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Engaruka: the success and abandonment of an integrated irrigation
system, c15th - 17th centuries
John Sutton
(abstract of paper published in Widgren and Sutton 1999
Situated in relatively arid terrain at the foot of the Rift wall in
northern Tanzania, but blessed with a permanent river and three
seasonal streams, Engaruka can appear as an oasis. Three to six
centuries ago a community of several thousand people thrived here on
irrigated agriculture. This is demonstrated by clear remains of stone-
divided and levelled fields, served by a network of stone-lined
canals and secondary furrows, covering over two-thousand hectares, as
well as seven concentrated village sites overlooking the fields. The
main crop was sorghum. Some cattle were kept in small enclosures; it
is deduced that they were stall-fed and their dung used as manure.
There is clear evidence for hydrological decline along this
escarpment during and since the life of old Engaruka. Some of the
villages and artery canals depended on streams, which are now much
too unreliable. The field system, moreover, underwent modifications,
with realignments and attempts to heighten the main canals. While
this illustrates the community's engineering abilities and labour
organisation, it suggests also the strain being experienced. In part
this may be due to the success of this cultivation system in a
special environment, the population reaching the maximum which could
be supported on the cultivable land which was circumscribed by the
local relief and the volume of water descending the escarpment
streams. Pressure to use the fields and to irrigate more intensively
would have led to diminishing returns through soil-exhaustion and
both surface and gully erosion, of which there are clear signs. One
might imagine this as a case of over-specialisation contributing to
the decline and eventual expiry of the system and its community.
The unanswered question is whether this environmental change was
entirely caused by this compact cultivating community while it
thrived, and in particular whether the escarpment's hydrology could
have been damaged by forest clearance in the hills for building and
domestic needs, or, contrarily, whether there was a declining trend
in rainfall in the middle and later centuries of the second
millennium. Independent researches in the region, both in the Rift
and especially in the Crater Highlands from which the Engaruka
streams derive, may help, if combined with precise dating techniques.
Engaruka was not exactly unique; there are a number of smaller sites
forming part of the same cultural and agricultural complex. While all
these are similarly deserted, some elements of the tradition survive
in the Sonjo villages to the north. These lack cattle and manuring,
and the dependence on irrigation has been less extreme than at
Engaruka. The history of Sonjo - cultural, agricultural and
environmental - might be approached by examining former village sites
and should assist the questions raised in Engaruka.

Konso Integrated Agriculture as social Process
Elizabeth Watson
(abstract presented in Widgren and Sutton, 1999 <../publications.htm>)
The intensive agriculture of Konso in south-western Ethiopia
integrates a variety of special techniques to support a large
population in a harsha nd upredictable semi -arid environment. these
include construction of labour intensive stone -walled terraces over
large areas of these hills, alongside square-ridged basins, zero-
grazing of animals with the application of manure to the fields, and
rain-water harvesting. This results in a permanently cultivated
landscape supporting large, walled and densly populated villages. to
understand this agricultural landscape it is necessary to appreciate
its embedded social and symbolic role, relating in particular to land
and labour.
This paper reviews on institution in Konso, which plays an important
role in the organisation of land and labour: the poqalla. These are
male hereditary leaders (previously described as clan or lineage
leaders and also priests). Their political and religious role is
inextricably related to thier control over land and labour. Through a
study of the poqallas, integrated agriculture can be seen as more
than just a set of techniques, but part of the social process of
Konso society.
The Ruins of Engaruka
conducted by Maasai warriors
Approximate Fee: US $10 Accommodation: basic campsite included Food:
women cook Guided by Maasai warriors, walk through the mysterious
ruined city of Engaruka and the surrounding scrubland. Located at the
foot of the Rift Valley Escarpment, Engaruka remains one of
Tanzania's most important historic sites. Over 500 years ago a
community of farmers developed a unique irrigation and cultivation
system channeling water from the Rift Escarpment into stone canals
and terraces. Although abandoned in the 1700s Engaruka illustrates a
once highly specialized and integrated agricultural community which
has been investigated by archeologists world-wide. Daywalks for
birdwatching at the foot and slopes of the Rift Valley Historic
visits to sites from the German colonial period A climb of Oldoinyo
Lengai, a semi-active volcanic mountain A view into the Maasai
culture, who continue a life of simplicity and peace Profits from
your visit are used to protect the ruined city of Engaruka




Engaruka <Back to Last Page> <Full Glossary
Definition: 15th to 16th century site in the Rift Valley of Tanzania,
including seven large villages with a complex stone-block irrigation
canal and intricate agricultural system.
Related Resources:

Some more African achievements

"Pitfall is one American version of the African game issued by Creative
Playthings. It is similar to Kalah, designed in 1940 by William Champion
and now manufactured by Products of the Behavioral Sciences. I
agree whole heatedly with John B. Haggerty, who writes: "the
best all around teaching aid in the country"(page 328), and later: "in
addition to its value as a diversion and as a means of developing the
intuitive abilities so important to problem-solving...
Page 131 of _Africa Counts_ by Zaslavsky, Claudia

Africans developed a game that is one of the greatest teaching tools
Morabaraba is a popular game in the African communities. Like Chess the
game needs one to think about the next several moves in the future.
AFRICAN MATHMATICAL UNION (Research and sources from White Europeans)


Crane's "African games of strategy" (1982) may be
added. Crane informs about some of the most common types of African games
involving strategy and mathematical principles, like games of alignment
(Shisima (Kenya), Achi (Ghana), Murabaraba (Lesotho)),
In sub-Sahara Africa Negroes dominate (over whites) in a intellectual game
like Chess called Morabaraba.

May 20, 1997

Our world champ you haven't met

Gilbert Magabotse is the world champion
morabaraba player. It's an African board game
once taught to herd boys, demanding cunning
and quick thinking.

Morabaraba is a tactical board game, involving cunning and mental agility,
which is played widely among rural African communities - sort of a cross
between draughts and speed chess.

It is not known how many South Africans play morabaraba on a recreational
basis, but it is believed to be many millions, and clubs are sprouting up
all over. "It is something traditionally South African we can be proud of,
but we need to get funding from the government to breathe life into it."
The South African War Games Union - which looks after tactical or
strategic computer and board games - shares his sentiment. It has taken
morabaraba, and other traditional games, under its protective umbrella to
promote them in schools and urban communities. Colin Webster, the union's
president, says the game is unstoppable: "It has been sidelined too long,
but we can redress the wrong by crediting previously disadvantaged people
for their excellence, allowing them to reach national prominence in a game
which they already play."

Webster, who is compiling an anthology on morabaraba, says ithas cultural
roots tied to the African concept of ubuntu: "While Western philosophy is
based on the principle, 'I think therefore I am', ubuntu says 'I am
because you are'. So while most Western games are based on beating the
opponent, morabaraba is about giving your opponent space to move in order
to win."

But Webster claims the built-in concept of helping the opponent (sounds
more like trapping to me) means that white players initially become very
lost, because they are out to win and find it frustrating. "I had a chess
master from Russia who looked at the game and said, 'This is easy.' He was
demolished by a 14-year-old."

Assegai Central
Wargaming Forum

The South African Wargames Union

The South African Wargames Union is the authorative body for all wargaming
in Southern Africa, including figure gaming, traditional games, and board

For more information feel free to contact SAWU President Colin Webster, at or see their website at

Famous South African Wargamers in action with SAWU:

These are photos of the Morabaraba team that traveled to Bangkok for the
2nd Traditional World Games, in December 1996. A team will represent
South Africa
again in the World Traditional Games, in France, next year.

Gilbert Magabotse from the Spoornet Morabara Club is the current World Champion.
Here's the Mpumulanga prize-giving, with Matthews Phosa handing over the

Thembinyana Hambiyana from Gauteng Draughts Association, our current
National Champion. The Morabaraba team journied to Bangkok for the 2nd
World Games, in December 1996 Lawrence Khashane.

afrcan version of chess
shax a somali game f stragey

Numerous megaliths or standing stones exist in the area around Bouar in what is now the Central African Republic, sometimes called the African Stonehenge. Possibly built as tombs, similar to the stone tombs found in Europe, little is known about these ancient monuments. Usually the stones are set up in groups and were placed near river sources or at the entrances of valleys. The huge stones are typically 1.5 to 2 metres high, but some are up to 5 metres tall and weigh 4 tons. In the native language, these monuments are called tajunu.

Gambian stone circles of Senegambia

Required much work force and also the usd simple machines which most white supremist claim no western african did

Also not only that it diminstartes that western Africans cut stone and also qurried stone which also white supremis claim western aficas did not do


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Western african intellectual achievements [View all] , Sopdet, Thu Nov-14-02 05:57 PM
Subject Author Message Date ID
you killing 'em
Nov 14th 2002
lovely. and ARCHIVE worthy
Nov 14th 2002
RE: lovely. and ARCHIVE worthy
Nov 14th 2002
      RE: lovely. and ARCHIVE worthy
Nov 14th 2002
           i'd asked before "WHY" -- just saw the other
Nov 15th 2002
                ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 15th 2002
                     RE: ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 19th 2002
                     RE: ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 19th 2002
                     RE: ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 19th 2002
                          RE: ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 25th 2002
                          RE: ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 25th 2002
                                    RE: ARCHIVE THIS!
Nov 25th 2002
Nov 19th 2002
RE: your great
Nov 25th 2002
Good post
Nov 25th 2002

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