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Political and Economic Origins of African Hunger

  • Michael F. Lofchie

Drought and famine have become so inextricably linked in both popular and academic analyses of Africa's food problems in the 1970s that the relationship between the two is now taken almost axiomatically as cause and effect. The logic is simple and persuasive. Drought produces crop failure and crop failure, just as inevitably, leads to human starvation. This reasoning and the colour photography of starving children in the world press have proved so irresistible that social scientists have had surprisingly little rôle in scholarly discussions of the causes of the recent African famine. The subject has been left almost entirely to climatologists, physical geographers, water experts, and agronomists. Social scientists have so taken it for granted that the causes of African famine are natural and climatic that most of their literature on the subject falls into the genre of‘impact’ studies which omit the issue of causality and deal almost entirely with the social and political after effects.

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Page 551 note 1 See, for example, Paden, John N., Godiksen, Lois, Smyth, Hugh H. et al. , A Framework for Evaluating Long Term Development Strategies for the Sahel-Sudan Region: socio-political factors in ecological reconstruction (Boston, 1974), Sahel-Sudan Project, Center for Policy Alternatives, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Page 552 note 1 Meillassoux, Claude, ‘The Sahel Famine’, in Review of African Political Economy (London), I, 1974, pp. 2733.

Page 553 note 1 Rake, Alan, ‘Collapse of African Agriculture’, in African Development (London), 02 1975, pp. 1719.

Page 555 note 1 U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, Survey of Economic Conditions in Africa, 1972 (New York, 1973), ch. IV, ‘Agriculture’, especially pp. 103–5.

Page 555 note 2 Hodgkinson, Edith, ‘Economy’ [of Maul], in Africa South of the Sahara, 1974 (London, 1974), pp. 516–17.

Page 555 note 3 Tanzania Sunday News (Dar es Salaam), 17 November 1974.

Page 556 note 1 Daily News of Tanzania (Dar es Salaam), 30 June 1974.

Page 556 note 2 Moore, Barrington Jr, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston, 1966), pp. 509–23.

Page 557 note 1 A useful analysis of economic dualism can be found in Myint, H., The Economics of the Developing Countries (London, 1973), pp. 1866. For an outstanding discussion of the dual economy in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, see Seidman, Ann, Comparative Development Strategies in East Africa (Nairobi, 1972), pp. 1332.

Page 557 note 2 Hodgkinson, Edith, ‘Economy’ [of Senegal], in Africa South of the Sahara, 1974, p. 68.

Page 558 note 1 Ian Livingstone, ‘Agriculture in African Economic Development’, ibid. pp. 30–2.

Page 561 note 1 Ibid. p. 33.

Page 561 note 2 Stavenhagen, Rodolfo, Social Classes in Agrarian Societies (Garden City, 1975).

Page 562 note 1 Ruthenberg, Hans, African Agricultural Production Development Policy in Kenya, 1952–1965 (Berlin, 1966), pp. 7980.

Page 564 note 1 Nyerere, Julius K., Ujamaa: essays on socialism (London, 1968), pp. 106–44.

Page 565 note 1 The importance of pricing policy in inducing rural change is emphasised by Helleiner, G. K., ‘Agricultural Export Pricing Strategy in Tanzania’, in East African Journal of Rural Development (Nairobi), I, 1, 01 1968, pp. 118.

* Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles. The author wishes to thank the African Studies Center and Committee on Political Change for their support for research on Africa during the summers of 1972 and 1974.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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