Recounting his childhood as one of the Igbo people of Southeast Nigeria, author Francis O.C. Nwonwu writes in detail about the traditional agricultural production in that area in “olden days.” Many of the new generation, he notes, have abandoned traditional practices in farming in favor of modern technology and urban living. Therefore, he believes that someone needs to document that wealth of knowledge for posterity.
In doing so, the author describes the community’s method of selection of land and planting material, land preparation, planting, tending, harvesting and marketing the common agricultural products, including: yams, cocoyam, cassava, maize, vegetables, palm and bananas. In that culture, he notes, the people kept chickens, goats and a few sheep, mainly for household use or to slaughter at festivals. Most farm skills were designated as feminine or masculine. This system of farming and applying native knowledge (including identification of poisonous plants), he believes, contributed to the natives’ longevity. “Home spun” proverbs added spark to their daily routine of farm life.
Nwonwu explains the elders most often shared information with only the immediate family or close relatives. They did this through practical and private demonstrations, rather than theoretical instruction. To avoid the risk of divulging agricultural secrets to outsiders, they never documented this indigenous knowledge (IK) in writing, which would have given away the family’s intellectual property right.
This book challenges major policy makers to integrate the two worlds of IK and modern technology to benefit those farmers who lack resources. It is well organized and well written, though in more detail than necessary. (Readers don’t really need to know the details of climbing a palm tree, for example, or of palm kernel processing to understand this agricultural system.) Because the information is so unique, the potential audience is limited and highly specialized. Such an audience might include rural sociologists at universities, agronomists doing research in third world countries or agricultural missionaries of these countries.
Also available as an ebook.