September 10, 2001 - By Paul Barton

Foreign Control of African Lands and Resources
Leads to Poverty and Starvation

The conflict over Zimbabweans' lands between Zimbabwe indigenous Africans and the descendants of British settlers in Zimbabwe as well as similar coflicts elsewhere on the African continent and elsewhere, is one of the reasons for the suffering, poverty and starvation faced by many Africans, whether in Zimbabwe, Sudan or Mauritania.

The major problem is that much of Africa's productive lands are in the hands of foreigners whether they arrived during the eighteen hundreds (as in Zimbabwe), or during the 1500's (as in Sudan or Mauritania) or during the 600's A.D.

The control of African (indigenous Black Africans) lands and resources by non-Africans, reminds one of the control of Irish land by the English landowners of Ireland during and before the Potato Famine of the late 100's. The Irish, like many Zimbabwean small farmers today had the worse lands or no control of their lands, and like the people who are starving and are faced with poverty and lack of food in parts of Africa today, the Irish also starved and suffered because they had no control of their own lands.

When one looks at the history of Zimbabwe or most of Africa, one will see a rich region where agriculture and pastoralism was born and where civilization grew out of the customs developed from the agricultural way of life.

Africa's History of Agriculture and Civilization

The history of Zimbabwe and that of most of Africa shows the very early development of agriculture, toolmaking (as far back as 75,000 years ago based on discoveries along the Semlike River in Congo; 1994), fishing and sedentary cultures and civilizations, as well as pastoralism. From as early as 15,000 years Before Christ in what is today occupied Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Chad, the ancient Aquatic civilizations developed into fishing, farming and pastoral forms of making a living.

The Mende agricultural complex was part of this ancient and protohistoric agricultural and fishing culture where ships were built to traverse a wet, lake-filled Sahara and parts of West and East Africa. In fact, current research and studies done show a very ancient connection between two of America's most mysterious ancient civilizations. Both of these show evidence of African origins from West Africa and the South-Western Sahara region.

The Olmec or Xi civilization of Mexico, recently discovered to be of Mende origins and the Washitaw People of the Mississippi/Louisiana region whose ancestors came from the West Africa region, (see the great book, "A History of the African-Olmecs: Black Civilizations of America From Prehistoric Times to the Present Era." also "Susu Economics The History of Pan-African Trade, Commerce, Money and Wealth," both books published by 1stbooks Library, 2595 Vernal Pike, Bloomington, Indiana 47404 U.S.A. email; 1stbooks@1stbooks.com www.1stbooks.com 1(800) 839-8640 or 1(812) 339-6000. See a preview also at www.barnesandnoble.com )

The agricultural legacy of Zimbabwe and much of Southern and Eastern Africa extends back to as early as 10,000 years Before Christ. In fact, the earliest evidence of the planting and harvesting of agricultural crops, specifically sorghum was found in the Sudan region. Agriculture was practiced in the Zimbabwe region earlier than 1500 B.C. Pastoralism was most likely practiced in Zimbabwe earlier than 10,000 years ago.

According to ancient Egyptian texts, the region from Somalia to South Africa was known as Punt. This region produced a wide variety of products including agricultural, metals and other goods. By 400 B.C., Zimbabwe and the rest of Southern Africa was well known as a producer of agricultural goods, gold and other comodities by many nations including some as far as China.

During the early Christian Era up to the 1600's both the Swahili Coast and Zimbabw/South Africa region were engaged in the trade of agricultural goods, manufactured iron tools and utencils, gold jewelry and ornaments and a variety of other goods, according to Chancllor Williams {(Destruction of Black Civilization) pub. by Third World Press, Chicago, Illinois}.

One of the world's rare metals, electrum was being produced in the Mozambique/Zimbabwe region and was sold to the ancient Egyptians as early as 1500 B.C. Red ocre from iron ore was being mined in Swaziland as early as 40,000 years Before Christ according to an article in National Geographic Magazine.

