Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Southern Rhodesia and its Continuing Threat to Food Security in Independent Zimbabwe1 Sam L. J. Page and Heldn E. Page
Sam L. J. Page is a nematologist who is currently living in England; has recently completed an extended tour ofservice as a Technical Co-operation Officer with the Plant Protection Department of Research and Specialist Services in Harare, Zimbabwe; and is associated with the International Institute of Parasitology at C.A.B. International, in St. Albans, England. Helfin E. Page is a dialogic anthropologist who studies the role of'information control' in the political and economic structuring of the inter-racial relations that expedited settler state formation t]troughout the African Diaspora. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is currently writing a book called To 'Cultivate' and Schook Modernity, African Agricultural Development and the Rise of Settler Hegemony in Southern Rhodesia, 1890-1980.
ABSTRACT Zimbabwe' s communal farmers are now less food secure than they were two generations ago. The roots of this decline lie not only in the confinement of Africans to marginal land but also in the historic forced replacement of their sustainable, indigenous farming system with one whose productivity now relies on the use of large amounts of expensive chemical inputs. Environmentally-friendly, traditional farming practices such as pyro-culture, minimum tillage, mixed cropping, and bush fallowing were completely wiped out and replaced with a highly technical western organic farming system based on plough cultivation and continuous monocultures of commodity crops, that were supposed to be sustained by liberal amounts of green and animal manures. This gave rise to an effective agricultural hegemony that was due, mainly, to the zealous dedication of an American Mormon missionary whose motives were evangelical rather than scientific.
Introduction Almost 1.2 million tonnes of maize grain was marketed through Zimbabwe's national Grain Marketing Board for the 1989/90 season, 2 with an impressive fifty-four percent of this maize coming from the communal (peasan0 farming sector) Paradoxically, such abundance at the national level does not reflect a similar situation at the village-level.4 Malnutrition, particularly child malnutrition, is a continuing problem in the rural areas (Moyo et al., 1985; Sanders and Davies, 1988). This is because the overwhelming majority of Zimbabwe's peasant farmers are still confined to marginal agro-ecological areas 5 of the country which do not support arable fanning. 6 Nevertheless, most of these farmers are attempting to grow arable crops, particularly maize, as it has become the preferred food staple. Unfortunately, a high levelofrainfall variability adds to the risk associated with farming maize in semi-arid agro-ecologi-
cal regions. As a result, only nine percent of the communal areas actually receive adequate rainfall for the regular production of this crop. This adverse situation is exacerbated by the fact that most communal areas are characterized by exhausted and eroded sandy soils that need heavy inputs of fertiliT.er to maintain good crop growth. However, a recent survey7 revealed that more than half of the 38 percent of communal farmers who use all the recommended maize fertilizerss harvest less than the 2.5 tonnes per hectare that must be sold to repay input credit.9 Even the majority of these "good" farmers, it seems, cannot be secure at the household level in their staple food crop without running into debt. Less than 60 years ago, most (but not all) peasant farming families in this country relied on traditional agricultural methods, which did not require chemical inputs. Those peasants were normally self-sufficient in 3
AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991 grain, and produced a surplus for long-term storage to be used in times of drought. In addition, a much wider variety of nutritious food crops was grown to ensure a high quality diet. The establishment of a European settler colony intervened in the natural evolution of this system. In this paper we document the hegemonie efforts of these settlers to control agricultural production and construct it in their own image and interest. We demonstrate the long term consequences of the subsequent systematic invalidation of indigenous knowledge systems, and discuss the environmental effects of practices that have not only reduced the ability of peasant farmers to feed themselves, but are also leading them into a dependency on high input technologies from which the vast majority cannot benefit.
Traditional Agriculture in Southern Rhodesia In the early nineteenth century, when the first European settlers set foot in central, southern Africa, between the Zambezi river to the north and the Limpopo to the south, they came across semi-nomadic African clans of farmers and traders. The mode of production for these clans was based on a mixed economy that was derived from intertribal trading of salt, cottonne, and cattle, and a precapitalist coastal trade in iron, ivory, and gold (Beach, 1977:37-59). Local food security depended upon the activities of shifting cultivators who farmed the land collectively and extensively, according to extended family needs. Several researchers have documented the nature of this clan-based agricultural regime (Robinson, 1953; Gelfand, 1971; and Trapnell, 1957). At the end of the rainy season in April and May, while the soil was still moist and workable, the women and men prepared the ground for the next growing season, Fruit trees such as
muhobohobo (Upaca kirkiana) and muhacha (Parinari curatellifolia) and sacred trees that were believed to house ancestral spirits, such as mutara (Gardenia Thungbergia) were retained in the field. The branches of other trees were lopped off and stacked in rows. The soil was then hoed to break up the surface. Once the branches had tided out, in October, the wood was burnt and seeds were usually planted in November, during the time known as kudzonga, when the new moon coincided with the first rains. Most o f the field was broadcast with a mixture of mapfunde (sorghum, Sorgum vulgare), zvio (finger milIeU Eleusine coracana), and mhunga (bulrush millet, Pennisetum typhoides), which were the main cereal crops. The rest of the mixture included cucurbits such as mananga (pumpkin, Cucurbita spp.) and manwiwa (watermelon, Citrullus lanatus), nyemba (cowpea, Vigna unguiculata), and chibage (maize, Zea mays), which were used as supplementary cuisine, somewhat like a relish. Mbambaira (sweetpotato,lmpomoea batatas) was planted in mounds between November and January, and a portion of fertile land was planted to nzungu (groundnut, Arachis
hyogaea) while the more sandy soil was reserved for nyimo (bambara nut, Voandzeia subterranea). This newly planted field would have been about two acres in size and each year a little more of the adjacent virgin land would be prepared and planted with legumes until by the fourth season the whole area would occupy about four acres. After this time a portion of the first prepared land would be abandoned and allowed to revert to bush. The fallow period lasted many years and the land was judged to have regained its fertility once the climax vegetation was dominated by tall thatching grass, Hyparrhenia spp. Permanent, continuous cultivation was practiced in dambos (mtoro). 1° Mahobo (banana, Musa spp.), madhumbe (taro, Colocasia esculenta), early maize, pha (sugarcane, Saccharum spp.), mupunga (rice, Oryza sativa), and tsenza (livingstonnee potato, Coleus esculentus) were grown within an intricate system of raised beds and flooded depressions. Other important food crops such as utwiro (sesame, Sesamum indicum,) ndodzi (pigeon-pea, Cajanus cajun), mufarinya (cassava, Manihot esculenta), mapapai (pawpaw, Carica esculenta), chihengi (pineapple, comosus), and miripiri (chilli pepper, Capsicum anuum) were grown around the homestead. All activities in the farming calendar were imbaed with ritual significance and usually performed collectively, with the exhaustion of hard work re-fortified by the drinking of nutritious sweet beer (hoka). The abundant land was held in common and cultivated according to the need for produce, while cattle, whose intrinsic value was highly symbolic, was a sign of wealth and prosperity. The patrilineal descent of land rights endowed men with control over cropping fields and their produce, while women cultivated their own gardens in addition to working in the fields of their fathers or husbands. Cattle was also owned by men, both individuaUy or corporately, and was distributed or inherited, mainly on the basis of patrilineal association or descent. Yet, rights to access were not always clear-cut. They could vary across two or more households, even if the same number of animals were owned by each. In other words, the structure of cattle ownership could differ in each household. This would be most likely to happen, for example, when cattle or goats were loaned out to others who had none. Like men, women also owned cattle and other livestock like goats, but received them through routes of exchange that differed from those of men. As an exercise of male privilege, men typically claimed ownership of all livestock, even if some of it was actually purchased by the women of their kraal, and that is one reason why women today retain the often abused right to inherit livestock or to transfer it to her father's home in order to ensure the security of her children and herself. The exchange of cattle among men occurred in various ways, for example, through lobola. Such exchanges might compensate for the loss of a daughter when she marries into another clan; or certain cattle
Page and Page: Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Rhodesia would be endowed with ancestral spirits (Scoopes and Wilson, 1988) or sacrificed at a funeral ceremony like kurova guva; or, bartered for food or services. The integral symbolic linkbetween subsistence farming based on livestock and agricultural cropping pivoted on a system of social relations that was rendered vulnerable when the impact of colonial conditions began to mitigate against good crops and vibrant livestock. Drought (shangwa) is a common occurrence in this part of Africa. Illife (1990:29-30) argues that the chief defense against scarcity during this time was the African cultivator's skill, although he also recognized the value of their grain storage technology. In our opinion, this technology was equally, if not more, important as photographic archives reveal that harvested grain was stored by the Mashona in thatched granaries that could have each accommodated reserves of up to one tonne, it It appears that one extended family could have had as many as twenty-five granaries within their compound. In Mashonaland, these granaries were built on kopjes, large rocky outcrops (which are a common feature of the local landscape) to prevent termite infestation. However, in Matebeleland, grain wasstored in pits that the Ndebele excavated beneath cattle kraals. Grain was not only stored for use during the 7-8 month-long dry season, but also held as security against the shangwa. In addition, interviews with elderly female and male farmers in Mashonaland reveal that large baskets of grain, sealed with clay, were stored in caves in locations kept secret from invaders. 12 The success of the Africans' traditional farming system was noted by early travellers to the region, who often described scenes of plenty. 13 And later by the Director of Agriculture in Northern Rhodesia, following an exhaustive ecological survey by Trapnell and Clothier (1957) in that country. In that volume, Lewin (1936) contends that: Recognition of the inherent soundness, under natural conditions, of native agricultural practice has only become general in recent years. Practices apparently contrary to the accepted principles of good farming, usually prove on investigation to be the best possible in the circumstances under which the native cultivator works... Under natural conditions, native cultivators have tittle or nothing to learn from the agricultural scientist, but their natural mode of life has been rudely interrupted in most parts of tropical Africa [by] the spread of European occupation... It behoves an agricultural department to investigate most local practices with the utmost care before presuming to attempt to improve them. Studying indigenous agriculture with utmost care was not the approach taken in Southern Rhodesia, but could anything of substance really have been lost?. The answer is that Africans must have known something
about adapting their agricultural practices to environmental conditions. Even during the early years of colonialism, while they were still freely renting and farming alienated land, reliance on the traditional methods described above enabled African cultivators to meet the challenge posed by European occupation extremely well. Although maize had been traditionally grown as a relish rather than a major carbohydrate source, European demand for it soon after the development of mining in the new settler state prompted Africans to increase the production of this crop in order to generate a marketable surplus that would soon support settler mining ventures. Proceeds from these sales were used to pay the hut tax imposed on the indigenous population by the colonial authorities (Palmer, 1977). This ability of African agriculture to generate a surplus was conf'tnned by Hyatt (1914) who wrote,"As a rule, the natives had an immense quantity of surplus grain for sale to traders". 14 Recent research in the Zimbabwean archives compelled Iliffe to challenge the accepted view of famine as a check on population growth in Zimbabwe prior to 1890. He asserts that recurrent drought-related food scarcities suffered by the Africans during pre-colonial times turned into "famines that killed", not only due to natural causes, but mainly due to the structural violence inflicted by policies of the settler state. 15 This colonial form of structural violence began in 1890, when Imperial troops, sponsored by the British South Africa Company, systematically destroyed local long-term grain stores in order to defeat the first Chimurenga or African uprising. 16 Despite later efforts to compete with settler agricultural production, these vital grain stores could never be replaced once the Africans' best land had been expropriated. Such hostile actions formalized a mode of state-formation based on a competitive relation between peasant and settler agricultural production. The latter would be systematically undermined, and food security for Africans at the household level would become a much more precarious pursuit. The Denigration of Traditional African Agriculture The agricultural policy imposed on African farmers in Rhodesia reflected the ambitions of the settler community. The denigration of traditional African agriculture was in the interests of Europeans who sought to control the most fertile land. The marked differences between settler attitudes towards the almost identical traditional African farming systems in Northern and Southern Rhodesia can only be explained by differences in the competition for land. European settlers in Northern Rhodesia, whose access to land was limited by the high incidence of malaria (Davidson, 1978), found the mineral wealth that they were seeking in the form of copper, while mineral ambitions were largely thwarted in Southern Rhodesia. This meant that Southern Rhodesian settlers had to turn to farming in order to make a living, and this subsequently led to the policy of land expropriation and 5
AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991 the creation of Mrican Reserves. In addition to opening up more land for settler occupation, state agents intended those Reserves to impoverish Africans to such an extent that young men would be forced to leave their families and seek employment as cheap labor for settler enterprise. While the authorities in Northern Rhodesia could afford a more pragmatic approach to indigenous agriculture, since they had little economic interest in arable land, in Southern Rhodesia settlers would work to rationalize their decision to take the African's best arable and grazing land. Therefore, instead of trying to scientifically investigate the extent to which indigenous cultivation practices were adapted to local environmental conditions, the settiers in Southern Rhodesia set out to denigrate indigenous agricultural practices, as a subset of the more general onslaught against African material and spiritual culture, the effects of which are still being felt today. Guy Taylor (1925), an anthropologist in the Native Affairs Department, clearly expressed the general consensus when he stated: "We have in my opinion little or nothing to learn from native agriculture." The most vociferous critic of indigenous agriculture, however, was E. D. Alvord OBE, the American Mormon agricultural missionary who was recruited in 1919 by Rhodesian settlers from the Congregational Church of Utah. To neutralize the assertion that Alvord may be attributed inordinate power in this essay, it is necessary to explain why his appointment became such a pivotal one in settler/African relations. His work proved so critical to the survival of the settler state, and yet, it remained so controversial among differentclasses of settlers throughout his career. It was not the case that Alvord, himself, was seen as such an important man in the settlers" eyes, but his stature and influence drastically increased, as seen from the African point of view. To the same degree that Africans esteemed and modified their behavior in response to him; settlers needed and disdained him at the same time for the improvements he seemed to be making in the African reserves. Though his office was a small one, the settler state granted Alvord the power to shift the direction of African development, mainly because the fragile and economically unstable moment - - between World Wars - - demanded it. His program promised to bring about greater African compliance; nevertheless, his power was constantlycontested. For example, he initiallymade his mark when he built a missionary industrial arts training school at Mt. Selinda. At that experimental school, Alvord showed that Africans could rapidly acquire European artisan skills. Chief Native Commissioner Keigwin promoted the development of government schools designed to improve on Alvord's model. However, by 1923, the head of the Tjolotjo government school was refusing to teach Africans to build square houses, for fear that they mightbegin to compete with white artisans (Flood, 1966:89). At 6
another government school, Domboshawa, an industrial instructor, similarly refused Africans instruction in technical drawing. Within only two years after his arrival in Southern Rhodesia, Alvord witnessed the banning of detribalized and urbanized Africans from trade unions and from voting. He also observed the institutionalization of pass laws designed to control their movements and keep the majority of them restricted to the reseryes. The opportunity was ripe for his American university notions about the necessity of training the African for self-reliance (Flood, 1966:90). In fact, state officials thought that Alvord's expert advice might actually protect individual settlers from African competition in urban areas, which had greatly increased as a result of missionary education. While many missionaries wanted to use education to transform the subsistence lifestyle of African students and to promote their qualified competition with similarly skilled white laborers, Alvord's agricultural education promised just the opposite. Whereas many defined African modernization in terms of their fitness to compete, Alvord det'med it as enhancing their subsistence well enough to keep them well-fed and happy in the reserves, with minimal government input. If Alvord's proposals proved successful, state agents reasoned, then more Africans might be content to stay in the reserves, at least until their labor was needed elsewhere for the development of settler capital. The confinementof Africans to the reserves meant that they would thereby pose much less of a threat to the settlers comfortable sense of urban stability. But the Domboshawa andTjolotjo industrial schools made the threat of urban African competition immanently more real. Chief Native Commissioner Keigwin spoke alone when he criticized Alvord for only teaching Africans self-sufficient skills like building and woodworking instead of preparing them for highly skilled labor like furniture making. For a while, working class settlers thought Alvord was a happy alternative to liberals like Keigwin. That is why he was appointed Chief Agriculturalist for the Instruction of Natives in Southern Rhodesia in 1926 and later served as the head of the Department of Native Areas and Reserves until his retirement in 1950. Like Keigwin, Alvord would later lose status in the settlers' eyes, as soon as they realized what Africans would try to do with the increased cropping potential that Alvord promised. Initially Alvord did not really believe that Africans would be able to economically compete with settlers because of his educational program; he only thought they might learn to feed and furnish themselves. The potential of African agriculture was lost on him. In his unpublished autobiography, Alvord summed up indigenous African farming methods as "primitive agriculture that wastes and destroys." His motives for attacking indigenous agriculture in this way can be gleaned from his papers and autobiography. Each of these objectives are discussed
Page and Page: Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Rhodesi below, but it is important to remember the factors outlined above that enhanced Alvord's significance. The settler state had to listen to Alvord because it needed to reverse the African urbanization trend being stimulated by rural poverty; and, his plan to end rural poverty by promoting skills for African community development would contribute to the retention of a labor reserve in the communal areas that was increasingly stratified by class (Page, 1991). The poorest were most likely to be the least well-fed and the least strong. Therefore, rather than trying to evaluate scientifically the extent to which indigenous agricultural pracrices were adapted to local environmental conditions, the settlers of Southern Rhodesia attempted belittle the very basis of African agriculture, which rooted farming practice in the crucible of African culture and religion. To displace that agricultural regime with a hegemonic western one, it was necessary for Alvord to enact and encourage a systematic onslaught against African modes of agricultural production, the effects of which are still being felt today. It is important to recognize how Alvord embodied a dialogic strategy (Page, 1988). That strategy proposed to let Africans know what was expected of them as they gained access to modernization. That strategy was implemented through Alvord and by the state; and, it was designed to enhance the state-formation process, in the interest of re-enforcing settler control. 17 First and foremost, Alvord sought to destroy the validity of indigenous agricultural practices rooted in African mysticism in order to more effectively convert Africans to Christianity. Secondly, he sought to "civilize" and "develop" Africans along European lines by forcing them into the settler-controlled cash economy. Third, he sought to intensify African crop production in the reserves so that more land would be available to Europeans. Finally, Alvord tried to prove the superiority of his own expertise by applying the principles of agricultural science he had acquired while studying for his Masters degree in agricultural science in the United States. We discuss each of these four objectives in the subsections below.
Conversion to Christianity The identities of agriculturalist and missionary were inseparable for Alvord, as he revealed in his declaration of "Motive and Message" when he applied to be a missionary. "It is my aim", he wrote,"to teach Christianity in practical, everyday life by preaching the gospel of the plough". The temperance and zealousness required by Alvord's Mormon upbringing no doubt contributed to his intolerance towards African people, whom he described as "inordinate beer drinkers"18 and "heathens who were grossly immoral and incredibly steeped in superstition". He concurrently described their farming methods as "wasteful, slovenly, ineffective and ruinous to the future interests of Rhodesia". Such paternalism was not unusual among western
missionaries in Africa. For instance, the Scottish missionary, Robert Moffat, who had been dispatched to the Dutch Cape seventy years earlier, blamed the Tswana people for the arid conditions in Latakoo, North of the Orange River in the Cape. He believed that their "immorality and destructive methods" had led to drought conditions ever since the "Great Hood" (Grove, 1989). Thus, missionaries often sought to legitimize their evangelical task by defining it as an effort to restore ecological balance and abundance to a devastated land of unbelievers (Beinart, 1989). Alvord's particular mission to Southern Rhodesia was to be more fundamental and enduring. His beliefs concerning race and religion were based on his mother's reassurance that "blacks and whites were equal, so long as they had clean living and worshipped [the Christian] GOd", but the problem for Africans in this construction is how to obtain the clean living and worshipfulness over which Alvord claimed proprietary rights. In Alvord's view, the semi-nomadic life-style and apparently animist faith of the African people represented nothing but "primitive-ness, ignorance and superstition." He regarded himself as an evangelistic development worker. He wanted to help Africans profit from"their aspirations and longings for the better things which the white man has to give them", (Alvord, unpubl, autobiography). Alvord was, perhaps, only too aware of the strong African sense of life continuing through the manifestation of guardian ancestral spirits, who dwelt in sacred trees to watch over their land and crops. He also understood that their particular mode of agriculture celebrated the human relationship with the earth as an integral part of their spiritual practices. Or, as he put it, "every operation in connection with the tillage of the soil was mixed up with witchcraft, ancestral spirit worship, taboos, unsubstantial customs and superstition". Alvord soon realized that destroying this traditional African's pantheistic approach to agriculture was fundamental to his crusade.
Commoditization of African Agriculture Although trading had been an integral part of African life in pre-colonial times, it was Alvord who encouraged Africans to let the production of cash-crops take precedence over local food production. Having established maize 19 as the predominant food and cash crop, he went on to promote intensive cropping of other commodity crops like cottonne, groundnut, soybean, pigeon pea, sesame, and sunnhemp, all of which could be sold for cash in European markets. Alvord recognized that Christians made good capitalists, but Africans who had not been christianized would be a problem because they had no consumer desires. As he put it, "the average heathen family had little and wanted less". He thought that encouraging the intensification of crop production would help otherwise impoverished African farmers create a surplus that could 7
AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991 be sold for cash. He probably did not calculate the profits that would be distributed into settler hands as a result of his development program, but he did presume that the cash that Africans made could be used to buy all the trappings of a civilized Christian society. He envisioned a bright future for his African subjects, which included model villages with brick houses, cattle kraals, plantations of wattle and gum, village sanitation with improved wells, and the construction of dams and roads. Unfortunately, this development plan was coming to fruition a little too early. At that point of time, it directly conflicted with the interests of the settlers who regarded Alvord's effort to westernize African farming as quite a serious threat, since Africans had already demonstrated their ability to control the maize market between 1900 and 1920 (Palmer, 1977). Settlers feared that if Alvord were to increase African maize production enough for them to once again sell on the European market, then this would not only cause competition with settler farmers whose mainstay was grain production, but it would also enable the Africans to pay their taxes without being obliged to labor for their colonizers in return. In 1931, opposition from white farmers to Alvord's work grew by leaps and bounds. "Many remarked that I ought to be hung", he wrote in his autobiography. By this time, there was no confusion about settler consensus. They essentially agreed that, "the African should learn no skills that the European offers in the labor market and that his soil should yield no food which the European could sell him". The superintendent for Natives in Mashonaland South submitted a memo to the colonial government criticizing Alvord for teaching Africans to grow maize and recommended that "they be prohibited from growing this crop in future as it was a white man's crop". The Maize Control Act of 1930implemented more settler control over the terms of African agriculture. Subsequently, the market for African maize was also restricted. By 1933 Alvord was complaining bitterly about the absence of a market for African grain. "What is the use of adopting better farming methods and producing more crops when there is no market?" he implored. The settler farmers' worries aboutcompetition abated as African grain production per headplunged into decline in the 1930's (Mosley, 1983), and has never since recovered. There is no evidence that Alvord clearly understood the connection between these changes in social order and his development activity. He may not have been politically astute enough to recognize the loss of African markets as a dialogic response of settlers who said: "we are afraid to compete on an equal basis." Alvord also suffered from the naive christian/capitalist notion that women's labor should be subordinate to that of men. He proceeded as if completely blind to the fact that women had long been the main food producers in African societies, but he wanted to put that heathenistic practice behind those progressive Africans who agreed to follow his lead. Under his influence, the production of 8
cash crops became men's work, while the status of women eroded as food cropping came to be seen as an inferior occupation. A hint of dissidence from African women is registered when Alvord complained that African women did the "minimum" amount of agricultural work.20 Dissident indeed! hlvord's new farming practices greatly increased the workload of African women. By promoting plowing as a male occupation only, he excluded women from what had suddenly become the key activity on the annual farming agenda. Meanwhile, plow cultivation and the curb he enforced on mixed cropping ensured that much more of the 'lazy' womens' time would be taken up by the laborious, but allegedly industrious task of weeding. If more food was really the fruit of their labor, women might not have cared, but the expenditure of more of their labor only brought more cash crops, and much less food for human consumption since labor expended did not translate equally into purchasing power. Furthermore, by only employing male agricultural demonstrators, a male educational bias was introduced into the extension of new information about the western mode of modern agriculture. The Intensification of African Agriculture
Alvord was responsible for "developing the Native Reserves so as to enable them to carry a larger population and so avoid as far as possible, the necessity for the acquisition of more land for native occupation" (CNC Annual Report, 1932). He never explicitly acknowledged this underlying aim of his mission, instead he used other pretexts to justify his hegemonie endeavors. For example, Alvord claimed that many Africans were starving before he started his work, due mainly to their less productive indigenous farming system. He made no note, however, about how their starvation was precipitaed by the policies settlers had designed to shield themselves from competition over access to resources. Of course, I am right, Alvord would have said. To defend his position, he tried to demonstrate how much he had helped Africans. For example, in 1930 (a), when the decline in African agriculture was rapidly escalating for reasons outlined above, Alvord calculated that grain yields among non-compliant African farmers were "deplorably low", being only 2.2 bags, or 0.5 tonnes per hectare.21 After marketing a proportion of this yield, Alvord reckoned that African households would be left with an annual total of 2.9 bags per person, or 264 kilograms of grain per person per day. That would have provided a daily intake of 2,600 calories. Considering that additional carbohydrate sources could be found in the root and tuber crops widely grown at the time, this amount of food would have been more than adequate to sustain a normal adult. Still, Alvord used these comparatively low, but nutritionally sustainable figures on grain yields per acre as a way of malting the indigenous farming system appear
Page and Page: Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Rhodesia inadequate. He wanted the figures accepted by Africans as rational grounds for changing the raison d' etre of their agricultural regime. He wanted them to shift from an agricultural practice whose productivity was based on yield per family, to one based on yield per unit area of land. In other words he was proposing intensive, rather than extensive land use. This ecologically unsound yard stick was used by Alvord to condemn, and then to wipe out traditional farming practices. The same argument could be used to justify his effort to impose a farming system that had been developed for more temperate regions of the world. His intensification plan was Alvord's answer to the African need to re-establish maize as a food crop. Given adequate rainfall, he knew that it could produce higher yields per unit area than any indigenous food crop, and at the same time, it would allow him to introduce a system of permanent cultivation. To accomplish this, Alvord had to separate the Africans' arable land from their grazing laud, and demarcate it by the construction of laborintensive contour ridges. In that way, he would organize African land into centralized blocks. A South African agriculturalist called Pole-Evans warned that Alvord's plan to centralize arable lands was "fraught with great danger" as soil structure would be lost under continuous cropping. But this criticism was not taken seriously because Alvord's original plots at Mt. Selinda had been under constant tillage for 18 years. However, Mt. Selinda is situated on comparatively stable, deep clay soils in the Eastern Highlands where rainfall is abundant and distributed throughout the year;, the soils of Mt. Selinda are quite unlike the more fragile soils of the drought-prone African Reserves. There was also considerable African opposition to thepolicy of decentralization, since it threatened the most fundamental aspect of the indigenous farming system, i.e. the maintenance of soil fertility through fallowing. When Alvord initially introduced the idea in Selukwe in 1929, the local Chief Nema warned his people that it was "just another trick by the government to test their soil and if it was found to produce good crops it would be taken away and given to the white man". Alvord got round this suspicion by appealing directly to a small group of Christianized Africans, who ignored their chief and agreed to have their land centralized. It is interesting to note how, once again, Alvord's evangelizing was used to undermine local culture as well as agriculture. However naive Alvord may seem from the viewpoint of tomorrow looking back on yesterday, he used what political savvy he had to promote his concept of African development. His centralization policy matured a step further in the 1950s when the Native Land Husbandry Act was enacted. It should come as no surprise that Alvord was a leading architect of that act; nor should anyone be surprised to learn that it restricted African families to just eight acres of land and five head of cattle. Alvord's purpose was to promote the centralization of
land holding by individualizingpeasant farming. In 1961, that act caused the worst outbreak of African rebellion against colonial rule since the first uprising of 1896/97 (Drinkwater, 1989).
Applied Agricultural Science as Alvord's Expertise The expertise that Alvord brought to Southern Rhodesia should not be taken for granted. He graduated from Washingtonne State University in 1918, with a Master of Science degree in agriculture. Immediately thereafter, he applied for a post as a missionary. His first experience with on-farm research was in 1920 at Mt. Selinda Mission, which he built and operated under the sponsorship of the Congregational Church. At Mt. Selinda, he introduced the farming system that he had learned in the USA. Again, it was based on plow cultivation, intensive monocropping, rotation with legumes, and the incorporation of liberal amounts of manure to fertilize the land. He condemned the African farming system and described it as "wasteful" because it relied on extensive (rather than intensive) cultivation, with long fallow periods, and he considered it "slovenly" because it involved mixed cropping rather than monocropping in straight rOWS.
He advocated deep ploughing, cross ploughing, and winter ploughing to correct their so-called "poor tillage" (which today would be more accurately described as zero- or minimum tillage). Furthermore, unlike his counterparts in Northern Rhodesia, Alvord failed to do an agro-ecological survey or to carry out replicatable scientific trials that would enable others to compare all aspects of the two different systems.22 Instead, from 1927 onwards, Alvord had a mission. He completely concentrated his efforts on transforming African agriculture. He did this firstly by indoctrinating African children through his work in designing school curricula and then influencing their parents by controlling the activities of the Native Agricultural Demonstrators. These demonstrators were handpicked, mainly from mission schools, and were tasked with receiving "expert knowledge" from the Agriculturalist (i.e. Alvord) and passing it on to "promising' Natives. Alvord also began offering Master Farmer awards in 1934, with 1,200 of them awarded by the time he retired in 1950. This competitive award provided a way of certifying progressive Africans who had already modernized their farming system according to Alvord's specifications and served to elevate their status above the level of the rest of the "uncivilized" or resistant Africans, who tried to persist with their traditional system.22 In none of Alvord's writings does he once promote the idea of autonneomous innovation or experimentation amongst African farmers. Rather, he demands their passive implementation of his "expert" instructions, which were most frequently disseminatedby servile demonstrators. With the benefit of current scientific awareness in
AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991 tropical agricultural science, it is now possible to compare the expertise of four indigenous African farming systems with comparable elements in the western European temperate model that Alvord inUroduced.
Pyre.culture In the community of agricultural and social sciences, this aspect of African agriculture is popularly known as "slash and burn cultivation", but it was more than mere bush clearance. The rapid combustion of organic matter has definite fertilizer effects. According to Ahn (1970) African savanna soils tend to be deficient in nitrates and phosphates, while forest soils are deficient in phosphates and potassium. The natural vegetation that covered the lowveld of Zimbabwe was Colophospermum mopane savanna, while Brachystegia woodland dominated the highveld. Part of the significance of bush burning in the practice of shifting cultivation is that it helps reduce phosphorus deficiencies. Not only does burning release phosphorus (and potassium) from the vegetation to the soil, but ash also temporarily raises the pH. Phosphate is most available to plants where the soil reaction falls in the intermediate range, pH 5.5-7.0 (Richards, 1985). In contrast, Alvord's solution to the problem of declining soil fertility was to plow-in a green manure crop every season and to apply cattle manure at a rate of 37 tonnes per hectare at different times during a four year crop rotation. However, researchers in Nigeria found that green manures gave best results when cut and burnt (Sampson and Crowther, 1943). More recent research in Zimbabwe by Elwell (1989) has shown that green manure should be left to mineralize on the soil surface in hot, dry environments to prevent its rapid depletion by microorganisms. Unfortunately, few communal area farmers have sufficient land to fallow under green manure crops, neither do they have the 12-16 cattle required to provide manure at the recommended rate (Shumba, 1984). In fact 45 percent of a formerly cattle-keeping people no longer have cattle at all.24 In the past, Zimbabwe's traditional farmers, who depended on finger millet as their staple food crop, had a very good reason for not using manure as an organic fertilizer. Moffat (1932) found that manure has a selective influence on the highly competitive weed, Fleusine indica. The proliferation of that weed under the influence of manure actually suppresses the yield of finger millet. Additional benefits that accrue from controlled burning on arable land is in the destruction of soil pests. These include weeds and weed seeds, especially witchweed (Striga asiatica), the eggs and juvenile stages of many insect pests, including cutworms (Agrostis spp.), white grubs (Eulepida mashona), armored crickets (Hetrodes pupus), and some nematodes (Ogbuji, 1979), allofwhich are now serious pests of crops in the communal areas of Zimbabwe (Page et al., 1985). The traditional practice of burning crop residues would also control stem-borers 10
(Busseolafusca, Sesamia calamistis ,and Chilo partellus) and leaf diseases such as rust, leaf spot, etc. Farmers now depend on the use of toxic pesticides to control these pests, an extra expense that is not conducive to subsistence food production. There is a widespread mis-conception that slash and burn cultivation destroys forests. Here, let us stress that it was lopped branches and trees felled only at "breast height" that were burnt. Long-term work by Trapnell during the 1930's and early 40's demonstrated that woodlands thinned in this manner arc able to completely regenerate within 11 years. In contrast to this wise woodland management plan, Alvord was himself responsible for the large-scale removal of the communal area woodlands. He complained that "Southern Rhodesia is cursed by a tree conservation complex.., they have a fixed obsession that all trees must be preserved and no thought is given to proper land utilization". In 1936 Alvord warned of soil erosion due to insufficient grassland. He recommended that trees should be removed to create a "parkland" effect. He argued that this would provide more grass for grazing and for "binding the soil together". His view was supported later by Dr. William Davies from England's Grassland Improvement Institute, and from 1947 onwards, Alvord was allowed to implement his tree-felling program. As a result of this mis-guided approach to soil conservation, large areas of communal land have become completely denuded of trees and the exposed grassland is unable to prevent the severe sheet and gulley erosion that is now occurring. Re-afforestarion is currently a major concern in Zimbabwe, since we know today that woodlands conserve nutrients,maintain the water-table, and shield the soil from heavy rainfall far better than grasslands (Jaiyebo & Moore, 1964). Trees can also act as nutrient pumps, by re-cycling nutrients from soil depths to the surface layers (Wildin, 1986). These benefits are being exploited in other parts of Africa, where land pressure is preventing shifting cultivation, by the use of fast-growing leguminous shrubs to maintain-soil fertility in a sustainable system of agro-forestry known as alley-cropping (IITA, 1890). Zero or Minimum Tillage. Traditional cultivators in southern Africa often pracriced zero-tillage, by planting directly into ash in the fh-st year after virgin bush (Trapnell, 1936), 25 and minimum tillage thereafter, using only a hoe to loosen the soil surface to ensure that the seeds were covered. In contrast, Alvord was obsessed by his idea of "proper tillage" that was incorrect for soils in the reserve land. He devoted his life in Southern Rhodesia to persuading African farmers to plow their land like Africans in American were learning to do. In 1947, he wrote, "In America in 1935 1 saw that allNegro farmers were ploughing and on the contour. What black people in America can do, black people in
Page and Page: Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Rhodesia Africa ought to be able to do. What he does not mention is the fact that Africans in America are not simply smarter. They learned the tillage methods that Alvord used from other college and agricultural demonstrators or extension agents who were trained in similar college or university programs, much the same as Alvord was trained in the western agricultural methods. It is no surprise that tillage specialists in Zimbabwe' s Institute of Agricultural Engineering are now having second thoughts about the value of plowing tropical soils. Nortonne (1987) states that from a soil conservation point of view, plowing has several draw-backs. These include the compaction of the soil below plow depth, the smearing action of the plow, which seals pores and the disturbance that allows the finer silt and clay material from the poorer structured sandy soils to be leached out of the plowed layer to seal the pores of the lower soil strata. He also expressed concern that plowing buries any protective mulch that may have built up on the surface and at the same time exposes organic matter and beneficial microorganisms to the harsh sun's rays, leading to their destruction. Plowing thus obliterates the soil's structure and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. This concern is shared by Lal (1979). The destructive effects of Alvord's plow gospel on the poor sandy soils, most characteristic of the land set aside for Africans, was being noticed even as early as 1929, as indicated by the Assistant Native Commissioner in Buhera Native Reserve. He wrote, "With the increased use of ploughs, old lands seem to be abandoned more rapidly than before, with a consequent more rapid destruction of timber". Soil erosion in plowed, monocropped fields in Zimbabwe now averages more than 50 tonnes per hectare per year (Elwell, 1979) and as a result, Whitlow (1988) reckons that maize cultivation, for the Sabi catchment area, will no longer be possible in ten years, while sorghum cultivation will be impossible within 30 years. On the other hand, zero tillage in conjunction with the maintenance of a protective mulch, prevents rainwater run-off and soil erosion, reduces weed problems, preserves soil structure, and creates favorable soil temperature and moisture regimes for enhanced crop growth (Lal, 1986). Nevertheless, plowing is still the predominant tillage method recommended for communal areas by Alvord's successors in the Extension Service. In fact, with increasing population and rising input costs, more and more communal land is being ploughed up to maximize output. As well as increasing erosion hazards, this is creating a major ploughing bottleneck with the onset of the rains and has become a serious constraint in peasant maize production. This is particularly true for those farmers who do not have draught power and have to wait and pay for others to plough their land. The unreliable rainfall duration means that early planting is the key to a good harvest. Minimum tillage could facilitate early planting
in the communal areas (Shumba, 1984). Ironically, zero and minimum tillage is now being hailed as a "modem" soil conservation method by progressive farmers in the west and is currently being adopted by many of Zimbabwe's (mainly white) large-scale commercial farmers in a bid to reduce fuel costs!
