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Besieged Palaeonegritics or Innovative Farmers: Historical Political Ecology ofIntensive and Terraced Agriculture in West Africa and Sudan
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Human Geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3322-7848
2010 (English)In: African Studies, ISSN 0002-0184, E-ISSN 1469-2872, Vol. 69, no 2, 323-343 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article provides an overview of the historical occurrences of terracing, manuring and other features of intensive agriculture in West Africa and Sudan. The aim is to shed more general light on the political, economic and social contexts of precolonial intensive farming in sub-Saharan Africa. The article uses the vantage point of recent debates on driving forces behind terracing and irrigation in East Africa. It argues that despite being regularly cited as fact in the literature on terraced agriculture on West Africa, no clear historical evidence is available to show that slave raiding was indeed the determining factor behind the first settlement of these hills and the terracing. The farming systems of the late precolonial period must definitely be seen as an outcome of the political economy of the slave trade period. But the idea that the intensification is the outcome of the retreat of decentralised societies into hills and mountains is challenged by the fact that intensification also occurred on the plains and in areas dominated by stratified social organisation and predatory states. It seems as if the labour mobilisation required for intensive agriculture was achieved at both ends of this social continuum. Conflicts and defensive strategies, as well as cooperation in the forms of intermarriage, trade, etc, formed part of a long-term process of different groups relating to one another, intensifying their agriculture and developing a geographical division of labour.   

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 69, no 2, 323-343 p.
Keyword [en]
intensive farming, terracing, irrigation
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Human Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-41677DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2010.499204ISI: 000280390800009OAI: diva2:332120
Available from: 2010-09-13 Created: 2010-08-02 Last updated: 2016-01-27Bibliographically approved

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