Keywords: Somalia, Italian colonialism, Agriculture, Food security, Cash crop.
This paper explores the links between Italian colonial policies and food insecurity in Somalia during the period from 1900 to 1945. It is argued that over the long term, the policies put in place to ensure the necessary labour force for cotton and banana plantations dramatically reduced local staple food production to the point of making the area dependent on food imports for subsistence. Building on arguments inspired by Polanyi, the analysis shows that colonial policies disrupted the natives’ mode of economic production as well as their social structures. This combined effect contributed towards undermining food security in an area already severely vulnerable to drought and famine due to its arid climate. This paper draws primarily on documentation produced mainly by Italian authorities and individuals involved in the agriculture «valorization» efforts in Somalia in the first half of the twentieth century.