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AGRICULTURE IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY IN UGANDA (BUGANDA)

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AGRICULTURE IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY IN UGANDA (BUGANDA)

Post by sol_drethedon on Sat Nov 30, 2013 10:25 pm

2. Agriculture
By 1904 experiments had been carried out on cotton as a possible crop for growth in Uganda. There were several native species formally grown in the country, but these were judged to be unsuitable by the monopolies. The immediate interest of the colonial state was to introduce an economy in order to 'raise revenue' to maintain itself. To do this, it had to encourage production of cash crops which could be bought on the market. In this way, the colonial state would collect taxes in money to maintain itself.

The precapitalist economy in Uganda at this time was self-sufficient to an extent consistent with the level of development, and the growth of cash crops was not a direct necessity to the inhabitant . The colonial state tried to circumvent this historical restraint by imposing a hut tax, whose collection entailed coercion by the colonial state, now well established. This was only one way of extracting surplus product in the form of surplus value whose production entailed the application of finance capital. Between 1901-2 the hut tax was only able to raise 74,000 British Pounds, although government expenditure was around 229,000 British Pounds. This large deficit meant continued support from the British treasury. With no cash economy, tax was being paid in cowrie shells, in kind or in the form of free labor. By 1901, the cowrie shell was demonetised. The goods collected in kind seemed a problem to dispose of, the constraint here being state organisation of the market for their sale to merchants. The need to develop a money economy rapidly was therefore an urgent necesity. The craze for the production of cashcrops for sale in the market was very well expressed by Hayes Sadler to the mukama of Toro when he pleaded:

"My friend. .advise your chiefs and people to grow produce for sale. I wish Toro to advance like Uganda [i.e Buganda] and the other parts of the protectorate, and I think this is your wish."

In this wish, the interests of the monopolies, the colonial state, the church, the kings and the chiefs converged. It was not therefore, 'Uganda's good fortune', as Ehrlich puts it, that around 1903-4 the need for cotton growing was felt by all these groups. We have explained the motives of the monopolies; and the motives of the kings and chiefs were clear. All these were interesting in extracting as much surplus value as possible for the monopolies, from which they would have a share . The intentions of the church were not all that obvious to most people. We have shown how the church paved the way for colonisation. According to Sir Charles Eliot, what distinguished Uganda from other parts of East Africa was the rapid assimilation of European ideas by the population, with the result they were eager to purchase European goods. This was made possible by the teaching of Christian missionaries.

"If the African Christian was to abandon his place at the old ladders of economic prosperity and social prestige by practicing monogamy, he must be compensated by learning a trade or new methods of agriculture which would open the way to new ambitions. If his children were to sleep at home and live a Christian life, he must have a house of two rooms instead of one. If he must read his Bible, his house must have windows to admit the light, and therefore its shape must be square and not conical; nor could he afford to build it every five years to meet the needs of shifting cultivation. If his children were to be educated, he must learn to do without their services on the far m
and yet earn enough to pay their school fees. Again, to pay the government tax and his church tithe he must have ready money; and if he was  not to leave his family to work on a railway or a plantation, he must produce not only for himself but for the market.

Here the interest of the monopolies were clearly articulated, with the church as a direct agent in the process of creating a colonial economy.
In 1902 the British Cotton Growing Association [BCGA] was  formed by a section of British textile monopolies to encourage cotton planting in the British colonies. This was because of the 'cotton famine that was beginning to emerge in Britain, since it could not be obtained from the United States from where the monopolies hitherto bought the crop. The British king's speech in 1904 called for efforts in the empire to 'increase the areas under cotton cultivation'. At the same time the Church Missionary Society in Uganda formed a Uganda Company whose aim was to train Christians  'industry' as a means of introducing them to 'legitimate trade' The BCGA then supplied Mr. Borup of the Uganda Company with cotton seeds which he brought to Uganda at the end of 1903 for planting. This first step was the beginnings of a colonial enclave economy, and gradually changed the peasants' conditions of production. The government joined in by importing 1.5tons of three different types of seed in 1904, which were distributed to the chiefs for 'trial cultivation in all accessible parts of the protectorate'. These at first went mainly to Buganda, Bunyoro and Busoga. An additional three tons were deliverd by the government, and Ankole was brought into the cultivation. At the same time the Uganda Company had distributed another 2.5 tons of f different types of seed among 27 chiefs in eight districts in Buganda.

An American species proved to be the most suitable and the government ordered more of it, enabling Ankole to recieve some. In 1907, the Lancashire textile monopolies insisted that only one type of seed, which the government alone was henceforth to distribute, should be grown by the peasants. By 1910, the number of bales exported went up from 241 valued at 1,089 British Pounds in 1905/6 to 13,378 bales valued at 165,412 British Pounds in 1910/11. Wrigley has commented:

"It was plainly due primarily to the incomes generated by cotton production, that the government's revenue rose from 60,000 British Pounds in 1904/5 to 191,000 in 1910/11, by which time it was within sight of financial self-sufficiency"

Thus within the short period revenue increased by more than threefold, while the value of all exports increased eightfold. The potentiality of cotton growing in Uganda was no longer in doubt and it was rapidly emerging as the crop for the colonial economy; the jubilation felt by the imperialists was also evident in Buganda among the chiefs who were reaping new riches  from the peasantry. Later, the picture was to change, but for the moment, Buganda offered the best opportunity for cotton-growing. A number of factors combined, as we shall see, to make this possible.

In the years that followed, the crop was pushed to other areas as administration structures were created. In the Eastrern province the acreage increased three times between 1912 and 1917, and by 1922, it had again trebled, as the soil in Busoga and Teso proved very suitable for the crop. In Teso, the ox-plough was introduced at this time proving its success by the increased output. From 1914 the out put increased to 7,500 tons of seed cotton in Teso against 4,000 tons in Busoga, 3,600 tons in Bukedi, and 1,400 tons in Lango. In contrast, in Buganda at this stage, production declined in acreage from 21,380 in 1911/12 to 20,100 in 1916/17. We shall see later the reason for this phenomenon. Many other parts of the protectorate in the north and the east proved suitable for cultivation.

Marx, in analysing the capitalist mode of production, remarked that 'capital is by nature a leveler'. This scientific explanation was in a very general way proving true in Uganda. All precapitalist formations, from feudal production relations in Buganda to the moat communal system, were being 'leveled' to commodity production at the insistence of monopoly capital. The state machine was proving so effective at the imposition of the hut tax and coercion that,

"The turbulent Gisu, some of whom had only just ceased to shoot poisoned arrows at their district officer, came down from their mountain fastness to grow cotton on their plains, and amongst the 'wild Lango' cultivation spread almost simultaneously with the establishment of administrative control."

Planting of the crop was not encouraged in all areas of Uganda, because of a direct shortage of labor. The forces of demand for labor which were at work for competition of its supply were first the settler planters who demanded increased supply to enable them establish a plantation sector; second, the Baganda landlords, who felt an increased need as the incomes from their lands increased; third the government itself, for its own productive and state activities; and finally by ginners, whose seasonal demand became heaviest from December to April, when the peasants were picking the crop. The forced labor system (kasanvu) which the government had instituted to obtain free labor was proving difficult, and was abolished in 1921.

For these reasons it was decided to put aside some areas of Uganda as reservoirs of labor. Thus West Nile, Acholi, Kigezi, Ankole and to some extent Bugisu became such reservoirs, for instance, unauthorized  efforts by an agricultural officer in West Nile to stimulate cotton production there in 1925, resulting in the hindering of the labor supply to Buganda, were resisted from Entebbe on the grounds that the official policy was to refrain, from actively stimulating the production of cotton or other 'economic cash crops' in these outlying districts, on which 'essential services in the central or producing districts' were dependent for the supply of labor.

As  a result, while cotton production progressed in the Southern and Eastern Provinces, production stagnated and was hindered in the north and to some extent in the west. The uneven development of the country being introduced under the new conditions of production, and was to prove a source of contradiction among the people as colonialism was consolidated. In contrast to the bourgeois economists, who appear to be correct on this issue, Mamdani is therefore wrong when he attributes this difference to the consumption patterns of the different regions.

"Further more, in pre-colonial Buganda the consumption of such commodities as textiles had already spread beyond the ruling class and there was no need to create a desire for consumer products and cash income. The successful spread of cotton in the south demonstrated this; as did the fact that in a very short time the peasants began growing cotton on their own plots, not just on the chiefs' lands. The northern regions however, presented a sharp contrast. Here the production of cash crops  was limited, as colonial officers noted, to earning the cash necessary for the payment of poll tax."

This argument is disproved by the rapid growth of  cotton-planting in Busoga and Teso, and coffee in Bugisu, where this rationale would seem not to apply. It is also not true that the precolonial peasant in Buganda bought textiles, for to do so he would have had to exchange for them slaves and ivory which, Mamdani will agree, were beyond the reach of even the most industrious peasant in Buganda at the time. Moreover, it was not the desire for consumer products that was instrumental in the successful spreading of cotton-growing among the peasantry, nor were the peasants in Buganda already accustomed to 'incomes'. This thesis is also disproved by the evidence about the need for a labor reservoir. It is surprising that he comes to this point later, but this is characteristic of Mamdani's eclectic analysis throughout:

"In the northern and weatern parts of the country the  consequences of government labor policy were even more far reaching. The core of this area, the West Nile District and the subsidiary areas, including Acholi, Lango, Kigezi, Ankole and Bugisu, were gradually developed into a labor reservoir for the cash crop of the south, itself a raw material reservoir for the manufacturing economy of metropolitan England."

He then quotes the policy directive from the director of agriculture which we have also referred to above as proof! This is correct, but it is arrived at through an eclectic route. Ehrlich adds other factors which might have contributed to this division: climatic conditions, remoteness of markets, and inadequate transport facilities. In further proof of the fact that the choice of Buganda was a combination of historical circumstances, he quotes Powesland's speculation thus:

" If the country that is now the Uganda protectorate had been opened up from the direction of Khartoum instead of the coast, would there have been a state when the development of Buganda had to be postponed until after the solution of labor difficulties in the Northern Province?"

In our view, it would not have mattered to imperialism where the choice was made - what was important was the cheapest possible source, quite apart from the obvious fact that it was not the 'development of Buganda' that was primarily at issue here!

The other cash crop that went to creating an enclavic colonial economy was rubber, again introduced by the church through the Uganda Company in 1907. The crop was attractive on the London market at the time. The prices were steadily rising from 1907, and by 1910 a pound of rubber fetched as high a price as 12s 9d. This was enough to initiate 'plantation rubber'. After the Uganda Company's initial attempt, a company - Mabira Forest (Uganda) Rubber Company - was floated by London financiers with a capital of 120,000 British Pounds to engage in rubber production. Earlier, efforts to restrict operation to the collection of rubber proved futile, and as a result,plantation rubber was initiated. However, the experiment was short-lived, as prices fell drastically - by 1913 to just over 2s 0d a pound. But even then, the plantation industry survived for a time, the crucial factor being cheap labor. Wrigley has explained:

"But even at this level there could be no question of loss; on a well-run estate  in 1914 production costs were reckoned at 8.25d a lb; and freight and London charges added 3.75d to total cost. Labor was extremely cheap. The standard wage for unskilled labor at this time was Rs.3 or Rs 3/50 per month."

The company made reasonably high profits, reaching its highest - 18,600 British Pounds - in 1925. The war years gave further impetus to the crop after the rubber supplies from Malaysia dried up because the Japanese overrun that area. The industry came to an end in 1946, as it could no longer operate profitably and as the monopolies were assured of cheap supplies from other quarters.

A crop which started on a plantation basis in Buganda was coffee. By 1914, exports of coffee amounted to 23,000British Pounds, while rubber exports amounted to 3,000British Pounds. Coffee fetched as high as 80British Pounds a ton in 1913. Again due to cheap labor available, settler interests were able to get involved in coffee planting of over a thousand acres 'at a time when very few planters in Kenya had as many as a hundred.' But even though these efforts were encouraging for planters, most of the labor force remained cultivating cotton on the peasant holdings, with considerable consequences for the expansion of rubber and coffee on  plantations. There was also shortage of suitable land for the planters. All these reasons have been advanced as giving a death blow to settler farming,  but in our view, they are one-sided. Land and an adequate labor force would have been obtained if the interests of the monopolies could not be served in any other way. Planters could not grow cotton because costs accounted for 19 cents per pound, while the price was 16cents per pound. The Depression of 1929 put a stop to all hopes, and the devaluation of the rupee sealed settler ambitions. On the other hand peasant grown cotton had proved cheapest and the support ant investment of the monopolies went into these areas.

For the same reason it was becoming clear that coffee too could be grown cheaper by the peasants instead of the planters. Wrigley has clearly put the case:

"Yet there was no real reason why coffee - arabica in Bugisu, robusta - elsewhere - should not prosper under African management. The amount of skill and care necessary for its survival was really very small, and in the case of robusta practically nil. The argument that Africans could not or would not wait for a crop which took 3 years to mature had little force in Buganda. They were able to wait because their subsistence was assured  and their need for4 cash was not pressing; and for their willingness, were they not accustomed, for the sale of barkcloth, to plant trees with a much longer period of growth? The argument that cultivation had to be associated with a processing plant that required a large cash out lay was equally untenable , for coffee could, though not without loss of quality, be  prepared either by the growers with the aid very simple appliances or in central factories run on the same lines as cotton ginneries. There could be no doubt that capital European management made for higher yields and better quality. But the question was whether the value added by these factors exceeded their cost; and in 1922 the answer appeared to be that it fairly clearly did not. Thus if coffee production were to exceed at all it would have to be so without aid."


It was this fact, that the peasant could live by his hand even in the difficult situations, which tilted the balance in Uganda in favor of peasant production for both these crops We shall return to this question in the next section.

With the change of policy, coffee-planting was encouraged first in Buganda. The native robusta coffee had been grown in precolonial Buganda,  but on a very small scale , not for exchange bur consumption. Accordingly, the Kabaka was instructed to 'inform the chiefs and the people of Buddu county, who had complained that cotton did not flourish for them, that they must grow coffee instead. Peasants were given free seedlings free, and their obligation to 'volunteer' for the construction if the Jinja-Kampala highway was dropped. A rough count in eight counties of Buganda in 1922 showed that a total 350,000 trees, or the equivalent of 450 acres, were planted. This acreage had increased, not dramatically but gradually.

The next effort was focused on Bugisu. Here in 1912, a district officer, Perryman, realising that cotton could not be grown on the slopes of Mount Elgon, 'caused one or two small plots  to be planted by the people of the newly tamed Gisu tribe with Arabica coffee. This turned out to be an area capable of yielding very high quality arabica coffee. By 1922, after several plantings of distributed seedlings, the area under plantation increased from 100 to 400 acres and output grew from 30 to 850 tons. By 1940 production had increased to 4,000 tons.

"The Gisu in the early 1920s went out in large numbers to work for wages in Buganda in Kenya highlands, were thus enabled to make a good living in their native hills"

The third area where coffee planting was encouraged was Bwamba, where too the climatic conditions were ideal. Monopoly capital was here, as in cotton-planting areas, leveling all the pre-capitalist formations to its needs. The settler-planter coffee economy declined, while the cheaply maintained peasant crop increased. The colonial economy was increasingly being strengthened on the basis of cheap peasant labor. While the 1930 Depression deeply affected the plantation economy, the highly exploited peasant-based economy proved resilient. As Ehrlich has observed, in the usual one-side way:

"Uganda's experience of the 1930s was happier than that of countries dependent upon plantation for their income. Her small plantation sector was sharply affected by falling prices  . . .the  area under non-native coffee fell from approximately 20,000 acres in 1929 to 13,000 acres in 1938. Peasant production was comparatively buoyant."

The monopolies had wisely calculated and invested well. The returns to them proved more 'buoyant' than in the highly capitalized plantation coffee economy in Uganda and across the border in Kenya. Here in Uganda , coffee was becoming increasingly more paying than cotton. Moreover, the resilience of the peasant economy in Uganda became the basis on which neocolonialism at its highest stage of crisis maintained, as we shall see later, under the military dictatorship.

Other crops need only be mentioned briefly. Sugar started early as a large plantation crop. It proved to be the only profitable plantation crop again because of the cheaper labor and also because of the cheap management costs under Indian capitalists, who partly utilized family labor. The first crop was for jaggery (unrefined sugar) and was wholly for local consumption. In 1910, the production was about 257 cwt. for export. The large scale production of sugar began in 1924 in Kyagwe, when Nanji Kalidas Mehta, an Indian capitalist involved in the cotton-ginning industry, also entered sugar production. Later he built a factory at Lugazi. By 1926, his plantation was producing 5,000 tons,  with an alcohol by-product of 150,000 gallons. In 1929, another Indian capitalist, Muljibhai Madhivan, opened another factory at Kakira, Busoga ona plantation of 4,000 acres. By the 1930s, a surplus of export was being produced by both these plantations. A tariff enabled a local industry to develop, ensuring the capitalists reasonably high prices. This was made possible basically by the general law of the organic composition of capital in the industry, by which very little invested capital exploiting abundant cheap labor assured a high rate of surplus value. In 1937, in order to avoid wild competition from Kenya and Tanzania and other parts of the imperialist world, these two Ugandan capitalists got involved in a cartel in which the three countries were allocated a production maximum of 27,000 tons per year, of which the two Ugandan producers were allotted 12,600 tons, equivalent to less than half of Uganda's production. Although in the following year the quarters were cut by 4.2% per year, the two firms still continued to export. Brett concludes:

"In this case it therefore seems clear that what the local producers did were, rather local consumers whose prices were maintained at artificially levels and also potential new producers who might have wished to begin production."

Another crop, tea also came to be grown as a plantation crop, initially to serve the local market. It was introduced in the late 1920s when it became clear that due to higher costs in India, Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies, even plantation tea could be grown profitably in East Africa. The possibility of  East Africa producing cheaply compelled the major producers in those three countries (who accounted for 98% of the output on the world market) to form a cartel, which limited production and exports. Their monopoly was backed by strong financial links in Europe. The International Tea Association formed in  1933 allocated Uganda an acreage of 1,450 up to 1943.

COMPILED BY MAKUMBI KAYIIRA SOLOMON







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sol_drethedon

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