The plantation system of production established in the Caribbean and the “New World” only succeeded because of the prior organization and effective operation of plantations for food production in Africa. The food produced on plantations in Africa was needed to feed the slaves held captive in the European forts before the slave ships’ departure and to provision both the slaves and the crew during the long “middle passage” to the Caribbean and the Americas.
As a matter of explicit design, crops from the “New World” — including maize, groundnuts and manioc — were introduced into West Africa by the Dutch East India company, the Dutch West India Company and other European slave-trading firms in order to be grown in large “gardens” to provision this trade. The Dutch East India Company was the first joint-stock company in European history , and its role is legendary in the development of European capitalism. Its development of the food-provisioning system for the slave trade constituted an important early example of a multi-national food corporation whose express intention was to create and control food production to maximize profit through the sale of live cargo in the slave trade.
One consequence of this long history has been that ever since the slave trade era food systems in West Africa have been subject to the vicissitudes of demand imposed by its integration into an increasingly globalized world food system. Any attempt to re-establish agricultural autonomy or promote food self-sufficiency will have to address this long-standing and burdensome legacy.
- The History of the Dutch Slave Trade 1600-1863
- Agriculture, Topsoil and the Ecology of Colonialism
- Soils, Agriculture, Carbon Sequestration and Human Survival
- Biofuels, Land Grabs, and the Right to Food: The Legacy of Colonialism and the Evolution of the Global Food System
- Dark Chocolate: The Bitter Truth Behind the Sweets We All Enjoy
See related historical background material: