Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, by James C. McCann

By James C. McCann

Someday round 1500 A.D., an African farmer planted a maize seed imported from the hot international. That act set in movement the outstanding saga of 1 of the world's such a lot influential crops--one that may rework the way forward for Africa and of the Atlantic international. Africa's event with maize is special but in addition instructive from an international viewpoint: specialists expect that through 2020 maize turns into the world's so much cultivated crop. James McCann strikes simply from the village point to the continental scale, from the medieval to the fashionable, as he explains the technological know-how of maize creation and explores how the crop has imprinted itself on Africa's agrarian and concrete landscapes. at the present time, maize bills for greater than part the energy humans devour in lots of African nations. in the course of the 20th century, a tidal wave of maize engulfed the continent, and supplanted Africa's personal historic grain crops--sorghum, millet, and rice. within the metamorphosis of maize from an unique customer right into a quintessentially African crop, in its transformation from vegetable to grain, and from interest to staple, lies a revealing tale of cultural variation. because it unfolds, we see how this sixteenth-century stranger has turn into critical to Africa's fields, storehouses, and diets, and has embedded itself in Africa's political, monetary, and social family members. the new unfold of maize has been alarmingly quick, with implications mostly neglected by means of the media and policymakers. McCann's compelling heritage deals perception into the profound impact of a unmarried crop on African tradition, health and wellbeing, technological innovation, and the way forward for the world's nutrition provide. (20050901)

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Additional resources for Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000

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As the Portuguese traders quickly learned, the easiest way to obtain gold from the mines of central Ghana was to transport slaves from elsewhere on the West African coast to the new Atlantic entrepôt (founded in 1482) at El Mina. Incorporating these new populations as slaves, fictive kin, and dependents provided both the labor and the mechanisms of social coercion that permitted state systems to evolve. One ingredient hidden in this story points directly to the year 1500 as a takeoff point for changes in the ecosystem: the arrival from forest ecosystems of Central and South America of new food 46 MAIZE AND GRACE crops ideally suited to feeding expanding forest-based polities.

24 Historian of the Dutch Gold Coast James LaFleur says that aburro in the old Dutch transliterations is a direct reference to sorghum. Near the mouth of the Congo River, Kikongo speakers in the mid-sixteenth century called maize maza mamputo (grain of the white man); Mande speakers in Senegambia offered tuba-nyo (white man’s grain), a similar gloss. From Egypt along the trade route south to Lake Chad, local lexical terms for maize, especially in Hausa and dialects of Fulfulde, derived from the root masa, or 35 NAMING THE STRANGER masar (that is, Egypt), describing maize’s likely path of introduction to the region.

The veteran ethnographer of the Yoruba William Bascom was “exasper- 25 NAMING THE STRANGER ated” by his Ife informants’ insistence that maize had always been with the Yoruba, and the linguistic gadfly M. W. D. 7 A team of British historical linguists, including the indefatigable Roger Blench, has offered more precise evidence from language and pointed out that there is no direct evidence that the Portuguese played a role in introducing maize to what is now Nigeria. The linguistic patterns they cite, in fact, seem to suggest that maize arrived primarily during long-distance trade with the north, via Bornu (in present-day Chad) and lesser routes from the west and northwest.

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