20 Introducing Abisi Cultural Economic History



Man playing Idom : percussion on  iron hoe during Bori ceremony. The two faces of economy, from material production to spirituality.

Today, economy is about making money. Some even think that without money, there is no economy.

In fact, economics is about resources and entrepreneurs, people who can make a living by using ideas, natural resources and tools.

Abisi Economic History starts as soon as the “Sitting Friends” began to transform Abisi Hill from an inhabited place to a human settlement.

They developed a Hoe Agriculture Economy.

Their basic mode of subsistence was agricultural, using large iron hoes to till their fields, cultivating a wide variety of domesticated plants, practicing fallowing to maintain soil fertility and depending on rain to provide water for their crops.

Their agricultural production was able to sustain their community because they cooperated together to make it work.

They had rules to access land and raw materials, they knew how to organize work schedules, they could push people to increase their work well beyond their substance needs.

They could even deal with the adverse risk effects of poor rainfall by involving their ideas about the role of ancestors and of the “rain father”!

Their economy was embedded into their kinship institutions: fathers and sons or brothers, wives, mothers and daughters, neighbors and in-laws. But also in work and age groups.

Their “economic input” was motivated by many incentives: pride of being a successful family with many children and plenty of grain reserves, pride of being a praised hoers and pride of being able to give generous bride service to marry many women.

Even with all these economic assets at their disposal, Abisi never lived in autarky (independent) they relied on bartered products with their neighbors and imported many goods.

Their economy changed from this mostly self-substance economic model to a peasant economy when they had to pay tribute to the Zaria State.

That is when political control started to dominate their production. Zaria relied on cheap slave work and easy gains in resources by threatening smaller communities of military annihilation.

But the British colonial economy transformed these relations into a wider market economy where money was gradually introduced with the help of shell money and small metal pieces. New taxes were imposed in favor of the colonial administration,

In 1973, Pound, Shilling, and Pence had become Nairas and money was there to stay.

Local market places were finally accepted after years of resistance.


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