If there is an economic crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, as is now generally accepted by the worldwide community, Mauritania falls in the category of most severely affected countries. The most severe consequence of the crisis has been the death of thousands of people from starvation, in Mauritania and elsewhere. Domestic policy issues have been singled out by Eicher in his "Africa's Food Crisis" as being at the heart of the problem. In search of solutions, governments have failed to consider population growth and "agrarian socialism" as possible sources of their problem. Based on the conclusions of most reports, the governments' search procedure for courses of action might best be described as one of "tatonnement,' or trial-and-error experimentation. The colonial legacy, the drought cycle, and migration are cited in the literature as the major causes of the African economic crisis. Whether these arguments hold or not, a famine has occurred in much of Western Africa, and that is a fact. How the famine came about and how it has been perpetrated is still subject to investigation. Overall, the intellectual community seems to agree upon the existence of a self-sustaining agriculture on the eve of the independence era. This agriculture was characterized as rudimentary, but granaries were never empty. Rarely in the past did people starve. Why should the post-independence period be distinguished by so many failures: 1) a negative growth rate of agricultural production; 2) an increasing foreign exchange deficit; and 3) desertification and general environmental degradation. A glance at selected economic indicators suggests that the negative trends will continue if appropriate actions are not taken at once.


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