Richard W. Franks and Barbara H. Chasin, Seeds of Famine: Chapter 3.
French colonial policy in
European colonialism expanded to
At times, European powers
conflicted on the issue of
European domination was
destructive in many ways for Africans. Animal herds were requisitioned, all but
destroying them and men were drafted into the military in an attempt to create
“La Paix Francaise.” African troops were well regarded because the French
believed that they were calmer under fire than whites.
African society was changed indirectly as well as directly. With the focus of trade moving to the coastal areas, inland trading routes and nomadic traders found their volume of trade and their profit from it diminishing. They were dealt a further blow by the expansion of the railroads into the interior, a development that made their role even more unnecessary. The end result was poverty for the once prosperous nomads.
In their main role of enriching
The peanut is well adapted to the
Because there was little incentive for the average peasant to grow peanuts, a system had to be devised to encourage their cultivation. The main method was Tax schemes. Unable to pay taxes without a marketable commodity, peasants were forced to cultivate peanuts. Tax evasion was dealt with severely and different tribes were pitted against one another in an attempt to enforce the tax codes while reinforcing tribal prejudices to ensure that there was no united resistance. Kidnapping and torture were even resorted to in order to punish tax evaders. Even at the time many of the arrangements were characterized as “forced labor” or “prison labor.”
A small group of Africans were elevated to the ranks of Administrators.
These leaders replaced the traditional authority figures. Professions other than
farmer or native colonial administrator were gradually eliminated and in this
way the West African economy fell under complete European control. The French in
particular forbade economic relations with entities other than
As a result of the shift to
widespread cultivation of peanuts, food production declined. Famine became
common and studies showing the shockingly low caloric consumption of the natives
during certain seasons were met with disbelief by the French and disregarded.
What food was grown was susceptible to droughts and locust swarms. Further
disrupting the production of both food and cash crops were the indiscriminate
demands of the French for African manpower for military service. This caused
many Africans to try to immigrate to
The French established “Indigenous Provident Societies” with the purpose of storing grain and seed reserves. These reserves were accumulated through forced donations from peasants. In reality, they reduced the peasants own reserves while poor storage conditions ensured that many of the reserves went bad.
Though their policies were clearly having a disastrous effect on the indigenous population, the French worked to further expand peanut production. As a result of many of the inefficient farming practices employed by peasant farmers, peanut yields were declining. To address this, the colonial government set up scientific missions to try to develop disease and drought resistant strains. They also attempted to develop strains with higher oil content. They developed varieties specific to certain geographical conditions. Because of these efforts, peanut cultivation grew.
In 1946, a plan was created for the development of the colonies. The plan involved large state investments and heavy state involvement. A development bank was established to handle development loans to the colonies. The largest investments were infrastructure investments. In particular, transportation was heavily favored because it could increase profits by making it easier to bring crops to market. The French also seemed to recognize the importance of the West African woodlands, enacting legislation to protect them. This attempt at protection however came to little.
The French were also faced with a peculiar religious development. With traditional social networks destroyed, the indigenous populations turned to religion. One of these sects, the Mourides enjoyed widespread support. Luckily for the French, the leader of the Mourides used his influence to espouse pro-French ideas and encourage pro-French behavior that included peanut farming and enlistment in the French army. Most useful was the Mouride work ethic. Through this, they gave religious legitimacy to peanut farming. They also acted as pioneers, cultivating regions that had never been used for peanut production. The French were more than happy to accommodate the Mourides.
Because the Mourides had little prior experience with agriculture (they
had been principally warriors prior to the French occupation of