Igbo - Economy
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence farming characterizes agriculture among traditional Igbo people. The chief agricultural products include yams, cassava, and taro. Other important subsidiary crops include cocoyams, plantains, maize, melons, okra, pumpkins, peppers, gourds, and beans. Palm products are the main cash crops. The principal exports include palm oil and, to a lesser extent, palm kernels. Trading, local crafts, and wage labor are also important in the Igbo economy. High literacy rates among the Igbo have helped them obtain jobs as civil servants and business entrepreneurs since Nigeria gained independence in 1960.
Industrial Arts. The Igbo blacksmiths of Awka are renowned for their ironsmithing. Men's wood carving and women's pottery and patterned woven cloth are of very high quality, and Igbo carpenters can be found all over Nigeria. The stylized character of Igbo masks consists of figures with beak noses, slit eyes, and thin lips.
Trade. The Ikwo and Ezza in the Abakaliki Division of Ogoja produce a substantial surplus of yams for trade. Women dominate rural retail-market trade. Trading is a major social and economic function of women in traditional Igbo society. Women engage in all sorts of economic activities to make money to purchase the essentials they need. They make mats and pottery and weave cloth. Women do most of the petty trade, which is very active. The manufacture and trade of pottery are almost exclusively the domain of women. Igbo also process palm oil and palm kernels, which they market with the surplus crops from their farm stock, and generally monopolize the sale of cooked foods. They mine and sell salt.
Division of Labor. There is a sexual division of labor in the traditional setting. Men are mainly responsible for yam cultivation, and women for other crops. Usually, the men clear and prepare the land, plant their own yams, cut stakes and train the yam vines, build the yam barns, and tie the harvest. The women plant their own varieties of yam and "women's crops," which include cassava, cocoyams, pumpkins, and peppers. They also weed and harvest the yams from the farm. With regard to palm products, the men usually cut the palm fruit and tap and then sell the palm wine. They also sell palm oil, which the women prepare. In general, women reserve and sell the kernels.
Land Tenure. Most farmland is controlled by kinship groups. The groups cooperatively cultivate farmland and make subsequent allocations according to seniority. To this end, rights over the use of land for food cultivation or for building a house depend primarily on agnatic descent, and secondarily on local residence. It is Igbo custom that a wife must be allocated a piece of land to cultivate for feeding her household.