, who consumed a larger proportion of field crops. Taro is also connected with the lack of cattle, and therefore of milk, among the serfs. Taro, which grows particularly well at Hollaande, is the staple of their diet, although they do not like it much. Taro is the diet of the poor.
In summary, the garden has become the most important part of the subsistence agriculture of the villagers of Hollaande, and of others of the plains of the High Fouta. The garden, worked by the woman and her children, provides the starchy root staples taro (dyaabere), manioc (bantara), sweet potatoes (putee) (at Hollaande), yams (at other villages, but not at Hollaande), and maize (kaaba). Peanuts (tiga) and other plants required for sauces are also cultivated in it. The high productivity of the garden is due to fertilization with manure and garbage, as well as to the productive covering of leaves spread over the garden after the crops have begun to grow. The woman has control over the production, harvesting, and distribution of her garden. However, she has less control over maize than other crops because of its ceremonial importance and because it is required for farilla.
We can hypothesize that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the field crops fonio and rice provided the major part of the Fulɓe diet. 7 We can also speculate that fields were never as important to the serfs as they were to the Fulɓe because of the system of land ownership and labor requirements. The authors of the Guinean Demographic Mission were able to calculate the difference between the areas cultivated by a master and by a serf. Their chart, done in 1954 when serfs were still working for their masters, shows that the Fulɓe were cultivating much more land than were the serfs. The authors state the area of the compounds varied little, 8 and therefore the difference was due to the fact that the Fulɓe cultivated more land in fields than did the serfs. My own conclusion is that the area varied little for each woman but that between households there was marked variation in the size of the suntuure which depended almost entirely on the number of wives.
The fields have now lost their earlier importance in the area of what was formerly the misiide of Popodara. The harvest of fonio now provides a smaller part of the Fulɓe diet than it did in the past. However, fonio remains a preferred food and, if possible, the Fulɓe like to have fonio (or rice) and sauce everyday. Moreover, since it is no longer possible to grow rice at Popodara, fonio is the only possible field crop.
Table 2, from the Guinean Demographic Mission Report (1955:27), indicates the difference of land use between Fulɓe and serfs. The table indicates the average amount of suntuure and field land measured in areas (both cultivated and uncultivated) held by each individual, by each active adult (those who actually work the land), and by each productive unit.
The decline in the importance of fields has affected both former serfs and the Fulɓe, although not equally. There are three reasons for this change.
The result is a greater dependence on the women's gardens. This generalization applies primarily to former serfs, who have less field land than the Fulɓe, but it also applies to the poorer Fulɓe.
In general, the Fulɓe cultivate larger fields than do the former serfs, but field size varies greatly among both. Those who are wealthy tend to cultivate (or have cultivated for them) larger fields than do their poorer brethren. The Guinean Demographic Mission observed at the villages composing the misiide of Ndantaari that 50 percent of the total number of fields represented only 20 percent of the total area of all the fields, and that 50 percent of the land units worked (exploitations) represented only 17 percent of the total area (1955: 22).
Fonio and rice remain the two major field crops of the Fouta-Djallon. Around the turn of the century rice was cultivated on the mountainsides in the nearby environs of misiide Popodara. 9 A field could be planted in rice only the first year, for the yield diminished so greatly by the second that it was not worth planting. Fonio was planted the second and sometimes the third year. Rice is still planted in many areas of the Fouta-Djallon, but rarely in the central plateau where the peasants maintain that the effort required for the extremely low yield renders rice-growing useless. Fonio is now the only field crop at Popodara.
There are basically three kinds of land in and around Popodara:
Porteres has described ndantaari and hollaande:
Porteres does not discuss kaadye because it does not
have a clearly defined meaning. In general usage around Popodara it refers to
hillsides and mountainsides where the soil is filled with rocks (often the « rocks » are
not real rocks but hardened laterite).
Such areas drain rapidly, remain relatively dry, and require more effort to cultivate. The villagers, however, feel the yield is hefter than on other types of soil. The predominance of ndantaari and hollaande, which make up the plains, gives Popodara its particular character and makes it different from the areas where mountain (kaadye) and valley-bottom cultivation are predominant.
Depending on the nature of the land to be cultivated, there is a great difference in the amount of time required for preparation. In the case of cultivation on mountainsides, the clearing of the area requires much work and time. The cultivation of the plains (either hollaande or ndantaari) does not require the same intensive effort for clearing, and even digging in the soil is easier because of its softer composition. However, all the villagers agree that the mountainsides yield more fonio, and that the Fulɓe for the most part keep the good land for themselves.
Much of the cultivated land around Popodara is plains (hollaande or ndantaari, the latter preferred for fonio cultivation). Because the ndantaari is relatively stoneless and treeless, and because there were many cattle to serve as draft animals, the French introduced the plow (keri sarin). For their experiment the French used a chef de canton and those villagers who had fought in the French army. One of the first men in the area of Popodara to use a single-blade plow and oxen was a former soldier who had lived in a village one and a half kilometers from Hollaande. He bought the plow on credit from the French in 1926. The result of the introduction of the plow has been that wives of men who cultivate in that fashion have been freed from much work in the fields, because plowing is a man's work. In the village of Hollaande there were two men who owned and used oxen and plows. Another man lent his bull to a kinsman in a nearby village because he himself chose to cultivate on the mountainside, where it was not possible to use a plow.
Very few former serfs have ultimate titles of ownership to their fields. Fields are still owned by the Fulɓe, and landless Fulɓe are rare. In the village of Hollaande there was only one man who owned a field. He bought it during the colonial era with money earned from his service in the French army. He can cultivate this one field for three or four years in succession (it is ndantaari), and then has to let it lie fallow for five years. During those five years he has to borrow land as do the rest of the villagers. A former serf's borrowing of land from a land proprietor is an individual matter. The head of a household goes to a land owner during the dry season to ask about borrowing a certain amount of land for the following cultivating season. Sometimes one land owner has only a little to lend and a villager must borrow land from more than one owner.
Although the borrowing of land is an individual matter, there are some considerations that make it desirable for men from the same village to cultivate in the same area. The major consideration is the necessity of constructing a fence around the fields to keep out the goats, sheep, and cattle, for, despite all precautions, it is not possible to insure that everyone's animals will return to his compound each night. Consequently, groups of men try to cultivate in the same area in order to cooperate in the building of a fence. In general, Hollaande usually divides into its two major patrilineages for selecting its field area. This is not always true, for many factors influence the decision of a household head as to where he will cultivate. Among these are whether he owns a plow and oxen, whether he is able (in terms of time and physical stamina) to clear away forest and cultivate a mountain field, or whether he prefers the easier clearing required of fields on the plains. At no time during the past years have all the households of Hollaande had their fields in one area.
During the first cultivating season I observed, there were two main field areas for Hollaande. The first was on a plain (ndantaari) bordering the village; the second was a hillside above a large stream, a forty-five minute walk from the village. The land on the plain was obtained individually by the head of each household. The land on the plain on the hillside was owned by one individual, a Fulɓe, who lent it to one man from Hollaande. He in turn divided it among members of the village. He gave his elder brother and his mother's brother first choice of the land. All members of his minimal lineage cultivated in that area. He also gave land to one of his wife's two elder brothers. The man who borrowed the land was responsible for collecting the farilla from all the cultivators and rendering it to the proprietor.
There is great variation in the size of fields, or in the amount of fonio that is grown. In general, wealth and age determine how much a man sows The wealthier he is (which includes money income), the more fonio he will usually cultivate in comparison with others of the same age with less wealth. Although growing a small amount of fonio usually indicates the poverty of a household (which will eat little fonio during the year), there is now an increasing number of men with a steady money income who prefer to buy most of their fonio at the market and cultivate only a small amount. There was one man in Hollaande who considered himself a full-time merchant and did not cultivate any fields.
The following tabulation shows the variation in the amount of fonio cultivated by the household heads and their wives during the year 1966. In general, with the marked exception of household head number 7, the harvest was felt to be quite poor. The information was obtained as part of an economic survey. The results were not verified by actual measurement. Furthermore, as one can observe from the tabulation, many figures are missing because of the reluctance of individuals to give me information about their economic status. Some individuals were ashamed to let me know the extent of their poverty, particularly in relation to others in the village; and elders of the village thought it improper of me to ask for such information. In short, either it was thought to be none of my business, or I offended sensibilities by asking such questions I therefore had to stop asking elders if they sold any of their fonio. The few answers, given reluctantly by the first three men I asked, were of course, no, because fonio is grown to be eaten or to be given as a gift, not to be sold at the market.
|Household||Fonio Sowed||Fonio Harvested|
|15||16||refused to answer|
|17||35||refused to answer|
|18g||refused to answer||refused to answer|
|23||56||refused to answer|
|24||40||refused to answer|
|26||refused to answer||refused to answer|
|27||refused to answer||refused to answer|
|28||25||refused to answer|
|34||25||refused to answer|
|35||120||refused to answer|
In Hollaande the household head obtains fields for his wives, and perhaps his children. He sets aside the largest section for himself. He then divides the remaining area among his wives, and perhaps gives small areas to his unmarried children to prepare them for later life. The harvests from these different fields are kept separate. Each wife stores her part in her own house. The husband keeps his part in his house, to be given to his wives as the need arises. However, the household works together sowing, weeding, harvesting, and threshing. Clearing and plowing with oxen (remirgol keri sarin) are the tasks of a man. The time at which the clearing of the area to be cultivated begins is highly variable, depending on the kind of terrain and the number of years it has lain fallow. Planting time is usually June. If it is the first time a hill or mountain slope is to be cultivated, the work begins three months before planting. If a similar terrain has lain fallow for ten to twelve years, clearing may take two months. If the area has been cultivated the year before, less clearing will be required. If the land is on ndantaari and has been cultivated the year before, no clearing at all is required.
Slash and burn agriculture, by which a field was burned in preparation for planting, was once the dominant form of field cultivation, but it is no longer practiced at Popodara. The French began and the Guineans have continued a prohibition against the burning of fields in an attempt to stop the further erosion of the already heavily eroded Fouta. Thus the present mode of cultivation at Popodara is a modification of the slash and burn method, although the original practice continues in more remote areas. Today, the cut material is gathered together in one pile and burned. The work of clearing is performed by the head of the household and his male children. Married brothers of the same mother do not work together; each has to clear his own field. When a father is living and all his sons are married, the youngest one, or the one who has remained in the village, will continue to work with his father, their fields being contiguous.
After an area has been cleared, the earth is turned with either the hoe or the plow. The work group varies depending on whether the hoe or oxen and plow are used. Plowing is entirely men's work, performed by the household head and his male children or, if he is rich, by someone hired to do the plowing for him. When a hoe is used, the entire household works together. The initial hoeing is usually done by men and their sons because the wives and daughters are working in the gardens during this time. It is only after the completion of covering the gardens with leaves that the women can join their husbands in the fields. If the husband is absent and the wife cultivates a held, it will be on the plain and she will do the hoeing with her children.
A means does exist for either cultivating large areas or cultivating rapidly. This is the kile, the calling of kinsmen and affines to help accomplish a particular task. A kile can be large or small depending on the tasks to be performed and the resources of the person calling it, for he is required to provide food and entertainment for the participants. Sowing is not done until an entire area has been hoed and is then performed as rapidly as possible. In general, only the wealthy can afford a kile; the poor rely primarily on their household. Sowing is one of the few times when co-wives work together. During sowing the household works together, but it is only the head of the household who actually throws the seeds into the ground. At a kile a religious reader, rather than the household head, throws the seeds. On the plains plowing and sowing may take as little as ten days when an oxen and plow are used. On a mountainside, without a kile, it will take one to three months depending on the size of the field.
Within a few days after sowing the new shoots of fonio appear. The women return to the work in their gardens. However, they will have to return twice to the fields for the two weedings done prior to the harvest in November. The men have the laborious task of constructing fences to protect the fields from the goats, sheep, and cattle. 10 For those whose fields are on the plains, fence-building is particularly arduous as it involves walking several kilometers to find wood. Fencing is done yearly; villagers do not think it is worth the effort to build a fence that will last longer because women and children take their firewood from the fences during the dry season.
Birds and monkeys pose a constant threat to the fields. With the appearance of the first grains on the fonio, precautions have to be taken to guard the fields from predators. The problem of crop-watching is more acute in the mountains where there are more monkeys than there are on the plains. Men who cultivate fields on the mountains and hillsides remain there all day to chase away animals and birds. Those whose fields are on the plains and nearer the village, go out relatively infrequently - once every three or four days - to observe their fields.
Harvest time is in November. The fonio is cut with a sickle (wortowal) and then gathered into bundles. These bundles are tied and stored in an area known as the bugo. This is done by the entire household, with the additional help of married daughters when necessary. A kile is also sometimes held, although it is usually smaller than those held for hoeing and sowing, and is comprised of the household head's minimal lineage and affines. Each person who has his own field has his own storage area. At this time the head of the household takes one of every ten bundles to be given as farilla. Following the removal of the farilla, the household separates the grain from the chaff by threshing with long sticks. If the household is particularly large, they may divide by sex into groups. After the chaff is removed by hand, the women sweep up the grain from the ground and place it in baskets.
Fonio is marketed even less in Hollaande than are the products of the garden. In fact, most people do not harvest enough fonio for their dietary and ceremonial needs during the year. Of the 33 household heads who planted fonio, 13 bought the seeds at the market. This is risky, because many seeds are likely to be spoiled, and it is very difficult to recognize the different kinds of fonio from the seeds. Moreover, to buy seeds is, in some imprecise way, acting against what many consider to be the ideal of not being dependent on the market for seeds. There were several individuals who stated with quite a bit of pride that they had never bought any fonio seeds at the market, and that they were using the fonio seeds given to them by their fathers. This is not to be taken literally; it means that the individual has never had to buy or borrow seeds from anyone else. He is, and has been, self-sufficient in fonio cultivation.
The village of Hollaande faced a land crisis in 1967. The two areas where the fields had been were no longer cultivable and no alternative areas were available. The other areas traditionally cultivated had not lain fallow long enough to be used again. There was no concerted action either at the village level or the lineage level to find a solution. Rather, each household head attempted to find a solution by himself.
In one case a man was able to borrow sufficient mountain land to share with his minimal lineage and the minimal lineage of his mother's brother. The oldest man in the village, this man's mother's brother, was given the best piece of land. However, the land was acquired late and was not considered ready for cultivation. When I left the village in the middle of July, the household had not yet finished clearing the land, whereas sowing is usually finished in June.
In other cases, if the household head had difficulty finding land for his wives, they went to their former masters to see if they could borrow land for themselves. Thus, in several instances women obtained land on their own, and in some cases they cultivated land four or five kilometers from the fields of their husbands.
One man, with a source of income, paid what was considered a large sum of money (2000 francs or $8.00) to borrow land from a merchant. He will also have to pay farilla. This was considered a dangerous precedent and one that bodes ill for the future for those who do not own land. Some men decided not to cultivate at all and left the village to seek work for wages. Two other men decided that the market price of fonio would be lower than that peanuts the following year. They planted their small fields with peanuts and hoped to have enough money to provide their families with fonio bought at the market.
It is perhaps too early to speculate on the significance of this land crisis. However, it is clear that the problem of finding cultivable land for fields is increasing, for the number of years fields are left fallow is declining under the pressure of a growing population.
An appendage to the traditional women's gardens and the fields, the « jardin » is cultivated exclusively by men, particularly, though not exclusively, by former serfs. These gardens date from after the founding of markets and were generally meant to provide for the needs of the French in Labe. The departure of the French has not greatly changed the situation, because there is always a population of foreigners in Labe and an increasing number of officials who like such things as stringbeans, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and pineapples. Furthermore, the Guinean government buys tomatoes for the canning factory at Mamou.
The cash-crop gardens are planted near streams at the end of the rainy season and are cared for during the dry season. Crops are sold to traders who come to the local markets, or they are taken for sale to the large daily market in Labe. Thus, the gardens provide a source of income for men during the dry season. Cash-crop gardens were of marginal importance to the economy of Hollaande, because there is no suitable area for them in or very near the village. There were only two men who planted them. One of these men had obtained land by a stream through a kinsman at a neighboring village. The other tried cultivating by a stream near Hollaande which was thought not to have enough water. Nor was the soil judged good enough for successful results. Judging from the lack of yield from the garden, that particular area is a poor location. Other former serf villages in the area with suitable land have more gardens.
The work of maintaining a garden is extremely arduous, for the garden must be watered each morning and evening with a watering can. 11 Along with watering there is also weeding, loosening of the soil, and intensive fertilization with manure.
Other ethnographies of the Fulɓe deal as much with cattle as they do with people. Stenning, for example, has chapter headings such as the « Fertility of Cattle and Women » and « Founding a Family and a Herd » (1959: 100, 147). Such an emphasis on cattle would be misleading in discussing the Fulɓe of the Central Fouta. It would be doubly misleading for the former serfs.
The thrust of economic developments in the Fouta-Djallon has been away from cattle-herding. With increasing sedentarization, the Fulɓe's day-by-day existence became increasingly less dependent on their cattle herds, and more dependent on their fields and gardens. As the institution of serfdom grew, wealth was more directly related to the number of serfs one owned than to the size of one's cattle herds. These developments were more pronounced in the central plateau area because of the high population density and restriction of grazing areas for cattle. Most transhumance ended during the colonial era. Today, cattle are brought back to the compound every night. Thus the possibility of finding good pasture has been severely limited.
Cattle are economically important as a store of wealth for times of crop failure or for ceremonial obligations (primarily marriage and death), as a source of milk and meat, as a source of manure for the gardens, and for plowing. Midway through my economic survey at Hollaande I became really aware of the importance of money in all spheres of life. Thus I added a question to the interviews about whether an individual preferred money or cattle. The responses were divided, with about half opting for money, and the other half for cattle. Those who preferred cattle cited the convertibility of cattle into money (the price of cattle was high then) and the necessity of having cattle for the fulfillment of certain religious obligations, the most important of which is the slaughtering of a cow or bull by the children or parents of an adult who has died. They also considered possession of cattle to be a mark of wealth more important than the possession of money. The attitudes of the Fulɓe, with the exception of elders, have also changed. The number of men who are said to cry more at the death of a cow than a wife is decreasing.
The importance of fertilization for the productivity of the women's gardens has been noted. It is obviously much easier for those households who own cattle to gather manure. They can gather it from where the cows spend the night, whereas the women of households who do not own cattle must search the fields for droppings to bring to their gardens.
As with many cattle-keeping peoples, the Fulɓe keep cattle more for their milk than for their meat. Milk is the most valued of all foods, necessary for all ceremonies except funerals. Milk is really only available during the rainy season when there is adequate pasture. During the dry season a cow provides barely enough milk for her calf, much less for humans. Milk is available at the market, but in limited quantities. It is almost always watered down.
Before colonial rule, cattle were not slaughtered simply for their meat. There were different kinds of occasions that called for the supplying of meat, such as marriages, births, or the coming of a chief. However, as part of the commercialization of other aspects of Fulɓe life, cattle-keeping has also been partially commercialized. Only « partially, » however, because cattle are not raised primarily to be sold, but rather to produce herds of cows. Bulls are sold far more frequently than cows, and are the backbone of the butchers' business. The cows they receive are those that have not borne calves for two or three seasons or are sick.
Although bulls have been used to pull plows only since the 1920s, some standardized practices have developed. Plowing is done only in the morning, never beyond noon, and rarely beyond 11 o'clock, so as not to overwork the bulls. They are not permitted to graze freely during the plowing season. Instead, food (including leaves of certain trees known to be liked, or thought to be good for cattle) is brought to the animals.
Within the village of Hollaande there are 72 heads of cattle (Table 3). Of the 35 household heads listed on tax rolls 23 did not own any of the 72 head of cattle, one elderly woman and three men owned 31 of the total. In short, the distribution of cattle within the village was quite unequal.
At Hollaande, and in former-serf villages in general, the care of cattle falls more on women than it does in Fulɓe villages. Women milk the cows, preferably in the morning, and the women, or their children, take them to grazing areas or fallow fields or bush near the village for the day. The cattle are left unguarded for the duration of the day until someone goes out to bring them back to the compound of the owner.
Until 1958, boys from the village watched the cattle during the day. When the office of chef de canton was abolished, the practice of seizing cattle that wandered into someone's cultivated fields or gardens ceased. Despite the system of fines now in force for allowing cattle to eat growing crops, no one watches them; people prefer to pay fines.
Sheep and goats are also kept. There were 35 or so goats and 20 sheep in the village. It was much harder to keep track of their exact numbers, because they were bought, sold, and sacrificed far more frequently than were cattle. They are kept for many of the same reasons as cattle: as a store of wealth, as a necessary item in many ceremonial occasions, as a source of fertilizer, as a source of meat, and the goats as a source of milk.
|Head of Cattle||Number of Household Heads||Total number of cattle|
|One old woman owned 4 cattle which she bought with money received when her son died in the French army:|| 4|
Chickens are also kept by both men and women. They are used as a source of meat on ceremonial occasions and for honored guests. The eggs are traditionally not eaten, but used either to raise new chickens or to sell at the market. Roosters are sold at the market when small amounts of money are needed.
To balance the account of cattle-herding, which has been de-emphasized in this study partially because the focus is on former serfs who live in an area where cattle-raising is not a predominant activity, I shall relate how an elderly Fulɓe (an ngeriyanke) acquired a herd. This particular gentleman would, by all account,, have to be considered « traditional. » He was over seventy years old, having been born prior to the French conquest in 1896. When his mother died, she left him one bull, an old cow, and a calf. At the death of an adult, a bovine has to be sacrificed. In order to assure the continuation of the herd, the man sacrificed the bull. He kept the old cow until the calf had matured and then slaughtered the cow to trade for fonio. With the fonio he bought another calf, a male. He kept him for three or four years and then took him to Kindia (a large town located in a non-Fulɓe part of Guinea) where he sold him for 45 francs. On his return he used 6 francs to pay the annual tax for himself and his wife. With the remaining money he bought a one-year-old heifer for 30 francs. Now he had one heifer and one cow. That year he cultivated very large fields of rice in order to have a surplus to sell. He exchanged his rice for one heifer, one-and-a half years old, and one goat and a sheep. The sheep died and he decided to buy only goats thereafter. Goats multiply faster than do cattle, so after two years he had five goats to exchange for one baby bull, and nine goats for one young heifer. With the acquisition of these last two calves he stopped buying cattle; he reckoned that his herd would now grow on its own. However, the herd proved unstable. He lost seven head of cattle in one week to rinderpest, he lost eight to the French as « corvee, » and he gave five to his daughter when she married. Other diseases killed six other members of his herd. When I visited him, he had six head left in a herd that had once been as large as thirty.
The proper care of his herd required much movement, the period of transhumance ranging from four to seven months. If the cattle were to be kept far from the village, he himself took the herd there until they were habituated to the new area. Afterwards his wives took turns watching the animals. If the pasture was close to the village, he would borrow a house or construct a hut nearby. In this case a wife would come each day to bring him his meals and milk the cows.
Transhumance stopped five years ago in the mountainous area fifty kilometers northeast of Labe where this man lived. Furthermore, the number of cattle in his village has greatly diminished. However, even during the years of transhumance only a few men were involved because only a few owned large herds. There is now only one man in the village who gives his cows to another keep for him during the dry season.
Presently there are at least one and a half million head of cattle the Republic of Guinea. More than half of these are in the Fouta-Djallon proper, with most of the rest being in the areas bordering the Fouta-Djallon. Nevertheless, most Guineans do not have enough meat to eat, and there are virtually no facilities to move milk out of the local areas where cattle are herded. But the government continues to seek solutions to provide more meat for the population and to preserve the cattle herds for future use. Thus, when in 1967 there was fear of an epidemic of bovine plague, the Office of Cattle (Office du Bétail) vaccinated most of the cattle in the area of Popodara and elsewhere. The government has also instituted a percentage of cattle which must be commercialized in each area each year. Unfortunately, owners of cattle view this forced commercialization more as a tax than a sale, because they receive only twenty-five to fifty percent of the market price for their cattle.
By commercial is meant exchange (whether of goods or labor) based on money. The commercialization of the Fouta-Djallon as been gradual and by no means complete. In particular, commercial agriculture has not developed as extensively as it has among the Gouro, the Hausa, or the Ashanti, who sell agricultural products to the world market. Nevertheless, economic self-sufficiency has ended in the Fouta-Djallon as a result of French colonial rule. Money has entered the fabric of village life and plays an increasingly important role. Money is needed for certain kinds of food. Many of the ingredients for sauces have to be purchased at the market. Because no one cultivates rice around Hollaande, it has to be bought at the market. The food needed for ceremonies - meat, milk, maize, and rice - is frequently purchased at the market. And, as we have noted, more than one-third of the household heads bought their fonio seed at the market. Money is needed for bridewealth, as well as for clothes.
There are presently three ways to earn money for those who continue to make the village their home:
In the villages of the Fouta approximately twenty-five percent of the men between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five migrate for wage work. Migration cannot be characterized as seasonal. In earlier years, when large groups of men left to work in the peanut fields of Senegal, there was seasonal labor migration. Since the decline of work on the peanut plantations there is no definite pattern as to the time of year when the men leave. This is hardly surprising. As the garden has gained in importance over the field in the provenance of food, rainy season cultivation of the field is less essential for the maintenance of the household than before.
Formerly migration was a response to the French demand for taxes, or else a form of flight from forced labor or conscription into the French army. Currently money is needed for building a house, for buying tools, salt, kola, meat, cloth, and kerosene from the market, and for paying taxes. 12 No single explanation emerges as to why men now leave the village. Four different cases will exemplify the variable factors furthering or inhibiting migration.
These four examples indicate the diversity of reasons why individuals decide to leave the village. Not all individuals return. There are two men who worked as laborers on the railroad for the French. They were able to receive further training, Both have now resided in Conakry, with their wives and children, for more than twenty years.
The reason given by most villagers for labor migration is the need of young men to accumulate enough wealth to pay bridewealth and to start a household. However, more than fifty percent of the men who had left the village were married. On the other hand, there was not a single male between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five who had not left the village at some point to seek work Suffice it to say that obtaining money for marriage has become the responsibility of the individual; and this necessitates some means for earning it.
Local Wage Labor
Most men and women over thirty-five, when asked what they wanted their husbands or sons to do, expressed a preference for their staying in the village if able to make the choice. Two sources of fulltime wage work for the men of Hollaande are available within walking distance of the village. One is a regional governmentally owned and operated farm about five kilometers away. The farm was founded by the French in the 1930s on land taken without compensation from the Ranhaaɓe and has employed wage labor since its inception. Almost every adult man in Hollaande has worked there at some time, even if only for a few weeks. Contact with the farm was not restricted only to labor. The neighboring villages were required, without renumeration, to supply the French daily with milk with which they made cheese and butter. Today the farm is run by a government civil servant, a gifted farmer whose specialty is the grafting of mangos.
During the time of this study; three men were working fulltime at the farm, one of them as an assistant director. Full-time means from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm, the work day established by the government. All three had been working steadily at the farm for a number of years. In addition, the son of the assistant director, aged seventeen, began working at the farm. He was the eldest son, and his father therefore did everything possible to keep him in the village. Four other men also worked for the farm for shorter time periods during my stay.
The second source of employment is the plantation, the only foreign-owned corporate operation in the region of Labe. This is a French company that exports essence of orange to France to make perfume. During my stay this plantation expanded to within only four kilometers from Hollaande, thus creating a source of wage employment for the villagers. Work is hard and the pay is lower than at the government farm, but four men were working full-time there.
It must be remembered that the situation at Popodara is not typical for the Fouta-Djallon as a whole. There are more opportunities for wage employment than in other parts of the Fouta because of the presence of the regional farm and the French plantation. However, although there is more wage labor available, the constitution of the labor force reflects earlier status differences. The workers are mostly former serfs. This results from at least two earlier conditions. We have already noted that during the precolonial period a Fulɓe ideally concerned himself either with his cattle or with Islam, whereas the serfs did the necessary agricultural labor. Second, during the colonial period the French employed and taught many more former serfs than Fulɓe about cash-crop gardening, that is, about European practices and crops. Needless to say, the French obtained much of this labor through force and coercion, but the heritage has remained.
While we have noted the expressed preference for remaining in the village over migration for wage work, we must consider who expressed the preference and what this meant in terms of the status of agricultural laborers. When the villagers were asked about whether it was necessary to leave the village to obtain money, they always pointed to one young man who had been working at the farm for several years. They used him as an example of what they thought ought was an ideal solution. He had a steady income, he lived with his family, helped his mother, and he had earned enough money to buy some cows and other items. However, he was considered an example by women and older men, not by the young. It is clear that the young have not adopted him as a model, for job opportunities have arisen at the farm or at the French plantation and they have either not applied or have worked there awhile and then left. They are reluctant to accept a lifestyle that will revolve around kin obligations and agricultural labor. In short many want alternatives to life in the village.
Many young people have left the village and returned because they weren't successful in the cities, but they will try again. Others have returned to the village to marry but leave again after their wives have become pregnant. Part of this pattern, aside from the attraction of the city, has to do with the status of agricultural labor. It is thought that those who have the ability, skill, or money will do something else to earn money. The young, of course, see themselves as having alternatives to unskilled agricultural labor and therefore leave to make their way.
The third and largest group are those who combine agricultural labor and a specialty by which they can earn money. This is not to imply that those who are wage laborers and live in the village don't cultivate fields; they do, but less than others. Of the men residing permanently in the village only one man consistently did not cultivate any herds. By specialty is meant traditional serfs' crafts, traditional labor tasks done by former serfs for Fulɓe (or rich former serfs), and new specialties having their origin in the colonial period. Prior to a discussion of labor specialization in Hollaande, we must comment on the division of labor between those of Fulɓe and serf ancestry.
The division of labor between Fulɓe and former serfs continues to be of significance. Crafts formerly done by serfs are still performed by their descendants. Crafts formerly reserved exclusively for the Fulɓe are still performed by them. The continuing specialization resulting from the earlier status differences has social and economic consequences. Socially, earlier differences are still emphasized by the work that people do. One has only to ask for a blacksmith (bayillo), and he knows he will be dealing with a former serf. If one wants to buy a hat, he has to buy it from a Pullo and have a Pullo embroider it. The perpetuation of the traditional division of labor helps preserve certain beliefs about the characteristics of each group. The descendants of serfs are seen as hard-working, performing tasks that are difficult but essentially nonintellectual. The reverse is said of the Fulɓe.
Economically the two groups play different roles in the countryside. The Fulɓe have had few possibilities outside of commerce to earn money in the countryside. They have not adopted any craft that was formerly the province of their serfs. They have rather sought to become merchants (selling kola, manufactured goods, etc.), and some have continued their crafts as embroiderers of hats and robes. One could hypothesize, although without the information necessary to verify it, that the Fulɓe migrate in greater numbers in proportion to their population than do the former serfs. This hypothesis stems directly from the preceding analysis. Because they tend to avoid agricultural wage labor and have not adopted any new crafts, they have fewer ways to make money in the countryside although their need for money is no less than that of former serfs. We have already considered the commercialization of the traditional serf crafts. Here we are concerned with a brief discussion of the contemporary importance of crafts. Among the villagers of Hollaande (and, in general, among all former serfs) four kinds of craftsmen dominate in terms of both their numbers and their economic significance. These are blacksmiths, cloth-weavers, leather-workers, and basket-weavers. There are other crafts, but they involve fewer people and are either relatively easy -for example, rope makers- or so specialized -for example, circumcisers - that they are less commercialized. These crafts can be referred to as « traditional, » because they were performed prior to colonial rule. This is not to imply that the items produced or the way in which exchange takes place have remained unchanged.
Blacksmiths combine several specialties under one rubric; they are carpenters and jewelers as well as blacksmiths proper. At Hollaande there were three blacksmiths. Two were sons of the same blacksmith, and the third was apprenticed to a blacksmith in a village twenty kilometers away. One man made metal pots and watering cans; another made tools and furniture; and the third made the posts, doors, and frames for houses. All three repaired and sharpened tools. Almost all of their work was done on command and paid for in cash. Among the three, the one who made watering cans and pots went to the market to sell his wares. The others went to the market to obtain scrap metal or other items they needed. Most of their orders were received at their homes, not at the market.
Blacksmiths play an essential role in the local economy. They continue to make almost all the tools used by the peasants for cultivation: the hoe (daba or keri), the axe, the adze, the machete, and knives. They also make such things as doors, posts, frames for houses, beds, and chairs. In short, both the economic necessities and amenities are still provided largely by indigenous manufacture.
The greatest change for blacksmiths has been the abandonment of iron-smelting. This took place gradually as the blacksmiths turned to European scrap iron for their work. One other point might be mentioned concerning the future of the blacksmiths. When I was in the village, there was not a single apprentice blacksmith. However, one of the blacksmiths intended to apprentice his oldest son, who, at the moment was only five years old.
Cloth-weavers are also always serfs. Formerly only indigenously grown cotton was used. However, the yield from such cotton has not been enough to supply the weavers' growing need. Prior to French rule Fulɓe clothing was relatively simple and standardized, consisting of large robes dyed blue and white for the men and skirts for the women. The importation of European colored thread permitted the elaboration of styles and patterns for both men and women.
Most cloth is woven to be sold. There are three ways it is sold:
The weavers work at home on a modified traditional loom wider than the traditional one There was only one weaver at Hollaande who sold cloth at the market. There were several men who could weave, but they did so only occasionally for the needs of their households.
It should be pointed out that most clothing now is not woven, but is made from imported cotton or, increasingly, from cotton made in Guinean textile mills. Cloth is bought by the meter and a tailor is employed to make the clothing. Woven clothing is worn mainly for formal occasions.
Leather-workers now principally made sandals. Formerly sandals were only one item in the repertoire of leather craftsmen, who also made sheathes for swords and knives, saddles for horses, and leather covers for hand-written Korans and other religious works. 13 These are rarely made now. Despite the decline in the number of traditional leather goods made, there are presently more leather-workers than before. Following World War II new patterns and styles were developed quite unlike the traditional Fulɓe sandal. Fulɓe sandals are known and marketed throughout Guinea. At Hollaande there were no leather-workers, although two boys had been apprenticed by their fathers to leather-workers in a nearby village. In 1920 there were only two or three leather-workers in this village, while now half the adult men who stayed in the village are leather-workers.
Basket-weaving is the least prestigious and least preferred craft, and chances for commercial success are small. Basket-weavers make the various basket containers used for measuring, storing, and carrying grain and other food. They sold their goods at the three nearby markers. At Hollaande there were four basket-weavers, all of whom had learned the trade from their father.
Aside from basic agricultural labor and specialized crafts, the serfs formerly performed many other tasks for their masters as part of their economic obligations to them. Among these were building and maintaining fences, constructing and maintaining houses, roofing houses, and gathering firewood. After the ending of agricultural-labor obligations many former serfs continued to perform much of the same work that they used to for the Fulɓe, but the economic basis of such work has been altered. This has given the former serfs another way of earning money, although it remains sporadic because the work is seasonal. It is now performed especially by chose without crafts. At Hollaande over forty-five men (including everyone who had been circumcized) had worked in this capacity for money within the year. Almost all of the work was done for Fulɓe. 14
Among those engaged in new specialties and the professions, 15 the most important group are the merchants, people who buy goods at one price for resale at a higher price. As we have seen, merchants were not found in precolonial Fulɓe society. The two words used for « merchant » are both non-Fulfulde: ndyula and commerçant. Although there are words for « to buy, » soodugol, and « to sell, » yeeyugol, neither forms the noun for « merchant, » as so often happens in Fulfulde (for exemple, sannyugol, « to weave, » and sannyoowo, « weaver. » )
In the village of Hollaande there were six male merchants. These merchants dealt principally in kerosene, buying it at Labe and reselling it at a higher price at the market and in the village They dealt with manufactured items - shoes, sandals, cigarettes, flashlights, matches, and paper - also bought from wholesalers in Labe. Of all the occupations in the countryside commerce is the most preferred, for it holds out the promise of great financial reward and high status. For the former serfs it has been an important source of mobility. Almost all the boys in the village engaged in some kind of commerce, whether selling kola at the market or, during the week, in the village, or selling blackmarket items for their older brothers. In their eyes, the work of the merchant was a desirable one.
To be a merchant takes a great deal of time. For the villagers of Hollaande there were three weekly markets (at Popodara, Kuntuɓel, and Tyaangel Boori) where merchants sold their goods. In addition they had to go to Labe at least once a week to maintain their stock of goods. Among the six merchants of Hollaande only one did not cultivate any fields. The fact that he did no cultivation was unusual. He was the wealthiest merchant in the village, but there were far wealthier merchants in the surrounding villages who continued to cultivate or who employed others to cultivate their fields. The typical pattern even for merchants continues to be combining a specialty with the cultivation of fields.
Butchers are essentially a specialized form of merchant. Like merchants, butchers arose after the advent of colonial rule. There is no Fulfulde word for « butcher, » but only for the actions of skinning and chopping-up an animal.
The main places of activity for butchers are the weekly markets. It is there that butchers bring their live animals to be slaughtered and cut up for meat. Butchers are licensed by the Guinean government and pay a tax. Cattle are inspected by a veterinarian to insure that diseases do not make them unfit for human consumption.
One man of Hollaande was a butcher. Another served as his paid assistant; he skinned and chopped up the meat. For the market of Popodara as a whole there were eight butchers. Although both former serfs and Fulɓe now serve as butchers, there remain differences which reflect the earlier status differences. The proper slaughter of any animal is accompanied by a particular phrase, which must be uttered by a Fulɓe. This has to be performed at the market as well. At Popodara a Ranhaadho performs the act, as the Ranhaaɓe are said to have brought cows to the area.
Another new trade is that of tailor. Tailors, more than weavers, are the primary clothes-makers. Clothing and fashions have become important in the villages, particularly for the young men and women, and as the demand for clothes has risen, so has the number of tailors. Tailors arose with the importation of European cloth and, later, the sewing machine. Tailors were formerly exclusively Fulɓe, perhaps because the closest traditional task was embroidery, an exclusively Fulɓe craft. However, increasing numbers of former serfs have become tailors. Within Hollaande there were three tailors. Their place of work was in a store at the carrefour at Popodara. Tailoring, like all other specialties, is learned through apprenticeship. The first tailor of Hollaande was taught by a Fulɓe. He in turn has taught the two others.
This discussion of the markets of the Fouta-Djallon does not pretend to be exhaustive, but attempts rather to indicate the major features of the markets and, in particular, the importance of the market for the village of Hollaande. We have already discussed the over-all significance of the introduction of markets to the Fouta-Djallon.
Every resident of Hollaande, as well as all the inhabitants of the general area, participates in and benefits from the market. 16 Despite the religious proclivities of most of the Fulɓe, it has replaced the mosque as the highlight of the week. For the women, particularly, who rarely, if ever, go to the mosque, market day has become virtually a holiday. On market day the usual daily work is done only during the morning hours. By mid-afternoon almost all the inhabitants of Hollaande are found at the market.
The market place of Popodara is located on the top of a hill that borders on the village of Hollaande. The market place has no permanent structure, but the more prominent merchants each year build several lean-tos of stick and thatch to shade themselves from the sun or rain. Everyone else sits in the open, their wares displayed on the ground in front of them. A second market, subsidiary to the major one, is held at the carrefour of Popodara. Here the sandal-makers and cloth-weavers bring their products in the morning to sell to merchants.
The market is held every Thursday. It attracts people coming on foot from within a radius of ten kilometers and people come on bicycles or in trucks from as far away as fifty kilometers. The market begins early, around ten o'clock in the morning, with the arrival of the first truck from Labe, and ends with their departure toward five o'clock. After five the market becomes a young people's center for socializing and searching for lovers.
Prior to independence the supervision of markets was in the hands of the French chefs de canton, who appointed marshalls to oversee the activities, collect the usage fees, and maintain order. In no way was a market identified with, or controlled by, a particular individual or chief. Today the region of Labe is directly responsible for the market at Popodara, and the regional government appoints two men to collect the various market taxes.
The market at Popodara has long been one of the largest weekly markets in the Fouta-Djallon. It is said to be the largest market in the region of Labe, with the exception of the daily market in Labe. This information was provided by merchants who should know. Trying to count the number of people at the market at any one time proved impossible, because there were four different routes to the market which were always full of people going in both directions. There were probably between 750 and 1250 people selling on a given market day.
The market can be divided into several different areas of activity. One area, the small cloth and sandal market at the carrefour has already been mentioned. Significantly, this is the only part of the market that fits into the Western notion of wholesale-retail. There the producers sell their good to wholesalers, who will then retail the goods at other markets throughout Guinea. However, to describe the major market in terms such as wholesale and retail have only very limited usefulness.
The main selling pattern at the market is that of merchants from the regional center of Labe who come to Popodara to sell manufactured goods such as cloth, clothes, flashlights, batteries, cigarettes, matches, and sneakers. Within this group are the general merchants who sell a variety of manufactured goods, and those who sell one or two particular items, like salt, kola or nebban kaare (a cooking oil made from karite tree leaves found in other regions of Guinea). In addition to the Labe merchants are the merchants who live in the local area. They may specialize in one item - kerosene, kola, or cigarettes - or sell a wide range of available consumer goods. In terms of what they sell they cannot be distinguished from the merchants who are based in the city of Labe. There was one general merchant from Hollaande who sold the whole gamut of relatively inexpensive manufactured items, two men who specialized in kerosene, and two young men who pooled their resources to sell kerosene and whatever else they could, depending on their available money.
Another important category of sellers are craftsmen who bring their own wares to the market. The major ones are the cloth-weavers, tailors, blacksmiths, sandal-makers and basket-weavers. In addition there are Fulɓe makers of raffia covers and hat embroidery, Diallonke pot-makers, and Diakanke tobacco-growers. 17 The Diakanke live quite far from Popodara (about 100 km to the northwest), and the Diallonke live in one small village about twenty kilometers away.
A third, and numerically the largest, group at the market are the women. It is interesting that women, who in precolonial times were not involved in the long distance trade, have become numerically dominant (both as buyers and sellers) at the market place. We can divide the women into four categories.
Women sell goods at the market to obtain money. They need money to buy the ingredients
for sauces, for kola, for « medicines » (protection against sorcerers
and spirits), for clothing, and, if they earn much money, to pay their own taxes.
Moreover, market day is a welcome break in their hard and continuous work.
The last two areas of activity of the market are the meat market where beef (and sometimes the meat of goats and sheep) is sold and the live-animal market, which is set slightly apart from the rest of the market.
There were six licensed butchers at the market. The richest of them slaughtered on the average two cows per week at Popodara and one a week at another market. The butchers bought most of their animals at Tyaangel Boori, a market about 55 kilometers from Popodara. Tyaangel Boori is well known for its excellent and abundant cattle. The cattle are brought by guards to the Tuesday market at Kuntuɓel and arrive at Popodara on Wednesday where the butchers pick up the animals they have chosen.
Goats, sheep, and cattle are sold in an area slightly distant from the rest of the market. This is entirely the province of men. Even if a woman sells one of her animals, or buys one, the actual sale has to be handled by a man. There are two kinds of buyers and sellers in the animal markets: merchants who are selling and buying for profit, and those who are buying or selling individually for ceremonial or specific economic needs. The merchants are most often butchers who make the rounds of the various markets to get the best possible animals for the lowest possible price. The other merchants who buy and sell animals, primarily goats and sheep (because individuals who buy cattle to begin or supplement their own herds rarely do so at the market), keep and guard them until they find a buyer who will pay a price greater than the original purchase price.
The other animal buyers and sellers are those with specific needs. For example, if a childbirth is expected and the father does not have a proper goat to be slaughtered, he will make the rounds of the market. Similarly, if one is expecting a death, or if a death has occurred, the father or eldest brother will have to buy a cow if he does not already own one.
All negotiations concerning animals are handled through intermediaries. Both the buyer and the seller call upon someone (and he can be a stranger) to discuss the price. The seller sets a very high asking price, the buyer a very low purchase price. Both have set ideas of the minimum or maximum price they will accept. If they agree, after bargaining, on some intermediate price, the purchase is concluded. The money is paid right on the spot, along with kola and a little money to the intermediary who assisted. At this time a receipt form, provided by the regional government, is signed by the seller and handed to the buyer.
All sellers of animals, whether they are merchants or are selling for personal reasons, have to demonstrate ownership to the regional market officials before a transaction can be carried out. The regional government issues a combined form indicating ownership and permission to sell, which is gotten before market day. A variety of signs of ownership are accepted as proof by the authorities. Among these can be a receipt of purchase, a brand (branding was begun during the colonial period), or the testimony of a trusted witness. All animal sellers also have to pay a 500 francs market tax for each animal sold.
The major buying groups at the market in Popodara are merchants, both men and women. The women deal primarily in agricultural produce. The men deal in certain kinds of produce, but also in such things as cloth, sandals, cow hides, sheep, and skins. They come mainly from around Labe to buy goods to resell at the daily market in Labe, or to sell in turn to those women who sell daily at Labe. The merchants come on the first trucks from Labe in the early morning and immediately make a tour of the market to find out the prices and goods available. They then buy and go home as early as possible. They usually do not have direct personal ties with the sellers but buy on the basis of price and quality. The men who come from Labe specialize in two or three particular items. Thus when hot peppers are ripe, for example, a special area is set up where it is sold to the merchants. They establish a set price per kilo for the day, depending on the quantity available. Once the price has been set, they do not bargain.
Even though Fulɓe agricultural production is oriented toward private consumption, many items they need for daily life and ceremonies can be supplied only by the market. The degree of the peasants' dependence on the market does not reach that, for instance, of the Yoruba's but it is nevertheless significant economically and socially. The basic market items necessary for the daily household diet are peanuts, peppers, salt, and cooking oil. Peanuts are used for the preferred sauce. The presence or absence of peanuts marks the difference in diet between relatively rich and poor villagers. The amount of peanuts grown in Hollaande does not meet the villagers' needs. Other ingredients for sauces which are bought at the market are hot peppers and oddyi or sumbara in maninka (for which there is no adequate translation). The latter is relatively cheap, the former expensive. Again, both items are grown in Hollaande but not enough for the needs of the villagers. Salt is also regarded as essential. It can only be bought with money. Depending on the supply, the price ranged from 50 francs to 300 francs per kilo.
As kola is both a household and a ceremonial item, so is rice. Rice is the preferred food. There is a marked tendency for those who are richer to buy a higher proportion of their food from the market, and they will buy rice. The price of rice was relatively high and most people thus ate it only at ceremonial occasions. 19
Another item required for ceremonies is sour milk (kosan), which can be justly thought of as the national dish of the Fulɓe. Within each village there are relatively few individuals who have lactating cows. Thus when there is a ceremony, and it is obligatory to provide sour milk (for at least the elders), it has to be bought. During the dry season when there are even fewer lactating cows, obtaining milk poses a particular problem; individuals often have to travel 50 or 60 kilometers to obtain it. Meat is also a greatly desired item, both for household consumption and ceremonies. Its cost is high (300 francs a kilo), and the frequency of consumption depends on wealth.
There are several ways the state attempts to control transactions at the market place. These are generally aimed at seeing that standard weights and measures are used, that prices of certain items distributed by the state are controlled, that contraband items are not sold, and that the market runs smoothly and fairly with those who attend paying the appropriate taxes and charges.
Every market is under the authority of a commandant d'arrondissement, an official (or two, as was the case at Popodara) who is chosen from the population by the regional government to supervise the market and to collect the market taxes. At every market
The region receives the money collected, and the collector receives 10 percent of what he collects. This is an important source of revenue for the two local market officials, both of whom reside at Hollaande. The most frequent disputes at the market are over the payment of the 25 francs; women particularly often attempt to avoid payment. Often soldiers, and more recently members of the People's Militia, also supervise the market.
The People's Militia are unpaid political personnel responsible for the continuing vigilance and militancy of the population. They are members also of the national youth organization They have been particularly concerned with two abuses: nonstandard measures, and transactions taking place on the routes leading to market. There are members of the Militia in the villages, but those who supervise the market at Popodara come from Labe. They make a tour of each market, measuring produce very carefully to see that the various indigenous measures are exact. A common trick, employed by many merchants, both men and women, is to use a smaller than normal korun for selling and a larger than normal one for buying.
Women often try to avoid paying the 25 francs tax by selling on the path to market. This is illegal and is punished by the Militia. The state's regulations are usually followed, but the few instances when they are not followed provide an interesting framework in which to view the relation of the population to the market and their identification of their interests with those of the merchants. One of the items fixed in price by the region is meat. Meat is sold only by the kilo, and one cannot ask for the part one wants, with the exception of kidneys and liver. The price for any cut of meat was 300 francs a kilo. At the same time in Labe it was 200 francs a kilo for meat with bones and 300 francs a kilo without bones. The price remained constant for almost one year. Then the region declared that meat was 200 francs a kilo There were a couple of weeks when hardly any cows were slaughtered, and there were long discussions between the regional officials and the butchers. The butchers maintained they were willing to reduce the price of meat only if the price of cattle were lowered. The officials maintained the butchers were making more than enough money.
Up until this point there had been frequent complaints from the population that the price of meat was much too high and that it was only the rich who could afford meat. One would have expected they would side with the officials. However, it did not turn out that way. For a few weeks, when officials came out to the markets, people paid 200 francs a kilo for meat. As soon as they left, meat was sold at 250 francs a kilo and no one refused to buy. Soon afterward the price of meat went up to 300 francs a kilo, without any appreciable increase in the price of cattle. Some said the price was due to the dry season and that when the rains came, it would again be lowered to 250. It never was.
A similar process happened with kerosene. Almost everyone uses kerosene lamps, either storm-lantern types, or home-made ones made with wicks and tin cans. Kerosene is imported primarily from Eastern Bloc countries, and every so often there is a shortage due to delays in arrival. During these times the price rises. Ordinarily the price is higher in the rural markets, a fact attributable to higher transportation costs. Kerosene is sold by merchants who buy relatively large quantities at Labe (about 200 liters -one drum, or perhaps two) and resell it at the market and villages.
Soon after I came to Hollaande the price of kerosene rose from 60 to 75 francs a liter. When asked why, the merchants responded that they thought they could get the higher price even though the wholesale price had not risen. Soon afterward there started a series of kerosene shortages, and the government attempted to control its distribution and sale. Often the merchants obtained it on the black market and sold it outside of the markets at 125 francs a liter. During this time it could not be sold at the market because the People's Militia knew that the origin of all kerosene being sold at the time had to be from the black market.
