A synthesis: Conclusions and epilog

Whilst acknowledging the important scientific contributions made by colonial scientists, their successors have since expanded their thinking by providing alternative explanations for environmental crisis.1 Our focus will be on research on pastoralism and the grazing lands. We have grouped the discussions into seven subsections: (1) Conclusions from the chapters. Under the epilog, we will consider: (2) Trends in scientific research and institutions responsible for producing development ideas during the post- independence period; (3) The era of ‘big science’ that characterized the 1970s and 1980s. Under ‘big science’ we examine the roles played by the UNESCO-MAB (Man and the Biosphere) ecosystem programs; and (4) the long-term ecological research (LTER) project which began in Europe and the USA and comprises networks of ecosystem research at the global level. The UNESCO-MAB and LTER networks were also based on the ideas of the International Biological Program (IBP). (5) Following the idea of ‘big science’ the notion of systems analysis for decision making based on dynamic ecological models also emerged—developed by leading scientists in the USA.2 The systems analysis approach attempts to integrate aspects of ecological and social sciences for the purposes of solving development problems. (6) We briefly consider a ‘new ecology,’ based on ideas laid down by earlier programs, but given a major impetus as a result of scientific research conducted by international scientific communities working in arid and semi-arid regions in Africa in the 1990s.3 We discuss why the ‘new ecology’ might have offered a better approach to solving development problems in East Africa. (7) Finally, we briefly examine emerging issues of science for development. We summarize each part in turn.

Conclusions from the chapters

The African environmental crisis

In Chapter 1, we raised the question of the African environmental crisis. The chapter briefly highlights key findings presented in more detail elsewhere in the book. We asked how and why development processes were influenced by the African environmental crisis hypothesis. This hypothesis argued that alternative methods of resource use—using new technologies and imperial scientific knowledge—would expand economic growth and reverse environmental degradation. Using political and ecological event his- tories, we described how the proponents of the hypothesis neglected the environmental causes in decision making for development. We examined the links between imperial science and development initiatives across time—thereby scrutinizing historical changes in development and research trends.

We strove to understand why the hypothesis became the working tool for imperial scientific investigations of African agrarian and husbandry production systems. By dissecting the performance of imperial science theories and methods, we showed that the hypothesis provided a powerful tool at the time, for arguing in favor of colonial land-use and development policies. However, the hypothesis failed to consider the socio-ecological factors unique to the African environments that stimulated environmental changes. The widespread lack of knowledge of the ecology of the African rangelands, African peasant agrarian systems and the nature of African soils resulted in a misreading of development needs and aims. Large-scale development projects designed to solve perceived environmental problems and promote an economy of scale failed to achieve the intended goals. The chapter concludes that the evidence analyzed shows a lack of support for the African environmental crisis hypothesis.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >