Rukuba - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The staple crops of the Rukuba are fonio ( Digitaria exilis and D. iburua ), sorghum, and late millet, the proportion varying from village to village, according to the quality of soils. Eleusine millet and sesame are also grown in far lesser quantities. Several species of yam, sweet potatoes, and cocoyams ( Colocasia ) are important crops. Crop rotation is complicated. The main cereals are grown on bush farms; sorghum is planted first, for a year or two, followed by late millet for a year, and by fonio. The land lies fallow the third and fourth years, but this period may last longer. In manured fields and gardens, everything can be grown according to household needs. The Rukuba also plant peppers, okra, cucurbits, Kaffir potatoes, spinach, red sorrel, beans, climbing beans, groundnuts, Bambara nuts—all told about twenty-five species. Groundnuts were introduced in the 1920s and cassava in the 1950s. The former is mainly a cash crop; however, any of these crops can be sold to feed the permanent population of the urban and mining camps. Every compound has several goats (needed for ritual slaughter), dogs (for hunting), and chickens (for sacrifices); sheep are not widely kept. Some of these animals are also sold. Horses were numerous in the 1920s; every compound owned one stallion for hunting purposes. The prevalence of horses has now drastically diminished. The Rukuba do not keep cattle, nor do they cultivate textile fibers, given that they formerly went entirely naked, except for a raffia penis sheath for the men and two bundles of leaves for the women. Hunting, which is culturally important, does not add significantly to the diet. Only those living along rivers fish; it is an occasional activity with no economic importance. Milk is not consumed, and eggs are almost never eaten.

Industrial Arts. Formerly, the Rukuba were noted iron smelters, but smelting disappeared relatively soon after the arrival of the British. A number of blacksmiths are still operating. Female potters make domestic utensils, which are sometimes sold to neighboring ethnic groups.

Trade. There was a small amount of trade with neighboring peoples. Imports were not necessary, except for salt, which came from Zaria Emirate through the intermediary of adjacent ethnic groups. Markets were unknown until the British introduced them. Eastern Rukuba go directly to the Jos main market to trade but attend the local markets to drink sorghum beer.

Division of Labor. Men and women both perform agricultural work, but the men do the heaviest part of the hoeing. Both sexes cultivate the same plants, but women specialize in groundnuts, Bambara nuts, sweet potatoes, sesame, eleusine millet, and most pulses. Men cut firewood, but women carry it home. All meals, except ritual ones, are prepared by women. Men do all husbandry and hunting. Women fish with small nets; men trap fish. Women do all basketry; men plait sleeping mats and beer filters and craft all leatherwork, such as baby carriers and sheaths for swords and knives. Mortars, pestles, wooden seats, and wooden spoons are carved by part-time specialists, of which there are only few. Blacksmithing, in spite of its high prestige, was—and still is—a part-time occupation. Soothsayers and local medicine men also practice agriculture.

Land Tenure. Land passes from father to son(s), women being excluded from land inheritance because they work on farms allotted to them by their husbands. Patrilineal people tend to remain together at the same location generation after generation; if a man has too many sons, land will be sought from remote patrilateral kin whose family is depleted. Land can also be borrowed on a short- or long-term basis—or even bought, from neighbors who have enough farms.

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