Yams in the Caribbean

Image of Caribbean village from "A Voyage to the Islands..."

Image of a Caribbean Village

Upon their arrival in the Caribbean, slaves were bought and forced to work on plantations and sugar cane farms. With the massive influx of slaves, plantation owners needed to find a cheap and effective way of providing food for their slaves. The easiest way to do this was to give slaves an allotment of land that they were able to tend to during the one day a week that they were allowed to gather food. The land allotments, or "provision grounds" were areas of land that were unable to produce sugar cane crops, due to either bad soil or rocky terrian. These unusable plots were given to the slaves and became the areas where they grew their food. 

An engraved plate showing various foods found in the caribbean 

Provision grounds were some of the only spaces that slaves were allowed to grow and tend to their own food. However, slaves were not given much time to tend to their provisions grounds, so they had to plant foods that didn't require much tending and that would stay fresh for a longer amount of time. As many enslaved people were from West Africa, and yams didn't take much work to grow, most provision grounds contained yams. Yams became a major food source for slaves who relied on provision grounds for their daily meals. Other examples of fruits and vegtables grown on provision grounds can be found within the glossary exhibit

Yams in the Caribbean