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Title:Kpelle farming through Kpelle eyes
Author:Gay, JohnISNI
Book title:The cultural dimension of development: indigenous knowledge systems
Geographic term:Liberia
subsistence farming
Abstract:This article examines how the people of Gbansu, a Kpelle village in Liberia consisting of a central village and 23 satellite hamlets, understand farming. This is done by an examination of how they look at the types of land on which farming is done, types of vegetation and land, the main crop - rice - and other crops, and the allocation of labour. The author, who lived in Gbansu in 1974, questioned a wide range of people from the central village and the outlying hamlets. In order to analyse his data, he used cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling, which allow the answers to be presented in a two or more dimensional form, where spatial relationships correspond to cognitive or attitudinal connections. The conclusion is that if aid experts wish to help the people of Gbansu, and all the many villages like it across Africa, they should begin by recognizing the community for what it is. Gbansu is not a collection of replicas of 'The Kpelle Farmer', nor is it merely a conglomerate of individuals, with their own separate and differing identities. It is a living organism that has achieved over the centuries an understanding of its environment and thus knows how to sustain itself. The only way to aid such a community is to help it - as a whole - to adapt to new and changing conditions.