23 Abisi Crops, Soils and Care


Agricultural Products

Abisi farmers can produce all they need for the maintenance and reproduction of their population. Among their products, cereals and beans can be kept long enough to allow the repetition of the agricultural cycle and even to produce a surplus used to maintain their society and culture.

A summary of Abisi agricultural products gives an idea of the diversity of their production.




In establishing the annual distribution of work, we get a timetable indicating that there is no overlap between the periods allocated to hunting and to agriculture, both activities mobilizing most men.




Other sectors of production are not done at the expense of agriculture: the number of blacksmiths is negligible and even tends to decrease; basket weaving and braiding are activities of women or older people who are not involved in intensive phases of soil preparation; wood work is done in the dry season; construction occurs during the period of maturation of crops; gathering, beekeeping, and farming only occupy a small fraction of the work, especially women, and children.



Seasonal patterns are divided into two main periods: the rainy season (nebↄri) from April to October and the dry season (riwun) from November to March. These two seasons are connected by transitional climatic phases.

The start of the rainy season, from April to June (u-ik) is characterized by heavy intermittent rain while at the beginning of the dry season (usamu), rains gradually cease between November to December.

There is a rigid opposition in the work cycle between agriculture at rain time and hunting at the dry time. When I wanted to discuss topics related to hunting during nebↄri I was told to wait for the dry season but talking about agriculture was all right. The period from April to July is an intense work period during which soil and seedling preparation must be made quickly.

Soils and fertilization

Abisi distinguishes many types of soils depending on whether they are used for grain culture, root culture or sterile soils. The productivity of the land depends on the use of the soils which are classified into categories that can be grouped into three functional types: soils of cultivation of grains, roots cultivation,and infertile soils.

Soil Types

1) Ubↄzↄ : rich soil of red and black earth fertile for yams

2) Ubandaraŋ red sterile soil red grass inhabited by enus spirits and not cultivated

3) Izila:high water level, near streams

4) Tijintibome: black earth fonio guinea corn millet

5) Tijinti∫ene: red earth fonio guinea corn millet

6) Udiri : red earth fonio guinea corn millet

7) It∫akpah: brown with small pebbles.. fonio guinea corn millet

8) Innaruvi : river side , very good soil but high water may take everything yam cocoyam cassava

9) Akuruk:fallows from 2-3 years up to 5-8 years until ridges disappear.

10) Ililiwaŋ : and near stream or backwater for yam and cocoyam

The basic difference is between the well-drained high ground soils /uturu/ and the humid lowland soil /ura/.


Wet soils are regenerated annually by the floods of the rainy season; other soils are well drained and can receive fertilizer or be fallowed.


Soil Preparation

Soil preparation requires clearing and cleaning.

New parcels and fields in fallow (misa), are cleared /ive ∫eridↄ/ at the end of the dry season. Trees and shrubs are cut with an axe (lijom) and put in piles on the lot.

A second cleaning /ipok tawa/ clears what is left of the remains of previous crops are cleaned (ipoktawa) and all those dried debris are burned.

A first fast hoeing is then done /mekari/ and a more precise one /iromi mignet/ (repare ridge) follows.



The main fertilizer /uteyiki/ is composed of goat feed scraps /akpé iwun/ that constitute some compost rich in nitrogen and phosphorus from secretions and urine to which can be added horse dung /adeŋ/.

Goats are put in an open shelter during the day and fed fresh grass during the wet season. At the end of the day, you can take the rest with the feces and put it on the field. Goat ashes are the goat droppings .


This material is used directly on the field while goat droppings are individually introduced into a hole with the seed. All fields receive mineral intake from ashes of burnt grasses after harvest and, in addition, the house gardens /kimarapok/ receive kitchen scraps.

Some farmers let Fulani herders park their herd on some patch of land to enrich the soil:

“The Fulani bring his cows to sleep on the farm and the next day there is manure everywhere.”

This practice was not widespread as it is not a simple symbiosis; the farmer must provide salt to cattle at a cost of about 6 Naira a large bag.

In addition, many farmers are skeptical about the usefulness of this practice involving inter-ethnic relations little considered.

Depending on fertilizer intake, soils retain a significant level of productivity for three to five years. They are then left fallow for ten years.

Abisi also uses an annual or biennial rotation of sorghum and millet crops that are grown with nitrogen-fixing plants that improve soil performance.

Crop Care

Weeding is done by women.



Girls going to weed a field


Lovely Abisi girls going to the farm for weeding


The most careful one,/usↄp/, is done by hand very carefully near the roots. It is done for yam / i∫it /, rizha /akpah/ and cocoyam /apↄn/. On guinea-corn, millet and tamba fields, fast weeding /misᴈri/is done with a scraper /ipatina) .

Abisi know the best soil for their crops, how to rotate crops when production falls, how long till it recovers its fertility. Crops are harvested with attention using sickles (uloŋdjɜ ) and knives (upat) limiting losses.

Their hoe agriculture is based on accurate technological knowledge.


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