The colonial economy in most of Africa was structured to improve the economies of the colonizing or metropolitan powers. In the scheme of things, what mattered was how the colonial economy could benefit the colonizers. Very little, if any regard, was paid to the colonized indigenous population. When the African population was taken into consideration, it was mostly employed as a tool in achieving the main reason for colonization: the domination and exploitation of the local population by the colonizing power. This scenario was quite visible in the Nigerian economy as far as the production of cash crops and food crops were concerned. Using the Benin Province as a case study, this work focuses on the role of local government in the cash crop economy of colonial Nigeria. It is important to note that agriculture formed the mainstay of Africans in the pre-colonial past.
In this enterprise, food production featured prominently for most of Nigeria, including the area that came to be known as the Benin Province in colonial Nigeria. A survey of the vegetation of the area would reveal a combination of the high forest and the savannah, all rich for both cash and food crop production, hence, like most traditional African societies, there was self sufficiency in food supply. However, given the fact that one major reason why Britain colonized Nigeria was to ensure a cheap and steady supply of raw materials to British industries, the colonial administration completely discouraged the cultivation of food crops while encouraging cash crops production (Usoro 1977).