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Environment and History

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Environment and History

'It is no use advising us! Command us and we will obey': Livestock Management, Soil Conservation and the State in Southern Rhodesia, c.1930-50

Wesley Mwatwara and Sandra Swart

Environment and History 21 (2015): 567-596. doi: 10.3197/096734015X14414683716280

This article examines state imposed centralisation and soil conservation policies as pursued by the Southern Rhodesian Department of Native Agriculture, and argues that these were at variance with the state's own veterinary policies. It argues that in the 1930s the state failed to deal with the contradictions caused by shifting and competing agendas between the Departments of Native Affairs, Native Development, Entomology and Veterinary Services. This was compounded by the implicit and enduring acceptance by officials that the problems were precipitated almost exclusively by 'primitive' African farming practices. This resulted in the state's resuscitating in the 1940s the ideology of livestock improvement first conceptualised in 1912 and introducing compulsory destocking from 1945. It concludes that these intrusive latter measures had a significant impact on the African rural socio-political and physical landscape in general and livestock management practices in particular.

KEYWORDS: Southern Rhodesia, Colonial Zimbabwe, centralisation, livestock improvement, destocking, veterinary, conservation, soil erosion, cattle breeding.

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