The post-war years, 1946–1959

As with elsewhere in the world, the post-war years were a period of economic reconstruction. Through the Colonial Development and Welfare

Act of 1940, an amount of £500,000 was allocated to tsetse research in East Africa.101 With this funding, many thousands of square kilometers of land previously infested by tsetse flies had been cleared of vegetation in Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya. The advancing fly belt was halted, and the popula- tions of flies reduced to very low levels in some of the experimental sites.102 However, as before, extensive game culling, trapping, and application of fire and bush clearing did not produce long-term solutions to the tsetse fly problem. This was the case particularly in the Ankole region of Uganda, where cattle continued to die from trypanosomiasis during the 1940s.105 By 1945, the flies had re-infested much of the countries, pushing the human populations into areas too marginal for crop cultivation.104 The Director of Veterinary Services in Uganda during the same period planned large-scale clearing of vegetation. The methods involved removing herbaceous vegetation and then applying fire. Additionally, the buffalo—the main host of the tsetse—were exterminated.10’ Elsewhere in East Africa, tsetse surveys were conducted to estimate the distribution of tsetse populations. We use a Kenyan example.

Tsetse surveys in Kenya

In their progress report of 1947, researchers described the prevalence of tsetse flies across varied ecological and climatic regions in Kenya. The large- scale surveys mapped the distribution of the flies that posed threats to people in different areas. The findings were expected to guide land reclamation programs at district levels. In the coastal province of Kenya, for example, an estimated 10,315 km2 were surveyed—the species of tsetse flies were identified, their habitats described, and the risks they posed to people and livestock appraised. It was noticed that the flies were being concentrated in a small number of areas. Based on their distribution, large-scale clearing of vegetation using mechanical methods was proposed. The focus was on the riverine vegetation that was heavily infested with tsetse flies.106

The survey teams interviewed local communities about the past history of the tsetse and trypanosomiasis problems, as well as their knowledge of animals which showed resistance to the trypanosome parasite.l0‘ In Makueni, in the Akamba District, in Kenya, where a settlement scheme was planned, large-scale clearing of natural vegetation was expected to achieve multiple development goals. First, the clearing would disrupt the mobility of the flies and reduce infection by trypanosomiasis, while regenerating grass would be used for grazing schemes. By opening the bush along the riverine forest, the risks of new infestations from those landscapes were expected to be reduced. Previous experience of land clearing in the same areas in 1944 had shown that the incidence of trypanosomiasis had declined following treatments. A further advantage was that once the areas had been cleared and individual farmers allocated their plots of land, they would be responsible for the maintenance work to keep the flies away from people and livestock.108 A major challenge, however, was the lack of investigation into the social implications of tsetse research and control.

Social implications of tsetse research and control

The administration was hesitant to allow the societies to solve their own problems; thus, officials placed limitations on the numbers of people and livestock in the rehabilitated areas. However, controlling the influx of African settlers for fear they would aggravate the problem of soil erosion was not based on facts.109 By implementing such a policy, the colonial state created multiple problems. The contradictory government policy was to control threats posed by the tsetse fly, but at the same time it restricted settlement by African peasants on rehabilitated lands.110 Indeed, the land accessible to African communities was shrinking,111 while the colonial administration enacted rules that made it compulsory for people to return to the rehabilitated land to espouse soil conservation.112 The multiple demands on African people only caused confusion in the implementation of the government’s own programs.11

Consequently, although the colonial administration had planned to involve African communities in development schemes, they were ‘convinced that there was neither the time nor the trained personnel necessary to persuade the majority of the measures and so relied on enforcement of regulations.’114 Among other issues, this did not solve the labor problem. The Veterinary Director in Kenya, in a letter to the Provincial Commissioner of Kisumu, explained his views on the question of labor. In his opinion, replacement of hired with communal labor was likely to alter the spirit of establishing agricultural schemes.11’ According to the provincial commissioner, if the experiments were to be abandoned in favor of a more extensive scheme, it would be like throwing ‘away expenditure of the last four years,’ or repeating the experiments all over again.116

Five concluding remarks were made at the time, as follows (notes in verbatim):

  • • No satisfactory method of dealing with Q. pallisides has been found.
  • • The attempt to compel or persuade immigrants to clear thickets for cultivation, without pay, has not worked.
  • • It is impractical and undesirable to conduct tsetse eradication programs in areas opened up for settlement. In any such area, the method of tsetse eradication should be decided on in advance and put into effect as vigorously as possible.
  • • Tsetse funds should be flexible to deal with new situations created by unavoidable changes in settlement plans.
  • • Elimination of tsetse will not necessarily mean concurrent elimination of trypanosomiasis. Infection rates in cattle in neighboring fly-free areas are high and suggest that much mechanical transmission occurs.11'

We now examine the impacts of bushland clearing on settlement schemes.

The success of settlement schemes depended on the capacity of the officials and the tsetse research teams to clear more bushland. However, the supply of local labor continued to be inadequate. For example, in 1951, in the Nyando area of the Lake Basin in Kenya, a labor team of 200 took some three years to deforest an 11 km riverine area. In 1953, about 450 Mau Mau convicts were sent down to the lake shore to clear the vegetation and by 1953/1954, there was evidence of a reduction in the tsetse fly infestations. Between 1954 and 1955, using more prison labor, a total area of 200 acres of the Lake Victoria littoral vegetation had been cleared. Yet, the officials of the technical departments showed no interest in ongoing maintenance work. The lack of willingness by the officials to repeat bush clearing activities undermined the success in freeing the Nyando area from tsetse fly. Provincial officials argued that disinfestation of the fly prior to settlement should be legally regulated under the native land ordinances.118

These preventive methods were costly and the departments charged with the responsibilities had limited funds to devote to tsetse control.119 After many years, the research teams and the officials were still debating possible long-term solutions.120 The communities who were settled in the rehabilitated areas raised their opposition to breaches of customary land tenure rights. When areas were rehabilitated, the clans claimed the rights over immigrants. To distinguish these rights, the officials used confusing terminology, such as ‘resettlement’ (referring to settling the people previously displaced), and ‘dispersal settlement’ (referring to the immigrants displaced from elsewhere but settled on a different clan’s land).121 A factor that remained little understood was impact of the extermination of wildlife on sustained population of tsetse flies.122

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