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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Destined to Fail: Forced Settlement at the Office du Niger, 1926-45
Author:Filipovich, Jean
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Mali
Subjects:agricultural projects
development corporations
History and Exploration
Development and Technology
Economics and Trade
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Abstract:Conceived on a grandiose scale to produce cotton for the French textile industry after the First World War, the Office du Niger in Mali was destined to fail since it was founded on two false premises: that fine, long-staple cotton could be grown in the French Soudan, and that somehow the sparsely populated colony could furnish sufficient labour profitably to exploit a project of such magnitude. Émile Bélime, the project's mastermind, proved more persuasive than his critics, and eventually wishful thinking triumphed over reality. Once installed as director general of the Office after a decade of setbacks and intensive lobbying, he could count on administrative complicity to force Africans to settle at the scheme. Under pressure from Paris, local administrators became his recruiting agents, forcibly resettling some 30,000 Africans by 1945, when the colonial ministry privately declared the scheme an unqualified failure. In 1954, the project, heavily in debt, was re-invented as a prototype of disinterested aid. At independence, Mali inherited an unremunerative irrigation scheme that, forty years later, still requires regular injections of foreign aid simply to remain operative. Notes, ref., sum.