Development as experimental science

Development programs focused on large-scale schemes, funded in cycles of four-year plans. According to official views, large-scale schemes were of strategic economic importance, and served as a laboratory to test forward- looking policies on agrarian reforms in Africa. Yet, throughout the decade of the 1940s, the colonial government had practiced contradictory development policies; on the one hand, the desired policy was to ‘preserve African community during the process of economic growth’76; while on the other hand, the large-scale schemes displaced many African communities from their lands. Therefore, the ‘moralization’ effort—in the sense of colonists preserving African societies and their environments—had inbuilt barriers to progress. We will use an example here. The Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1945 provided Tanganyika with £90,000 for a five-year anti-soil erosion campaign in the Mbulu District. The funds enabled a large social and landscape engineering project, combining soil erosion controls, population removal, and clearing of natural vegetation in order to control tsetse flies.7'

After the publication of the African survey,78 research projects recruited social scientists for the second time, to promote community participation in development. This time around, research advisers made direct contributions to implementing development schemes.'9 The British Government made available an estimated £5 million per year over five to ten years (1940-1945) to support development in the East African colonies, in addition to £500,000 earmarked for social science research. In 1941, the Colonial Office stressed the importance of international cooperation through subcommittees on agriculture, animal health and forestry.80

Subsequent to the renewal of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act in 1945, the research grant from 1945 was increased by £1 million per year for the three colonies.81 The additional funding enabled the expansion of inter-territorial collaboration to meet the needs of rapidly expanding research activities in the colonies.82 In addition, ALDEV was allocated £3 million under a ten-year development plan in Kenya and Tanganyika. Much of this funding was allocated to water development schemes and soil conservation in the Machakos District in Kenya. In western, central and southern Tanganyika, the program experimented with new technology in the form of mechanized agriculture.83 The aim of the agricultural development policy was to concentrate funding on areas that had better infrastructure, in order to optimize anticipated returns on investment.84

Nevertheless, two contrasting ideas had emerged; on the one hand, science was considered as an appropriate tool to experiment with new development ideas and there was an emphasis on balancing science and development in order to increase food production. On the other hand was the idea that the application of scientific research would increase livestock numbers with adverse consequences for the environment.85 Considering this dilemma, Edgar B. Worthington, a British biologist who later became the Secretary General of the Inter-Colonial Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara (1950-1955), considered Africa as a ‘fruitful field of history for experiments for expert scientific knowledge.’86 It was Worthington’s interpretations that shifted thinking from ‘science for development’ to ‘development as experimental science.’8'

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >