SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Westcott, Nicholas (2020) Imperialism and development : the East African Groundnut Scheme and its legacy. Martlesham: James Currey. (Eastern Africa series)

Full text not available from this repository.


As colonial development took off after the Second World War, in the context of national food shortages, Britain's Labour Government initiated the Groundnut Scheme, an extraordinarily ambitious project to convert 3 million acres of bush in Tanganyika into the largest mechanized groundnut farm in the world. It was to prove the largest, most expensive and most disastrous development scheme ever undertaken by the British Government. Never previously analysed in depth, the author draws on a wide range of sources to discuss the political dynamics that drove the Groundnut Scheme forward, despite the gravest doubts of agriculturalists and economists, why it went wrong, and what its impact has been since on the practice of economic development. Initially employing the United Africa Company as agent, the government set up an Overseas Food Corporation to manage the Groundnut Scheme as an example of socialist development in Africa. Army surplus kit and demobbed soldiers poured into the country and were sent up the railway line to Kongwa to beat the bush. By the time the effort was abandoned in 1950, costs had risen to a colossal 36 million - equivalent to over 1 billion today - and yet almost no groundnuts had been exported. The prototype of many large-scale, government-run, high-cost development projects that failed to deliver, the Groundnut Scheme was perhaps the first major failure of agricultural development in Africa, and its legacy in development practice still with us today.

Item Type: Authored Books
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Interdisciplinary Studies > Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy
ISBN: 9781847012593
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2022 14:56
Related URLs: https://boydell ... nd-development/ (Publisher URL)

Altmetric Data

There is no Altmetric data currently associated with this item.


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item