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close this bookThe Crisis in African Agriculture - Studies in African Political Economy (United Nations University)
close this folder5: The second post-independence decade: The food crisis
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View the documentSmallholder development projects
View the documentThe basic needs strategy
View the documentAgrarian reform
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View the documentWater supply
View the documentThe basic needs strategy in the current capitalist crisis

Water supply

Stress continues to be put on large-scale irrigation works, even if it is felt that this needs to be complemented by smaller works. This shows that the lessons of previous experiences are not being adequately learned. Indeed in the same speech by the President of the Bank, it is stated: 'There are too many cases - in our experience and that of others - in which it has taken ten years or more after the dam was completed for the water actually to reach the farmers.'

It seems hard to believe that a dam can be completed and remain unusable for ten years. It is tempting to think that during that period of ten years when the peasant was receiving no water, the dam was being used for other purposes which were in fact the prime targets of the investors: for example to provide energy for mining industries controlled by foreign capital.

The experiences anyway show that a spread of small irrigation works, often built by the peasants themselves with very limited technical support, corresponds much better to the needs and means of smallholder agriculture.

These remarks allow us to say that the basic needs strategy is not a new strategy. It is only the continuation of old strategies of domination with the fruitless quest for escape valves to deal with the serious crisis affecting the whole capitalist system and particularly its weak link, the agricultural countries.

Given the particular features of the crisis, it is worth examining more closely the goals which this strategy sought to attain.