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The influenza pandemic of 1918–19 and the spread of cassava cultivation on the lower Niger: a study in historical linkages*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2009

D. C. Ohadike
Affiliation:
University of Jos

Extract

A. G. Hopkins has observed that where new plants and seeds were adopted it was because they were seen as useful additions to the existing range of foods, or because they were regarded as good substitutes to the crops they displaced. This view is confirmed by a close study of the changing food patterns on the Lower Niger since 1520. Prior to 1919, cassava was hardly cultivated on the Lower Niger even though it was widely grown in the neighbouring Niger Delta. This was essentially because the people of the Lower Niger did not consider cassava as a good substitute for yams. However, after 1900 the Lower Niger became the scene of wars of resistance against the imposition of British rule. These wars not only resulted in a constant disruption of the agricultural activities of the local people, they also caused food shortages. The situation was worsened by the First World War and by the pandemic of influenza of 1918–19 which drained the nation's productive capacity and caused an unprecedented food scarcity. Under the circumstances, the people of the Lower Niger were constrained to accept cassava, at least as a supplement to the dwindling stocks of food. And as soon as it was realized that the new crop enjoyed a number of advantages over yams, its cultivation rapidly spread to all parts of the Lower Niger where it began to threaten the older staples. The speed with which this innovation was adapted clearly points to the degree of the food crisis that accompanied the pandemic influenza of 1918–19.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1981

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References

1 Hopkins, A. G., An Economic History of West Africa (London, 1973), 31.Google Scholar

2 Shaw, Thurstan, Igbo-Ukwu (London, 1970).Google Scholar

3 One version of the Nri traditions claims that God sent Eze Nri with yams to feed the Igbo peoples.

4 Kimble, G. H. T., Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis (London, 1937), 123.Google Scholar

5 Hallett, Robin (ed.), The Niger Journal of Richard and John Lander (London, 1965)Google Scholar

6 Laird, MacGregor and Oldfield, R. A. K., Narrative of an Expedition into the Interior of Africa by the River Niger (London, 1837), 2 vols.Google Scholar

7 Northrup, David, Trade Without Rulers (Oxford, 1980), 28.Google Scholar

8 Ibid. 177–8.

9 Ibid. 177–80.

10 See also Wiener, Leo, Africa and the Discovery of America, i (Kraus Reprint Co. 1971), 231.Google Scholar

11 Northrup, , Trade, 12.Google Scholar

12 CO 520/16/501: Memorandum of Instruction for Dealing with difficulties in the Asaba Hinterland and in the Agbor Area of the Benin District, 7 October 1902.

13 CO 520/91: Confidential enclosure of 19 September, 1910. Report on the Ogwashi-Oku Patrol.

14 CO 520/24: W. Fosbery, Acting High Commissioner of Southern Nigeria to the Divisional Commissioner, Central Division, on the Ekumeku Uprising. Received 12 March 1904.

15 CO 583/21/: 02579 of i December 1914, Confidential Report by F. Lugard to Lewis Harcourt, Colonial Office.

17 CO 583/30/02635: Confidential ReportbyF. S. James, Acting Lieutenant-Governor, Southern Provinces, to Governor-General, Lagos, 30 November 1914.

18 CO 583/21/02579: 18 November 1914, Lugard to Harcourt.

19 CO 583/30/02635: James to Lugard, 30 November 1914.

20 For examples of such contributions see CO 583/31/259 of 19 April 1915 and CO 583/31/728 of 26 August 1915.

21 See CO 503/44/25 of 3 August 1916. Direct taxation was extended to several untaxed provinces. Import and export duties were imposed on most commodities and rail charges were raised.

22 M. Cameron Blair, Senior Sanitary Officer, in CO 583/77 of 5 September 1919, ‘Pandemic of Influenza: Experience of in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria.’

23 J. Beringer, Acting Senior Sanitary Officer, Southern Provinces of Nigeria, in CO 583/77 of 5 September 1919, ‘The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 in the Southern Provinces of Nigeria’.

24 M. Cameron Blair, ‘Pandemic of Influenza’.

25 J. Beringer, ‘The Influenza Epidemic’.

28 W. F. Gower, Acting Lieutenant-Governor, Northern Provinces of Nigeria, to Colonial Office in CO 583/77, ‘Pandemic of Influenza: Experience of in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria’.

29 J. Beringer, ‘The Influenza Epidemic”.

31 Dr W. H. Sieger, Medical Officer, Benin, in CO 583/77, ‘Influenza in Southern Provinces’.

32 Dr Hungerford, Senior Medical Officer, Onitsha, in Ibid.

33 Dr Maclaine, Medical Officer, Okigwi, in Ibid.

35 M. Cameron Blair, ‘Pandemic of Influenza’.

36 Uzozie, L. C., ‘Patterns of Crop Combination in the Three Eastern States of Nigeria’, The Journal of Tropical Geography xxxiii (1977) 66Google Scholar. See also Jones, W.O., Manioc in Africa (Stanford, 1959).Google Scholar

37 Chief Adigwe Image, interviewed at Umutei quarters, Illah, 19 December 1974.

38 Chief Iheaze, interviewed at Ogwashi-Ukwu, on 4 August 1974.

39 Ozor Ajabor, interviewed at Ute-Okpu near Agbor, on 17 August 1974.

40 Obi Onyemem, interviewed at Ogboli-Ibusa, on 30 July 1974.

41 Thomas Igwe Ohadike, interviewed at Umezeagulu quarters, Ibusa, 8 September 1974

42 Chief Adigwe, interviewed at Azungwu quarters of Ogwashi-Ukwu, 5 August 1974.

43 B. A. Akunne, interviewed at Nri, 6 July 1974.

44 Nri traditions claim that the first famine occurred when Chukwu (God) created Heaven and Earth and gave Eze Nri yams to feed the Igbo people who were starving because all the land was covered with water.

45 Fyfe, Christopher, A History of Sierra Leone (London, 1962), 99.Google Scholar

46 Ibid. 168–9.

47 Wiener, Leo, Africa and the Discovery of America i, 201.Google Scholar

48 Ibid. 201.

49 Personal interview with B. M. Ralushai, History Department, University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria, January 1980.

50 Personal interview with Peter Mitchell, Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, August 1977.

51 Agboola, S. A., ‘The Introduction and Spread of Cassava in Western Nigeria’, Nigerian Journal of Economic and Social Studies, iii (1968), 371.Google Scholar

52 Ibid. 371.

53 Efeture, Jerry, ‘Cassava Economy in Isoko Division of the Western Delta’ A Special Research Project Submitted to the Department of Geography, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1976.Google Scholar

54 Uzozie, L. C., ‘Patterns’, 6172.Google Scholar

55 Green Bulletin, Information about Manuring Tropical Root Crops (an F. A. O. publication). See also F. A. O. Agricultural Development Paper No. 54 prepared by L. W.J. Holleman (1956).

29
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