Mongo - Economy

Gathering natural resources and foodstuffs was and still is an important subsistence activity. The Mongo harvest a wide range of products from the equatorial forest: wild fruits, vegetables, palm kernels, mushrooms, snails, and edible insects (e.g., caterpillars, termites), as well as roots and vegetation used for beverages, spices, and medicines. Products harvested from the Elaeis oil palm are especially important.

Traditionally, small animals were trapped using ropes with nooses. Larger animals, such as antelopes, boars, and elephants, were tracked and hunted by groups of men with nets, bows and arrows, and long stabbing spears. Small hunting expeditions were mounted year-round by groups of young men, and special celebrations or feasts were often marked by villagewide hunts.

By the nineteenth century, agriculture had become an important part of Mongo subsistence activities. Maize, groundnuts, and beans were introduced to Central Africa by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, augmenting the established staples of yams, bananas, oil palms, and other crops. Some foodstuffs and medicinal plants, such as sweet bananas, hot peppers, and indigenous greens, were grown in small homesite gardens established near residences. Major crops, such as yams and bananas, were cultivated in larger fields, farther away from the homestead. The Mongo practiced shifting agriculture by rotating fields. After three to five years of cultivation, new fields were cleared, and the old fields were left to be reclaimed by tropical vegetation.

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