Mixed-Cropping Mixed cropping was a common feature of traditional farming in Zimbabwe during pre-colonial times. In the Chinamhora district, sorghum, maize,cowpea, and pumpkin seed were broadcast directly into the ash and the gaps were later f'dled with transplanted finger millet (see note 25). There was no need for the crops to be planted in rows, because harvesting was not mechanized and chemical fertilizer was not applied. Alvord poured scorn on these practices when he wrote, "the Native falls to see that his practice of overcrowding plants on the soil is just as logical as expecting ten calves to llve and grow on the milk from one cow", (Alvord, 1930b) and he wanted to"make them plant each kind of crop by itself...this will give larger yields than by hit and miss planting in mixtures" (Alvord, 1948). It is now widely recognized that the introduction of well-planned multiple cropping practices is one of the more feasible ways of raising the level of agricultural production in the tropics. A mixed cropping system allows better use of environmental factors such as space, light, moisture and nutrients, as well as making more efficient use of fertilizer applications. Mixed crops give a greater yield stability in variable environments, particularly where rainfall is unreliable, because the different species are not equally affected by the adverse conditions. Pests and diseases are often less severe when crops (and varieties) ate mixed due to the slower pest multiplication rate and the increased horizontal resistance that results from the greater ecological diversity. Spreading plants, such as cowpea and pumpkin are important components of mixed cropping systems, as they provide good ground cover to smother weeds and protect the soil from the damaging effects of tropical sunshine and torrential rain. Pre-Columbian native Americans successfully intercropped maize with legumes and cucurbits for these reasons (Mangelsdorf, 1974). Shortage of labor for weed- . ing maize monocultures is now a major constraint in Zimbabwe's communal farming areas. Finally, mixed cropping systems ensure higher land productivity and greater food security, the two major concerns of subsistence farmers. (For further information on the benefits of mixed cropping see Norman, 1974; Beets, 1981; Steiner, 1982; and Richards, 1985). By contrast, Alvord was recommending monoculture over extensive areas and continuous cropping without break crops or fallows, but this reduces diversity, the major stabilizing factor in natural ecosystems. Also, the resultant increase in genetic uniformity of crops stimu11
AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991 lates the development and spread of new virulent pathogen races (Barrett, 1981). Alvord's stubborn insistence on row-cultivated monocultures, together with the more recent introduction of hybrid maize cultivars, (which lack the horizontal resistance of the traditional open-pollinated varieties) have led to the unchecked spread of many serious crop pests and diseases, particularly Maize Streak Virus and stemborers (Page, et al., 1985). The exposure of thousands of hectares of fragile soil to the harsh tropical sun causes excessive heating (surface temperatures of bare sandy soils in the communal areas now often exceed 50 degrees Celsius). This has resulted in the desiccation and disintegration of soil particle aggregates, leaving them vulnerable to erosion by wind and rain. High soil temperatures also encourage the germination of witchweed Stiga spp. (Parker, 1984). Striga asiatics, which can cause yield losses of up to 90 percent, is now a serious maize pest in some communal areas of Zimbabwe (Page et ai., 1985). The agricultural extension agency's continuous insistence on monocropped maize has also been responsible for the contemporary demise of many important food crops, such as eowpea, pumpkin, and finger millet, that were traditionally grown as intercross. Bush Fallowing
A consistent feature of tropical African agricultural systems is the inclusion of long fallow periods between the shorter cultivation periods. It is reported that in Zimbabwe these fallow periods lasted for 10 to 15 years (Alvord, unpubL autobiography). The land is judged to have regained its fertility with the return of the climax vegetation. However, even this ecologically sound practice had its critics who are firmly situated in modern agricultural science. Fallowing is the "slowest process known to man" of restoring soil fertility, they say; "you are relying on the chance burying of the elaborated plant food by worms (which are rare in Rhodesia), termites, beetles and other insects". (Taylor, 1925) This statement would seem ridiculous to soil micro-biologists who are only too aware of how rapidly soil microbial activity occurs in tropical environments. Furthermore, as pointed out earlier, traditional pyroculture did not include the total destruction or removal of trees. Undisturbed tree roots served to bind soil particles together and to prevent sheet erosion. Traditional African farmers recognized that it is easier to restore nutrients to exhausted soils than to "rebuild" a soil after it has "collapsed" in physical terms (Lal & Greenland, 1979). Although four years of cropping had removed all the available nutrients from the soil, its structure remained intact, thereby making possible a complete regeneration of the climax vegetation during the fallow period. This process would replenish its nutrient reservoir and is comparatively rapid in the tropics. Termites normally play an integral part in this recycling process (Lee & 12
Wood, 1971). On the other hand, modern intensivefarming methods from the west, which have stressed the removal of trees from arable lands,regular deep plowing, and continuous monocropping, have led to the deteriorationof soil structure and have increased erosion hazards in Zimbabwe (Kay, 1970; Elwell, 1989). Furthermore, Elwell & Stocking (1988) conclude that the sheet erosion, which is occurring on intensively monocropped soils, is accompanied by the loss of large amounts of essential plant nutrients. This means that communal soils are becoming too infertile to be of any use for either cropping or grazing. The most obvious point is that Alvord's assertions about how Africans should modernize their farming system were simply incorrect, while the African pracflees were scientifically verifiable, and capable of being innovated upon or modernized in their own terms. Yet, Alvord had learned to sincerely believe, as much as any educated scientist believes the principles of his craft, that his own educational access had got for him the best information that could be known. He could not adjust his approach to more nor could he effectivelymeet the needs left over from the inadequacies of a diminished African agricultural regime without making settlers aware of their role in degrading a formerly sustainable system of African production. Furthermore, the religious zeal of a missionary agriculturalist dialogically finks the the rhetorical rational for the development of African agriculture along European lines with the rhetoric and nationalist zeal of settlers who were wholly engaged and seeking primacy in the stateformation process.26 In their imagined community, developed African agriculture would need to make Africans cash-dependent, if not capable of independently feeding themselves, but it should definitely not make them economically competitive in terms of access to markets or to the profits of agricultural production. Alvord's Legacy to African Agriculture in Zimbabwe The most serious consequence of Alvord's imposed western farming system has been the reduction in food securiP/ amongst communal farming families. Ironically, when Alvord began working in the Reserves, he was initially impressed by the fact that Africans had "many more varieties of food than do Europeans" (1930a). Unfortunately, his insistence on monoculture has led to the neglect of many important food crops, particularly cassava, cowpea, and pumpkin, which were traditionally grown as intercross. Widespread cultivation of crops such as rice, taro, and livingstonnee potato ceased when dambo cultivation was made illegal37 Other valuable food crops, such as sweet potato and bambara nut, have been neglected to such an extent that they are now only being cultivated by elderly women. Furthermore, maize has displaced finger millet as
