Socio-cultural responses towards development

Work by anthropologists32 in East Africa hypothesized that responses to development programs by African communities occurred along varying ecological and economic gradients—from those who managed livestock to those whose economies were dominated by crop cultivation as mentioned before. The hypothesis was that those groups who were willing to take chances were bound to be more receptive to development changes than those who showed a high degree of independence.3’ Walter Goldschmidt— in his theoretical article on cultural adaptation—explains the flexibility of hoe-farming African peasants and less flexibility to change among pastoralists.

As mentioned before, pastoralists were hypothesized to be most resistant to change, due to their cultural predilections towards livestock ownership. Yet, social theory seems to negate non-economic values of livestock. We use a case example here. In the memorandum by the Chief Veterinary officer in Tanganyika cited by Archibald Church:’4

The chief value of the livestock in the country is to the native owner and cannot be over-appreciated in terms of export ... it is impossible to over-estimate the extent to which the health, welfare, and child-birth of the population depend on the meat and milk of the flocks and herds....

Livestock represent more to the native than mere money. His flocks are not only his banking account.... They also feed his wives and children, while the sale of his surplus provides the wherewithal to meet his liabilities and taxes. The very fact that two-thirds of the best agricultural land in the territory lies idle because of the tsetse-fly infestation and prevents the keeping of cattle, lends added testimony to the importance of livestock.

According to the ‘cattle complex’ theory postulated by Melville Herskovits, ” the attachment of various cultural groups to cattle would influence the outcome of any development programs that focused on destocking interventions. According to this theory, herding societies are bound to resist programs if they sense that the changes would be contrary to their social and economic values. However, due to this perceived ‘resistance,’ colonial officials had described the communities as being ‘irrational’ because they appeared to resist programs that would benefit them.56 Accordingly, the colonial officials argued that the cultural value of cattle outweighed any economic rationale, and resulted in the accumulation of poor quality animals, which became a ‘self-defeating’ exercise.5, The theory continued to inform colonial destocking policies, resulting in great divergence of views between the European officials and African herders. We will use an example here.

In a dialogue between a colonial official and a pastoralist in the Samburu District in Kenya, the official reported: ‘It was utterly useless to explain that fifty fat cattle produced more milk and ate less grass than a hundred bags of skin and bones,’ to which the pastoralist replied ‘If I have a hundred cattle and fifty die, I still have fifty left. But if I have only fifty cattle and fifty die, I have none left.’58 In a similar vein, Harold Schneider59 citing the Kenya Land Commission report of 1932 stated:

In the midst of plenty, the natives in pastoral and semi-pastoral areas are ... living under conditions of extreme poverty.... In a country such as Kenya, where the native looks on his stock as currency, and not as a productive asset, and where mere numbers count for more than quality, where ... the question of stock is interwoven in every direction with native habitats and customs, the solution of the problem is indeed difficult.

What the commission report failed to mention was that pastoralist societies have always supplemented their diets with grains, either grown themselves or bartered from neighboring agricultural communities. Livestock is therefore an asset that can be exchanged for other assets. The goal of every pastoral household is to provide a safety net for the family in terms of food security. With livestock being their most valuable assets, herding societies would clearly be unwilling if development projects failed to meet the basic requirements of their pastoral economy and livelihoods.40 We now con- sider some of the hypotheses that describe changes in cultural behavior towards development.

Hypothesis of change

We have already introduced the discussion why some groups resisted change, others adapted quickly, while others took time to adjust their responses and practices.41 Symanski and co-workers42 suggest three hypotheses of change along the mobility-sedentary continuum. The first hypothesis proposes that mobile pastoral herders combined animal husbandry with opportunistic shifting cultivation, with the latter livelihood being more transient than animal husbandry (which is more reliable). In the second hypothesis, the authors predict adjustments along the continuum, each representing more stable livelihood sources, according to patterns of transitory cultivation or herding, depending on environmental conditions. In the third hypothesis, the degree of movement between the two economic opportunities is proposed to depend on reliability of the resource base, the availability of new technologies, population growth, and the types of livestock managed—which is also an important determinant of alternative adaptations.

Based on today’s knowledge of pastoral production systems, we propose two additional hypotheses (different from those stated above). The first additional hypothesis proposes that the levels of transition along the mobilitysedimentary continuum can be regional—that is, the source of movement is determined by environmental and political situations. The second additional hypothesis proposes that the two systems operate simultaneously in response to internal and external factors. If political factors are taken into consideration, then colonial interventions would have affected the fluidity of the situation. Under colonialism, changed land-use systems created shortages of agricultural lands and those suited for livestock grazing; and in both cases, the population was restricted in their choice of land-use systems. Naturally, in such a system, when societies lost security in their access to land, opportunities for self-regulation were removed.43

Accordingly, the impact of colonial development cannot be explained by one set of changes, but a series of structural changes even among groups that showed no resistance to development initiatives.44 The colonial authorities had underestimated the extent of attachment African peasants had to their land, but also their herds as just mentioned; and considering that the new technologies and practices adversely affected indigenous production systems, resistance to such programs should not come as a surprise.45 We may consider agro-pastoralists as an example.

It has been shown that expansion of cash crops among agro-pastoral African communities was rapid.46 The practice among agro-pastoralists is to utilize parts of the same landscape for livestock grazing and crop cultivation.

However, the colonial officials—aiming at soil conservation—did not see it this way. Instead, with that aim in mind, they forced the removal of live- stock or the abandonment of crop cultivation.47 The removal of livestock undermined farming systems by forcing families to abandon some of their economic pursuits and livelihood diversifications. A society under such radical economic change might shift from indigenous animal husbandry to settled crop cultivation. Such a decision might also occur through rational choices, they might have decided that it was more advantageous to settle and cultivate crops.48 In a similar scenario, a nomadic pastoral community might combine mobility of herds and a shift to cultivation when environmental conditions allowed. By comparison, agricultural communities would have received new farming technologies more favorably, particularly where commercial crops would bring them additional income. We now contextualize these perspectives in terms of colonial development policies.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >