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close this bookAfrican Agriculture: The Critical Choices (UNU, 1990, 227 pages)
close this folder10. The state and rural development 1960-85
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentManagement of rural development
View the documentStructural causes of the crisis
View the documentProspects for a different rural development strategy
View the documentConclusion

Prospects for a different rural development strategy

To grasp the conditions and limits of a different rural development strategy may now devolve upon seeking out and setting out the processes and the situation that must be changed twenty-five years after independence, if the 'New Agricultural Policy' is to be, President Abdou Diouf's words, 'for the sole benefit of the producers, the true actors in and beneficiaries of agricultural development, by liberating them from the various negative structural constraints and making them masters of their destiny'.

Impoverishment of the countryside

'Rural income is inadequate... One can only observe the general stagnation of the peasant condition despite (or because of) the marked stepping-up of government action on agriculture'.30 That is how the introduction to an official ILO report begins its discussion of the situation in the rural areas.

A 'negative structural constraint' with the subordination of agriculture to industry means impoverishment of the countryside. The remuneration of ordinary rural labour in the framework of the capitalist mode of production is below the average real remuneration of urban manual and white collar workers.

'Income inequality [in Senegal] is such that the average income of 70% of the total population is one-third that of the average income of the remaining 30% living in the urban centres.'31 The effect of such an imbalance is obvious, notably for Cape Verde. Dakar, which had only 16% of the total population, sees an extra 200.000 coming in each year. According to a statement on the New Agricultural Policy' 'those who leave are mainly the young and the most economically active, the ones least resigned'.32 The ILO report concluded: 'Rural income is inadequate and there is a more or less permanent exodus towards the urban areas, on top of the annual seasonal migration.'

In the framework of the capitalist mode of production, the development of agriculture and its modernization tends to draw the labour force from the countryside to the urban areas. This migration, fuelled by the rural-urban income differential is further increased by the fact that the vast majority of people depend on rain-fed agriculture. After three or four months of activity, the vast bulk of the rural population is condemned to under- and unemployment and hence migrates out of the rural areas.

There is' then impoverishment in the countryside, with underemployment, unemployment and rural exodus, and enrichment in the urban areas- the income of the 30% in the towns is three times that of the 70% in the countryside. The countryside is thus made dependent on the towns. The maintenance of the precapitalist structures of mutual assistance within the community which still survive' mitigates the social consequences of rural conditions. 'On average, each employed urban worker supports 2.6 individuals with no regular occupation [ 1976]. How, for example' can it be justified that in the rural areas where about 70% of the population live' no structures have been set up to promote the integration of young rural dwellers whose general educational level it is sought to raise?'33 Six years later, the New Agricultural Policy provides no answer to this question.

Destruction of traditional production systems and capitalist reconstruction

Generalization of commodity economy and monetarization, in short the development of capitalism, has destroyed any possibility of living in the countryside without becoming involved in growing cash crops and particularly groundnuts. This activity is the leading source of monetary income for 46% of the population. Rural craftsmen have all but disappeared. Food crops have had to make way for groundnuts. Ultimately, the rural areas can no longer support the country, and the food deficit is such that some 400,000 metric tons of cereals have to be imported annually; a clear indication of a structural food dependence.

Destruction of the production system also signifies subjection to the capitalist system of production and exchange, international division of labour and to the capitalist reconstruction of agrarian production systems. The 'Letter on development policy' indicates that the New Agricultural Policy's aim is less to deal with the effects of a cash crop such as groundnuts than to make all other crops into cash crops. Official speeches sometimes give the impression of a dilemma between developing groundnut production and developing food crops, but the major concern remains to ensure the priority of groundnuts, the economic profitability of which, according to the World Bank, is high. The New Agricultural Policy's approach therefore is not to oppose the destruction of agrarian systems and their capitalist reconstruction but rather to develop them and thus to accelerate integration into this system.


The cost in subsidies for running costs of the supervisory structures was high: 4,033 billion Francs CFA in 1977-78,6,924 billion in 1980-81;10,920 billion in 1981-82.

Taking over the dissolved companies' debts also remains a heavy burden: 98 billion Francs CFA for ONCAD, to which must be added the billions in running costs of other structures or the failure of others such as SONAR: the ADRs debts would also have to be added in. Overall, to see the function of the burden of state apparatuses on the rural areas as formidable structures to create indebtedness for the nation would not be invidious. Debt servicing today amounts to 160 billion Francs CFA with arrears of 30 billion. Total rural debt was zero in 1972, nine billion in 1975 and 24 billion in 1980. Foreign capital also receives its share in the form of repatriation of profits on this capital or net factor incomes.

The process of indebtedness thus makes it possible to develop economic subjection, ensure and tighten the links of extraversion and dependence between Senegal and the states in the centre. This explains why the World Bank, the IMF, the suppliers of funds are always ready to support either a 'stabilization plan', an economic and financial recovery plan, a structural adjustment programme, or a medium- and long-term adjustment programme... and always ready with the next one too.