AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES IN ITAK CLAN
This research work will dwell on agriculture and the changes that has taken place in Itak clan in Ikono Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State from the pre-colonial to the colonial era. The project will also focus attention on the impact of agriculture on the economy of Itak clan in the colonial era.
Agriculture as acknowledged by many authorities is one of the oldest occupation of man the world over. Its practices and innovations have been lately revolutionized by science and technology. The term, “agriculture” is taken from the Latin word “ager” meaning field and “culture” meaning cultivation. Agriculture is so significant in the life of man that it and cannot be ignored as it builds and sustains the economy by providing food and raw materials for the society.
Itak pre-colonial and colonial economy depended and still depends to a large extent on land. From time immemorial, Itak attached great importance to their land. According to Chief Udoma Udo, Ikot Inyang Village Head “Itak regard land as their first Mother and these includes the Mother Earth, because the soil is their source of water, food and raw materials”1. With this assertion, Itak people believe that without their land, they would be dead. Land therefore, became the very centre of their lives and of their communities. They would do nothing, to profane their land and if this happened, they immediately appeased the land by offering sacrifices2.
The Itak pre-colonial economy has remained basically a subsistence economy. Itak had abundant natural resources but these were not fully utilized until the colonial era when the application of machines were put in place to expand the scope of agriculture which increased productivity. These natural resources which were not fully utilized include; timber, rubber, palm oil and kernel. During the colonial era farm machines were used in farms to expand the scope of agriculture
1.1 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM:
Itak clan is an agrarian community, its history falls into three segments of time thus; agriculture in the pre-colonial era, agriculture in the colonial era, agriculture in the post colonial era. Each of these segments faced problems which culminated in agriculture problems of today.
There is lack of written records with regards to the economic history of Itak clan. Farming method in the area is still based on shifting cultivation which does not allow for increase in productivity while matchets and hoes are the basic farming implements. Equally, taboos restrained people from going to the farm on certain days of the week.
Land fragmentation is yet another agricultural problem in Itak clan as individuals cannot embark on extensive agricultural projects due to small land holdings. On the government side, feeder roads are not built into areas of agricultural farmlands. Agricultural loans are not given to the right people-the farmers who will use them to increase their farms productivity. Equally, distribution of fertilizers fell into the hands of rich business men who commercialized them to make much huge profits. Primarily because the farmers cannot afford to buy in large quantity. Therefore, the businessmen sell them at high prices to make huge profits. While the few farmers that have access to fertilizer are discouraged from extensive application of the item due to uninformed advice and the believe that such crops will not taste well, while application of fertilizer on yam and cassava will result in reduction of the quality of farm produce.
The researcher exploited a variety of sources to collect data. Both primary and secondary sources of information were adequately used. For primary source which forms the core of this work, the researcher interviewed a total of thirteen people of mixed ages (elders and youths – 30 to 66yrs.) representing eleven out of sixteen villages in Itak clan.
The elders were interviewed on the grounds that they are supposed to have a good knowledge of agriculture practices in the past, while the youths were also interviewed because they are aware of the prevailing situation in the society.
For secondary sources, the researcher used limited number of textual materials because no elaborate study has been undertaken in this area as it concerns the Itak clan. Despite the shortcomings, a combination of the two sources of information provided fairly valid materials for this work.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
In respect of the agricultural practices in pre-colonial and colonial era in Itak clan, the following have therefore been outline as the cardinal objectives of this project:
To make on indepth study of the agricultural practices in pre-colonial and colonial era in Itak clan.
To examine the changes that has taken place in agricultural practices in Itak clan.
To examine the farming implements, types of crops cultivated, and methods of cultivation and labour organization used before and during colonial era.
To examine the cultural activities and belief system in Itak clan.
To examine the impact of agriculture on the economic and social development in Itak Clan.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This research is borne out of the author’s burning desire to produce an authentic paper on the agricultural practices (pre-colonial and colonial) of Itak clan. The research will examine the historical foundation, composition and the population of Itak clan. Equally, the research will look into agricultural practices in the past, Ibibioland tenure system, farming implements used before and during colonial era in Itak clan. The research will go a long way in highlighting socio-economic life of the Itak people during the period under review.
Finally, the research will look into cultural activities and beliefs system and its impacts on agriculture in present day Itak clan. The research will give recommendations as to how the problems highlighted can be solved.
1.5 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The research aims at carrying out an elaborate study of the agricultural practices in Itak clan. To enhance clarity, understanding any logical presentation of facts, the researcher hopes to employ time perspective approach, dividing the period under study into pre-colonial and colonial era. The pre-colonial era in this essay depicts the period before the European encroachment into lbibioland while the colonial era represents the European encroachment and administration of Nigeria and lbibioland in particular.
This research will examine the agricultural practices in neighbouring communities around Itak, with the view of presenting a better understanding of the problem. To this end, this work will occasionally mention practices in neighbouring communities.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY:
In the process of this work, the researcher met with some constraints. It was difficult to have access to all the useful information needed. The task of analyzing the various data collected to guarantee their reliability and validity suitable for use in a work of this nature presented the researcher with a lot of problems and demanded sound reasoning, fairness and critical evaluation.
Inadequate funds was another problem. It was not easy to go round all the villages (16) which constitute Itak clan to interview a sufficient number of people particularly those the researcher felt had the materials needed. As a result the researcher had to resort to collecting information from a selected few.
Furthermore, a group of informants uncompromisingly demanded “kola” as a compensation for betrayal the of trust reposed in them by their people with regard to the release of information. Another group of informants readily gave out any information the researcher required, without demanding any compensation. The analysis and critical evaluation of such data, however, showed that the information was distorted to boost their ego.
Since the researcher could not meet the demand of some of the informants, vital information which could have hastened the speedy completion of this work were withheld. These initial difficulties notwithstanding, honest and enlightened individuals gave reliable and sufficient information which has helped immensely the completion of this paper.
1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS:
Since the use of this project will not be limited to the university community, but will also be accessible to the general public who might not understand agricultural terminologies, the researcher has deemed it necessary to define the following terms for the benefit of the general public:
Communal Land – Ikot Obio
Lineage Land – Ikot Ekpuk
Individual Holding – Okpokpo Ikόt
Sacred Groves – Akai
Mechanized Farming – Ekamba Ikόt
Shifting Cultivation – ŋtόŋwόh
Crop Rotation – Mbaka ŋtό
Land Fragmentation – Udemé Ikόt.