Before Africa was colonized, Africans farmed or herded with little or no regard for land ownership. Land was shared by clans, communities, or ethnic groups, and was often shared between groups as well. One group may have farmed a piece of land for … Continue reading
Economy during the Zhou
The Economy during the Zhou was mostly a commodity one. Chinese agriculture had originally developed from the cultivation of millet in the north and rice in the south. Wheat, oats, barley, and lentils were also cultivated, but were less important. In the Eastern Zhou period, farming techniques were gradually improved. Irrigation, the use of organic fertilizers, and carefully planned field management increased productivity. Arable land was reclaimed from swamps, lakes, foothills, and woodlands to increase agricultural production. These developments were crucial for survival in many states that were expanding and facing difficult interstate struggles.
Contact between the states, both in war and in peace, increased. Networks of roads were built to facilitate the movement of troops, as well as for interstate commerce. Archaeological findings indicate that metal coins were circulated far beyond the regions in which they were minted, which was a testament to the well-developed transportation network of the period. Administrative and military centers gradually grew into cities with tens of thousands of residents. In the late Warring States period, several major cities, such as Chang’an and Luoyang, had hundreds of thousands of people.
The metallurgical industry progressed in the development of bronze-casting techniques. In particular, the lost-wax method reached a high level of sophistication. The practice of casting weapons and farm implements out of iron had begun during the Spring and Autumn period, at the same time that the development of irrigation works had also become widespread. Together, these advances allowed the Zhou people to vastly increase their agricultural production, which in turn stimulated economic growth. In the Eastern Zhou period, copper and iron mining became important industries. Specialization of various trades and production techniques reached such a level that active commercialization was possible, which helped create a strong urban economy. The Economy during the Zhou dynasty grew strongly as certain areas of production was integrated in to the economy.
By 40,000 years ago people could be found hunting and gathering food across most of the regions of Africa. Considered Early Africans, these Populations in different regions employed various technological developments in adapting to their different environments and climates. The most notable adaptations occurred in response to major climate changes.
- Climate Change in African Sahel (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Architecture in Africa’s Rural Settlements (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Agriculture in Africa, Agriculture-Based Continent (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Climatic Zones of Africa: An overview (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
The colonial economy was centered around isolated agricultural and mining centers in which foreign-financed and foreign-managed firms employed local labor to produce raw materials for export to Europe, North America, and Japan. Colonial administrations started most of the important large-scale farming and mining activities: for example, cotton growing in the irrigated Al Jazīrah (Gezira) region of Sudan, rubber growing on plantations in Liberia, coffee growing in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and copper mining in Zambia.
For a variety of reasons, colonial economies did not focus on developing industry to produce finished goods for local consumption. First, markets for finished goods in Africa were small. Second, mineral and agricultural raw materials, for the most part, were not processed in Africa, or were only minimally processed to ease shipment to ports. Third, since African industrialization was largely initiated by European firms, it was not in the firms’ interest to create competition for their own products in Europe. Fourth, in the case of some countries, both the colonial and later African governments kept the exchange rates of their currencies too high, making imported consumer goods more affordable.
South Africa and Zimbabwe were two distinct exceptions to this general lack of industrialization. South Africa had been administered by settlers of European descent since the early 20th century. The size and technical skill level of the settler population—combined with relative autonomy from colonial powers—supported greater economic development, making it possible for industrialization to succeed. In the case of the colony of Rhodesia (what is now Zimbabwe), the white minority regime faced world sanctions for its illegal takeover of the government in 1965, and was forced to embark on homegrown industrial development to meet its own domestic needs. At independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had one of the most developed economies on the continent, second only to South Africa.
Colonial export-oriented industries did make some positive marks on the African economic landscape. They introduced important innovations in transportation, banking, marketing, trade, and many commercial services. They also led to improvements in government administration, agricultural practices, health care, and education. However, these innovations were not intended to modernize Africa as a whole. Instead, they were primarily concentrated in and around a small number of principal ports and trade centers, which usually also served as colonial capitals. This unbalanced system gave rise to tremendous disparities between developed urban centers and the rural sector.
- Colonial Rule in Africa (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Architecture in Africa’s Rural Settlements (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- Development of the Modern Sector of the African Economy (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
The way of life in Africa’s rural settlements determines the types of dwellings built. Settled farming societies have different requirements than herding societies, which are usually nomadic. Other rural societies in Africa are based on farming, hunting, and gathering in various combinations.
