Early Descriptions of Rice Culture
The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas
By JUDITH A. CARNEY
Harvard University Press
Senegambia, the name given to the region encompassed between the Senegal and Gambia Rivers, was the first section of the Grain or Rice Coast reached by Europeans (Figure 1.1). South of the Senegal River along the Upper Guinea Coast, precipitation increases steadily. The dominant cereals adapted to semiarid conditions, sorghum and millet, grade into rice over the broad region extending down the Atlantic coast from the Gambia River to Liberia, the area that would become known as the Grain or Rice Coast. Decades before ships would reach India, the Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eanes de Azurara recorded the first European mention of rice in West Africa. In 1446 Stevam Alfonso reached the mouth of a large river—possibly the Gambia—where he encountered the cultivation of wetland rice on floodplains: “They arrived sixty leagues beyond Cape Verde, where they met with a river which was of good width, and into it they entered with their caravels … they found much of the land sown, and many fields sown with rice … And he said that land … seemed like marsh.”
Alvise da Cadamosto, who visited the Gambia River in 1455 and again the following year, remarked upon the significance of rice as a dietary staple: “In this way of life they conduct themselves in almost all respects similarly to the negroes of the kingdom of Senega [Senegal]; they eat the same foods except they have more varieties of rice than grow in the country of Senega.”
Africa was rich with other wildlife and vegetation. Below is a link to the birds of Southern Africa.