THE GROUNDNUT SCHEME

The television programme on the Groundnut Scheme sought to put the blame on Mr. Strachey but in fact there were many to blame. Leaving the apportionment of guilt aside why did things turn out as they did ? One might as well ask why a baby who can’t even crawl can’t succeed in the 200m hurdles. No-one knew how to do the job, and those of us who knew how to find out did not have the time to do it. I went to Kongwa on the same train as the first bulldozers. Had there been less pressure, more time, and a proper sequence of investigation, pilot scale trials, training and practical planning, the job could probably have been done (though not in the agricultural pattern intended at the start) in the Southern Province, Kongwa was too dry: it is cattle country; Urambo was too wet for groundnuts but we did well enough with tobacco.

Large schemes can be successful – do not forget the Sudan Gezira. Large mechanised rain fed developments can succeed if the limits of management are of such a size that individual entrepreneurs and producers can handle them as in Zimbabwe, Kenya, the semi-mechanised sorghum in the Sudan, and the Punjab on both sides of the Indus. But in all these cases the sequence of investigation and pilot scale trial (and error!) leading up to training and planning have been more or less followed.

Perhaps the saddest outcome of the Groundnut Scheme is that many observers have run scared of broad development thinking and have taken to seeing development as a process which seeks to conserve what is and fears to consider new ways in a changing world. The population of Sub- Saharan Africa 100 years hence, will be five times what it is now. The old ways won’t do; we must have new ones on a large scale. However much small scale producers may be able to contribute, we already see larger scale ones entering the action using their own capital and management competence. The jot of increasing output at lower unit cost of product seems likely to come increasingly from them. It need not, but I think in many cases it will.
Prof, A. H. Bunting.
Reading University

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