Africans and The Making of the Americas: Part 3, Herding

Residents of the vast savanna region of West Africa; notably the Mandinka, Wolof, Fulani, Hausa, and Nupe began raising cattle at least as early as 4000 B.C. Those who came to the essential because Europeans had no experience with the conditions presented by the Americas, where there was abundant land and small labor force. Africans, on the other hand, were adept at managing large numbers of herders. (The Fulani in particular have long been legendary for their ability to identify every member of a large herd and to know immediately whether an animal is missing.) Not surprisingly, Africans were in great demand in all areas of the Americas where ranching was major activity, and they introduced the patterns of the open grazing now practiced throughout the Americas. Both the harvesting of cattle drive were adapted from African practices. In addition, Africans were the first to use artificial insemination in cattle breeding and to use cow’s milk for human consumption.

Africans had tended cattle as slaves in the South, and slave owners brought them to Texas from other Southern states. In 1845, Texas had an estimated 100,000 Whites and 35,000 slaves. By 1861, the state had 430,000 Whites and 182,000 slaves. After the Civil War, African Americans played a major though seldom acknowledged role in the American expansion in the West. They were cowhands, gunslingers, cowboys and much more; men like Nat Love, Bill Pickett, One Horse Charley, Bronco Sam, George Glenn and Bose Ikard. In addition to a number of Western terms have been traced back to African origins. Bronco which means “rough” or “crude” in contemporary Spanish, derives from an African-language, term and was first used to denote African cattle handle.


All Our Ambition: Africa’s Great Green Wall

While things like foreign aid programs and exploitation has crippled Africa for decades and hardly achieved little success in terms of fixing the broken parts of the continent, an ambitious, practically ingenious idea to turn an entire strip of the continent into farmland.

“Stretching over a space of 9,400,00 square kilometres and covering most of North Africa, the Sahara is the largest non-polar desert in the world. And it’s getting bigger.

According to the US’s Public Education Center website, the effects of climate change are causing the Sahara to creep into bordering countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, and Nigeria, which poses a serious threat to their farmlands and agricultural productivity. The Guardian reports that by 2025, two-thirds of Africa’s arable land could be lost to the desert if nothing is done to stem its expansion.

To mitigate this and other environmental issues affecting Africa such as land degradation, the effects of climate change, and a loss of biodiversity, Senegal is leading a 20-nation initiative known as the Great Green Wall. Most notably, this initiative involves erecting a wall of trees across the southern edge of the Sahara desert, which will be 14 km wide and 7,600 km long. When completed, it will be the largest horticultural feature in history. The initiative will also focus on establishing sustainable farming and livestock cultivation, and improving food security.

The initiative will be ongoing, and has garnered the support of several international organisations including the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the World Bank, the African Union, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Together they have pledged $3 billion and the expertise of their botanists for its advancement.” – Source

The benefits of a project like this not only includes combating the expanding desert, but also bringing much-needed wealth and independence to many countries and African communities.

Mary Harper towards the end of the video expressed concerns and doubts concerning whether the project can be successful because people may have a short-term mentality. I find her stance confusing concerning she wrote a book on Somalia, and optimistic one at that, showing Somalia’s progress and perseverance despite not having a functioning government for two decades. And I personally find it rather insulting to say that the people will be short-sighted simply due to their conditions. I think this project and the fact that so many African countries are on board and funding this says that the community is there. Multiple countries, you’d be hard-pressed to find two or three countries in the First World to agree on something without years of bickering and legal delay.

Now’s not the time for doubt and cynicism, concerns are just fine, but farmers, governments, and scientists have all concluded: something needs to be done. China has been doing something similar, and their missteps can be learned from, but the idea is ingenious, in my opinion.


%d bloggers like this: