Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rice on the Upland

An upland rice farm near Panguma - Lower Bambara Chiefdom c. 1970 Pictured here in the back is a typical 
upland farm house, and rice growing among stumps of trees and brush - a very typical farm in Mendeland.
photo © by Chad Finer

Rice was the staple food in Sierra Leone, and the upland rice grown there was very tasty. In comparison to the Carolina bleached white rice that most of us knew the Mende brown rice was meaty, tasty, and as we got used to the pepper - this became our staple as well. Rice was grown with the slash (cutting the brush with a machete) and burn (burn the areas where the rice was to be planted) method. During the end of the dry season the brushing of the farms took place and just before the rains the rice was broadcast planted. Although at first the farms appeared messy with remnant tree stumps interspersed with the growing rice, but we became used to this method of farming and its appearance. Farmers would built their shelters (farm houses) to get out of the sun and/or rain.  Here they might cook a late meal. In the farm house was stored a warm overcoat,  an umbrella, cooking utensils, tools for farming, or even a sling to drive birds.  Under the palm leaf roof a farmer might get out of the hot day and rest a bit. However, at the end of the day, the farmer would pack up and head home to the nearby village to sleep in his house. From early March until late September or October the rice, grown on the hills (the Mende did not like to work in the swamps) grew tall and green, and as the dry season began (November) the rice dried and was harvested by hand. It was a one time a year harvest. Despite the introduction of new types of rice that could be grown 2 or even 3 times a year, the Mende stuck to their traditional rice which was grown in sufficient amounts and in fact tasted much better. 

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