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La cueillette de plantes alimentaires en pays soninké (Sénégal) depuis la fin du XIXème siècle. Histoire et devenir d'un savoir-faire

Abstract : In the African Sahel the history of which is marked by recurring food crises, agriculture and food gathering have remained until recent years complementary activities. In the Soninke country, in particular, food gathering is a regular, socially organized practice, which provides complementary food in periods of plenty and food substitutes during times of crisis. When there is no famine it plays an important part in nutritional balance. This formerly servile work has progressively concerned all social groups since the end of the 19th century, being in that way part of a more global evolution of Soninke society. At present, however, there is a decrease in food gathering, which varies according to the region and is related to the degradation of the vegetation cover and changes in the way of life. In the high Senegal valley it is due, in particular, to the monetization of the economy with the increase in migration of the labour force, and the transformation of the production system with the creation of irrigated perimeters. This trend may well have been strengthened by the lack of interest given to this activity in the fields of research and development. Food gathering practices depend on the knowledge of the vegetation and on different harvesting and preparation techniques. Food gathering plays as much a part in the management of the environment as agriculture or breeding stock, fishing or hunting. These practices are also strongly imbued with social and symbolic meaning, as the oral statements and the food gathering songs show. As a means of subsistence and a sign of poverty during times of famine, it can be either considered praiseworthy or as something to be denied. When a crisis occurs not only is survival in jeopardy but also social identity. This ambiguous perception of food gathering is the backcloth to its present depreciation and its decline. Without losing sight of the ambivalence of this practice in the Soninke society - and in other African societies - the consequences of its decrease from the point of view of knowledge and preservation of the environment can be questioned. The decline of food gathering also reinforces the present trend for uniform agricultural systems and increases their vulnerability to different forms of ecological and economic risks. Before the disappearance of these skills with their related practices should not these same skills be taken into consideration and reassessed, and if so, how?
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Monique Chastanet. La cueillette de plantes alimentaires en pays soninké (Sénégal) depuis la fin du XIXème siècle. Histoire et devenir d'un savoir-faire. Georges Dupré (éd.). Savoirs paysans et développement, Karthala - Orstom, p. 253-287, 1991. ⟨halshs-00709119⟩

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