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Title:     "Land, Agriculture and Society in the Gibe Region: 
           Southwestern Ethiopia, c. 1850-1974" (Cash Cropping)
Author:    Gemeda, Guluma

Date:      1996
School:    Michigan State University 
Advisor:   Harold G. Marcus
Degree:    Ph.D.

Abstract: For a long time, Africanists have dealt with the phenomenon of cash cropping and its impact on the society. They have analyzed why and how subsistence producers shifted to cash crops, and how the market economy has impacted the life of the peasants. Yet they are not able to adequately explain why cash cropping has failed to transform the peasant society in any significant way. The effort to understand the issues have been undermined by the reliance on a specific theoretical model. Secondly, while focusing too much on particular periods and specific social groups, Africanists have paid little attention to the problem of capital formation by successive generations.

Evaluating neoclassical, structuralist and the culturalist paradigms, this study argues that the predicament of cash crop producing peasantries can not be fully explained by a single model. This is because the process of agricultural transformation is complex and it is influenced by various factors: cultural, social, political and environmental issues. A combination of these factors produce a variety of results under different circumstances. In the Gibe region, where coffee was cultivated and exchanged for very a long time, the ability of the peasants for capital formation had been circumscribed by political and social factors.

This study has revealed, though, the momentary success and failure of the peasant producers. In almost every generation, since the mid-nineteenth century, the process of agricultural transformation was thwarted by a period of crisis. For this reason, little or no capital was transferred from one generation to another. By documenting the periodic crises that faced the coffee producers of the Gibe valley, this dissertation has concluded that the incomplete transformation of the peasant society was due to the peasants' insufficient share of agricultural surpluses and lack of security for agrarian property rights. The market conditions, the politics and and the environment have all contributed to the problem. It is therefore imperative to study the peasantry and the current agrarian crisis in a broader perspective.

This dissertation examines the history of environmental management and food production techniques in Kuruman, South Africa. In a larger sense it addresses an essential question of South African rural history: the decline of food production among blacks. In contrast to more familiar explanations of these developments, this dissertation explores how environmental and technological factors contributed to the transformation of the South African countryside.

Historians have identified national causes of black agricultural decline in capitalism and the implementation of discriminatory legislation. They have also described powerful dynamics arising from the local economy, society and power struggles. Because South African historiography has not fully considered how changing techniques and methods of food production fit into these forces, this dissertation relies on comparative environmental historiography, particularly of the United States. This body of literature shows how human land use is critical to social, economic and environmental changes in subsistence and capitalist economies.

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