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Carswell, Grace (1996) African Farmers in Colonial Kigezi, Uganda, 1930-1962: Opportunity, Constraint and Sustainability. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Focusing on the changing relationship of land and political authority, this thesis examines the implementation of colonial policies related to agricultural development and land tenure. It looks in particular at how policies were received by local populations and how they affected longer term land use change, up to the period of Independence. The study focuses on the area of Kigezi, in southwestern Uganda. It is an empirical study using archival sources in Uganda and the UK as well as a large number of interviews with farmers from the area. The themes around which the thesis focuses include the role and functioning of the colonial state; consideration of the population / environment debate; questions of sustainability and longer term land use change; and changing political authority and the implications for access to land. The thesis opens by examining some of the themes and broader debates which it will contribute to and gives background information on the geographical, economic, administrative and early history of the district. Chapter 2 examines agricultural development in Kigezi from the arrival of British colonial authority laying the foundation for a deeper analysis into land and politics in Kigezi. It looks at policies related to the production and marketing of both cash crops and food crops, and suggests that the failure of the British to fully appreciate the vitality of the food crop sector in Kigezi was a major misunderstanding and weakness on the part of the British. Chapter 3 focuses on the growing concern over soil erosion seen from the 1930s. It details the formulation of colonial policy and evaluates the implementation of these policies, finding that Kigezi differed from other schemes in colonial Africa, in that the policies were implemented with little resistance from local populations. It suggests that precolonial methods of prevention of soil erosion, the gradual introduction of the policies, the emphasis on propaganda and incentives, and the efficient working of the structure of chiefs explain the success of the Kigezi scheme. The following chapter looks at the colonial policies related to land tenure and how they were implemented in Kigezi. In particular it looks at granting of titles, the policies of consolidation and enclosure and farm planning, and shows how some individuals took advantage of the opportunities offered by these policies. As the colonial period progressed authority over land became linked to positions of political authority in the colonial state. Chapters 5 and 6 are case studies which illustrate the importance of the relationship between political authority and control over the access of land. The first study looks at the policy of swamp reclamation, while the second looks at Kalengyere Estate which was leased for the growing of pyrethrum and later returned to the local population. Both these studies show how land was distributed or allocated to the local population during the 1950s, and illustrate the influence of political authority on the allocation of that land. They also illustrate clearly how colonial policies presented the opportunity for some individuals to substantially increase their access to land. The final chapter concludes and discusses briefly some of the developments seen in this district in the post-independence period.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:17

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