Three reports concerning the
harvest in the north, the cola trade and the importation of
gasoline, and the export of beef cattle to the Gold Coast (1940)
|© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.|
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SUMMARY: 1940 was a bad year for the harvest in the cercles of Timbuktu and Gao.
CONTENT: The inspector asserts that Duboin was ignorant of the conditions in his cercle. Part of this is due to the tendency of the inhabitants, used to centuries of raids and pillage, to hide their goods. However, after 40 years of occupation, the French should have some idea about the needs of these people.
The tendency of the French is to forbid the export from the cercle of food items as soon as there is a bad harvest. This is a bad policy because it ignores traditional exchanges that compensate for bad harvests, and it encourages all kinds of fraud by creating a black market for food.
This report contains statistics on the amount of land under cultivation, and the amount of food produced and consumed in the Cercles of Gao, Bourem and Ansongo, but the inspector points out that the statistics are ridiculous and unusable. (They are included in these notes as an example of how bad the colonial statistics can be). The population figures may be useful, although there is nothing for Kidal or Menaka. The inspector says that these two areas have some 20,000 people.
| Cercle |
|Commodity||Production statistics||Distribution of harvest||Deficit|
|Cultivated land (hectares)||Average yield per hectare (kilograms)||Total harvest (tons)||Set aside for next year's seed (tons)||Local food requirements (tons)||Consumed by the administration (tons)|
| Gao |
| Millet |
| Millet |
| Millet |
|Ansongo (35,236)|| Millet
| Millet |
The nutritional basis of the nomad diet is milk from their herds (camels, cattle and goats), to which they add grain and meat. However, the amounts vary according to the social status of the individuals, since nobles can purchase grain any time they want. Their vassals, the Inrads, are not so fortunate, but they can buy millet and rice for most of the year. The bellahs, who are far from the river during most of the year, consume only milk, meat from the animals they guard, and no doubt grain taken surreptitiously from the stocks of their masters. During the portion of the year that they are near the river, they eat roughly the same as all the rest.
There are variations and exceptions, since some bellahs plant gardens while other nomads never come near the river. There are also a variety of wild food plants such as cram cram and wild spinach, plus hunting, although that is less important since the tribes have been disarmed and have little access to ammunition for the guns that remain.
Sedentary people live on rice, millet and wheat, to which they add milk. They also use a lot of wild plants. They also fish with nets in ponds created when the river is low, but during high water, all fishing is handled by the members of certain castes.
This report includes a quotation on the mentality of African chiefs who cannot provide precise information on nutritional needs: "La mentalité indigène est encore trop éloignée de nos habitudes de précisions, de prévoyance, de persévérance. Il faut aussi penser à leur prudente et traditionnelle dissimulation à cet égard" (The African mentality is still a long way from acepting [French] attitudes towards precision, forecasting and perseverance. One must also remember their tradition of obscuring the truth on such matters.)
This report also contains a note from DuBoin that mentions that sugar and petrol for Timbuktu is shipped via Gao.
In 1940, the rains were insufficiant and the Niger River did not rise high enough, so all agriculture in the Niger bend area was affected.
Although this is mentioned elsewhere, on this page the inspector says that the Cercles of Ansongo and Gao traditionally obtain food supplies from the Cercles of Tillabéry and Filingué in Niger.
Provisions for troops do not enter into any of these calculations. The STAPS (organization employed on building the trans-Saharan piste) goes directly to the market in Bamako to buy food for its workers, including 65 tons of rice and 360 tons of millet.