Africa's Traditional Lands Commercialized During Colonialism

Today in many parts of Africa, non-Africans continue to hold large areas of land once used by Africans for traditional agriculture and commerce as lands for cash crops commercial agriculture, while African farmers and their families suffer or starve.

The attempt to solve the land dispute in Zimbabwe can only be met with approval from Africans in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa and the Diaspora. A resolution of this conflict where all parties are satisfied will help Zimbabwe maintain its course in bringing about the development of its people and the region.

Africa as Europe's Breadbasket

While many of Africa's people, farmers and communities have had to suffer for lack of arable land due to the possession of such lands by foreigners, it is astonishing that much of the produce of these lands are used to feed Europe and other parts of the world, where climate and weather conditions prohabit the growing of a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, grains and foods. While the myth of Africa being un 'underdeveloped" continent that cannot feed itself continues, the fact is Africa produces huge amounts of food that finds its way on the plates of Europeans and others.

According to encyclopedia Britannca, in 1980 54,900,000 acres of African land was planted with corn which yielded 29,000,000 tons. The nations with the highest yields per acre were Reunion, Egypt and Mauritius.

Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania, Senegal, Somalia and Ethiopia produced 78,000,000 of millet and sorghum. Nations like Ethiopia, South Africa, Tunisia, Kenya, Morocco, Algeria produce many tons of wheat.

African Fruit and Vegetable Production

Africa is located in the tropical zone and due to this, its potential to grow and produce a wide variety of crops, fruits and vegetables is a great blessing. Africa produces fruits such as dates, olives, bananas, pineapples, figs, oranges, grapefruits and tangerines at an enormous amount.

Vegetables such as yams (tropical yams), sweet potatoes, cassava, plantains, onions, bananas (found throughout tropical Africa). Pineapples are grown in nations including Ivory coast, South Africa, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya and Congo.

Africa produced 300,000 tons of grapefruit in 1980. The production of oranges was 3,800,000 tons. Other citrus fruits produced reached 480,000 tons.

African nations produce large amounts of green beans, beans and peas, chickpeas, lentils. Cabages, culiflower, grapes are produced by African nations with Mediterranean climates including Southern Africa.

Peppers, okra, eggplant, cucumber, watermellon are produced by nations like Comoros, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya. These nations also produced 185,000 tons of dried coconut (copra) in 1980. Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory coast produced 800,000 to 1,500,000 tons of palm oil.

In 1980, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gambia, Senegal, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa) produced 5,300,000 tons of peanuts. Sudan, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Tanzania produced 1,300,000 tons of cotton and 2,300,0000 tons of cottonseed. Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda produced 525,000 tons of sunflower seed.

Africa produces half of the world's cocoa, which comes primarily from West Africa. One fifth of the world's coffee, comes from East Africa. One fifth of the world's peanuts come from Western and Equatorial Africa. One fifth of the world's palm oil also comes from Africa along with one tenth of the world's tea. About four-fifths of the world's pyrethrum, used to make insecticides comes from Africa. Cashews, cloves, sesame seed and sisal is also produced in high amounts by African nations.

In retrospect, the history and the figures given above clearly show that Africa and for that matter most so-called "Third World" nations who are mainly located in the tropical regions of the earth are major producers of food crops.

The question is why are Africans and other Black/Third World nations suffering from a lack of food and even technological/industrial development? The answer lies in situations such as those suffered by the landless farmers in parts of Africa whose lands were taken during the colonial period and turned into commercial farms producing food to feed the people of Europe.

Ironically, this is the same type of colonial exploitation that has led to starvation, tribal conlict, slavery and destruction of African societies and for which reparations are being sought. Yet the recent "Conference againt Racism," shows clearly that , no reparations will be payed to Africans in Africa or the dispora, even while their lands are being occupied by the descendants of the colonialist element and even when the cycle of poverty and degradation continues.

Paul Barton

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