International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online)

The Dynamics of Reed Economy in the Western Coast of the Niger Delta in the 20th Century: A Historical Survey
Ehinmore, Omolere. M.

Abstract
Despite the enormous economic and technological importance of reed production in the western Niger Delta region of Nigeria in the 20th century, economic historians and anthropologists have not given it scholarly attention. This survey therefore, examined the dynamics of the indigenous techniques of reed production as well as its socio-economic inter-play with other sectors of the region’s economy. The study aims at unraveled and brought to the fore the extent of the contributions of this indigenous mode of production to the socio-economic development of the region during this period. Traditional methods of reed production and craft development in the region were found very progressive, receptive and economically viable in the region, most especially between 1964 and 1980. It was also observed that this was primarily as a result of higher demand for reed mats by crop farmers from far and near within Nigeria. Data collection technique was largely based on oral interview. About 23 informants of deep indigenous knowledge of reed production and the history of craftsmanship in the region were purposively selected and interviewed. Studies show that, of the three human groups that constitute the region, the Ilaje and Itsekiri were those professionally engaged in reed farming and mat weaving activities. It has been observed that, of all the categories of reed, the Ogo-Ore (tall reed) was the best and of highest economic value. Survey equally indicated that the traditional production techniques among the people did not radically improve over the years. It was noted that reed production economically empowered a large number of the rural population by providing employment and fostering artisan skills among the people during the period of study.

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