Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Fali are farmers and hunter-gatherers. For centuries they have known how to utilize the mountains to grow the plants that constitute their basic foods—sorghum ( Andropogom shorgom ) and small millet ( Pennisetum pennicellatum )—alternating with mixed crops such as beans ( Phaseolus sp. ), guinea sorrel ( Hibiscus sabdanfa ), sesame ( Saesamum sp. ), and peanuts ( Arachis hypogea ), to which are added numerous cucurbitaceous plants (melons, pumpkins, and so forth). When the different species of millet ( titu ) were grown primarily on a mountain slope, among piles of stones or on terraces, the other plants were cultivated around the houses.
Since they have moved into the piedmont region, however (between 1963 and 1980), the Fali, on both plain and plateau, have been able to plow land, which has made it possible for them to grow Chinese yams, taro ( Colocasia antiquorum ), sweet potatoes ( Ipomea sp. ), and even manioc ( Manihot utilissima ), although only in small quantities. Pimento ( Capsicum fastigiatum ) and okra ( Hibiscus esculentus ) stalks; some baobabs ( Adansonia digitata ), the leaves and fruits of which are edible; and papaya trees ( Carica papaya ) constitute the immediate vegetable environment of every dwelling. In addition to these types of food plants, the Fali grow others of utilitarian interest: cotton ( Gossypium sp .); indigo ( Indigofera tinctoria ), for dyeing; euphorbias ( E. kamerunica and E. hispida ), for hunting poisons and religious medicines; cactus vine ( Vitis quadrangularis ), a sacred plant; anona ( Anona senegalensis ); and esthetic flame trees and bougainvilleas of recent introduction.
Nowadays, on the plain, the Fali are beginning to farm large areas. Use of the hoe is diminishing little by little in favor of the plow drawn by oxen. Traditional mixed crops are giving way to single-crop farming, with fallow no longer practiced for the basic food crops (millet and peanuts) or for the only income-producing crop that influences economic life, cotton. Cotton gives the Fali access to a market economy by allowing them to obtain money. Unfortunately, the clearing of land that necessitates that the farmer work farther and father away from his home has produced a seminomadism that has disrupted traditional arrangements while contributing greatly to the destruction of an already precarious ecological condition.
Hunting activities have now diminished. Antelopes, warthogs, and all large game—from panthers to servals—are still hunted with bows and arrows poisoned with Strophantus. Medium-size game (such as porcupines, rabbits, and wildcats) is hunted individually, with slings, sticks, or boar spears and dogs. Traditional traps—ditches, snares, and traps with radiating sharp points—as well as wolf traps of European origin are commonly used, as are locally made guns (although prohibited). The diet is also enriched with products derived from the raising of goats, sheep, and chickens, and, less commonly, with meat from a butcher shop and dried fish bought at one of the local markets. In general, the Fali are in satisfactory medical condition, with no alimentary problems.
Trade. Fali involvement in trade is extremely minor; it consists of the sale of cotton through the Sodecoton Society and millet and peanuts on the markets of villages and neighboring cities (Garoua, Gashiga, Guider, and Dembo). Necessities (fabrics, household utensils) are then purchased, as are many gadgets.
Industrial Arts. Exterior commercial exchanges rarely include goods of local manufacture. Smiths, who belong to individual clans, make weapons and tools out of used iron because ore-smelting workshops no longer exist. They make daggers, arrowheads, hoes, and scythes, mostly on a to-order basis. Smiths also repair objects of European origin, in particular bicycles and plows.
The Fali are not carvers or sculptors, except for making wooden dolls of ithyphallic aspect, which are decorated with glass beads and cowries. The gift of such a doll to a girl constitutes an engagement to be married. Another esthetic element made by the Fali is the man's loincloth, a kind of rectangular apron that extends from waist to knees, made from strips of cotton sewn together. The front part is embroidered with colored threads, which form decorative geometrical motifs that also have the value of a blazon. The posterior part, dyed with indigo, is often ornamented with glass beads and cowries. To these products can be added numerous pottery objects, often spangled with mica. The attractiveness of the body is very important to the Fali, which explains the place still occupied today by ornaments, bracelets, and necklaces, all of which are worn by men as well as by women.
Division of Labor. Sexual division of tasks is not extremely marked in agricultural labor. Perhaps this is because each woman may cultivate for her own profit a parcel of land on which she herself does all the farming work. Since the introduction of harnessed-animal labor, which is reserved for men, the woman's job has become less important. All building is done by men, except the digging of earth used as mortar; men also spin, weave, make baskets, and work on hides. To women befalls the making of all clay objects, the trimming of the stones used to crush millet and peanuts, the care and training of small children, and all household tasks. Children take care of the animals. All participate in the drudgery of carrying water and making emergency repairs to the house.
Land Tenure. The ground belongs to the Genies; humans, who came on earth afterward, are only life tenants. Nevertheless, each village possesses a certain territory in its own right, as do the clans or segments of clans that constitute its population. The lands on which the sacred enclosures of the different clans are erected can in no case be given away by others. The clan priest is their jealous guardian. Upon the death of the head of a household, his real assets (land under cultivation, planted trees) and his possessions both immovable and movable (dwellings and their contents) are transmitted from father to son by primogeniture, or from uncle to nephew; however, the wives and unmarried daughters of the dead man can continue to use them. Disputes are traditionally settled under the authority of the head of the village, who is the keeper of the law.