The Land Has Changed: History, Society and Gender in Colonial Eastern Nigeria

The Land Has Changed: History, Society and Gender in Colonial Eastern Nigeria

The Land Has Changed: History, Society and Gender in Colonial Eastern Nigeria

The Land Has Changed: History, Society and Gender in Colonial Eastern Nigeria

Synopsis

A century ago, agriculture was the dominant economic sector in much of Africa. By the 1990s, however, African farmers had declining incomes and were worse off, on average, than those who did not farm. Colonial policies, subsequent 'top-down' statism, and globalization are usually cited as primary causes of this long-term decline. In this unprecedented study of the Igbo region of southeastern Nigeria, Chima Korieh points the way to a more complex and inclusive approach to this issue. Using agricultural change as a lens through which to view socio-economic and cultural change, political struggle, and colonial hegemony, Korieh shows that regional dynamics and local responses also played vital roles in this era of transformation. British attempts to modernize the densely populated Igbo region were focused largely on intensive production of palm oil as a cash crop for export and on the assumption of male dominance within a conventional western hierarchy. This colonial agenda, however, collided with a traditional culture in which females played important social and political roles and male status was closely tied to yam cultivation. Drawing on an astonishing array of sources, including oral interviews, newspapers, private journals, and especially letters of petition from local farmers and traders, Korieh puts the reader in direct contact with ordinary people, evoking a feeling of what it was like to live through the era. As such, the book reveals colonial interactions as negotiated encounters between officials and natives and challenges simplistic notions of a hegemonic colonial state and a compliant native population.

Excerpt

I consider it a distinct honour and privilege to have been invited to write a foreword for this book, The Land Has Changed: History, Society and Gender in Colonial Eastern Nigeria, which is a major and significant contribution to Igbo studies. In this volume, the author provides a vivid account of the patterns of socioeconomic change in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria, but focusing primary attention on present Imo and Abia states. The book deals with the transformations of agriculture during the colonial and postcolonial eras. It is certainly a study whose time has come, insofar as this genre, relating specifically to the Igbo, has been in the doldrums for too long. In other words, studies dealing with colonial agrarian policies and their impact on the indigenous peoples seem thus far to have been neglected by both indigenous and foreign scholars. Korieh’s book, therefore, fills an important gap in the existing studies dealing with British colonial innovations or changes relating to agriculture in Nigeria. As a remedy, Korieh examines and analyzes the transformations in agriculture in southeastern Nigeria with a special focus on the colonial and postcolonial periods.

In The Land Has Changed, a title borrowed from an agonized interviewee, the author confronts the problems of modernization as perceived by the British and challenges the notion that British colonial agricultural policies redounded to the benefit of the colonized. Rather, the transformations laid the foundation for decades of resistance, the decline of agriculture, and the onset of perennial hunger and poverty. In the author’s words, “The book . . .

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