23 Pages

Depression, Dust Bowl, Demography, and Drought: The Colonial State and Soil Conservation in East Africa during the 1930s

ByDavid Anderson

The strong influence of colonial agrarian policies on the process of decolonization in Eastern Africa has been recognized by historians for some time. The Depression struck savagely at the economies of all the African colonies from 1929 until 1935, affecting both European settler agriculture and African production. The South African Soil Erosion Conference of 1929, and the creation of a Soil Erosion Council in the Union, resulted in the implementation of anti-erosion schemes by 1933. The issue of soil conservation had emerged as a central concern of government in East Africa by 1938. The droughts of 1927–29 and 1933–34 took a heavy toll of African livestock, but to the alarm of observers this did little to relieve the pressure on the parched grasslands. Awareness of an environmental threat to the land, and of a consequent threat to the future viability and profitability of farming, prompted more thorough research into the methods of arable and pastoral production in Africa.