An African Village

After Asia, Africa is the largest Continent and it consists of more than thirty-five independent countries. Its northern parts have had relations with Europe and Asia for many centuries but very little was known about other parts till the middle of the 19th century. No wonder, it was called the "Dark Continent" once.
The village life anywhere in the world is closely associated with agriculture. So is a village in Nigeria which is mainly an agricultural country. Nigeria is the largest country of West Africa and is the most thickly populated of all the African countries. Most of its inhabitants are farmers who live in villages. A great part of Nigeria is covered with a dense forest which thins out into bush in the north. The bush consists of scattered trees with heavy undergrowth in the form of thick bushes and grass. The farmersí settlements or villages are scattered in the bush where they cultivate the land.
These villages are different from our villages. A Nigerian village may consist of a dozen to about three dozen huts. These huts are separated from one another by cultivated patches of land. Since the huts are not situated close together, there are no streets or lanes. They are joined by bush paths which may lead to other villages in the same bush area.
Formerly a farmer's hut was a single room. It was built very simply. Thick branches of trees were stuck in the ground in a large circle. These branches were joined at the top and bound firmly together. Thus a cone-shaped room was made. The spaces between the branches were filled up with straw, and the roof was also thatched with a thick layer of straw, grass, reeds, or palm-leaves. A narrow opening was left for entrance on the side toward the sun. Now, bigger and better huts are built and more modern building methods and materials are used. A farmer's house may now have two or more rooms. It is built round a compound. Some of the rooms have four walls with a door opening on to the courtyard, while others have only three walls with a verandah. The walls are made of wood and are plastered with mud. The roof is still thatched with grass, reeds or palm-leaves. Some of the houses are circular in shape while others may be square or rectangular.
The courtyard of the house is the centre of all activities. Womenfolk work and cook food, and the children play there. There is little furniture in these homes. The people sleep on mats spread on mud-plastered floors. All household pots and pans are earthenware, though tin and aluminium utensils have also found their way into these homes.
Since electricity has not reached these remote villages, the bush-dwellers still use wood for lighting and heating purposes. A large pile of wood is lighted in the middle of the courtyard which gives them light and protects them from cold, mosquitoes and wild beasts. Rain water is stored in large ponds during the rainy season and is used for drinking as well as for other needs.
Close to the farmer's dwelling is a patch of land for growing food crops which include plantains, potatoes, yams, groundnuts and pepper. Usually, women look after the food crops while men tend the cash crops like oil-palms and cocoa trees. The fruit of oil-palm is boiled and pressed. It gives oil which is filled in drums and is exported to other countries. Similarly, the fruit of cocoa tree yields beans which are ground into powder from which chocolate is made. Cocoa beans and powder are also a major export of Nigeria.
One thing that is common in our villages and which we shall miss in an African village is the cattle. In many parts of Africa, farmers cannot rear cattle on account of a kind of fly whose sting kills the cattle and causes sleeping sickness among human beings. In the absence of cattle, the farmer has to plough the fields with his hands, carry load to the market and walk long distances. He may, however, keep a goat for milk, and poultry for eggs.
This picture is not complete. It can never be complete because the African village is always changing and has already changed much. The bush-dwellers are being introduced to the modern facilities of transport and communications. Once their small villages are linked by road with towns and cities, they will soon see buses and cars, electricity and tube-wells, radios and televisions, schools and hospitals coming to their villages.

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