Many systems of agriculture in Ancient Africa were very well developed. The culture which we have the most information about is Ancient Egypt – but it’s clear that many of the farming practices adopted by the Ancient Egyptians were shared by people all across the continent, particularly in terms of what kind of tools and machinery they used.
Two of the most important tools for farmers were their “hoe” and “sickle.” A hoe is a kind of tool used to shape the earth, turn the soil, and make it suitable for planting. Hoes were traditionally made of stone or wood, and were very important tools in the planting season.
Sickles, meanwhile, were more important to the harvest season. A sickle is a short, curved blade of wood or stone (though in Ancient Egypt, it was nearly always made of wood) which was used to cut grass, weeds, and harvest crops when they were fully grown. Although we have advanced machinery to do this for us nowadays, at the time of the Ancient Egyptians, they had no choice but to do this by hand.
Sickles were popular tools because they made the harvesting process much quicker – and, in fact, sickles were widely used across Europe as well, all the way up until the 20th century!
Another tool which was important across Africa was the hand plow. Although there is evidence to suggest that some farmers used oxen, donkeys, or horses to aid with the plowing process, most farmers would have relied on their own strength. Horses were difficult to keep and expensive to care for in the African climate, and most regular peasants wouldn’t have had access to them.
Aside from planted crops, the maintenance of tree-based fruits (such as bananas and oranges) was important to the Ancient African agricultural system. Groves of orange trees would have been planted in suitable locations (i.e, where the temperature and soil were right) to increase the amount of fruit grown, which would then be eaten by the trees’ owners, or sold for extra profit.
Aside from inland agriculture, another form of farming which gained popularity in Africa was fishing. African fishing rods were based on long, slender poles of wood. For a strong, a piece of flexible plant fiber would have been used, and a stone or wooden hook to catch the fish.
Some fishing boats were constructed to aid with this, designed somewhat similarly to canoes. Fishermen sail into the water with these boats to catch a bigger haul of fish, but the traditional method of spearfishing remained popular in Africa for some time after the invention of the fishing rod.
Spearfishing was a way of fishing that required a person to catch fish using a spear. This would have been very difficult, and required great strength and quick reflexes, so the fishing pole grew steadily more popular over time.
The development of agriculture in Africa contributed greatly to the development of trade in the continent. As the efficiency of crop production increased (i.e, as more food was grown,) surplus crops were sold to neighboring countries who were unable to produce their own food.
This food would have been exchanged for other valuable resources – wood, metal, pottery, equipment – which would be used to build houses, weaponry, and equipment. In most Ancient African empires (E.g, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire) agriculture was an important sector in the economy, and brought a lot of money to the countries with the highest production.
Which Ancient African civilization’s agricultural system do we know the most about?
– Ancient Egypt.
Name three important farming tools in Ancient Africa.
— The hoe, the sickle, and the hand plow.
What tree-based fruits were grown and tended to by Africans?
– Oranges and bananas.
Name two fishing tools in Ancient Africa.
– Spears and fishing poles.
What was spearfishing?
– A method of fishing where the fishermen would spear fish in the water.