The Kabyè reside in the Atacora mountains and, originally, it was mainly a population of hunters, even if they also practiced agriculture; nowadays they are known for their great ability as farmers.
The hunters' past explains the numerous presence of dogs today among domestic animals, even if, for mythological reasons, they are kept in a semi-wild state, and this confers a unique condition.
They are in fact considered humans’ friends, but at the same time they are the main cause of the death of men, this makes them on one side pets and on the other wild animals.
The excellent agricultural skills developed in the period that followed the end of the slave raids, the period of peace favored the care of productive activities.
The Kabyè cultivate cotton, millet, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes, sorghum and manioc on hard and dry land like that of the mountainous massifs of Northern Togo where they live; only thanks to their sophisticated agricultural skills they have been able to cultivate for centuries a soil that is relatively sterile and subject to erosion, due to the lack of a protective covering of trees.
During the German colonization the Kabyè were forced to work on the infrastructure of the country, they built most of the roads and railways of Togo.
In the contemporary economy, some Kabyè are migrant workers, a small percentage of this population lives in the Central and Southern regions of the country, where they are employed as agricultural workers thanks to their knowledge.
Essentially farmers, the Kabyè also breed some livestock, especially small animals and poultry, that are mostly used for trade, sale or for sacrificial purposes, while they are rarely consumed by families.
Sheep and goats make up most of their livestock, although richer families sometimes raise cattle.
The Kabyè have not only been able to enhance the mountain ground, that is difficult to work, but they are also skilled craftsmen.
There is in fact a long tradition of iron working, a tradition that has its roots in ancient times, as evidenced by the ruins of some blast furnaces.
Even today you can admire the work of traditional blacksmiths, who use few archaic instruments, a bellows to feed the fire, an anvil consisting of a large flat stone and large and heavy boulders that are used as a hammer to beat the hot iron.
The workshops are small huts inside which, surrounded by intense heat, work three men who synchronize their movements to obtain tools to be sold to neighboring populations: they make shovels to dig and other tools, bells and a kind of musical instrument similar to a kettledrum.
The division of labor in the Kabyè society sees men performing all agricultural activities and those related to the processing of iron, while women are engaged in the use of agricultural products both for domestic consumption and for sale at the markets.
The sale of iron and cattle products is also entrusted to women.
The Kabyè women are also skilled craftswomen, they work ceramics and are involved in weaving and making wicker products.
At the local market they sell all craft products, millet beer pots, wicker baskets, clay containers and ceramic utensils.
Traditional ceramics are made with bare hands without using special tools.