Facing this page is a copy of "Proces Verbal de la Réunion du 1èr Avril 1941" of the "Commission de Surveillance des prix" at Gao, dated April 4, 1941. This commission includes the Commandant DuBoin as president, a merchant named M. Rouge, M. Duflos of Ets. Maurel & Prom and M. Etienne, the Chef du Centre Transsaharienne. They discussed the problem of obtaining sufficient local food products at a reasonable price, noting that any attempt to fix prices causes the nomads to take their goods to neighboring cercles for sale. This is a list of the prices they selected at the meeting:
SUMMARY: Normally, fuel is shipped via Dakar by private firms under government control and authorization. The fuel is purchased by end-users who possess "permits d'achat" (ration coupons) issued by the government. There are a number of merchants, nearly all Syrian, who instead of selling petrol, use it to operate vehicles for the cola trade. Recent restrictions on transport have increased the price, making it more profitable to use gasoline to move colas than it is to sell the gasoline directly. As a result, gasoline is short and 36 liters of gasoline is now worth as much as 3,000 francs.
CONTENT: On December 30, 1940, a Lebanese merchant named Melham Nassar asked for permission to bring an unspecified quantity of gasoline from Portuguese Guinea to the Soudan via Kolda-Tambacounda (using the railroad) for his own use. On January 31, 1941, Georges Nahas, another Lebanese merchant, asked to import 5,400 liters of gasoline from Dakar. On February 5, 1941, a Lebanese garage owner named Naffah, asked for permission to import 3,600 liters from Dakar and Kaolack via the railroad. On February 5, 1941, a Lebanese transporter named Massad Habib asked for permission to import 4,000 liters of gasoline from Dakar and Kaolack.
A note opposite page 3 mentions that fuel was shipped by the case. If 28 cases was equivalent to 1,008 liters and 52 cases was equivalent to 1,872 liters, then each case contained 36 liters.
The author mentions the need to control the amount and destinations of gasoline shipments. He suggests that this be done at the train stations where the shipments arrive, since there are already customs posts there. He mentions specifically Bamako and Kayes.
The report also mentions two shipments of gasoline that do not appear to have arrived by railroad at Bamako; specifically 2,000 liters received on January 24, 1941 by M. Achcar.
There is also a problem with false customs declarations, such as that of the 5,700-5,800 liters of gasoline (4244 kg, specific gravity of 0.730-0.743) received by M. Mohamed Ghazedin on March 7, 1941, who declared only 5,400 liters.
The cola trade is almost entirely controlled by Syrians who arrive by truck from Côte d'Ivoire and by truck and train from Bobo Dioulasso.
From December 1, 1940 to March 10, 1941, 498 trucks arrived in Bamako carrying a total of 1,625 tons of colas. As of March 11, 1941, a ton of cola d'Agboville (Côte d'Ivoire) costs 140,000 francs and a ton of cola de Man (also in Côte d'Ivoire) costs costs 17,500 to 18,000 francs. The price of a ton of cola never fell below 10,000 francs since December 1, 1940. A single truck load of cola from Côte d'Ivoire will earn between 20,000 and 40,000 francs for the owner.
The biggest problem is to locate the necessary gasoline. A truck coming from Bobo Dioulasso to Bamako uses between 360 and 400 liters of gasoline. As a result, a black market in fuel has developed. 36 liters of gasoline now costs as much as 3,000 francs.
SUMMARY: This report concerns the cattle trade between the Soudan and the Gold Coast.
On August 24, 1941, word reached the Soudan that all trade with the English colonies is forbidden "sous réserve qu'il soit tenu compte des nécessités des relations "frontalières" entre indigènes" (except for that which was necessary to maintain good relations between Africans living along the border).
The Commandants des Cercles were not directly informed, but word was sent to the chefs du Douanes in Kayes, Bamamo and Gao, the Chambers of Commerce of Kayes and Bamako, and the Directeur de la B.A.O. (bank) in Bamako.
On December 2, 1940, the Haut-Commissaire de l'AOF alerted the Gouverneur de Soudan that approximately 5,000 cattle from the Soudan and Niger had arrived in the Gold Coast. The ban on exports posed a legal problem for the Soudan because it had no common border with the Gold Coast, and the government could not justify stopping the exports of cattle to other French colonies like Côte d'Ivoire, for example.