This article draws on Marx’s concept of ‘latent’ surplus populations to trace out and explain parallels between IBAI and colonial interventions in Senegal’s groundnut basin. Approaching the question in this way, the article highlights the long-run historical co-production and interdependence of the Senegalese state and a political ecology of groundnut production in which relations of indebtedness and the exposure to variable rainfall of a fragile relative surplus population has often been crucial to the mobilization of cheap labour for groundnut production.