During this shortage the merchants of the area surrounding Popodara found a source willing to sell them several drums. However, someone informed on them and they were arrested. Upon questioning they refused to give the price at which they had really bought the kerosene, maintaining they had paid the official price, which was one-third less. They did so in order to protect their future source of supply and their reputations as honorable merchants, at least in the eyes of the merchant community. They were not imprisoned, but were chastised verbally and ordered to sell all their kerosene at the government-fixed price 50 francs a liter, whereas they had bought it illegally at 60 francs a liter and were planning to sell it at 125 francs a liter.
The local committee sold the illegally-bought kerosene at Labe for two days and gave that money to the merchants involved. Many people turned out to buy the kerosene at the fixed price. However, no sooner had that supply run out than the merchants were back buying the kerosene and selling it at 125 francs. Soon afterwards it could be legally sold at the market for 110 francs.
These incidents reflect something of the nature of the peasantry in the Fouta. They are revealed as quite passive in the light of state intervention in their favor. They did not force or pressure either the merchants or butchers to sell their merchandise at the lower fixed government prices, which was favorable to the population as a whole. The peasants viewed prices as beyond their control, and they viewed with skepticism the government's attempts to control prices. The reasons for the peasants' behavior and attitude appear to be related to their lack of faith in the ability of the government to look after their interest in the market situation, and to the potential conflict between their desire for low prices and the necessity to maintain good ties with their kinsmen who are merchants. Ties with merchants are quite important in time of scarcity, and money is regarded as having a « life » of its own not subject to human control, despite the best of intentions. The degree of penetration of the money economy is exemplified by the fact that the peasants view the exorbitant prices charged them (even by their kinsmen) with equanimity.
1. The position of women in African sociely varies greatly. Contrast the position of women in the Fouta to the Nupe as described by Nadel.
The role which the women play in the agricultural production of the country lends itself to a simple formula. With very few exceptions the women do not perform any primary productive activity. They do no farm work; they do not help in cultivation except occasionally when assisting the men in the harvesting of cotton or beans or the digging out of cassava - the easiest crop of all. Their sphere of work is first the « refining » of agricultural produce to make it marketable, and secondly the marketing itself (1942: 252).
2. It appears likely that the women's garden was adopted from another people. The word suntuure is borrowed, and is not part of the vocabulary of other Fulɓe groups outside of the Fouta-Djallon.
3. There are two varieties of taro grown,
– dyaabere fuuta
– dyaabere goba
The latter is said to be introduced from the south. In the case of the dyaabere fuuta the « mother » taro is replanted each year for ten to twenty years, and the offshoots are eaten. In the case of dyaabere goba the « mother » taro is eaten, and the offshoots are replanted.
4. A woman and her children plant maize by digging holes with the daba. Into the holes are dropped three or four kernels of maize. The holes are then recovered with earth. Because of the crucial importance of the timing of planting maize, all the maize is planted within one garden in two days. In the village as a whole it takes only five or six days for everyone to plant. Furthermore, because of the need to sow all the corn at one time, it is one of the few times when co-wives will aid each other as a matter of course.
5. The manioc takes approximately twenty to twenty-four months to mature in the region of Labe. Therefore the cuttings are planted in only one half of the garden at any one time.
6. The Fulɓe have an indigenous system of measurement based on the korun, or sari'aare, and the debeere. These are both baskets manufactured locally by artisans of serf origin. The weight of one korun filled with fonio is approximately 1 kilogram, with rice, 1.5 kilograms, and there are approximately 4000 kernels of maize in one sari'aare.
7. The Fulɓe distinguish several varieties of fonio, depending on the time of maturation the kind of soil in which it will grow, and the kind of grain it produces.
– The fonnye bofefonde is the most common variety. Under normal conditions it takes six months to mature and grows well on tile ndantaari.
– Another variety, fonnye sirage, is usually planted in the part of a garden that has been recently added or if the first planting of corn has failed, because it matures in three months (although its yield is lower)
– Fonye konso donghol and fonnye kuli are planted on mountain sides (kaadye). The latter has a maturation time of three months and has large grains. The former matures in five months.
– Another variety, fonnye sagantan, rare around Popodara, grows well on the ndantaari but takes several months to mature. The villagers dislike it because of the long maturation time, which makes it more susceptible to being eaten by birds, monkeys, or domesticated animals.
8. According to the French Demographic Mission. « The surface area of each compound varies so little that it didn't seem useful to present a detailed division of these areas (1951:26).
9. Although it has been a long time since mountain rice was cultivated in Popodara, there is another technique that was employed as recently as three years ago. It is known as mukti. The land required is hollaande, where water gathers during the rainy season. First the area is cleared of grass and brush, which is formed into little mounds where manure is put. Then the whole field is burned. Then the rice is placed in the mounds. The manure and burned grass and brush serve as fertilizer, and the lowness and nature of the soil of the hollaande retains enough water to permit the successful harvest of rice It appears that this practice is no longer continued due to the expensiveness of rice seeds and the need for land for fonio, which yields a larger crop.
10. The chiefs used to send their courtiers (mbatulaaɓe) into the fields to take any animals they found there. In fact, the courtiers often took the initiative themselves. In order for an owner to get an animal back he had to pay a fine. If he refused or couldn't pay the fine, the chief kept the animal.
Today fines are levied on the owners of animals found in the fields after they have been cultivated and after the fences are built. The fines are 1000 francs per day for cattle, and 500 for sheep and goats. The committee regulates these affairs.
11. The rise of cash-crop gardens has led to increased specialization among blacksmiths. There were three blacksmiths in the area who made watering cans and almost nothing else.
12. All citizens are required to pay taxes. For peasants the amount is 1000 francs. Each individual over the age of fourteen is taxed, with the exception of the aged, the sick, and mothers with four children under fourteen.
13. Handwritten Korans are very rarely made now. Most Korans sold in the Fouta are printed in North Africa.
14. House-building, roofing, and fence building done within the village of Hollaande was usually performed by those most skilled. However, in the village context labor was often donated, or else gifts (including money) were given, but with no fixed price agreed on beforehand.
15. We are excluding those introduced by the state, such as teaching, nursing and administration.
16. The only individuals who didn't go to the market were elderly religious leaders. The origin of their distaste for market was unclear to me, for typically they were elders who did go in the past. They explained their present reluctance to attend the market by referring to the fights that sometimes take place. They did not want to fight, which they would have to do if a kinsmen of theirs were involved. Others cited the fact that the market, by its very nature, produces a situation where the proper relations of respect cannot be followed. Thus, one would be embarrassed to see an in-law at the market where proper respect cannot be shown. In general, the squatting and avoidance behavior while giving salutation to an in-law is observed while one is going to the market, but not at the market itself.
17. There are some Diallonke who have continued to live in the Fouta. The Diakanke entered the Fouta late and are found in Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. Both peoples have remained relatively unstudied until the recent survey in Kedougou, Senegal, which borders the Fouta-Djallon (Smith: 1965).
18. Gloria Marshall has demonstrated that the Yoruba buy at least 10 percent of their food at the market (1964).
19. The women of Hollaande bought both rice and peanuts at other markets to resell at Popodara for a higher price, usually about 5 francs per kilo or basket.