Farm labour in the Eastern Province of Zambia, 1898 to 1964

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Zgambo, Lyton Hambani
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When examining the contributions of labour exploitation by capitalist centres to the underdevelopment of countries in the Southern African region much emphasis has been placed on labour supply mechanisms related to the copper mines, No systematic study has been done on the social and economic conditions of farm labour in the region. It was the need to fill up this 'neglected factor' in the economic history of Northern Rhodesia that gave birth to this dissertation. The choice of Fort Jameson and Petauke as a micro-area of study was determined by the fact that the area was one of the three regions in the country where commercial farming started. The other two areas are Abercorn (Present day Mbala) and the Railway line maize belt. Also, the Eastern Province became the craddle of tobacco farming which is known to be labour intensive.We argue in this dissertation that the loss of fertile lands per-se, undermined the production capacity of the Ngoni, Chewa and Nsenga in the two areas because it meant that only small plots of fertile land remained in the hands of the local people. Secondly, the creation of native reserves further undercut the traditional economies, as the reserves were infertile and rocky areas. Ultimately,the native reserves became 'labour reservoirs' for labour-hungry within institutions / and outside the territory. However, the created labour-reservoirs did not adequately satisfy the labour requirements of the commercial farms in the locality throughout the period 1898 to 1964. We have concluded that the endemic shortage of labour experienced by the commercial farmers amidst abundant labour, stemmed from the low wages and the appalling working conditions obtaining on their farms. This perpetual shortage of labour consequently, not only retarded the tempo of commercial farming in the region, but also contributed a great deal to the high rate of labour migration the area experienced throughout the period under study.The high rate of labour migration further underdeveloped the region,as the major factor of production, labour, was often drawn out of the traditional economic system.
Agricultural -- Zambia -- Eastern Province , Agricultural laborers -- Zambia -- Eastern Province