Page and Page: Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Rhodesia the main food staple in the higher rainfall areas, and sorghum and bulrush millet in the lower rainfall areas. This is because flinty maize varieties such as "Hickory King" responded better to intensive cropping and could be sold to traders for cash to meet the tax demands of the colonial government (Palmer, 1977). However, these indigenous cereal crops had several important advantages for the subsistence farmer. Sorghum and bulrush millet are drought tolerant, while finger millet can be stored for more than ten years (Purseglove, 1985) and contains more calcium and iron than maize (Platt, 1962). A thin porridge Of pre-soaked millet also provided an excellent energy-dense weaning food for infants (Svanberg, 1987). Once again Alvord showed his prejudice against African ingenuity when he stated that a "large infant mortalityresults from feeding this unnatural food". Continuing disregard for indigenous varieties has led to a dangerous reduction in Zimbabwe's genetic resource base.28 In 1930 Alvord and his demonstrators managed to achieve an average maize yield of 2.1 tonnes per hectare on their demonstration plots in the Reserves using improved seed and organic amendments. However, this farming system could not be sustained by the majority of farmers and Iliffe (1990) documents a decline in grain production with periodic killing famines, which culminated in the severe famine of 1922 and gave way to unremitting food scarcity into the 1960's and beyond. So by the mid-1980s, one child in six, under five years of age, was malnourished (World Bank, 1986). Widespread crop failures are currently being reported in all but one of Zimbabwe's agro-ecological regions for the 1990/91 season (Agritex, 1991). The reasons for the unsustainability of Alvord's system lie in the shortage of cattle to provide manure (Scoopes and Wilson, 1988), shortage of land to idle under green manure crops, declining soil fertility with a drop in the water-table due to large scale tree removal and continuous plough cultivation. 29 Since independence, the Grain Marketing Board has accepted maize deliveries from African communal farmers who are encouraged to use input packages containing hybrid seed and generous amounts of imported chemical fertilizer. Unfortunately, such packages mainly benefit multinational companies by ensnaring resource-poor farmers (through indebtedness) within a web of capitalist (or state-eonlrolled) relations of production (Williams, 1981) while doing little or nothing to increase food security. The modern agricultural regime is attractive because of the high yields it promises, but the use of high cost fertilizers is not economic for communal area maize where yields of less than three tonnes per hectare can be expected, even with modern inputs. Furthermore, hybrid maize has poor taste and cannot be stored for more than a couple of months without the copious application of pesticides. Nevertheless, higher and higher yields per
hectare, rather than increased food security, have now become the ultimate goal for local policy makers.30 With rising fertilizer costs, today's communal farming families who consider themselves self-sufficient in grain are only able to save, on average, one 91 kilogram bag per person (see note 4). This allows less than a 1,000 calories per day, and may be the sole carbohydrate source for many families now that alternative energy food crops have become marginalized. As a result, thousands of children in the communal areas are undernourished because they are subsisting on a monotonneous, low protein, high-bulk diet of maize-meal "sadza" and rape3t (Mugabe, 1988). Conclusion While Alvord's sincere desire to help African farmers cannot be doubted, his reign as the "King who causes farming to be done"32 was despotic; not only because of its destructive effects on the environment, but also because it completely wiped out the indigenous farming system and much African culture to which it was so intricately bound. African children were taught to despise the agricultural knowledge of their elders mknowledge that took centuries for their ancestors to accumulate.33 As a result, communal farmers no longer have the confidence to develop local innovations that could transform their impoverished situation. Instead, they have become totally reliant on western agricultural practices. Extension policy in Zimbabwe today is still based on Alvord's recommendations, viz. removal of trees from arable land, selective removal of trees from grazing areas; early, deep ploughing; monocrop rotations. Farmers disobeying these recommendations are considered "bad farmers" and do not receive"MasterFarmer" awards issuedby the extension agency. The widespread adoption of practices that are unsustainable in a marginal environment have forced African communal farmers into an increasing dependency on packages of expensive, imported chemical inputs. For the thousands of resource-poor farming families in Zimbabwe who are struggling to be self-sufficient in food, an alternative, flexible, low input strategy is needed, based on reclaimed and rejuvenated indigenous knowledge. The complex, diverse and risk-prone communal areas require a "basket" of technologies from which farmers may select, according to their specific environmental conditions (Chambers et al., 1989). Instead of the overly generalized and increasingly expensive chemical input package currently on offer, interviews with elderly African farmers indicate that a wealth of useful knowledge can still be recalled (see note 25). Young Zimbabwean researchers who are seeking to improve the lot of peasant farmers must learn to overcome the control of western hegemony over their agricultural system. They will not learn to resist that hegemonic force during their agricultural training at European or American universi-
A N D HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991
ties, but they could learn it best in the field, under the supportive guidance of administrators who understand that people living close to the land are capable of learning how to make the most of it. Agricultural researchers have only to learn the value of what peasants can teach them about the appropriate way to farm. The information is waiting to be collected, but researchers need to work fast if that information is not to be lost to the ancestral domain. Acknowledgements We are grateful to Peter Gooch, Eva Rathberger, Brooke Thomas, HenryElwell, and reviewers from SSRC and AHV for their constructive criticism during the preparation of this manuscript. Notes 1.Field and archival research carried out betweenJuly, 1988 and August, 1989 as a result of a collaborativefellowship from the Project on African Agriculture:Crisisand Transformation, granted by the subcommitteeon African Agriculture of the Joint Committee on African Studies of the Social Science Research Council, New $ York, U.S.A. The work was also fundedby theWeldon Spring Grant from the University of Missouri in St. Louis where Dr. H. Page previously taught. 2. The Herald, 20 March, 1990. 3. Of the remainder, 40% is coming from the commercial farming sector and 6% from farmers in the resettlement areas. 4. See discussion paper entitled "Access, control and use of information in the communal areas",by Sam LJ. Page and P. Omnyera in Harare in December of 1990 at the Social Science Research Council Workshop on Conservation. 5. Zimbabwe is divided into five agrwecologicalzones and three of those have been described by Metelerkamp (1987) as semi-arid. In regionHI, this means mo&rate seasonal rainfall (550-700 mm), but reduced cropping effectiveness since infrequent heavy falls are coupled with fairly severe midseason dry spells and periodic frost in someareas. In region IV, this meanslessrainfall (450-600mm), seasonaldroughts and severedry spells during the rainy season and a higher range of temperatures than region III and less frequentfrost. In region V, it means that temperatures between 38 and 35 degrees centigrade undermines the rainfall (450-600mm) through evaporation and periodic dryness makes it too erratic for reliable production of even droughtresistant fodder or grain crops. Because of ecologicalvariation in the reserves, there is much variability in the peasant farmer's ability to store grain and the economics of grain production varies by region as the requisite input levels also vary. 6. Land distribution in Zimbabwe is a result of colonial legislation; the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 confined Africans to "Native Reserves" which were later known as Tribal Trustlands and occupied less 14
than half the country, 89% of the land area being in drought-prone regions, receiving rainfall of less than 800 mm. per annum. These reserves were renamed Communal Areas at Independence and are still farmedby more than 4 million people. Although the average land holding in the communal areas is 3.1 hectares per family,this figure can be misleading as the largerland holdings are mainly confined to the marginal areas, while Africans who are fortunate to live in the high rainfall areas normally have access 7. Unpublished peasant resource data collected by S.LJ. Page and P. Muchena, during the 1985-87 National Pest and Disease Survey of Zimbabwe's Communal Areas. 8. A base dressing of 300 kg of NPK plus a top dressing of 300 kg of ammonium nitrate per hectare. 9. Recommended rates of hybrid seed, fertilizer, and pesticide cost 7_,$428.46per ha. in 1989. Agricultural Finance Corporation loans currently reap interest at a rate of 13% p.a. Transport costs an additional Z$2.50 per 91 kg bag of maize grain. The producer price for maize is Z$225 per tounene. 10. Unlike the drier upland areas, a dambo is a low-lying area where the water-table is close to the surface, providing moist, humus-rich soil for year-round cultivation. Alvord (1930b) described this vital resource as "waste land, not fit for anything"! II. Zimbabwe National Archive photograph numbers 3946; 3957 & 5866. 12. Beach (1977) recognized the theoretical possibility that sealed granaries should preserve grain for no longer than two to three years because of high humidity during the rainy season. However, the size of granaries in archival photographs suggest that the storage time was much longer. It is possible that the effective exclusion of oxygen from the system by means of clay seals could have prevented damage by insects and humidity for many years. Purseglove (1985) states that fingermillet can be stored forup to ten years. 13. The Mashonas are a peaceful and very industrious people, growing large quantifies of grain, including the most excellent rice." Selous, 1920."In Dande the housewife is seen drying tomatoes and onions from her plentiful supplies, boiling out castor oil, tending cassava, gathering banana bunches and preparing salt. She has all kinds of chili in her garden and every kraal has its cottonne plants and tiny stick spinner." Sloan, 1920. 14. The case of surplus peasant production is no anomaly in Southern Rhodesia. We find the same kind of case being describedby Beinart and Bunday (1987: 228), who explain that in the Herschel district, Africans moved from exporting their surplus grain to being completely food insecure at the household level in only a matter of twenty-fiveyears as a direct result of
