The colonial state and Africa Agriculture in Chipata district of Northern Rhodesia, 1895-1964

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Tembo, Alfred
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The theme of this study is that contrary to widely-held views, the colonial state was not always hostile to African farming, nor was its policies uniform everywhere. In Chipata district, the colonial state showed versatility in its relationship with African peasant farming.Contrary to the conventional literature on labour migration, the study argues that although Chipata district had the largest number of male labour migrants from the Eastern Province during the colonial period, the impact on food production was minimal because the local people devised coping strategies. It has also been observed that the creation of African Reserves from 1903 did not totally dislocate African agriculture in the district. We further argue that Africans were not passive to colonial state policies which had a bearing on their agricultural activities. On the one hand, the Ngoni people used chiefly institutions while, on the other hand, localised protest groups, notably the Nyau secret society were utilised by the Chewa people to show their displeasure at colonial state policies. Further, the colonial state instituted various measures after the Second World War in order to promote African peasant farming. This was in conformity with post-Second World War developments as Britain became heavily-indebted. The change of heart regarding Northern Rhodesia and other colonies was in line with post-war reconstruction and industrialisation underway in Europe after the Second World War. These developments forced a nervous Crown government to conveniently become paternalistic and less hostile towards African peasant farming. In addition to the resettlement of Africans, and the formation of producer cooperative societies, the Peasant Farming Scheme (P.F.S.) was initiated by the colonial authorities in 1948. Widespread utilisation of ploughs and tractors by African peasant farmers contributed to the emergence of a rich peasantry class in the district. The Africans in Chipata district had by the 1950s emerged as an identifiable peasantry that produced and consumed most of its needs on family-run production units, and engaged in an “arm’s length” relationship with imperial markets especially with regard to groundnut and tobacco sales.
African Agriculture-Northern Rhodesia , African Agriculture-Chipata