Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The economy is essentially one of the hoe farming of cereals (sorghum, pennisetum [pearl millet], maize), together with some yams, especially in the southern areas that are occupied by migrants. In addition, people grow squashes, peppers, beans (including Bambara beans), groundnuts, and a little rice. Some of this produce is sold in the local markets, especially sorghum in the form of beer. Most compounds also possess a herd of cows, and some sheep, goats, guinea fowl, and chickens, which are mainly killed as sacrifices to be distributed.
Industrial Arts and Trade. Lobi women produce a certain amount of gold, which finds its way into the hands of Dyula traders. Associated with earlier gold workings, it has been suggested, are the ruins of stone houses. Since the advent of colonial rule, the relative peace that it brought about and the cheaper iron tools that it provided have led to increased production, evidence of which can be seen in the markets. That increase is also true for livestock. Along with wage labor (performed either locally or as migrants), these developments have increased purchasing power. Whereas little was imported earlier except salt, now large amounts of cloth are brought in, and other manufactured objects, such as matches, bicycles, transistor radios, and household utensils, are used in considerable quantities. Local craft production consists of iron implements, brass bangles and other ornaments, musical instruments, some wood carvings, and woven mats.
Today migration—both of the uneducated, seeking work as laborers, and of the educated, who generally work in the towns—is frequent. The age of migrants is now much lower than formerly, and the duration of their absences is much greater. The result is that larger numbers of houses are inhabited by old men, women, and children who have to carry out the agricultural work without the help they would have received from the migrants. Thus, the sexual division of labor has been altered. The south, however, is beginning to lose some of its attraction as the international economy affects the recruitment of labor, potential recruits are frightened by tales of AIDS.
The LoDagaa (including the Lobi) were not themselves traders (except in the state of Wa), but major north-south trade routes of Dyula and Hausa merchants ran through the area from the forest to the Sahel.
Division of Labor. Farming was mostly done by men, but women helped with the planting and the harvesting. In some places, women would organize men to farm for a friend by brewing plenty of beer. Women cultivated soup vegetables, collected forest produce, carried loads, gathered firewood, fetched water, extracted oil, and prepared food and beer. Grinding grain, in particular, was a lengthy process. Their workload is now changing as a consequence of the introduction of wells and mills. Men carried out the heavy agricultural work, looked after livestock, and hunted. Both sexes took part in house building during the dry season.
Land Tenure. Land tenure took the form of a hierarchy of rights distributed within the lineage. At one level, land was "owned" by the wider patrilineage, and if any land was not being farmed, other members had a claim to use it. Use rights were exclusive and more important where land was scarce or especially valuable (because of water). Where population density was low, it sufficed to approach the local Master of the Earth, who would perform a simple sacrifice.