Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa

By Dennis D. Cordell; Joel W. Gregory et al. | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgments

In October 1974, in the village of Nanou in southwestern Burkina Faso, Siaka Coulibaly, the chief, extended the traditional welcome. He broke a kola nut into several fragments and offered pieces to Joel, Victor, and his son Sidiki. Introductions made and visitors welcomed, he spoke: "You want to know why people migrate? Well, make it pour money and bring rain in abundance. Then you will know why people leave." He laughed and then wisely counseled letting the people speak for themselves. Such was the beginning of the National Migration Survey of 1974-1975, the recollections of nearly one hundred thousand men and women from Burkina Faso, migrants and nonmigrants, that serve as the primary source for this book.

In fact, it might be said that this book began with another; or, rather, with others. Financed by the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa and carried out under the auspices of the then Centre Voltaïque de la Recherche Scientifique and the Institut National de la Statistique et de la Démographie in Ouagadougou, the intent of the National Migration Survey was to sketch a picture of contemporary mobility within, from, and back to Burkina, as part of a larger development strategy to make the country less dependent on migration. This project produced a summary volume in French by Sidiki Coulibaly, Joel Gregory, and Victor Piché, Les migrations voltaïques. Tome I. Importance et ambivalence de la migration voltaïque ( Ottawa, 1980), Sidiki, Joel, Victor, and other colleagues published six additional volumes on various aspects of the survey (see the bibliography).

About the time that the volumes on contemporary migration appeared, Joel Gregory and Dennis Cordell became interested in African historical demography. Joel presented a paper on the challenges of using contemporary survey data for the historical study of African population at the first of the two important conferences on African historical demography at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1977. Dennis and Joel followed up with a detailed study of colonial labor policy and population in Burkina Faso--then called Upper Volta--at the second Edinburgh seminar in 1981. An abridged version of this paper later appeared in the Journal of African History ( 1982). After that, their attention shifted to other projects and other places--Central African Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Mali, Senegal, Togo, and Québec, among others. In 1987, Dennis and Joel edited a volume entitled African Population and Capitalism

-xii-

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