I am the leader of our community. I make decisions for our family, such as what to trade and when to plant crops.
The first people to settle in Western Africa made small, family-based communities, of no more than twenty people, in the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert.
The Niger River, which ran through this area, made the soil fertile and suitable for crop growth, as well as providing an excellent source of food and water.
These new iron tools are so much more efficient!
Now we will have a surplus of food, and not as many people will need to farm! Maybe I can finallylive my lifelong dream of being a potter!
Members of the community worked together to farm, clearing fields, planting seeds, and harvesting crops. They traded with each other to obtain goods they lacked, and were usually led by one of the male elders.
Here we go along the Niger River!
I wonder what they'll be willing to trade for our surplus goods?
By the 500s B.C.E., a people called the Nok were smelting iron ore to craft iron tools. This practice rapidly spread across the rest of West Africa, and the tools that it produced made farming much more efficient. The demand for farmers decreased, and soon many people could turn their sights to artisinal practices such as pottery and weaving.
Now a much wider variety of goods was being produced, and trade increased tremendously as people began to exchange their surplus for goods that they lacked. Because of this, villages along popular trade routes - especially major rivers such as the Niger - grew into large and wealthy towns and cities as they became important centers for commerce.