Form 1 History Notes : Development Of Agriculture

Form 1 History Notes : Development Of Agriculture

Secondary Notes
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Agriculture involves the growing of crops and rearing of animals. 

Human beings hunted and gathered during the Old Stone Age.

But during the new Stone Age, they domesticated plants and animals. 

The first animal to be domesticated was the dog and later horses, cows, sheep and goats.

  • Crop farming began around 6000 BC before the domestication of crops; man ate wild fruits and seeds of grasses like wheat and rice that grew wildly in the middle-east. 

Domestication was either accidental when food remains(seeds) started germinating around cave or it was tedious searching for it rather than cultivating it nearby. This is known as the Neolithic revolution.

Reasons for domestication of crops and animals.

  • Climate change caused animals to migrate far away leding to luck of food.
  • Increase in mans population which required more food form animals.
  • Man and other wild animals competed for the same food leading to decrease in the animals man could rely on.
  • Over-hunting by man depleted stocks of animal he could rely on for food.
  • Natural disasters like forest fires and floods killed many animals making the 1survivors to migrate far away thus leading to scarcity of land..
  • Hunting and gathering had become insecure and tedious as man could come back empty handed.
  • Hunting as well as gathering would sometimes be hindered by unfavourable weather conditions like snow and rain.
  • Animals were used for transport and security.
  • Animals also provided cloths through hide and skins.

Crop growing.

  • The transformation or change from hunting and gathering to growing of food crops did not happen suddenly, it took time. 
  • Crop growing developed in stages.
  • Man discovered that some pants had more nutrients than others, so he selected these he considered better or superior.
  • People realized that wild crops germinated along river valleys where water and fertile soils were available.
  • The crops grew faster when bushes and other plants were weeded out hence through trial and error people acquired the skill of crop growing.

The earliest crops to be domesticated were

  • Barley
  • Wheat.
  • Sorghum.
  • Rice.
  • Millet.
  • Maize.
  • Yams.
  • Cassava.
  • Potatoes.
  • Grapes.

These crops grew in different soils and climate conditions.

There are many centres of agricultural revolution such as.

  • The Middle East.
  • The Nile valley.
  • The Indus valley (India).
  • The yellow river valley(china)
  • The Danube valley (Europe).

The following are some of the crops that were grown.


It is believed to have originally grown in south west Asia. It spread to Mesopotamia by 600 BC and then Egypt by 3000BC.


It was probably the first cereal to be domesticated. It was grown in Syria and the river Euphrates. It later spread to Egypt, India and china by 2000BC.

Sorghum and millet.

They originated from different parts of Africa e.g.West Africa by 1500 BC around Lake Chad and Ethiopia.


Originated in the central amorira about 500BC in Mexico.


They are probably the 1st of the roots and tuber crops to be domesticate by about 9000BCe.g. in south –east Asia and also south America and Africa.

Domestication of animals.

It is possible that human beings domesticated animals before crop growing.

The 1st animals to be tamed were the dogs and later goats, sheep, cattle and camels. It was a gradual process. Man kept animals for.

  • Security.
  • Meat.
  • Milk.
  • Transport.
  • Hunting.

This depended on the type of animal kept. However the animals are 1st to be tamed and kept in bomas protection, man later learned the art of selecting breeding. Animals were led to good pastures.


They helped in hunting and drove away dangerous animals.

They helped man to herd cattle, sheep and goats.


They were domesticated in south west Asia around 5000BC. They reached Africa by 5000BC in Egypt.


They were domesticated after dogs about 9000BC in Iraq. They were also kept in Syria, Europe and Africa.


They were 1st domesticated in south west Asia in turkey around 5800BC and later in Iraq and Iran. They later spread to North Africa and Ethiopia.


It originated in North America though found in North Africa. It later spread to Asia and South America.

Benefits of domesticated animals.

  • Animals provided regular food supply in the form of meat and milk.
  • Animal’s skins are used for clothing and beddings among other purpose.
  • The hooves and horns were used as containers or as drinking vessels. The horns were used as communication instruments.
  • Animal bones were used to make a variety of products e.g ornaments, needles and weapons.
  • Animals like camel, horses and donkey were used for transport. This people could travel long distance faster and with heavier loads.
  • Oxen and donkey were used for ploughing the land during cultivation. It therefore increased yields.
  • The dog apart from being man’s friend protected him against dangerous animals.
  • Some animals produced manure which greatly improved agriculture produce.

Early agriculture in Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamia- means `` the land between the rivers’’ it is also known as the Fertile Crescent.

It’s tigris and Euphrates, which flow into the Persian gulf. This fertile region gave rise to one of world’s greatest civilization which began around 3000BC.

Food production around 8000BC. The southern part of Mesopotamia is known as sumeria. It is arid with little rain. The Sumerians practised basin irrigation but later constructed canals and dykes. River deposited silt at it’s lower valley. They invented the;

  • Ox plough
  • Seed drill.
  • Woven basket for the storage of their produce.

Factors that made agriculture possible in Mesopotamia.

  • Availability of water for irrigation from rivers tigris and Euphrates.
  • Sumerians built canals to control flooding and direct water to farm lands.
  • Good fertile soils brought in great quantity by the two rivers, this enriched soils in lower parts of Mesopotamia and made it suitable for growing crops and rearing of cattle.
  • Availability of wild plants and animals like wheat and barley which were suitable for domestication and encouraged settlers to start growing crops.
  • The Sumerians found it easy to farm animals.
  • Demand for food increased as people settled and no longer in need to search for food. Population stared to increase resulting to high demand for food.
  • Availability of farm land. The major concern was to increase the area ready for cultivation;floods were controlled by canal, dike and bridges construction.
  • The invention of farming tools. The sumarians invented farming tools, which enabled them to improve the method of farming, they used implements like ox plough and seed drill.
  • Good transport system. The Sumerians had a fairly good transport system in the form of donkeys. Wheeled carts and canoes.
  • Availability of labour. The availability of slave labour in sumeria facilitated the developing agriculture as farmers were able to cultivate bigger/ large areas using free labour.

The effects of early agriculture in Mesopotamia.

  • People lived a settled life.
  • People began to specialise in specific occupation.
  • Trade emerged as the people within various professions regularly exchanged their products.
  • Trade led to growth of urban centres.
  • The society began to be stratified as specific classes began to emerge as people developed various measures and degrees of wealth and prestige.
  • Development of laws and government.
  • With increased food production came the need for record-keeping and thus writing was developed.
  • Education centres developed.
  • Important inventions including ox drawn plough, the seed drill and the wheel were made.
  • There was introduction of religion.
  • Due to advancement in mathematics and science, the inhabitants of ancient Mesopotamia were to construct great buildings lending to architecture.

Early agriculture in Egypt.

Egypt is one of the regions in the world where early agriculture started. It is estimated that about 5000 and 4000 BC, people who were living in the area of the Nile valley learned how to domesticate animals and growing crops.

They grazed cattle, sheep and goats along the lower Nile valley. They kept ducks, geese and hens.

They grew crops like; cotton, beans, wheat, barley, onions, vines, figs, flax and lentils.

Agriculture was practised on the banks of river Nile because the river Nile deposited silt and the lower Nile carried alluvial soils from Ethiopia and east Africa highlands. Canals were dug from the Nile to direct the water to their farms, during the dry seasons.

N/B. canal irrigation replaced basin irrigation. This was followed by the invention of the shadoof which consisted of a long pole that swing up and down with a bucket attached at one end.

The use of shadoof made two harvests in a year possible. The Egyptians invented bronze hoes and the ox-drawn plough.


Factors that favoured the development of agriculture in Egypt.

  • Availability of water for irrigation-Egypt was supplied with plenty of water by the river Nile which has three tributes; white Nile and blue Nile 
  • Good fertile soils- when the Nile overflowed its banks, it covered the lower part of the country with a layer of fertile black soil. Farmers made use of this oil to grow their crops.
  • Favourable topography- the land along the Nile valley was gently sloppy which enabled farmers to use basin irrigation to water their crops.
  • Climate- Egypt has a warm sunny climate which helps crops to grow and ripe faster.
  • Indigenous plants- the availability of indigenous crops whereby early ancestors (farmers) got the idea of planting the seeds in wet fertile soils so that they did not have to go out in search for food.
  • Invention of farming tools. Farmers invented and used farming tolls such as the bronze hoe whereas they previously used digging sticks and wooden hoes.
  • Knowledge of weather- Egyptian priest studied the stars and planets to know when the river could flood. They would use this focusting to determine when to prepare the land and plant their crops.
  • Adequate storage facilities- the farmers built storage facilities to keep their grains. This enabled them to grow a lot of food during the years of plenty and then stored it to use during famine times.
  • Support from Egyptian rulers- some Egyptian rulers helped the development of agriculture by supporting farmers e.g king Mene who built dams to control floods.
  • Invention of writing- the Egyptians invented writing during the rule of king mene. This enabled them to keep accurate records of the seasons and volumes of water that came with them.
  • Availability of labour- the majority of the people in the Nile valley were poor and they were ready to offer their services as farm labourers to wealthy farmers.

Effects of early agriculture in Egypt.

  • Improved farming led to increased food production thus the people had enough and regular food supply.
  • The farmers settled down permanently and their living standards improved significantly.
  • Agriculture led to the production of enough supply of food. This in turn led to increase in trading activities.
  • Urban centres like Memphis, thebe and Aswan developed along the Nile valley.
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