Food supply and the state: the history and social organization of the rice trade in Kisangani, Zaire
MetadataShow full item record
In Kisangani, as in other parts of Africa subject to political parasitism and economic chaos, people have had to draw on many channels of access to resources in order to survive. This pattern of shifting strategies militates against sustained investment in food supply and thus is a major factor in the food crisis in Africa. Thirteen months of fieldwork in the city of Kisangani and the surrounding subregion of Tshopo revealed how constantly changing regulations, inflation and poor infrastructure forced merchants and farmers into diversification and made long-term investment in rice production and trade risky. Uncertainty in the supply of basic resources such as credit, seeds, fuel, spare parts and produce sacks was linked to the draining of foreign exchange and development funds toward the nonproductive activities of the political élite. Controls on agricultural production such as the forced cultivation of rice led to suppression of African farmers' initiative. Trade in rice was in the hands of expatriate monopsonies until the 1970s, but the indigenization of expatriate businesses and plantations (zairianization) only served to isolate further the rural areas devastated by the Simba rebellion of the mid-1960s. In addition, zairianization fostered parasitism and discouraged investment. In the 1980s, farmers were blocked from organizing their own markets and cooperatives and farm labor was relegated telwomen. Large traders agreed to maintain controls on trade which perpetuated the bureaucracy in order to keep ahead of the mass of mobile small traders. Government programs, and approaches such as privatization and liberalization, initiated by Zaire's external investors, did not change the terms of access to resources within the Zairian economy and, thus, agricultural productivity did not increase. These findings support the theory that multiple survival strategies generated by economic chaos and circumvention of and collaboration with the state lead to declining agricultural productivity. This view has implications for agricultural development policy.
RightsThis work is being made available in OpenBU by permission of its author, and is available for research purposes only. All rights are reserved to the author.