The literature of Africa is dominated by accounts of crisis and gloom. But Thomas Bassett, a distinguished American geographer well known in the field of development, tells an unusual story of the growth of the cotton economy of West Africa. One of the few long-running success stories in African development, change was brought about by tens of thousands of small-scale peasant farmers. While the introduction of new strains of cotton in French West Africa was in part a result of agronomic research by French scientists, supported by an unusually efficient marketing structure, this is not a case of triumphant top-down 'planification'. Employing the case of Cote d'Ivoire, Professor Bassett shows agricultural intensification to result from the cumulative effect of decades of incremental changes in farming techniques and social organization. A significant contribution to the literature, the book demonstrates the need to consider the local and temporal dimensions of agricultural innovations. It brings into question many key assumptions that have influenced development policies during the twentieth century.
Thomas J. Bassett is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is co-author of Land in African Agrarian Systems (1993) and Maps of Africa to 1900 (2000), and has been engaged in long-term field work in Cote d'Ivoire since 1981.
1. Introduction; 2. The collision of empires, 1880-1911; 3. The uncaptured corvee, 1912-46; 4. Repackaging cotton, 1947-63; 5. Making cotton work, 1964-84; 6. 'To sow or not to sow': the extensification of cotton, gender politics, and rural mobilization, 1985-95; 7. Conclusion; Appendix; Notes; Bibliography.