Who We Are
We began documenting our agricultural heritage in 1901 when this part of West Africa became a British protectorate. Indigenous landowners in every branch of our family tree have witnessed pre-colonial, colonial, and post colonial agricultural transformation. We operate first and foremost by customary laws as set forth by community leaders and elders. The Guinean Forest Savanna Mosaic is made up of the most pluralistic societies in the world in terms religious, ethnic and legal values.
Most of our community farming sector is smallholder farming. These largely unindustrialized farms vary in size and are owned by individuals, families, and communities who observe several legal systems including common law, customary law and western style law. Customary law takes precedence and is derived from indigenous traditional norms and community practices.
Other continents lack Africa's natural and cultural diversity, and, West Africa, with its 500+ indigenous languages, eclipses other regions of the world by its incredible linguistic diversity and density. As such customary law is very fluid and is dependent upon jurisdictions. Despite various challenges, customary law has remained resilient in West Africa. It is safe to predict that plural legal systems will continue in Africa, as well as in many other non western parts of the world.
In 1956, the first commercial quantities of crude oil were found in West Africa, in and around the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. It did not take long before Nigeria became known for holding some of the largest reserves of oil and gas in the world. Crude oil took center stage at the expense of our agricultural heritage. Today, crude oil revenues are beginning to wane, as such, we are in midst a painful, but necessary agricultural renaissance.
In the 1880s, in what became known as the “Scramble for Africa,” European countries raced to occupy the continent, seeking economic gain. 17th and 18th century European adventurers and map makers laid the foundation. In this 1727 map by cartographer Hermann Moll, "Negroland" represented the area between the region of Guinea and the Sahara Desert. "Guinea", not to be confused with the modern country, then referred to the south-facing coast of West Africa and the land stretching upriver from there. Moll labeled these areas "Grain Coast", "Slave Coast", and "Gold Coast".
Moll's circle included scientist Robert Hooke, archaeologist William Stuckley, authors Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, and intellectually-gifted pirates such as William Dampier, Woodes Rogers and William Hacke. From these contacts, Moll gained a great deal of privileged information that was included in his maps.
The Foundations of Neo-Colonialism
The Spread of Farming Culture from West Africa
To summarize the livelihood strategies of pre-colonial West Africans is not easy if you look at the whole pre-colonial period, which stretches from roughly seven million years ago to the late 19th century. Therefore researchers generally start their summaries beginning in 1000 AD. This is when the Islamic conquest of North Africa was complete, marking the beginning of the cultural, religious and ethnic division between Africa north and south of the Sahara.
It is also at this time that Bantu speaking people had completed their migration from west to southern Africa. Bantu people’s originated in the Benue-Cross River areas of what is modern day Nigeria. The Iron Age started in west Africa 1000 years before it did in Greece and Rome. Iron tools had begun to replace flint tools, and the great trade routes began to link the continents. These developments had important effects on indigenous farming systems in pre-colonial Africa, and beyond, to the New World. In contrast to the nomadic bands that had come to characterize the continent, Bantu-speaking farmers and fishers introduced a new kind of social structure to the rain forest regions of Africa anchored on three levels of spiritual power: a single Creator God of all things; territorial spirits, with powers limited to particular locales; and on the communal level, the ancestor spirits of each particular community.
Why We Matter
Smallholders and Independent Family Farms
According to recent research by Nature, a British weekly scientific journal, smallholders and independent family farms outdo big ones on biodiversity and crop yields. Large-scale, corporate farms account for most of the global food supply, but smallholdings protect species and are just as profitable.
75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and 5 animal species, making the global food system highly vulnerable to shocks. Smallholder and independent family farms reduce risks to global food systems, because we nurture and raise many rustic and climate-resilient breeds of crops and animals.
Yet, our economic viability and contributions to a diversified landscape and culture are threatened by exploitative and zero sum styles of globalization in every corner of the world. Abodunde Farms recognizes the need to create food systems in partnership with smallholders and other family farms that can compete with larger corporate farming operations.
In developing countries, family farmers and smallholder farms have lower operating transaction costs, engage more workers per hectare, who being mostly owners and stewards of land themselves, as well family and/or related by community, are knowledgeable in ancient farming systems and motivated to work. This gives them a productivity advantage over larger farms, when they organize.