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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Ecology and society in a Kissi village


The truck rarely gets to Toly, the end of the road. Those from Kissidougou usually stop at the sub-prefecture headquarters at Koundiadou for the Monday market, going no further south-east. It is traders from there, on foot or bicycle, who bring produce to the small Wednesday market at Toly. From Koundiadou, it is a three-hour walk, the last half hour southwards through forest thicket vegetation very different from the savannas further north and west. Once the forest fallow gives way to the high forest of Toly's large forest island, there is still more than a kilometre to go before surmounting the vantage point from which the large, gently sloping village clearing opens out. Traders set up in front of the tiny village primary school, in the open space dividing the upper and lower parts of the village.

Each half of the village is a cluster of large, closely packed, rectangular metal-roofed houses and round thatched sleeping huts and kitchens. It is hard to infer from this layout that most buildings are loosely grouped into compounds (bεε) each associated with a particular patrilineage. Each has an elder who represents the patrilineage members, resident spouses and strangers (miallo) in village matters. Immediately behind the houses, the huge trees of the forest island (bundͻͻ) begin, shading coffee and fruit plantations except in those parts reserved for the affairs of the men's and women's power associations.