Hausa - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Agriculture is the main economic activity. Grain is the staple diet, including Guinea corn, millet, maize, and rice. The Hausa also grow and eat root crops and a variety of vegetables. Cotton and peanuts are processed and used locally, but part of the harvest is exported. The Hausa practice intercropping and double-cropping; their main implement is the hoe. The Cattle Fulani provide the Hausa with meat, yogurt, and butter.

Most men also practice a second occupation; ascriptive and ranked, these include aristocratic officeholder, scholar, Islamic cleric (imam), artisan, trader, musician, and butcher. As good Muslims, the urban women are in seclusion (rural women much less so), and therefore dependent upon their husbands for their maintenance; they are economically active from behind the compound walls, however, primarily in order to finance their daughters' dowries. Their work, which includes sewing and selling prepared food and jewelry, is an offshoot of their domestic persona.

Industrial Arts. There are full-time specialists only where there is an assured market for craft products. Men's crafts include tanning, leatherworking, saddling, weaving, dying, woodworking, and smithing. Iron has been mined, smelted, and worked as far back as there are Hausa traditions. Blacksmiths have a guildlike organization, and many are hereditary.

Trade. Trade is complicated and varied. Some traders deal in a particular market, as distinguished from those who trade in many markets over a long distance. This dual trade strategy, augmented by the contributions of the Cattle Fulani, enabled the Hausa to meet all of their requirements, even during the nineteenth century. The markets are traditional to Hausa society and carry social as well as economic significance; male friends and relatives meet there, and well-dressed marriageable young women pass through, to see and be seen. The Hausa differentiate rural from urban settlements in terms of the size and frequency of the markets.

There is also customary exchange that takes place outside of the market. Gift exchanges are practiced at life-cycle celebrations such as childbirth, naming, marriage, and death; other exchanges are framed by religion (alms, tithes, fixed festivals) and politics (expressing relations of patronage/clientage).

Division of Labor. Hausa society traditionally observes several divisions of labor: in public administration, it is primarily men who may be appointed, although some women hold appointed positions in the palace. Class determines what sort of work one might do, and gender determines work roles. When women engage in income-producing activities, they may keep what they earn. Because of purdah, many women who trade are dependent upon children to act as their runners.

Land Tenure. The rural householder farms with his sons' help; from the old farm, he allocates to them small plots, which he enlarges as they mature. New family fields are cleared from the bush.

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