The First World War years, 1914–1920s

J.C. Smuts,29—then Commander of the Allied armies attacking the German East African forces under the command of General Paul von Lettowvortek—concluded his field observations during the war thus: ‘the time is not distant when science will overcome [problems of accessibility], and when central and East Africa will have become one of the most productive and valuable parts of the tropics.’ Despite Smuts’ optimism, the war years were a period of great economic stress in East Africa. European agricultural staff had volunteered to fight in the war, hence forcing the colonies to shelve their agricultural development plans. Paradoxically, African peasants and herders supplied the bulk of grains and beef for the army and the Carrier Corps, thereby increasing the consumption of local goods.’0 In the German colony of Tanganyika, the Amani research station began processing agricultural products, including wines and spirits that were supplied to the German army.’1

The period coincided with invasions by locust plagues in 1916 that devastated agriculture and grazing lands across northern Africa, the Sahel zone, East Africa and the Middle East. The result was a famine which became an international issue. The International Institute of Agriculture (based in Rome) mobilized the countries affected to attend a conference on control of the desert locust. This conference did not take place until 1920, when it adopted the International Convention by which the signatory states committed themselves to controlling the migratory locusts12 (more on this in Chapter 9). Other international research collaborations at this time included soil and vegetation mapping, and investigations on tsetse flies.11 Frank Leonard Engledow, chairman of the Cambridge School of Agriculture, emphasized that development in the British Empire should be based on science.14 Nonetheless, by 1918 and 1919, development had still not taken a foothold in the colonies.

On matters of funding, there were disagreements between the Colonial Office in East Africa and the Treasury in London in releasing funds for development in the colonies. The decisions made prioritized livestock disease control, to curb disease transmission to European herds. This proposition was not implemented until 1923.ъ It was for this purpose that

Sir Robert Coryndon, the Governor of Uganda, proposed establishing a veterinary office to advise the governments of Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika on the control of livestock diseases. In Kenya, the focus was on the Maasai land. According to Archibald Church,36 if their country was to be used for stock breeding, *[t]he Masai reserves would no longer specialize in stagnation and continue to be regarded as “human zoos,” but would assume a position of great importance in the economies of East Africa.’ Under the administration of Sir Donald Cameron (Governor of the Tanganyika Trust Territory), the Maasai were separated from those in Kenya, while on the Tanganyikan side of the border, the agro-pastoral Maasai were detached from the nomadic Maasai.3' During this period, research returned to being station-based.

Station based research

A major purpose in establishing research stations in the three colonies (Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda) was to conduct research under controlled conditions58 (Figure 3.1). It was the practical work on soil erosion control that gained pre-eminence in terms of funding and political commitment by the colonial governments.39 Earlier, soil erosion had been investigated by Gillman, a professional engineer who had worked on the German railway lines in Tanganyika, where he learnt a great deal about soil and water conservation. Using his geographical knowledge, he was probably the first to argue for large-scale development.40

In Tanganyika, research progress had not been smooth under the British mandate.41 Archibald Church42 highlighted the lack of funding which resulted in neglect of the Amani Research Institute—it had been a premier institution whose research findings had contributed significantly to growing scientific knowledge in East Africa. However, the institute fell into a derelict condition after the British takeover and the station was temporarily abandoned in 1922 due to a lack of funding. An estimated annual budget of £20,000 was required to run the research station, but British colonial authorities did not want to commit to supporting the project. Archibald Church45 attributed this failure to the ‘appalling lack of appreciation of the function of scientific research in development.’ This was despite efforts made by Lord Milner, and those who succeeded him in the office of the Secretary of State, to raise funds to save Amani. Of the total sum of £100,000 requested, the station was allocated a paltry £2,000 per year. Further, Mpwapwa in Tanganyika, a veterinary research station that had made important contributions to research on animal diseases and pasture management, was closed for lack of funds.44

During the post-war years (1926 and 1927), the Amani station was revived under the British mandate for herbaria collections in collaboration with Kew Gardens, and building a depository for East African flora. It was later (1920s) reassigned to investigate the ecology of coffee plantations and

Distributions of research stations in East Africa

Figure 3.1 Distributions of research stations in East Africa.

various insect pests affecting crops.4’ In 1927, the Imperial Agricultural Research conference organized in London proposed long-term research by technical staff under a single administration to focus on broad-ranging investigations.46 Additional agricultural institutions—similar to the one that existed at Amani—were expected to respond to various research needs in the British colonies in East Africa. However, due to a lack of technical capacity, the research on commercial agricultural production had to wait and, instead, research networks were established.

Research networks

The late 1920s was a period in the history of science, during which more scientific organizations were established in East Africa. Throughout the colonies, exploratory scientific assignments were undertaken with the goal of establishing agricultural plantations under European supervision.47 Particularly in the British colony of Kenya, the settler economy had spurred growth in agricultural research by pioneering scientifically innovative agricultural production methods.4'4 In 1925 the Committee of Civil Research in Britain established critical standards for solving practical research problems and sharing information between different disciplines working in agricultural laboratories. By 1926 the cooperation was extended to soil mapping.49 There were two further developments: the first was the implementation of five-to-ten-year research plans, and the second was further advances in social science research (see Chapter 6). By 1929, the Colonial Development Act enabled colonial governments to make more concerted efforts by reviewing economic policies; in particular, they made a conscious effort to increase the production of raw materials for export.50 Still, by this date, the establishment of research networks across the colonies— to investigate problems of agricultural production and demonstrate improvements—was not fully established. This coupled with the looming economic depression in the 1930s, further undermined progress in scientific research.

 
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