chapter  2
23 Pages

Nucleation and dispersion

Discussions of the physical character of settlement tend to be obscured by questions of terminology (Adams 1976:47-91). There is no escaping the fact that, as in any other subject, a certain amount of jargon must be used to express observations and ideas cogently. Hunter’s African ‘house’, for instance, could equally be termed a ‘farmstead’, for in addition to several buildings for human habitation, it contained outbuildings, storage and work areas. The term compound, meaning an ‘enclosure’, conveniently indicates that it is different from European or North American farmsteads and is in fact made up of many elements which in other societies could be differently arranged or separated The single farmstead takes many forms and may appear either singly or in groupings of varied sizes, but, nevertheless, it is the fundamental unit of both subsistence and commercial agriculture. From the farmstead, however this be defined, the farmer, sometimes with the members of his immediate family and sometimes with hired hands, works the surrounding lands. There are instances, particularly in the tropics, where fields can be cleared, planted and then simply left to reach a harvestable condition, while some farmsteads in temperate lands have become mere machinery and product stores, visited by workers. It is nevertheless generally true that farmstead and fields are bound together by the need to cultivate the land or nurture beasts. This farmstead-land relationship takes many forms and a definition of some of the basic terms is necessary.