The Second World War years, 1939-1945

The outbreak of the Second World War led to the closing down of the research stations and environmental development schemes. Experiments in culling game was halted.8' Consequently, during this time, the areas that had previousy been rehabilitated from the tsetse regenerated into bush- lands. This was followed by an upsurge in the flies, which posed a threat to neighboring areas.88 Later, researchers repeated the same methods that had failed earlier, somehow expecting different outcomes—thus making the findings less reliable for purposes of development.

Some of the land reclamation projects were too large and the impact on tsetse flies was disproportionate, given the amount of time and money expended. For example, in central Tanganyika around Moshi, following outbreaks of sleeping sickness, the government cleared some 804 km2 of all woody vegetation with the aim of stopping the spread of the disease. While research reported effective control of the flies, the outcomes were unsustainable due to the resurgence of the fly.89 Research projects had demonstrated that the tsetse species Qlossina pallidipes is the most resilient—in terms of recovery after treatments.

Tsetse research and development

During the 1940s, on the Kenyan side of the Lake Victoria Basin, tsetse research was conducted along the many marshes, streams and rivers that discharged into the lake.90 These areas had shown evidence of a resurgence in sleeping sickness. In the Kavirondo (Kisumu) District, for example, 500 cases of sleeping sickness were reported between 1942 and 1944. The people were visiting the rivers and marshes to water their livestock and, in the process, encountered the flies. One solution suggested was sterilization of female flies91—on which no progress was reported.

There were disagreements among administrative officials and the technical departments on ways to manage the rehabilitated areas. For example, the District Commissioner of Kisii in Kenya expressed his disappointment that the agricultural schemes were established with the narrow objective of tsetse fly control. He was particularly disappointed that bush clearing was limited to corridors of land a short distance from the rivers and marshes, while larger tracts of land infested by the tsetse were ignored. He considered such limited aims as ‘nibbling’ at larger problems such as soil erosion control, grazing schemes and agricultural development.92

By 1945, an estimated 90 km of land in the lake Basin on the Kenyan side of the political border has been rehabilitated from bush encroachment. The experimental clearings, rather than removing all vegetation, left open corridors between blocks of bush, which from a land-use perspective was considered inadequate by the administration for resettlement.9’ According to the District Commissioner of central Kavirondo, it would be preferable to clear large blocks of vegetation to plan settlements. From a practical point of view, the cleared blocks might be subdivided into grazing units that could be allocated to individual families. The agricultural department would then undertake the protection of settled land from returning to bushlands.94 The provincial team was convinced that the best use of the tsetse-rehabilitated areas was livestock grazing. By contrast, the experimental clearings along the rivers and marshes adjoining the lake—where the object was to build barriers between the river and the adjacent dry lands— would serve as research plots.95 One might however question some of the proposed methods—such as grass planting.96 In the tropical environment, which has a high potential for regenerating grass, the planting of grass was unnecessary.

By 1945, the discussion by the various authorities turned to the logistics for planning agricultural schemes. It was important therefore that the technical departments and administration officials should become familiar with the research activities. At the research sites, the authorities received full briefings from the technical teams on the planned cycles of experimentation and project implementation.9' However, the agricultural department was dissatisfied with various activities, for example, bush clearing in central Kavirondo. Over the years, the department had conducted bush clearing work along the river, with the object of preventing the tsetse flies from spreading into the rehabilitated areas. The challenge was the rapid recovery of the bushlands.98

Another concern of the department was that with limited technical personnel, they were unable to conduct the required surveys, while at the same time being expected to supervise the reclamation works. The Trans-Mara area in Kenya is a case in point. About 1,931 km2 of grazing lands that were free of tsetse flies had been divided into grazing blocks. However, in the Isuria highlands (still in the Trans-Mara), some blocks were infested by the tsetse species Q. swynnertoni, the dispersal of which was considered a serious threat to livestock. The large game populations indicated a high reservoir for trypanosomiasis in the tsetse-free areas. Similarly, in the Chapalungu forest in the western Rift Valley bordering the Lake Basin, the high human population was under threat from the expanding tsetse fly belt. The conclusion of the agricultural team was that in the future, the development of agriculture would continue to be hindered by the twin problems of tsetse and soil erosion.99 Yet, despite the previous disappointing outcomes, researchers viewed that bush clearing and game shooting would solve the tsetse fly problem.100 Would it? Let us examine the events of the post-war years.

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