Across the Gambia River basin, farmers grew varieties of grains for local consumption and for sale. Maize, millet, and rice formed an important part of a complex social organization. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, the shift to cash crops changed important aspects of this social organization. The cash crop economy, which was highly restrictive, also encouraged social separation and alterations in the gender configurations of the region. The change from a household economy relying on growing grains for consumption to one of producing a legume to sell, which was eased along by the transformation of local spiritual ideas, resulted in alterations in settlement patterns impacting the lives of many female farmers. One particularly interesting area that scholars have noted but is yet to be fully developed is the ways in which religion or spirituality influenced African economic life. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the ways spirituality or religion influenced the growth and the development of what became arguably the most important economic activity in West Africa during the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries as well as gender dynamics in the affected societies.


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pp. 1-26
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