Grazing schemes

Grazing schemes were introduced as part of the economic reconstruction activities during the post-war years.126 The schemes countered what was perceived as the African herders’ tendencies to overstocking the rangelands, thus accelerating soil erosion.127 Four main approaches were used. The first was the development of water supplies, and the second was the improvement of veterinary services and livestock marketing. The third approach involved changes in land tenure, and the fourth concerned stocking control.

The grazing programs used water as a mechanism for dispersing the stock, thereby regulating the herds in relation to the available pastures. The schemes were planned for above-average rainfall years but lacked preparedness for drought management—thus making them ecologically and economically fragile in the face of recurrent droughts. The grazing schemes and development activities between 1936 and 1959 in the three East African territories (i.e., Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda) are summarized in Table 4.1.

Table 4.1 Grazing schemes in the East African territories, 1936-1959



Development activities


Kenya: Samburu

Grazing schemes to promote livestock marketing. Quarantine interfered with livestock marketing.19


Kenya: Nandi

A betterment scheme fenced 27,500 acres from which livestock was removed.141


Kenya: Kaputei

The Kaputei Maasai experimental ranch of some 22,000 acres. Compulsory cattle dipping against tick-borne diseases. Fixed stock numbers, which increased from a total of 1,400 head to 2,300 head by 1954, and to 2,400 head by 1958, instead of the 1,700 head as stipulated in the official agreement.145 The Maasai moved en masse out of the scheme to resist compliance.


Kenya: Machakos

32 dam units built to supply water for livestock.140


Kenya: Machakos

Furrows to ferry water over 310km, constructed by the Mau Mau detainees at a cost of £300,000. About 200 boreholes sunk and over 1,300 dams constructed at a cost of £400,000 to £500,000. Resettled 1,209 families on the grazing schemes.140


Kenya: Ilkosongo

A 1.3-million-acre ranch subdivided into 110,000- and 120,000-acre grazing pasture units. Grazing was intended to mimic traditional Maasai movements within the ranches. Fixed stock numbers for each herder to bring onto the pasture. By the end of 1959, the pastures were heavily grazed. Mass cattle mortality during the drought of 1961. The schemes were abandoned.14'


86 Empire, science, society and development Table 4.1 continued



Development activities




Carried the largest cattle populations by the 1940s. Mixed farming, but drought was common. Crop residues used as supplementary cattle feed, and livestock manure to fertilize farms. Land rehabilitation involved removal of livestock and fining individuals who did not comply. During the drought of 1949, 1.5 million head of cattle were lost. The scheme collapsed.149




Mixed economy during famine periods. Land shortages disrupted traditional grazing movements. Successful disease control and additional water sources improved cattle recovery, with the population increasing by 50%. Excessive alterations of the Maasai land- use practices resulted in the collapse of the program.11




Government ordered destocking. The Iraqwi chief used grazing certificates to bring more stock onto the scheme, claiming that they complied with the regulations. The scheme failed to bring any tangible economic benefits and was abandoned by 1958.1,4




An estimated £900,000 was allocated for water development, building 58 earth dams and 135 boreholes. Following the 1955 to 1959 drought, an estimated 200,000 cattle died. Although a pilot project, it was abandoned due to lack of flexibility in dealing with the variable climate.1




Between 1948 and 1952, 10,556km2 of rangelands were rehabilitated. Veterinary sendees and cattle marketing were improved. Authorities miscalculated rangeland carrying capacities, so by 1956, the program had broken down and was abandoned.18

In the northern arid rangelands of Kenya, during dry years, shortages of water and pasture caused much hardship for livestock and people. When the herds died in large numbers, the colonial officials considered it ‘as nature’s way of maintaining a balance between animals and available pasture.’128 Nevertheless, the grazing schemes did not improve the shortage of grazing for the livestock, nor did they reduce livestock mortality during drought years.129 More importantly, the officials were unable to regulate livestock numbers according to the carrying capacities that they imposed on the rangelands. Since the nomads did not allow the officials to count their stock by direct methods, livestock numbers remained unknown.130

Due to the high variability of climate, and scarcity of forage and water, it was impossible to fully control herd movements according to official grazing plans, even with the use of armed guards who patrolled tribal boundaries. Despite heavy fines imposed by the officials,131 the nomads used every available opportunity to disregard the grazing lines. The colonial officials were aware that part of the problem was that the pastoralists managed multi-species livestock, each with different forage requirements.132 Some areas were suitable for groups that managed browsers (such as camels) and small stock, while the same group would seek different grazing areas for their cattle—often across administrative borders.133

During the post-war years, the most significant source of capital for grazing schemes was the African Land Development (ALDEV). In the Machakos District in Kenya, one project involved protecting 500 ha of a formerly degraded site from livestock grazing.134 However, such trials lacked proper experimental design for comparing different grazing systems and controls in order to assess the performance of rangelands under protection from grazing.13’ Expecting the pastoralists to respond to grazing management in a prescribed manner failed to work, and therefore a new approach had to be found. In the Nandi district during 1946, the colonial government removed livestock from large areas136 and, during the same period, the colonial government allocated £189,000 over six years for development in the Makueni District in Kenya—a model scheme according to which all other future schemes would be designed. The officials operated the schemes by what they called ‘Makueni rules’ which the African residents signed to indicate their compliance. The plan involved clearing natural vegetation and supplying each area with surface dams to water stock.13'

In order to increase acceptability of the scheme, the programs were ‘sweetened’ by the provision of social and veterinary services. However, the types of projects and their roles in improving the social welfare of the African herders were often overrated.138 In many cases, the project outcomes were not reported.139 Again, many such projects failed. For example, the Kaputei Maasai140 were provided with veterinary services and dipping facilities against tick-borne diseases, on the understanding that they were not allowed to increase the cattle population on the schemes beyond fixed numbers. However, years later (in the 1950s), the cattle population had increased by 50 percent above the recommended figures (Table 4.1). When confronted with destocking rules, the Maasai simply decided to move out of the schemes. A similar experience occurred among the Ilkisongo Maasai in 1954.141

Allowing the Maasai to practice their indigenous grazing system within block ranches did not meet official specifications. Initial increases in the livestock population were followed by a crash during subsequent droughts (between 1956 and 1959), when the schemes had become heavily grazed. Perhaps exaggerated, Talbot142 describes the impact on the environment as follows: ‘the destruction was so bad that the scheme was visible from a highflying airliner (if the ground was visible through the blowing dust) as a jagged, bared, red earth scar in the savanna landscape.’

In the Sukumaland in Tanganyika land was claimed to have been heavily degraded.143 However, the planners of the scheme did not take into consideration the indigenous systems of land use in the Sukumaland.144 The Sukuma traditionally practiced a mixed farming economy with crop cultivation and livestock management being equally important. Crop residues provided food supplements after harvest and livestock manure fertilized the farm plots. However, contrary to the expectations of colonial officials, grazing protection did not improve forage quality.145 At Kalo in the Kondoa region of Tanganyika, pilot areas were also set aside for controlled rotational grazing schemes. These two schemes—the Sukumaland development scheme established in 1946 and the Kalo rehabilitation scheme established in 1948—were intended to improve soil conservation. The local people who failed to implement the project requirements were fined heavily for contravening grazing rules, which contributed to the breakup of the schemes.146 In the Mbulu district the agro-pastoralists devised ingenious methods to circumvent the government destocking program.14' Comparable experiences were reported among the Kisongo Maasai in Arusha, Tanganyika. The Kisongo maintained high densities of livestock through seasonal transhumance until 1945, when land shortages disrupted their traditional livestock movements.148

Between 1953 and 1959 large sums of money were used to develop water schemes in Shinyanga149 (Table 4.1). Dorothy Hodgson,150 reporting on the Maasai Development Plan (MDP), suggests that the program used heavy machinery to remove bushes that harbored tsetse flies. A total area of 128,000 acres of bush country was cleared. The design of that program suggested that community participation was encouraged by scientists and other technical staff, leading the officials to believe that unlike past projects, they had finally developed a sustainable and cost-effective plan. With a total budget of £265,000, the scheme was alleged to be successful. However, in the years following the project, the livestock quotas that the Maasai were expected to sell were not realized. Hodgson concludes that by 1955, ‘less than half the estimated acreage of tsetse infested bush had been cleared.... The Maasai were not just disappointed, but angry by the end of the project.’

In Karamoja, Uganda, schemes were frustrated by rainfall failures, forcing the government to shift its attention from development projects to the provision of famine relief.151 A long-term vision held by the colonial government was destocking the grazing lands and settling the pastoralists to cultivate crops.152 The policy anticipated that if the grazing areas were supplied with sufficient water and the herds reduced, the rangelands would be able to recover from past overgrazing.153 However, prior to the colonial period, the regular use of fire had maintained the landscape in the savanna—creating mosaics rich in grass cover, with reduced bush cover. The deterioration reported during the colonial period was caused by alterations in the traditional systems of rangeland management—including banning the use of range fire.154 In addition, development planners made a fundamental error by basing the calculation of the carrying capacities of the rangelands on tax registers instead of on actual livestock populations. By 1956, when the livestock population census had been completed, this major error was realized, and the administration used it as an excuse to abandon the Karamoja scheme.1

From the forgoing discussions, the local causes of the environmental crisis were colonial land-use policies and inappropriate development projects, as opposed to indigenous land use. The lessons are clear: compulsory and often half-hearted government programs did not restore degraded lands.16 From the evidence available, African environmental crisis was not the product of indigenous land use alone but development programs and changes in land-use policies. Chapter 5 tests the veracity of the environmental crisis hypothesis.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >