The Ancient Empire of Ghana is not the same as Modern Ghana in terms of ethnicity or geography -- it is located about 400 miles west of Modern Ghana in an area of Western Africa now known as Northern Senegal and Southern Mauritania. Ancient Ghana was a wealthy kingdom mainly due to its role in the trade of salt and gold. Agriculture held a secondary, though important, place in Ancient Ghana's economy.
A Mixed Economy
Evidence of farming in the Niger River delta began to appear around 500 C.E. After flooding from the rainy season receded, farmers planted rice in the rich soils left behind. In 500 years, their agricultural skills became increasingly efficient through the use of irrigation and iron farming tools. Eventually, their farms provided more food than needed by the community, encouraging farmers to trade crops such as millet and rice, for other goods. While Ghana did not own gold and salt mines, their neighbors to their north and south did, which meant Ghana controlled the trade routes. The wealth of Ancient Ghana came from the tributes and taxes paid to Ghana in exchange for allowing traders safe passage. In addition to trade and agriculture, the mixed economy included cloth manufacturing, pottery, iron smelting and stonemasonry.
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