ONDO is one of the most south-eastern of Yoruba kingdoms and though its capital, Ode Onde (commonly called Ondo), is only 40 miles from Ile Ife the kingdom exhibits characteristics in its social and political structure which differentiate it sharply from its northern neighbours. Ondo may however have more in common with Akure, Idanre and Owo, all lying to its east.
The present boundary of Ondo District coincides with that of the traditional Ondo kingdom and of the modern Ondo Divisional Council. The area of the District is approximately 1,600 square miles, giving an average density of nearly 70 persons per square mile, though the northern part of the District is more closely settled while the forested south is sparsely populated.
Ode Onde is situated among picturesque granitic outcrops at the broken southern edge of the Yoruba upland mass. The country falls southwards towards Agbabu, the port of Ondo. With a rainfall of over 60 inches a year and a comparatively short dry season Ondo is heavily forested. North and west of the capital cultivation has largely destroyed this forest except on the frontiers with Ife and Ilesha, but south of Ode Ondo vast areas of almost uninhabited land have been demarcated as forest reserves. In the forested area, land is cultivated for a single crop cycle of one to three years and then left fallow for as long as twenty years; nearer the capital the fallow period is from five to ten years. Clearing the land is the work of men, but a unique Ondo feature is that women will often manage their own farms, doing the planting, weeding and harvesting of their crops, having got their male relatives (and not necessarily their husbands) or labourers to clear the bush for them and make heaps.
The population of Ondo District is 110,000 persons, of whom 99,000 are Yoruba; the remainder include 5,000 Ibo -- mainly in timber camps -- and 2,000 Urhobo -- oil palm licensees. The population of Ode Onde was enumerated as 36,000 persons, with Ile Oluji (9,000) and Oke Igbo (6,700) the next largest towns. The census did not distinguish between the subordinate Ishan towns and the farm hamlets of Ode Onde and other large towns. But by using tax lists I would estimate the sociological population of Ode Onde to be 75,000, of Ile Oluji and Oke Igbo 12,000 and 7,000 respectively, and of the Ishan and other small towns to be 15,000 persons. (The term Ishan denotes the small towns lying immediately south of Ode Onde; there is some doubt whether Odigbo and Araromi-Obu are included, but Epe is certainly not among them.)