Opportunistic agriculture in Western Sahara

January 9, 2007

Western Sahara 173

Western Sahara 173,
originally uploaded by Kostandia.

I was fascinated to hear that these ploughs are still used by some Sahrawi who grow wheat, rushing out to plant seeds when there is enough rainfall to allow the plants to reach maturity (I forget but presume this is a fast growing strain). In the Sahel there are huge problems when the rains don’t arrive when expected; the Sahrawi who practice this type of agriculture manage to exploit rare and unpredictable rainfall in a highly opportunistic manner, as a supplement to pastoralism. In other parts of Africa, pastoralists are becoming more and more marginalised as governments and western donors encourage them to “develop” and become settled agriculturalists. In marginal environments risk spreading and opportunism based on a combination of subsistence strategies is the best way of ensuring food security. Misguided notions of development based on ideologies of progress which see mobile pastoralism as more primitive than settled agriculture have done much to undermine food security in Africa.