Impact of colonial development policies

There were two important aims of the colonial development policies. The first was stimulating the economy to finance the colony and produce surplus products for export. The second was building administrative infrastructure in order to implement development programs.49 The colonial authorities perceived that closer contacts with African societies would be important for translating their policies into development activities.,c By attempting to balance political stability and demands for intensification of economic production, the colonial governments hoped that environmental conservation would simultaneously be achieved.’1 As a result, these initiatives focused on the perceived environmental problems’2 and did not necessarily aim to improve small-scale farming systems or subsistence pastoralism.

In fact, it was perceived that small-scale African agricultural subsistence production was incapable of fulfilling the economic goals of the colonies. What was in contention was land—the colonial governments preferred allocating land to large-scale schemes for economies of scale. Consequently, the commercialization of farming was aimed at transforming the African peasant economies.’5 Thus the African societies were merely a ‘cog in the development wheel’—relevant, but considered unnecessary for moving development plans forward.’4 This would explain why colonial development policies became so unpopular among local societies.

Colonial officials in East Africa had selected specific areas for development. The colonial development policy was to de-link one type of production from all others, in contrast to the indigenous practice of mixed economies. In making land-use changes, for example, the officials had an acuity regarding indigenous systems of land use. They perceived that because land was held in common at a tribal level, there were no incentives for African societies to protect their environment, which consequently contributed to environmental degradation. Hence, land-use ordinances were promulgated, allocating pieces of land to individual families or clans and limiting their stock numbers (see Chapter 7). It was further assumed that if implemented according to the plans, these land-use changes would improve local economies and reverse environmental degradation.” However, the greatest disappointment in development planning was the failure to take into consideration environmental variability.16

We examine two development approaches. First, most projects lacked alternative plans when rains failed, other than leaving the pastoralists alone to fend for themselves.5' Second, the agro-pastoralists due to their sedentary nature participated in the soil conservation projects only grum- blingly. In addition, soil conservation programs—such as building terraces across farmlands—were unpopular because they took up too much of the farming land. Such structures also required regular maintenance, which utilized labor that was required for crop production.”

In other cases, where the official policy displaced populations to allow construction with the aim of soil conservation, the peasants were forced into areas with low farming potential, which had serious consequences for their food production.19 Furthermore, in planning large-scale agricultural and grazing schemes, development planners overlooked the ecological potential of the land.60

In the case of pastoralists, reactions to new development initiatives were varied. From the 1930s, there were limited efforts to understand livestock feed requirements, since the stock grazed on indigenous pastures. More specifically, there were few experiences from mixed livestock and agricultural systems. In Kenya, the absence of definitive policy was blamed for the lack of economic progress, especially in the African reserves. In any case, a uniform land-use policy to incorporate both farming and livestock herding was not feasible. Pastoralists needed more expansive lands for seasonal grazing, while cultivators needed higher potential lands where crop cultivation was possible. Still, among the communities that practiced mixed economies, land losses had the greatest adverse effects on the local economy.61 Where land use became intensive, the communities were obliged to adopt erosion control technologies.62

By the 1940s, there was a perception among colonial officials that the populations of livestock and people had outgrown available land resources in the African reserves.6’ Due to these limitations of available land, any land-use changes would undoubtedly have sociological and ecological consequences.64 The problem was that development planners continued to approach solutions from simple cause-and-effect relationships.61 Therefore, when destocking programs were introduced with the anticipation that environmental conservation would be improved, the economic consequences suffered by African herders were not taken into serious consideration.66

The situation was even worse among peasant farmers, for whom the colonial researchers and officials assumed that indigenous methods of cultivation were lacking any inbuilt soil conservation methods.6' On the contrary, as already mentioned, African mixed farming systems and their rudimentary methods are most appropriate in terms of environmental con- servation. The practice of mixed farming allows individual farmers to use crop residues to feed their livestock after harvest, as well as livestock manure to maintain soil fertility. The colonial officials’ fixation on African peasants as being a cause of land degradation ignored the potential for promoting land productivity.68

In summing up this section, we note that the adoption of new agricultural technologies was a process—initial resistance, followed by gradual acceptance. A comparative system permits understanding about complementary social and ecological systems that support the subsistence economies of African peasants and herders—by investigating why one group responded to development changes in a particular way and others responded in different ways.69 In our analysis, we seek to identify key social, ecological and political drivers that brought about such different responses. The drivers of change altered socio-ecological relations, including political and development processes. Some of the changes—such as dislocation of local populations—reverberated throughout the region, putting greater pressure on resources elsewhere.70 Next we examine comparative analyses of research conducted by social anthropologists among East African peasants and herding communities, showing relative behavioral responses to development changes.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >