«CHAPTER TWO PEASANT PRODUCTION AND DIFFERENTIATION: THE SANYATI HINTERLAND (1939 – 1964) INTRODUCTION A cursory look at Sanyati communal lands in ...»
Yudelman, Africans on the Land, 140, defines Master Farmers as peasants who received training on experimental farms and followed improved methods of farming prescribed by the advisory services. A more comprehensive discussion of the origins of the Master Farmer concept will be provided in the next chapter.
Worby, “Remaking Labour, Reshaping Identity,” 214.
not preclude the emergence of distinct classes of people in the area. This was so because, as agriculture became more commercialised especially with the introduction of cotton, a process of agrarian capitalist accumulation developed in Sanyati to benefit a few economically well-endowed peasant farmers who were akin to agrarian Kulaks.
The element of increased commercialisation led to the widening of the social and economic gap between Sanyati residents. Pius S. Nyambara’s findings in his case study of Gokwe bear a similar resonance with the pattern of differentiation found in Sanyati that, not every peasant household, let alone every individual peasant, derived similar benefits or experienced the same degree of success with cotton agriculture. 446 According to M. Yudelman, in the process of differentiation, cotton benefited a few “progressive” farmers, 447 the majority of whom were “immigrants” (Madheruka). Indeed, increased cotton production and high levels of marketed cotton were achieved by a minority of producers as some peasants definitely benefited from cotton agriculture, while others were disadvantaged hence the differential impact exerted by cotton cultivation on the peasantry. 448 Quoting Lenin, C. A. Smith endorses the same view: “The prevalence of commodity economy … gives rise to competition among producers, and, while ruining the mass, enriches the few.” 449 To a large extent, therefore, cotton commodity production in Sanyati was also instrumental in enriching a handful of peasants whilst at the same time ruining the greater spectrum of rural society. Hence, Sanyati did not conform, especially in the twentieth century, to the rather unorthodox and obsolete theories of a homogeneous peasantry propounded by Gelfand and others. In fact, for a region purportedly a backwater of Southern Rhodesian economic development going into the middle of the twentieth century, Sanyati has moved rapidly to occupy centre stage at the close of the 1990s. It now boasts a fairly developed economy by many rural standards and the area owes this distinction to being one of the oldest frontier regions of this former British colony to embrace cotton agriculture.
This chapter has argued that the actual impact of the NLHA may have been overestimated, at the same time as the extent of differentiation among the peasantry was underestimated. Truly Sanyati farmers were highly innovative entrepreneurs who Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisition in Gokwe,” 196.
Yudelman, Africans on the Land.
Nyambara, “Colonial Policy and Peasant Cotton Agriculture in Southern Rhodesia, 1904-1953,” 83. A large body of literature on peasant cotton production in colonial Africa exists which includes A. Isaacman, “Chiefs, Rural Differentiation and Peasant Protest: The Mozambican Forced Cotton Regime 1938-1961,” African Economic History, 14, (1985); Isaacman, Cotton is the Mother of Poverty; Isaacman and R. Roberts (eds.), Cotton, Colonialism and Social History in Sub-Saharan Africa, (London: James Curry, 1995);
Isaacman, “Peasants, Work and the Labour Process”; E. Mandala, Work and Control in a Peasant Economy: A History of the Lower Tchiri Valley in Malawi 1959-1960, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); O. Likaka, Rural Society and Cotton in Colonial Zaire, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997).
V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 1, 430 cited in C. A. Smith, “Does a Commodity Economy Enrich the Few While Ruining the Masses? Differentiation Among Petty Commodity Producers in Guatemala,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 11(3), (April 1984), 60-61. See also V. I. Lenin, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1954).
invariably did not resemble, in any way, a truncated peasantry. Rural elites may well have survived the Act, and in the process crucially shaping opposition to it. In the course of analysing the peasant economy in the pre-irrigation era in the context of colonial Zimbabwe’s pivotal Native Land Husbandry Act, this chapter has also argued that the Act was not an invincible creation as it was breached several times by the growing body of pro-active peasants. It has further suggested that the very success with which “reserve entrepreneurs” withstood the onslaught of the NLHA permitted this significant stratum of rural society to make its presence felt throughout the liberation struggle. By surviving the Act, the “upper 30 per cent of African producers” demonstrated that the colonial state machinery could not conceivably break the jaw of the rural elites nor could it dampen their march towards economic prosperity and political independence. This ensemble of resource rich peasants and their poorer counterparts, taken together with the income disparities that existed between them, revealed that twentieth-century Sanyati society was hardly economically and socially homogeneous but highly heterogeneous.
Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that, while writings on the NLHA have tended to see the Act as having had a restrictive effect on rural differentiation and accumulation because of its tendency towards equalisation of resources, the outcome was a skewed pattern of access to land (the basis of any rural differentiation). The contradictions inherent in the NLHA itself made it possible for the better-off to take advantage of these loopholes to enhance their accumulation prospects. While on the one hand, the Act disadvantaged the women, especially single women, and the young men, on the other, it produced a small class of rural accumulators. However, the ability of this small class of rural entrepreneurs to engage in further accumulation was greatly curtailed by stipulations in the Act (e.g. regarding size of land) but they always sought to fight its stipulations off. Although literature on the NLHA has emphasised that bitter opposition to the Act came from the landless young men, this chapter has demonstrated that fierce opposition also came from “immigrant” reserve entrepreneurs who saw the Act as a constraint on further accumulation. Thus, it is this chapter’s contention that conventional wisdom on the effects of the NLHA may have overstated the actual impact of the Act, while ignoring the extent of differentiation that emerged among the Sanyati peasantry notwithstanding the over-bearing presence of the Act.
The chapter has also revealed that the regime of “development” that emerged in post-war Southern Rhodesia was organised around a naturalised racial axis that differentiated among African and European populations in a three-fold manner i.e. economically, culturally and politically. Within their own communities Africans were also differentiated, as a series of legislative acts and administrative innovations were devoted to the reform of four principal domains of African rural life: the disciplining of hygienic practice, the stabilisation of the monogamous family, the regularisation of land tenure and the rationalisation of agrarian techniques. The state interventionistic measures were considered integral to the task of reconciling conservation imperatives with political exigencies, particularly the demand that Africans be removed from European-designated farmland while sustaining the promise to increase black prosperity – a major contradiction in policy discourse.
This analysis of Sanyati reserve illustrates the importance of the timing and sequence according to which hinterland regions were drawn into the prescriptive apparatus of the development regime. This malarial, tsetse-infested lowland, remote from the major axes of urban and industrial development, is located in a region distinguished by the historical absence of competing claims by European settlers to land. Sanyati began to receive “immigrants” forcibly resettled from Rhodesdale in the 1950s, at a time when the coercive and hyper-rational model of development was reaching its apogee behind the passage of the NLHA. Targeting “immigrants” who had already internalised the “discipline” of development and styled themselves as “modern,” Sanyati’s extension staff was able to institute a voluntary, cotton-based regime, one widely regarded as a model of African rural “advancement.” By and large, it cannot be refuted that the unfolding rural differentiation process was more clearly recognised at the beginning of the 1960s as more and more peasants embraced the values and virtues of cotton growing. Although social inequalities existed in the early twentieth century, as cotton became firmly established, major and intractable forms of differentiation in the manner in which power and income were distributed set in.
The intrusive effects of a market economy whose basis was cotton gave rise to a differentiation between rich and poor farmers which tended to alter the existing social and economic structure. Old economic forms were quickly giving way to new ones. The local staple crop, maize, was still being grown but greater emphasis was now placed on cotton by many households in Sanyati.
In this period, no doubt, growing economic differentiation was witnessed and “cooperative” agricultural work, known locally as humwe, became the order of the day as wealthier members of the community who could afford a lavish outlay on entertainment of groups of young men and women harvesting their fields emerged. 450 However, a more detailed examination of cotton cultivation and the sort of differentiation it wrought upon Sanyati society particularly during the irrigation era will be conducted in chapter four as the area lacked an irrigation history prior to the 1960s. Indeed, the adoption of cotton in 1963 was responsible for stepping up the tempo of differentiation in rural Sanyati. To all intents and purposes, this was to represent a prelude to the kind of agricultural and developmental policies adopted by Ian Douglas Smith’s Rhodesia Front (RF) government when it unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965. The case of TILCOR/ARDA irrigation, to be discussed from chapter three onwards, would be incomplete without the history that preceded it. Irrigation did not take place in a vacuum.
Whilst initially there were no signs of irrigation save for the few boreholes drilled by the Irrigation Department, events between the 1930s and 1960s including the climatic and ecological conditions of the area, pointed to a need for harnessing water in the Munyati River by the parastatal organisation and use it to alleviate the occurrences of frequent drought and hunger. Co-operatively D. B. C. O’Brien, “Co-operators and Bureaucrats: Class Formation in a Senegalese Peasant Society.” Africa: Journal of the International Institute, 41(4), (October 1971), 267. See also Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisiton in Gokwe,” and Worby, “Remaking Labour, Reshaping Identity,” for a fuller and detailed elaboration of what they term “humwe.” From the foregoing, it can be pointed out that irrigation was still unknown in Sanyati by
1964. Serious engagement with the irrigation debate on the part of the colonial government only took precedence in the latter half of the 1960s. After 1965, the state formulated key policy strategies to direct irrigation development as illustrated in chapter three. This chapter, however, has demonstrated that differentiation, as a process was not an irrigation phenomenon alone. Even in the decades prior to the inception of irrigation technology socio-economic differentiation had started to manifest itself in Sanyati quite clearly – this in spite of the futile onslaught by the colonial state machinery to “flatten” or eliminate it particularly at the high watermark of the implementation of the NLHA during the 1950s and early 1960s.