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close this bookThe Crisis in African Agriculture - Studies in African Political Economy (UNU, 1987, 99 pages)
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentForeword
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
Open this folder and view contents1: The performance of African agriculture, 1950-1980
View the document2: Precolonial African societies
View the document3: The appropriation of peasant surplus labour
View the document4: The export-oriented system
Open this folder and view contents5: The second post-independence decade: The food crisis
View the document6: Forms of control
Open this folder and view contents7: The alternative and its prerequisites
View the documentConclusion
Open this folder and view contentsAppendix: Complaints of the rice-growers of San (Mali)
View the documentSelected bibliography

Introduction

Our aim in undertaking this work is to demonstrate, or provide further confirmation that the crisis affecting Africa particularly - even though it is more widespread - has its profound roots in the integration of African economies into the world capitalist system. The agricultural sectors and the rural areas are most often the ones most affected because of this integration. The case of agriculture, which, in most countries, is in crisis because it is essentially oriented towards the world market and not towards the feeding of the local people, shows that it is idle for the underdeveloped countries, and particularly for Africa, to seek solutions to their problems in the framework of a system whose modus operandi and rules of the game operate in such a way that it is always the poorest and economically weakest that suffer the most serious consequences of the crisis. If the developed capitalist countries can make the underdeveloped countries bear at least a part of the burden of their own crisis, in these countries and in Africa in particular, the so-called 'non-modern', 'traditional' sectors, agriculture above all, bear more of the burden. Other explanations can be found for the crisis, but we feel that these explanations can be no more than secondary, the fundamental cause being the integration of Africa into a system over which it has absolutely no control.

Even in the Sahelian region there are reports of granaries of cereals always full during the precolonial period despite the low level of development of productive forces. But was it not this low level of development of productive forces that ultimately made Africa the victim of the capitalist mode of production? A brief look at the work of distinguished researchers who have studied precolonial African societies suggests that these societies were not adequately prepared to defeat the aggressions of capitalism despite great capacities for resistance often linked to very advanced levels of political and social organization. The long era of domination that followed saw Africa drained of its human and material substance which was sucked out by the invaders.

We have not sought in this study to present a specialist piece of work, but to say things simply and to recall truths which may appear obvious but which are increasingly glossed over and rejected because of their very simplicity. Yet these truths still remain highly relevant and fundamental.

Despite the still appreciable potential of African agriculture, hunger, malnutrition and poverty have got worse over the years, reaching the point of explosion in the 1970s. Absurd policies, breath-taking in their lack of imagination, continue to be implemented almost everywhere in Africa under the control of the system and its agencies (World Bank, IMF) by leaders who clearly stand to gain by them, but who crush the peoples. What alternative can one think of in the face of this ever-worsening situation? In our opinion, the solution can first of all only be political. All African and extra-African energies must endeavour to make the African peoples the true masters of their destiny through reorganizations of society that will ensure them all their rights and guarantee them all their freedoms. These are the prerequisites, and success requires constant and militant struggles.