Population Growth and Agricultural Change in Africa

By B. L. Turner; Goran Hyden et al. | Go to book overview

7 Agricultural Expansion, Intensification, and Market Participation among the Kofyar, Jos Plateau, Nigeria

Robert McC. Netting, Glenn Davis Stone, and M. Priscilla Stone

Looking north from the rolling savanna plains of the Benue Valley in the Nigerian Middle Belt, the Jos Plateau escarpment is an abrupt wall rising to elevations of over 1,000 m and pocked with the cones of extinct volcanoes. The cultural ecology of this area is as distinctive as its topography. A large number of small ethnic groups with different languages, social organizations, house types, and costumes traditionally occupied adjoining territories of 300 to 800 km2 in the hills and on a narrow band of well-watered oil palm land at the foot of the escarpment ( Ames 1934). Some of these groups, such as the Kofyar, lived at densities of 35 to over 200 / km2, practicing intensive, permanent cultivation on terraced, manured homestead farms. Their dispersed homesteads, each in its own field of grains, tubers, and tree crops with stall-fed livestock, formed hamlets and villages that remained politically autonomous. The folk, whom the British colonialists called "hill pagans," were never incorporated into the Jukun or Moslem Hausa city states that dominated much of the rest of northern Nigeria.

The Kofyar homeland (fig. 7.1) on the southern margin of the Jos Plateau (9° N, 9° 15' E) includes a ridge system fingering south between the Shemankar and the Dep River valleys and also the plains fringe village areas of Doka, Merniang (Kwa and Kwang), Doemak (Dimmuk), and Kwalla (Kwolla). The base of the escarpment is about 300 m, (1,000 feet) above sea level. The entire area of approximately 492 km2 (190 mi2) had a population of 55,000 in 1952 and 73,000 in 1963 ( Netting 1968: 111). Like many of their neighbors such as the Hill Yergam, the Montol, the Tal, the Angas, the Mwahavul (Sura), and the Eggon, the Kofyar

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