Chapter VIII





SO far we have been concerned with the value of the harvest contributed by Nsaw women to the subsistence of the household, and the extent to which this has to be supplemented by the purchase of extra food and of such necessaries as salt, oil, meat and so on. We have also outlined in general terms the other commitments which involve a cash outlay and for which a husband assumes, as a rule, responsibility. Here we shall consider some of the main occupations from which the Nsaw derive an income, and we shall analyse for purposes of illustration some of the 16 budgets which are set out in detail in Appendix C.

The amount of quantitative data which I obtained may appear small to the economist, but even so the collection of that data made considerable inroads on the time available to me for a general survey of the life of the women. The budgets were few in number and the sample was not a random one, for the reasons already discussed in an earlier chapter. The alternative would have been to have made a random and larger sample by collecting budgets over a period of two or four weeks. On this basis, and with inquiries about general expenditure and income, an estimate could have been worked out for a full year. The course which I eventually adopted appeared to me to present definite advantages. In the first place, it enabled me to obtain, as it were, a close-up of the activities of 21 families over a period of 51 months. Secondly, the selection of the families for intensive study was made only after I had already spent some nine months in Nsaw and was in a position to form an opinion as to what was and what was not typical in terms of size of household, type of marriage (whether Christian or pagan), forms of occupation, and so forth. In some cases the generalizations based on an examination of quantitative data merely confirmed those which I had tentatively formulated on the basis of qualitative material obtained in the first tour.

Unfortunately there are no lineage heads in my sample. Even my friends in that category were reluctant to furnish details of their income and expenditure, lest it should prove a prelude to the imposition of income tax. Actually, from my knowledge of their resources, I knew that at least four of them would not have been held liable; but, as they gave me much valuable information on other matters, I did not want to endanger our friendly relationships by continuing to press inquiries after my first abortive or unsatisfactory attempts.1 In the case of two of them there was also, I think, another reason for their reticence. They were somewhat apprehensive lest any admission of having bought salt and oil might be repeated by me to their wives, who would then

1 Among the 69 men of Kimbaw, who had the title of fai or she, only 18 were assessed for income tax in the year 1947-48. Among the 18, only one - a Councillor - had a money income over £40, the rest earning from £26 to £35.

In the same year there were only 235 men of the Nsaw N.A. who were held liable for income tax, as against 9,074 who paid a poll tax of 5s. From both figures I have excluded strangers such as Hausa, Bamum, and men from Ndop. A further analysis of income in relation to occupation will be made later in this chapter, but it should be pointed out that the major source of cash for most afai is the sale of kola nuts to local traders. About 1,000 to 2,000 nuts are obtained from a tree in a good year, and these sell at approximately 1s. to 1s. 6d. a hundred. Lineage beads do not headload to Yola, where profits are much larger, since they must remain at home to look after their dependants. In fact, the disinclination of many men to become afai springs in part from the limitations which will be imposed on their freedom of movement.




intensify their demands for those commodities. They were aware that the women were particular friends of mine, and that they frequently grumbled to me about the inadequate amounts they received! But while the lack of detailed information about budgets of lineage heads is a matter for regret, it should be stressed that, in the first place, they constitute a small section of the total population of Nsaw;1 secondly, that their annual income, in so far as it is derived from kolas, raffia and a few livestock, is usually in the vicinity of £10 to £20; and thirdly, that their standard of living, in most instances, does not differ markedly from that of other men who adhere to the traditional way of life. They have a little more meat, wine, oil and firewood but, when they have met the commitments associated with their office, they have very little surplus to spend on European goods.

While, then, the number of occupations represented by my budgets is limited, the earnings derived from them are, it should be stressed, typical of the general level of income in Nsaw and indeed throughout much of the Province. The intensive analysis of budgets in this and the next chapter is intended to bring out clearly the standard of living in many Nsaw households, the small margin of profits on which both men and women work, and the ways in which limited resources are allocated to the purchase of food, tools, utensils, clothes, and to the fulfilment of social obligations. The records cover a whole year for five out of the 16 budgets, but only a little over 5 months for the remaining eleven. In the case of the latter I have made an estimate of the income and expenditure for the whole year. During the period when I myself collected the material I visited my informants on market-days in the evening when sales and purchases had been completed. From time to time during the week I made enquiries about smaller transactions in the tiny Hausa market which functioned daily. During my absence from Kimbaw in the earlier period of 1947 I arranged for two schoolboys to collect some budgets for me. One was the son of Vincent Kwangha who kept his father's budget and also that of Kengeran, an inherited wife of the fai of Djem compound. The other lad was Francis Kpuntir who had reached Standard VI at school and who recorded the budgets of his father (Lole) and of Melalia Shikiy, a woman who traded regularly in cooked food. The fifth individual was Benedict Somo, an ex-schoolteacher who kept his own accounts. I coached all three recorders for a fortnight before I left Kimbaw at the end of February 1947, and gave them written instructions. On the whole they did their work well though occasionally they neglected to note the purchase of incidental items such as tobacco and groundnuts, or gifts in kind received from kin and friends.

Particularly interesting, from the point of view of changes in the economic pattern, is the material drawn from the budgets of those Christians, who earn about the same amount of money as a fai and who spend a considerable proportion on education, clothes for womenfolk, and extra foodstuffs. At the other end of the scale I have some budgetary data for men who follow traditional crafts, such as retailing of kola nuts and thatching grass, and who earn only about 90s. per annum. This is not the minimum, as it was my impression that makers of stools, mats, bags, and baskets earn even less; but it is probably representative of the average cash income in Nsaw and other Tikar tribes. It is less typical of the forest areas where markets are on the whole poorly developed.


Except in the case of a few occupations, most Nsaw men find it necessary to eke out their main source of income with the occasional sale of plantains, and

1 Mr. W. M. Bridges in 1934 estimated that there were about 450 afai in Nsaw. I am not sure whether he included sub-lineage heads (ashe); but, on the basis of my Kimbaw figures, I would hazard a "guestimate" of between 500 and 550 afai and ashe at present.




also of avocado pears, mangoes, and oranges where these are cultivated. But, as mentioned earlier, the cash income from this type of farm produce is small, and probably does not amount to more than 10s. a year at the outside. Thus Kengeran sold 8s. I0d. worth of plantains; Vincent Kwangha, 8s. 10 1/2d. worth of plantains and pears; and Francis Lole, 8s. 9d. worth of plantains, pineapples, pears, and oranges. Many men do not make as much as 5s. from their plantain groves. Most individuals, however, keep a few fowls and dispose of from four to six in the market during a year for about 6s. to 8s. Profits from poultry should be larger than this, but very often out of a clutch of twelve only two chicks may survive owing to destruction by hawks.

Many men, if they are energetic and pressed for money, take the opportunity during the dry season to cut bundles of thatching grass and firewood; but it requires a considerable amount of strength to accumulate 50 bundles of the one and 20 of the other, and even then not all may be sold. Few men rely on these occupations as their main source of income nowadays; but, in 1934, about 1.4% of adult taxable males in Nsaw gave grass-cutting as their work, while 6.4% gave the selling of firewood.1 Small though the pickings from such transactions are, they are not to be despised when the main occupation, such as retailing of kolas locally or a small range of European articles, brings in only £2 or £3 in addition.

Skill in marketing is greatly admired in Nsaw, and men who exercise it are regarded as "clever" or as "having intelligence". The man who buys without haggling is a fool; but the man who sells at the first offer is an even bigger fool. Thrift is another quality which is esteemed, and it is recognized that not all men are equally provident. A friend of mine said one day: "Some men pick up a penny on the sale of pears; pick up a penny for bananas; they do not despise it. They must work; they must get together money. But some go to the market and do not know how to pick up the odd copper. Then they stay where they are. They are not skilled." He then went on to draw a parallel between the thrifty man who puts something aside for a rainy day and one who plants seed in the ground. "It stays there. If God agrees, then we shall eat." Boys and even girls are encouraged, at an early age, to engage in a little trade, the former with the prompting of their father, the latter with that of their mother. Young girls sell a few vegetables from their plots or brew a little beer. Boys gather windfalls from the kola trees, sell them and gradually accumulate enough to buy groundnuts which they retail (bin) at a small profit. In these enterprises they rarely receive financial assistance from their father; still less from their lineage head. But a mother's brother or mother's father often gives a boy sixpence or a shilling to set him up in trade. As far as earnings are concerned, parents expect to be informed but would consider it undignified to commandeer a few coppers, or to ascertain that the truth is always being told! On the other hand if profits are large then a father usually holds them in trust. Schoolboys, once they approach the age of puberty, trade during their holidays and are thus able to make a contribution to school fees.


As noted previously, most men work on a very small margin of profit and have, as a rule, very little ready cash in hand. But the problem of purchasing relatively expensive equipment or trade goods is met to some extent by an institution, which is called djanggi in Pidgin-English and which is an adaptation of the traditional custom whereby, in most tribes, groups of men assembled

1 Vide, W. M. Bridges, op. cit., Schedule 'F'. Only the actual number of men engaged in various occupations is given in the Report, so I have worked out the percentages myself. For the percentage of men engaged in 1934 in occupations, other than grass-cutting and firewood, see Appendix B.



E 1

from time to time to drink palm wine or mead. This convivial element has been retained; indeed, it is difficult to conceive of two Bamenda men meeting together without partaking of wine! But nowadays members of a group may also make weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments, ranging from sixpence to five and even ten shillings according to their means. Each member in turn "cooks djanggi " (naa ngwa), that is, he takes the total contribution made at a meeting, at the same time providing refreshment for the others. He pays no interest, and he uses the money for his more pressing commitments, such as housebuilding, marriage payment, the settlement of debts, and especially the purchase of trade goods such as cloth, kerosene, kola nuts, and so on. At the following meetings he is under an obligation to repay to each "cook" whatever he received from him. The number of members varies from ten to fifty and the nucleus is, almost always, men of a compound who are kin, together with other close neighbours and friends. The head or "Father" of the djanggi (ta-ngwa) is a man who is respected and. trusted, and is not always a fai. Accounts may be kept if one member is literate. There is still a considerable prejudice against women participating in this institution, on the grounds that it is unseemly for them to foregather with men to drink, and, more particularly, that they may be tempted to devote too much time to trade and recreation, and neglect their farms and home responsibilities, not least the feeding of a husband! Even Christians share these fears but there are exceptions. For example, there was a large djanggi at Mbonyaar, which met on Sundays and which admitted women, though the latter were not allowed to drink inside the house with the men, but had to be content with the small measure of wine sent to them in the courtyard. It was a very small measure indeed, and the women laughingly complained that the men "cheated" (boti) them! However, they paid their contributions, took their turn in "cooking djanggi, " and provided beer for the occasion. Usually they left it to their menfolk to look after the money or to buy cloth, since men were said to be the most competent judges in such matters.

Besides the djanggi proper there is also a type of thrift society or "bank" which is gaining in popularity. Men pay in a set sum at the beginning of each year, and this is allowed to accumulate as a reserve against emergencies. For instance, in Mbonyaar, a group of members each paid 5s. in 1945, 10s. 5d. in 1946, and 16s. in 1947.1 About four times a year most of them drew out sums, ranging from ten to thirty shillings, but were under an obligation to repay each amount at the end of two months, in addition to interest at a rate of a penny in the shilling. A fine was imposed if repayment was delayed. The club also bought each month or fortnight either a 40 lb. bag of salt or a 4 gallon tin of palm oil which was retailed in small quantities to members at less than the market price.


Before we discuss in detail the budgets of some of the men traders, something must be said about the layout of the market and the general pattern of buying and selling. From early morning on market-day there is a steady stream of people along the roads and paths leading to the village. Youths bear on their heads long cradles containing kola nuts, or bundles of firewood; others have baskets of fowls slung over their shoulders, or tug or drive a recalcitrant sheep or goat; women from the northern areas carry on their backs conical baskets filled with potatoes, or support on a walking stick a woven bag packed with

1 Records of amounts banked by members and of the price of salt and oil purchased were kept by one of the literate men of the compound. In the preamble to these accounts he stated that the purpose of the society was "for the protection of orphans, because all may be orphans some day!"


potatoes, cassava or greens. From midday until about 3 p.m. attendance reaches its peak, and the crowds are so dense that it is difficult to see the goods, although some of the more odiferous foodstuffs may be smelt from far away! As a rule, certain commodities are sold in certain parts of the market: in Kimbaw, vendors of kola nuts tend to congregate along the north-west side, while below them men from Nsungli ladle out palm oil into calabashes for a steady stream of customers. In the north-cast corner, the N.A. has constructed a meat stall where beef is examined by the Sanitary Inspector before it is sold. Behind it ten to twenty Fulani women sit with their bright yellow calabashes of butter pats and milk; while, further down the market, women of Nsaw lay out their cooked foodstuffs on plantain leaves, or keep them in baskets. Men from Ndop display their pots in another part of the market, and livestock is tethered on the outskirts by the main road. Along the sides of the market rough shelters have been erected and here squat Hausa who trade in cloth and leatherwork, tailors who treadle their machines, and vendors of tobacco or of herbs and medicines. A vast miscellany of articles is to be seen in the centre of the market: salt and groundnuts; fried termites and bush rats; sandals made from discarded rubber tyres, and lamps ingeniously contrived from milk tins and beer-bottle tops; stools and umbrellas, pipes and knives, kittens and fowls, - the catalogue is diverse and almost endless!

As might be expected, market-prices fluctuate not only during the year but even during the day. In the early morning there are always a few traders, who are anxious to be rid of their wares and who sell at a lower price in order to be free for the rest of the day. Between midday and about 4 p.m. profits are higher, and towards evening they fall again. The variation depends of course on the type of article and quantity. A bag of maize, for which 1s. 6d. is demanded at 2 p.m., may be disposed of thankfully for 1s. 2d. at 5.30 p.m.; while during the same period, 12 ozs. of cassava gruel for 1/2d. may be increased to 16 ozs. Some purchasers, eager to save a little, may postpone their transaction until the late evening, although they run the risk of obtaining poorer quality or nothing at all. The vendors, on their side, are influenced by the fact of whether their goods are perishable; or, if not, whether it is worth waiting until the next market day. Some women hesitate to go to the trouble of carrying 30 lbs. of potatoes back to their village, which may be 12 miles away, and are therefore prepared to sell for less than they hoped; others, who wish to obtain a certain amount of money for a specific purpose, shoulder their loads and return the following week. Women, who deal in perishable cooked foodstuffs, are at a disadvantage, although their children give them a joyous welcome and pounce on what is left of the bean-balls or cassava-gruel when they return to the compound in the evening.

Again, there are periods of the year when attendance falls off at the market and results in a slight lowering of prices. During the dry season many men may be away hunting, cutting thatching grass, or clearing farms. When the first spring rains come, many go to plant maize since this must be done quickly; while, at the harvest of maize and millet, the help of most members of the household is enlisted. It is on this last occasion that there is a noticeable increase in the cost of baskets which are used to bring in the grain from the fields.1 Lastly, there is the variation associated with availability; for example, on the 26th June 1945, 6 ozs. of maize flour cost one penny, and a 30 lb. bag of hulled grain cost 4s.; on the 24th October, 9 ozs. of flour were sold for a 1/2d., and 30 lbs. of grain for 1s. 6d. or 1s. 9d. Potatoes showed a similar fluctuation: in June, 1 1/2 lbs. cost 1/2d., and a bag weighing 25 lbs. cost 6d. In October, when they were more plentiful and the demand for them was less

1 The cylindrical baskets (vegati), which are used for millet, normally cost 3d. or 4d. but, just before and during the harvest, they may rise to 5d. and 6d.




owing to harvest of maize, 2 lbs. 14 ozs. went for 1/2d., and a large bag for 4d. In the earlier part of this book reference has frequently been made to changes in the price of palm oil during the year. At its cheapest it cost 2d. a cigarettecup (about 1/4 pint) in Kimbaw, at its dearest 6d.; while, for the larger quantities (4 gallons), prices ranged between 8s. and 17s. It is pointless to extend the list further; and perhaps even more unnecessary to say that the greatest change is the rise in the cost of living, which has occurred over the last ten years and which has affected the price of most commodities. Table XI below, which is based on information in a short report by the S.D.O. in 1938 and on my own data, gives some idea of the situation:



Quantity & price, Feb. 1938

Quantity & price, Feb. 1948

kolas 1000 for 4s. to 5s. 1000 for 15s. to 20s.
plantains  20 to 24 for 1d 10 to 14 for 1d
tobacco 3 bundles for 1/2d. 3 bundles for 1/2d.
goat small for 2s.; large gelt for 6s. small for 4s. 6d. to 5s.; large gelt for 12s. to 15s.



fowl 4d. to 10d. 9d. to 2s. 6d.
maize 5 lbs for 1 1/2d. 5 lbs. for 4d. to 5d.
maize flour 1 lb. for 1/2d. 1/2 lb. for 1/2d.
sweet potato 5 lbs for 1/2d. 5 lbs. for 2d.
cassava 4 1/2 lbs. for 1/2d. 4 1/2 lbs. for 1 1/2d.
cooked yams 6 lbs. for 1/2d. 6 lbs. for 3d.
potatoes 26 lbs. for 3d. 26 lbs. for 6d.
palm oil 1 gallon - 1s. 3d. 1 gallon - 3s. 3d.
salt bag (40 lbs.) 5s. 6d. bag 14s. (U.A.C . - 8s.)



One of the most important sources of income in Nsaw is the production and sale of kola nuts. In the 1934 Re-Assessment Report, Mr. W. Bridges estimated that, out of 6,728 adult taxable males, 2,339 or 34.7% were engaged in this occupation. In villages where there were many trees the percentage was even higher: 49% in Kimbaw, 58% in Mufu, 69% in Kiyan, and 73% in Meluf.1

1. Op. cit., Schedule 'F'.
The next two most popular occupations in Kimbaw in 1934 were the retailing of tobacco and the production of palm wine, each engaging some 15% of the adult taxable males. It is noteworthy that the census of 1934 revealed a tendency for the men of certain villages to specialize in certain types of work. In both Ngondzen and Ketiwum, a little over 54% produced and sold tobacco; in Nkor, Lassin, and Dom, between 55% and 68% dealt in palm wine; in Din, 56% in woven bags. Bags, mats and stools are made from the midribs of raffia, and hence are often associated with the production of wine. For example, in Djottin-Vitum, 32% of the men sold wine, 33% bags, 24% mats, and a small percentage baskets and stools.




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