Politics, the state and agrarian development: a comparative study of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast

Michael J. Watts, Thomas J. Bassett

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Much of Sub-Saharan Africa is in the midst of a major agrarian crisis reflected in imminent or actual famine, stagnant or declining food productivity, growing food imports, rapid population growth and deteriorating rural living conditions. The poor performance of African peasant agriculture is often explained solely in terms of global theories of agrarian crisis, which can imply a backwardness or stasis in production relations. Using two West African case studies, this paper argues that the food crisis in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast has quite different origins, and throughout the 1970s social economic changes in the agricultural sector were both diverse and rapid. These differences are explained in terms of three variables: the regime of accumulation, state form and capacity, and forms of state intervention. The essay demonstrates that: (i) poor performance in the food sector may be the result of quite different political economies; (ii) state-directed change in peasant-based agriculture may be simultaneously advancing along several different fronts; and (iii) agrarian development must be understood in terms of the multiple political struggles associated with the specific character of the state and the regime of accumulation in each country.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-125
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Geography Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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