Zande - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In western Zande country, cassava has displaced the former main food staple, eleusine millet. Maize, rice, sorghum, sweet potatoes, peanuts, squashes, okra, legumes, greens, and bananas are grown in fields and gardens. Goats have now been added to the traditional domestic animals, dogs and chickens. The diet is supplemented by the game men hunt and the fish women catch. In the dry season, termites are eaten as a delicacy.

In colonial times, traditional patterns of shifting cultivation were disrupted by cotton growing and other economic schemes and consequent resettlement. Hunting became less important, but it is still practiced away from the main roads. A number of new activities generated cash income. Some men worked for wages on government projects; tobacco was grown as well as cotton, and some craft products were sold.

Since independence, coffee has become an important cash crop in western Zandeland, and in many areas some cotton is still grown. Roads have everywhere deteriorated, however, making it more difficult to market crops. Some villages off the main road remain virtually self-sufficient, buying "luxury items" such as manufactured soap, cloth, and kitchen utensils with money from the sale of subsistence-crop surpluses, any local cash crop, game, craft work, palm wine, or cassava spirits.

Industrial Arts. The Zande have long been known as expert blacksmiths, potters, and wood carvers; many of their techniques were borrowed from the Mangbetu. A few smiths still operate as nearly full-time specialists, but most of their work consists of repairing blades and tools; iron smelting has ceased. Zande still make pots, carve wooden utensils, and weave baskets and mats.

Trade. Markets are a comparatively recent introduction but are increasingly relied upon as more Zande live in or near towns, and self-sufficiency decreases.

Division of Labor. Subsistence cultivation was and remains the province of women, who also prepare and cook food and make palm wine and cassava spirits. Men build and maintain traditional homesteads, hunt, and practice the various crafts; they are also, where applicable, the wage earners. Commoners formerly provided labor in the extensive eleusine plantations that enabled kings to feed large numbers of retainers and visitors at court.

Land Tenure. The homestead and its surrounding gardens and fields long remained the main landholding unit; homesteads were separated from each other by considerable stretches of bush, which made it easy for them to shift their locations and for a younger kinsman to set up his own near that of the lineage head. Modern resettlement has disrupted this pattern. Cultivable areas are, in Sudan at least, subject to artificial limitation: married sons often have to reside some distance from the paternal homestead.


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