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Nigeria: Esuk Mba Community’s Practice of Barter System, Helps Combat Inflation

The barter system is the practice of exchanging goods for goods whereby if I have an item that I do not need, I look for someone with the good I need, and we exchange them. Traders in Cross River State where the Calabar community resides have not been left behind. They trade different goods like vegetables, fish, palm oil, fruits, among others. The market day at Cross River State, which is on the Southern part of Nigeria usually takes place on Saturday from 7 a.m. Traders from most parts of Nigeria come here to engage in the exchange of goods for goods. In a nutshell, they carry whatever they have in hopes of exchanging them for something else they would need and is available in the market.

The ancient practice of barter trade started in 1956 till to date. “I have been trading in this market for about 20 years, I do come here to collect different goods, water-leaf, periwinkles, fish, okra, I will collect them and exchange with what I have,” said Effiong Ekpo.

The locals are proud that they have kept the culture of their forefathers alive and kicking. According to Esuk Mba’s community leader, Mr. Asuquo Effiong, the market is a massive tourist attraction since it also featured the slave trade in Nigeria in the early days. As a result of that, he says that the market needs to be refurbished so that it continues attracting more visitors.

“We grew up to meet this market. We hold it in so high esteem and we want to sustain it. We use it to remember our forefathers and to sustain our culture. As you can see, there are varieties of food items for the section of the exchange. In this market, you can bring your palm oil and exchange it for garri, yam or plantain as the case may be. The market is close to the river and our people here are predominantly fishermen. The community is not comfortable with the size of this market; there has been no expansion of the market since inception. In addition, we don’t have any good school here, no potable water or health post. We need government intervention in this community,” he said.

It’s so amazing to learn that the only event the locals get to interact with cash is when paying school fees for their children. The source of this cash is the tourist visitors who come to explore this ancient practice that is just practiced by a few in this day and age. Similarly, when these traders sell their products outside the community, they get paid.

A traditional ruler praises this form of trading and says that by no means can it be done away with, “trade by barter can never be abolished here in Cross River state, in as much as Akpabuyo is concerned and Esuk Mba in general. We cannot abolish the barter system,” said Chief Edem Duke.

Ideally, exchanging goods for goods among the rural communities has helped reduce food scarcity since issues like inflation do not affect the barter system. Therefore, the less privileged people can exchange what they have with foodstuffs like fish, yams, palm oil, and plantain.

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