|African Agriculture: The Critical Choices (UNU, 1990, 227 pages)|
|11. Agricultural development without delinking: Lessons to be drawn|
In Africa, which has virtually only its agricultural commodities to export, agricultural products are increasingly insufficient to feed its inhabitants.
An agricultural crisis must not, however, be confused with famine, and this chapter does not focus on the problem of famine, but on the crisis of agriculture. In order to avoid the spread of famine agriculture must undergo three series of transformations: of its functions, techniques and the ways in which accumulation is controlled.
Transforming agriculture's functions involves a radical reconsideration of colonial agriculture. During the colonial period, the principal function of agriculture was to sustain the economy of the metropole. Independence may have led to minor changes: one consequence of a new policy may be to require local agriculture to sustain both the local economies and those of the developed capitalist countries. The primary function of agriculture is to feed a growing population, and other functions should be subordinated to that. But this prior function must not entail neglect of export agriculture which. I consider is by far the best means for most African countries to acquire foreign exchange today apart from their mineral riches.
Transformation of agricultural technique is essential. African agriculture must become technologically oriented, but this must not be confused with mechanization and the introduction of chemicals, both dominated from outside. Technical transformation must be compatible with the requirement of ensuring full employment at the earliest opportunity, since industrialization would be unable to rapidly absorb workers freed from agriculture by the agrarian reforms and capital-intensive techniques. In short. Iabour-intensive agriculture is essential in virtually all African countries. Extensive mechanized production could be justified only in cases where it proved to be the only way to deal with a real threat of famine.
According to Samir Amin, complete control of accumulation is defined as control by the local ruling class and the state over five essential conditions of the accumulation process: (1) local control of the reproduction of the labour force, which presupposes that at a first stage state policy ensures that agriculture develops in such a way as to be capable of producing sufficient food surpluses at prices compatible with the demands of accumulation; (2) local control of the centralization of the surplus, which supposes not only the formal existence of national financial institutions but also their relative autonomy from the flows of transnational capital, guaranteeing national capacity to determine how it is invested: (3) local control of the market (largely in fact reserved for national production, even in the absence of high tariff or other protection) and the complementary capacity to be competitive on the world market, at least selectively; (4) local control of natural resources, which supposes, beyond formal ownership, the nation-state having the capacity to exploit them or keep them in reserve: in that sense, the oil countries, which are not, in fact, free 'to turn off the tap' do not have this control: (5) finally, local control of technologies in the sense that, whether locally invented or imported, they can be rapidly reproduced without indefinitely relying on importing essential inputs.1
The so-called economic and social development plans of the periphery are specific in that: they claim to lead from extroversion and poverty to control of accumulation, sustained rises in incomes and improved living conditions of the masses. Without the certainty that this transition would take place, the peoples' sacrifices in national liberation struggles would be meaningless. The experiences fall into two main categories.
First, there are the experiences guided by the Rostowian philosophy of development by stages. Priority is given to maximizing the GNP per capita growth rate: problems of controlling the conditions of accumulation and employment are deemed to be resolved if growth is maintained. The mode of integration into the capitalist system is set by the outside world and economic policy consists in taking advantage of this integration by realizing the maximum growth rate in the prevailing competitive situation. In Africa, that generally consists in only slightly modifying colonial agricultural practices without radically challenging them.
Secondly, are the experiences of countries where the objective of economic and particularly agricultural policies was to carry out the revolution without delinking, something which has not happened since the advent of contemporary imperialism in the last quarter of the 19th century. These experiences have sought to stress both growth and control of the conditions of accumulation in agriculture.
The results obtained in agriculture seem entirely independent of strategies adopted and implemented over successive plans. Taking the chief criterion of performance as the agricultural GDP growth rate, we find that in comparable conditions of climate and political stability, countries falling into the first category (for example, the Ivory Coast. Cameroun and Malawi) have often achieved the best results. The defenders of the status quo exemplify these countries as models to follow. In my opinion, however, if these countries' strategy aimed at gaining control of the conditions of accumulation does not replace current strategies, they too will ultimately suffer acute agricultural crises; that is the lesson of both historical experience and theory.
The future thus lies in autonomous agriculture that radically challenges colonial agriculture, even if short-term growth rates are lower and attempts at gaining control have aborted. That is why it is important to examine the specific conditions of this category of experiences. Tanzania and Algeria, whose agricultural policies have had considerable impact both at the social and political level, and in theoretical and empirical analysis, despite obvious differences of context, have been chosen here as examples.