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Edo Women

Economy Of Ancient Edo Culture

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By Ambrose Ekhosuehi (Last update 25/09/2017)

Economy of Ancient Edo culture was the administration of the material resources for the management of an individual household and the society.

The main sources of monetary income were rubber, cocoa, palm products and timber. Extensive plantations of rubber, cocoa, coconut palms and oil palms were owned by individuals.

The typical land-holding unit was the village, though in many cases no boundaries between the territories of different villages were recognized. Individuals and kin groups had no permanent rights over particular tracts of land.

The cultivation of permanent crops had however, brought about some changes in the traditional pattern of land rights. Any person may plant permanent crops on the land of his community and cannot be disturbed so long as the crops remain there, but theoretically, he acquires no permanent rights in the land itself. Permanent crops can be alienated by the owner by sale, pledge or mortgage, though in theory, the land on which they were grown was not involved in the transactions.

Hunting and where possible, fishing were subsidiary economic pursuits. The collection of wild bush products, snails, mushrooms, honey, tortoises etc were in the hands of women.

Goats, sheep, dogs and fowls were ubiquitous. Most of the important indigenous crafts were in the hands of special ward guilds. There were guilds of blacksmiths, brass smiths, bronze casting, wood and ivory carvers, leather workers, weavers of special embroidered cloths, drum makers, canes and baskets weavers.

Most villages have markets which belong exclusively to them or are shared with one or more neighbouring villages. There are in addition a number of large markets which supply the towns with food stuffs. All markets were held every four (4) days. Women handle all kinds of foodstuffs and other native products, while both males and females engage in the trade of imported goods.

Early European visitors to Benin, the Portuguese about the fifteen century, recorded that from time to time columns of porters on their way to the coast, had on their heads heavily loaded with goods, would see the white staff of the officials at the head of the procession, and stand aside to let the travelers pass by.

“Everything had to be carried on heads. Wheeled transport was unknown any where in the tropics. Every two or three miles the track opened out into a village, where there was often a market being held”.

Behind the villages were the farms clearings hacked and burnt. The red earth soil was turned over, the yams, cocoyams and plantains grown for a few years till the soil was exhausted”
“Then another clearing would be made, the forest hacked down, the undergrowth burnt and new plots planted. The old clearing would be left perhaps for centuries to be covered again by the forest. At one time or another almost all the hundreds of square miles of dark, hostile-looking forest had been cleared in this way”.

“It was a market day at one of the village on the road and the travelers found themselves accompanied by men and women filing onto the pathway along the tiny tracks. They carried on their heads trays of yams, bunches of plantains, all sorts of vegetables, green and red peppers, squashes, pumpkins, bitter leaf, cocoyams and okra”.

A bunch of palm nuts. The palm-nut was one day to replace gold, ivory, cloth as an object of trade. (hence in Oguega oracle, Ohughitan, Ighitan-ohu, brought the aguement of the spirit world-Erinmwi and the mundane world-Agbon, while the spirit world fought to gain the palm fond-omen, the mundane world fought to gain the sugar-cane, ukhuere, ohugitan o re o si ohon ne erinmwin vbe agbon, vbene erinmwin nea ghakhon ye omen, agbon kei ghakhon ye ukhuere”.

The kernels from the palm-nuts were crushed to give rich oil useful for cooking. The husks would make a lower grade of oil. Nowadays palm oil can be used to make among other things, soap, margarine and ice- cream”

In the pots which some of the women carried was the palm oil extracted from the crushed kernels, rich brown, syrupy stuff, good and wholesome for cooking and also used to rub the body so that the skin remained soft and glittering. Other women carried the sap palm wine from the palm trees, drained from cuts in the trunk by men who specialized in the job. Some men carried on their heads trays of kola-nuts. These split neatly into parts and perhaps, for this reason were a symbol of friendship offered and shared wherever people met.”

A few fishermen had come right up from the coast with loads of dried fish which they sold. In the markets there were deer, antelopes, bush pigs, porcupines, snails, tortoise brought by the hunters and by the children”

The people fed well on foods as good as the meat for building their bodies, and quantities of green vegetables. The goats, chickens, dogs and sheep’s wandered about the villages and were rarely killed, except during religious ceremonies”.

The people wore knits of cotton and might throw a kind of cloak across their shoulders. The economy of ancient Edo Culture were remarkable worldwide as the way was thronged with men and women, buying and selling and bargaining. In the booths about the market place, the weavers, basket-makers, blacksmiths, doctors, potters, mat-makers and carpenters were at work, while the local nobility held courts and settled arguments with the authority of the Oba of Benin

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