African American Rice Technology in the Americas

 

"Long before millions were transported across the Middle Passage West Africans had refined an elaborate food production system that displayed acute knowledge  of landscape gradient, soil principles moisture regimes, farming by submersion, hydrology and tidal dynamics, and the mechanisms to impound water and to control its flow. The result was an array of rice production zones with a management portfolio more diverse than those occurring in Asia and more finely nuanced by micro environmental soil and water parameters. This was a sytem that over millenia minimized subsistence risks, enhanced human survival in drought-prone environments, and contributed to the the dense populations of the Upper Guinea coast that were subsequently swept into the Atlantic slave trade.The knowledge and the expertise to adapt cultivation of a preferred dietary staple to New World conditions proved among the scant "possessions" remaining to slaves pressed into slavery from rice- growing  regions. For those arriving in frontier South Carolina. a similar geographic setting of diverse lowland habitats and climatic conditions optimized the transfer of a crucial farming system to North America."

 

 

Extract from Judith Carney, Black Rice, The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas

Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.,2001

Gloria Emeagwali