Page and Page: Western Hegemony over African Agriculture in Rhodesia hostile colonial intervention aimed at inhibiting African competition by hegemonic means. 15. Iliffe (1987:159) explains that in Southern Rhodesia famine killed only a few people between 1903 to 1922 and that killing famines ceased by the late 1920s, mainly because "indigenous survival techniques were supplemented by an efficient administration." But he does not tell us how many people died between 1890 and 1903 from the destruction of grain stores, the relocation of the Ndebele onto reserves, the imposition of taxation, or the implementation of labor migration. Governments' eradication of killing famines after 1923 kept African alive, but still kept them vulnerable to decimation by means of malnourishment. Although Iliffe found no famine deaths reported during the widespread crop failures of 1928, 1933, 1942, 1947, and 1960 during his first study of famine, this is the period when the roots of undernutrition and malnutrition were deeply sunk in Southern Rhodesia. Uiffe (1987:158) correctly argues that "effectivegovernment, good transport, wider markets, and some increase in average wealth could reduce famine mortality."This constellation of conditions "ensured that few people in a locality died when their harvest failed, but it also condemned the poor of that locality to indigence even in good years, when their harvest was extracted (often through debt) and transported to areas where prices were higher" (Iliffe, 1987:159). It was not until his later study that Iliffe (1990) was able to recognize that the effect of a killing famine may continue in the form of sustained malnutrition due to indigence. 16. The Bulawayo Chronicle, October 3, 1896, photograph nos. 1448, 1451, and 1453. Zimbabwe National Archives. 17. In order to improve his effectiveness and his salary, Alvord tried to gain full acceptance by the colonial government in Rhodesia. Part of his strategy was to renounce his American citizenship as a way of demonstrating complete loyalty to the settlers of Rhodesia and the British Crown and his sacrifice did not go unnoticed. King George VI awarded him the Coronation Medal in 1937 and appointed him to an "Order of the Bristish Empire" in 1948. Washingtonne State University did not consider him a traitor, but also bestowed on him, in 1950, a "Certificate of Merit Award for Outstanding Foreign Service in Agriculture." 18. The following rule was incorporated into the code of practice for his agricultural demonstrators; "To utilize time in productive work, especially stopping the wasteful custom of beer drinking in connection with farming operations" (Alvord 1930: 21). 19. Alvord promoted maize c~"Hickory King", an open pollinated variety that was brought from the United States and was generally higher yielding than the
African maize that had been brought by the Portuguese two centuries earlier. 20. According to Howman (1923) women were responsible for drawing water, collecting wood, grinding corn, cooking, washing, house cleaning, collection and preparation of medicinal herbs, child care, plastering walls, making earth floors, pot making, soil preparation, planting, cultivating, threshing, and transporting grain to granaries. 21. It is worth noting that between 1949 and 1952 the average irrigated maize yield obtained by European settlers, occupying all the most fertile land, was 5.2 bags per acre, or 1.2 tonnenes per hectare (Vincent & Wadsworth, 1961). 22. Some photographs in Alvord's papers attempt to demonstrate how superior the western system of agriculture is to the indigenous one. This is done by trying to portray differences between so-called old and new farming methods. In one photograph, for example, a traditional African stands alongside his traditionally cultivated maize, which is about 80 cm shorter than the western-style cultivated maize. A modernized African dressed in aEuropean suit stands in this demonstration plot. Alvord is suggesting that this "civilized" African is capable of growing taller maize. However, this cannot be considered a fair comparison because it is almost like comparing apples and oranges! The demonstration plots involve two totally different farming systems, which include different soft management practices, different labor expenditures, different cropping patterns, different input levels, and, most importantly, different maize cultivars. 23. African farmers holding Master Farmer Awards were subsequently eligible to obtain more than five hundred acres of arable land in designated "Native Purchase Areas", for a nominal rent of 11 Pounds Sterling per year. Serious consideration is currently being given to the idea of allowing only Master Farmers to receive land for resettlement under Zimbabwe's new land redistribution policy. 24. The Herald, 4 October 1989; according to Kay (1970) 48% of farming families lacked cattle by 1965. 25. Results of interviews with elderly female and male farmers in communal areas of Zimbabwe, by S.L3. Page, H.E. Page and P. Chonyera. 26. When this paper was presented at a conference on agricultural sustainability recently, some people in the audience felt that we were being "a little too hard on Alvord." We explained that it is not our intent to suggest that Alvord should have known what the Africans knew, but it is our intent to stress the correctness of their practices, which Alvord so vehmently condemned; and, to emphasize what information was lost to settlers when they decided to severely restrict African participation 27. In an effort to prevent African farmers from cultivat15
AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES - FALL 1991 ing wheat during the cold season, in competition with European-produced wheat, the settlers banned all fanning in these fertile wetlands. This was done under the guise of the Water and the Natural Resources Acts of 1927 and 1952 respectively, which effectively prohibited the use of this vital resource by farmers on the grounds that it was damaging to the environment (Whitlow, 1983). Although Hotchkiss, et al., (1987) have shown that traditional dambo cultivation does not cause environmental degradation, to date, neither of these acts have been revised. 28. Interestingly several of the traditional crops, including cassava, pigeon pea, sesame, and castor bean, which had completely disappeared from many areas, are currently being re-introduced, using exotic material, as "new" cash crops for Zimbabwe. 29. Similar recommendations made by Alvord's American contemporaries led to a drop in the water-table and extensive sheet erosion in the central plains of America in the 1930's, causing the great ecological disaster known as the "Dust Bowl". 30. Ciba-Geigy corporation, in co-operation with Zimbabwe's extension services, is currently sponsoring the "Kohwa Pakuru" ("Get Higher Yields") Communal Land Agricultural Development Programme, which promotes small-scale inputpackages of herbicides, insecticides, fertilizer, and hybrid seed. 31. An edible, green leafy vegetable containing oil that is being refined into high grade motor oil and that is why this food crop is quickly being transformed into a cash crop, 32. Alvord took pride in the many nick-names given to him by the African people, which according to his autobiography ranged from"M'Fundisiyo-mufudzi" ("Cow Manure") in 1926 to"N'kosiMurimise" C`The King who causes farming to be done") in 1938 and "N'kosi Soro-Chena" ("White-headed King") up until he retired in 1950. 33. Traditional agriculture is still described as "wasteful, slovenly and ineffective" in some school textbooks. See "Rhodesia; a human geography", by George Kay (I 970), which is currently in use in many schools. Agricultural science in Zimbabwe has become so far removed from its roots that it can no longer be taught in the vernacular. References AGR1TEX (1991 ). Crop Forecasts. Government Printer:. Harare, Zimbabwe. Ahn, P.M. (1970). West African Soils. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Allan, W. (1965). The African Husbandman. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. Alvord, E. D. (1928). "The Great Hunger:. the story of how an African chieftaincy improved its farming methods under European guidance." Native Affairs 16
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