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The Akan farming system sustains relatively high population densities for a system

based on extensive cultivation, averaging between 200 and 300 people per square
mile. Contemporary settlement in the region is based on administrative and market
centres articulated through a network of motor roads. The modern system has been
built to a major extent upon a precolonial structure of permanent nucleated settlements
that sometimes contained a thousand or more inhabitants. Such densities and
concentrations are manageable within the limits of swidden cultivation and are
commonly observed throughout West Africa, where population increase and
concentration have been encouraged by ancient traditions of long distance trade and
state formation.
The settlement system involves a substantial population nucleation into towns,
or nkuro (sing. kuro), which served primarily as administrative centres within
traditional kingdoms. A town normally contained several hundred people but could
grow to a thousand and still be supported by agricultural lands within a one or two
hour walking distance. More distant lands could also be cultivated through the
establishment of seasonal agricultural villages, called nkura (sing. akura), which
which were sometimes transformed into nkuro in their own right. An additional
settlement network of market towns was kept distinct and often removed from the
political centres. No matter what its size a commercial centre which has not developed
into a political centre through the installation of a chief is still considered to be a
village (akura) or at best a "cosmopolitan town", mframanmframan kuro. (The Akan
word usually translated by the term "cosmopolitan" has a derogatory connotation and
is reminiscient of Redfield's notion of the "heterogenetic city".)
The traditional kuro was mainly inhabited by farming families, as many are today, but
also incorporated administrative officials and specialized craftsmen, most of whom
did some farming as well. However, town residence confers a sense of urbanity, which
is conveyed by a linguistic distinction between town and bush (wuram) and between a
townsman and a krasini, a "bush man" or yokel.
While the Akan system falls near the upper end of the population scale supported by
swidden cultivation, another West African group, the Yoruba, represent a further
elaboration on settlement structures. The Yoruba have population densities similar to
the Akan but traditionally lived in urban centers that contained thousands and
sometimes tens of thousands of inhabitants, almost all of whom were farmers, a
pattern which still typifies most Yoruba cities. Supporting such populations
concentrations through extensive cultivation methods requires massive amounts of
land, and some farms are located at distances involving almost a whole day's walk.
The Yoruba deal with their substantial transport problems by setting up temporary
agricultural camps on their farms, which they inhabit during the growing season. After

the harvest they return to their cities and engage the craft production, trade, and
ceremony, which formed the focus of urban life for the remaining half of the year.