Of the many types of traditional rural dwellings, relatively permanent houses grouped in villages are found only in agricultural settlements. A typical farming village consists of a number of family compounds along with structures that serve the larger community. Each family compound may have separate structures for cooking, eating, sleeping, storing food, and protecting animals at night. Structures may be round, rectangular, or semicircular. Communal structures, for holding meetings and teaching children, are located in a prominent place in the village.
The Dogon people of southern Mali cultivate grain on a plateau at the top of the Bandiagara cliffs near the Niger River. They construct villages on the steep sides of the cliffs. Their rectangular houses are built of sun-dried mud brick and stone. The roofs are thatched, and the dwellings rest on ledges along the cliffs. The Dogon store and protect their harvest in granaries that have beautifully carved wooden doors and decorative locks. Figures carved on many granary doors represent sets of male and female twins, which symbolize fertility and agricultural abundance.
The Zulu of southern Africa, who cultivate grain and raise livestock, have traditionally built houses shaped like beehives. They arrange these houses in a circular, fenced compound, and they keep their cattle in the middle of the compound. Zulu houses are made of thatch that covers a framework of wooden strips and is bound together with a rope lattice.
Nomadic herders need homes that they can easily build and take apart when they move their herds to different ground. The Masai of eastern Africa, for example, construct homes using a framework of sticks that they seal with cattle dung.
Many rural societies in Africa adorn the outsides of houses with painted designs or with relief (raised) patterns worked into a soft clay surface. The job of decorating houses generally belongs to the women. Frafra women of northern Ghana decorate the walls of houses and other buildings with geometric patterns that communicate information about the social status of a building’s owner. Ndebele women in Zimbabwe and the northeastern part of South Africa paint the mud walls of their houses with geometric patterns based on the shapes of windows, steps, and other building features and everyday objects. Traditionally, Africans have used natural clays as paints, but today brightly colored acrylic paints are popular.
- Agriculture in Africa, Agriculture-Based Continent (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
Like vegetation zones, the region of African soils is closely linked to climatic zones. Rainfall and temperature determine the growth of vegetation, which inhibits soil erosion and enriches soil with nutrients from decaying organic material, called humus. The luxuriant vegetation of tropical forest environments produces large quantities of humus, which is concentrated on the forest floor. In savanna grasslands, humus extends to a greater depth in the soil. The sparse vegetation of semi-desert and desert regions gives rise to soils with little organic content. Rainfall and temperature also determine the intensity of chemical weathering, physical weathering, and leaching—all of which affect the development of soil types.
Soil development is highly influenced by the soil’s parent material—the rock from which it is derived—and by topographic relief. Much of Africa’s soil is derived from ancient, quartz-rich rocks that produce generally infertile soils with high sand content. Soils formed in areas of younger volcanic bedrock tend to have higher clay and mineral content, and are therefore more fertile. Relief plays a major role in soil erosion, especially by water. Erosion removes topsoil from upper slopes and deposits eroded materials down-slope. These erosion and deposition processes often create a gradation of soil types along a slope. African farmers take advantage of these variations in soil type and soil fertility by planting different crops at different levels of the slope. African Soils are said to be one of the best when compared with others around the world although they have been under utilized for agricultural purposes.
African Soil Erosion and Desertification are some of the key challenges facing the continent which remains almost unresolved for years. Until recently, there was widespread consensus among scientists and policy makers that African soils were threatened by ill-advised traditional farming methods that increased soil erosion and desertification (the process in which soil dries out until almost no vegetation grows on it). Policy documents used limited, often flawed case studies to produce continent-wide generalizations in which worst-case scenarios were too often presented as typical. In reality, the nature and extent of soil erosion and desertification varies greatly throughout Africa and much of it is unrelated to human activity. For example, savanna regions are subject to wind erosion in the dry season, which is the primary cause of soil erosion in arid and semiarid environments.
The Sahel, a semiarid savanna region located to the south of the Sahara, experienced a severe drought from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. In reaction, Western scholars propagated a popular view that the Sahara was expanding year by year, relentlessly enveloping once-productive land. Further research has shown that, while soil degradation was confirmed in some areas, in many parts of the Sahel there was little evidence of degradation, and none of steady desert expansion. During the colonial era, the perception of imminent crisis led to policy initiatives designed to preserve the soil. Colonial administrators attempted to control the perceived problem of erosion by enforcing restrictions on herding and agriculture, restricting the use of fire to clear land for agriculture, and installing grass and stone barriers along slope contours. These measures were generally resented by the local African population, and they had little impact on erosion rates. Similarly, attempts to control desertification through policies such as planting shelter belts of trees and restricting nomadic herding have had limited effect.
Scientific research has demonstrated that indigenous African farming and herding practices are much less harmful to the soil than was formerly believed. Methods such as retaining farmland trees, growing crops on ridges, and inter-planting different crops densely in a single field significantly reduce soil erosion. On the other hand, modern cultivation methods—involving the use of mechanical equipment, row cropping, and weed control with herbicides—greatly increase the risk of soil loss. Similarly, problems of soil erosion and degradation are greater in areas with fenced cattle ranches than in places where traditional livestock practices are followed, with animals grazing less intensively over a very large area. African Soil Erosion and Desertification have often resulted in certain species migrating to what could be considered suitable areas within the continent.
African Agricultural Output is not where it should be considering the fact that most countries within the continent can barely feed themselves. There were encouraging trends for African agriculture in the early 21st century. With the exception of countries that faced political turmoil in the 1990s, much of Africa—including countries with large populations, such as Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe—showed impressive growth in agricultural production. Profits from agriculture rose significantly in the 1990s and outperformed the previous decade. African policy makers remain concerned about population growth outpacing the growth of food production, but current trends point toward a more optimistic scenario for Africa’s food supply. Some major factors that have been hampering African Agricultural Output are usually poor machinery, financial short comings and corruption.
Despite economic development efforts, the traditional subsistence sector is a constant in the African economy. In general, the majority of African people farm, herd livestock, fish, makes handcrafted products, and trade, their goods much as they have for hundreds of years.
Farming is by far the most important subsistence activity, and it dominates rural production in the tropical forest and tropical savanna zones of West, Central, and southern Africa. Traditional agriculture is basic and at best yields enough food and income for the household to survive. The average rural household has no access to scientifically improved seeds, farm machinery, or sophisticated methods of farm management. On most African farms, the soil must be worked with hand tools or small, animal-drawn plows. Use of artificial fertilizers is almost nonexistent. Insects and vermin are constant threats, sometimes eating away more than half of the crops. Farmers raise crops primarily to supply food for the family. However, there may be small surpluses, and these are sold to purchase other foods and essential goods.
Cottage industry employs close to one-third of the rural labor force, not counting the many farmers who also engage in this activity on the side. It is largely responsible for the local supply of clothing, footwear, farm implements, and construction materials, as well as for processed foods. This sector also produces crafts, cloth, jewelry, and decorative artifacts to sell to tourists in urban areas and at tourist attractions.
Small-scale commerce, taking place in small, often periodic, markets, is vital to people’s sustenance in Africa’s rural areas. At these markets, rural Africans sell crop surpluses and cottage industry products to traders who, in return, sell them goods such as spices, condiments, kerosene (for domestic lighting), soap, matches, batteries, clothing, and spare parts for bicycles and carts. The small-scale traders then sell the crops and manufactured products to larger-scale traders. These small-scale traders have played a crucial role in bringing the subsistence sector into the larger economy by buying farm products and making consumer goods available to the rural producer.
Migratory herding, based on extensive and frequent movement of livestock, declined in importance over most of Africa in the second half of the 20th century. The area required for migratory herding has been greatly reduced as pasturelands have been taken over for agriculture—particularly modern plantations—and wildlife reserves. Fishing is a minor subsistence activity in most of Africa because of a general scarcity of good fishing grounds and because most of the continent’s rural population lives in the interior. Traditional Subsistence Sector in the African Economy may likely remain for some years to come until a time when possibly some sort of industrial revolution would put things in their proper place.
In the tropical wet zone of Africa, occurring close to the equator in West and Central Africa and eastern Madagascar, dense natural vegetation requires periodic clearing and burning to obtain plots for cultivation. Both small-scale and plantation agriculture are practiced in the zone, but small-scale production predominates for almost all export crops as well as food crops. Major export crops include coffee, oil palms, and cacao, and important subsistence food crops include cassava, yams, okra, plantains, bananas, and legumes. In most areas, farmers grow both export crops and subsistence food crops. Most of Africa’s exports of coffee, cacao, and oil palm products come from small-scale producers in this region. In some areas of Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, plantations using modern mechanical equipment and artificial fertilizers have been established. The most notable example is the extensive Firestone rubber plantation of Liberia, which produces most of the country’s rubber crop. Other major successful commercial undertakings include coffee growing in Côte d’Ivoire and cacao production in Ghana all within the tropical wet zone of Africa.