PREFACE by Professor Daryll Forde v
CHAPTER I. The Peoples of Bamenda 1
CHAPTER II. Ecology 18
CHAPTER III. Land Tenure 29
CHAPTER IV. Methods of Cultivation 53
CHAPTER V. Labour and Leisure in Kimbaw 63
CHAPTER VI. Control of Crops 89
CHAPTER VII. Standards of Living 104
CHAPTER VIII. Kimbaw Budgets-Part 1 117
CHAPTER IX. Kimbaw Budgets-Part 2 132
CHAPTER X. Conclusions 145
APPENDIX A. Bamenda Itinerary April 1945-April 1948 155
APPENDIX B. Number of men engaged in various occupations in Nsaw, 1934 156
APPENDIX C. Budgets 157

Sketch plan of Section of Veka'akwi Area


INDEX   218


IN 1944 the International African Institute was consulted on the question of organising a field study of the peoples of Bamenda with special reference to the position of women. Its attention had first been drawn to this matter by Dr. Margaret Read, a former research Fellow of the Institute, following enquiries made of her by the Chief Commissioner, Eastern Provinces, during her visit to Nigeria as a member of the Commission on Higher Education in West Africa. The need for such research had been reported by the Cameroons Development Corporation, and shortly after a despatch was addressed by the Governor of Nigeria to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which he drew attention to conditions in the Bamenda division of the Cameroons under British mandate, where, despite considerable natural resources, there was underpopulation, and social obstacles to opportunities for economic development and educational advance were apparent. Among factors thought to be in part responsible for the situation were a very high infant mortality rate to which social factors might be contributing, and a low status of women.

The Governor transmitted with his despatch two reports, one by a lady education officer and one by the Senior Resident, Cameroons Province, in which the need for appointing more women educationalists was urged in order to assist the adaptation of a backward society to changing conditions, and in particular to assist the people in meeting the new forces which were impinging on them. The Governor pointed out, however, that educational workers could not hope for even a moderate degree of success without the assistance of a social anthropologist to provide information which would enable them to guide and assist the people aright. The first essential, therefore, was a study of the general social and economic conditions of the people themselves. He therefore requested that a grant might be made from the Colonial Research Fund to enable such investigations to be carried out.

The Colonial Social Science Research Council, to which the matter was referred, recommended after consultation with the International African Institute that direction of the research should be entrusted to the latter and a grant for this purpose was made to it from the Colonial Research Fund.

The Institute was fortunate in securing the services of Dr. Phyllis Kaberry, who had already carried out anthropological field work in North-Western Australia and in New Guinea, and had given special attention to the status of women among the peoples studied. She had held research and teaching fellowships in the Universities of Sydney and Yale and her publications included a book based on her Australian studies entitled Aboriginal Woman (Routledge, London, 1939). In January 1945 she left for West Africa and worked for an initial period of 18 months among the Nsaw and other peoples of Bamenda. Returning to England in July 1946 she presented an interim report on her findings and in January 1947 resumed her field studies for a further period until April 1948.

The present work embodies Dr. Kaberry's full report on the particular aspects of social life which she was invited to study. This is, however, provided within the framework of a comprehensive account of the social and economic life of the peoples of Bamenda. One of its most striking contributions at once to the theoretical analysis of social relations and to the factual knowledge needed by administrators is to be found in her study of the system of land rights among


the Nsaw and other peoples where the village communities are linked in a centralised political system. She shows first how the titular ownership of chiefs is, in the routine of production and consumption, traditionally quite subsidiary to de facto control by the head of a kin group, and that both are subject to strong customary obligations, breaches of which evoke opposition, non-co-operation and defection that are held to be morally justified. She shows too that, though in relation to the rest of the tribe and the chief, land is regarded as held by the men of a lineage under the authority of their head, yet in the domestic context women, as wives of these men, exercise real control over land use by virtue of their rights as producers over the crops they grow. Any proposals or actions directed towards changes in the allocation and use of land or in farming techniques must reckon with this series of rights which are at each level limited by moral standards and practical restraints.

Dr. Kaberry reaches her more general conclusions, however, after a vivid presentation of the daily life and manifest attitudes that she observed during her long residence in Bamenda villages. The reader, whether scholar, administrator or layman, will appreciate both her account of actualities of life in the Bamenda highlands today and her study of the cultural forces, traditional and new, that underlie them and are helping to shape the future.


Director, International African Institute.


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