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“Every African a Nationalist”: Scientific Forestry and Forest Nationalism in Colonial Tanzania

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2007

Thaddeus Sunseri
History, Colorado State University


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Research Article
Copyright © Society for Comparative Study of Society and History 2007

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1 Iliffe, John, “Breaking the Chain at Its Weakest Link: TANU and the Colonial Office,” in, Maddox, Gregory H. and Giblin, James L., eds., In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence in Tanzania (Oxford: James Currey, 2005), 168–97Google Scholar, quote 189.

2 Ibid. Here Turnbull was referring to two major anti-colonial rebellions: Kenya's Mau Mau of the 1950s and the 1905–1907 Maji Maji uprising against German colonial rule in Tanzania.


3 Nyerere, Julius, “Foreword,” in, Stahl, Kathleen M., Tanganyika: Sail in the Wilderness (The Hague: Mouton & Co., 1961), 68Google Scholar.

4 Elizabeth Schmidt summarizes the recent historiography of nationalism in “Top Down or Bottom Up? Nationalist Mobilization Reconsidered, with Special Reference to Guinea (French West Africa),” American Historical Review 110, 4 (2005): 975–1014; and Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958 (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 2005).

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13 Grove drew attention to this historiographical gap in Ecology, Climate and Empire, 218.

14 Bryant, Raymond L., “Romancing Colonial Forestry: The Discourse of ‘Forestry as Progress’ in British Burma,” The Geographical Journal 162, 2 (1996): 169–78, quote 9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and The Political Ecology of Forestry in Burma 1824–1994 (Honolulu: University of Hawaìi Press, 1996).

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19 Notable exceptions include: Castro, Alfonso Peter, “Southern Mount Kenya and Colonial Forest Conflicts,” in, Richards, John F. and Tucker, Richard P., eds., World Deforestation in the Twentieth Century (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1988), 3355Google Scholar; Anderson, David, Eroding the Commons: The Politics of Ecology in Baringo, Kenya 1890–1963 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002), 258–66Google Scholar.

20 Report of the Forest Department for the Years 1951, 1952, and 1953 (Nairobi: Government Printer, 1954), annotated in Empire Forestry Review 34 (1955): 207–10.

21 Fairhead, James and Leach, Melissa, Misreading the African Landscape: Society and Ecology in a Forest-Savanna Mosaic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 248–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

22 Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses.

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24 Grove, Ecology, Climate and Empire, 179.

25 An extreme example of this is Barton, Gregory A., Empire Forestry and the Origins of Environmentalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Schabel, Hans G., “Tanganyika Forestry under German Colonial Administration, 1891–1919,” Forest and Conservation History 34 (July 1990): 130–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

26 Peluso, Nancy Lee and Watts, Michael, “Violent Environments,” in, Peluso, Nancy Lee and Watts, Michael, eds., Violent Environments (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 338Google Scholar, quote 25. See also Watts, Michael, “Political Ecology,” in, Sheppard, Eric and Barnes, Trevor J., eds., A Companion to Economic Geography (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 257–74Google Scholar; Bryant, Raymond L. and Bailey, Sinéad, Third World Political Ecology (London: Routledge, 1997)Google Scholar, ch. 1.

27 Linebaugh, Peter, “Karl Marx, the Theft of Wood, and Working-Class Composition,” in, Greenberg, David F., ed., Crime and Capitalism: Readings in Marxist Criminology (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 100–21Google Scholar, quote 103.

28 Aubréville, André Marie A., “The Disappearance of the Tropical Forests of Africa,” Unasylva 1, 1 (1947): 415Google Scholar; Anon., , “House of Lords Debate on African De-Forestation and Dessication,” Empire Forestry Review 35 (1956): 338–47Google Scholar; Watson, H.S.H., “Meeting of Specialists on Open Woodlands: Ndola,” Empire Forestry Review 39 (1960), 6888Google Scholar.

29 Forms of hidden peasant protest are summarized in Isaacman, Allen, “Peasants and Rural Social Protest in Africa,” in, Cooper, Frederick, Isaacman, Allen, Mallon, Florencia E., Roseberry, William, and Stern, Steve J., Confronting Historical Paradigms: Peasants, Labor, and the Capitalist World System in Africa and Latin America (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 205317Google Scholar; Adas, Michael, “From Avoidance to Confrontation: Peasant Protest in Precolonial and Colonial Southeast Asia,” in, Dirks, Nicholas B., ed., Colonialism and Culture. (Ann Arbor: Comparative Studies in Society and History Book Series, University of Michigan Press, 1992), 89134Google Scholar.

30 Scott, James C., Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985), 36Google Scholar.

31 Feierman, Peasant Intellectuals, 4–42.

32 Cooper, Frederick, “Conflict and Connection: Rethinking Colonial African History,” American Historical Review 99, 5 (1994): 1516–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

33 Lowood, Henry E., “The Calculating Forester: Quantification, Cameral Science, and the Emergence of Scientific Forest Management in Germany,” in, Frängsmyr, Tore, Heilbron, J. L., and Rider, Robin E., eds., The Quantifying Spirit in the 18th Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 315–42Google Scholar; Rajan, Ravi, “Imperial Environmentalism or Environmental Imperialism? European Forestry, Colonial Foresters and the Agendas of Forest Management in British India 1800–1900,” in, Grove, Richard H., Damodaran, Vinita, and Sangwan, Satpal, eds., Nature and the Orient: The Environmental History of South and Southeast Asia (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 324–71Google Scholar; Scott, James, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), 1112Google Scholar; Radkau, Joachim, “Das ‘hölzerne Zeitalter’ und der deutsche Sonderweg in der Forsttechnik,” in, Troitzsch, Ulrich, ed., “Nützliche Künste”: Kultur- und Sozialgeschichte der Technik im 18. Jahrhundert (Münster: Waxmann, 1999), 97117.Google Scholar

34 Anker, Peder, Imperial Ecology: Environmental Order in the British Empire, 1895–1945 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001)Google Scholar; Tilley, Helen, “African Environments and Environmental Sciences: The African Research Survey, Ecological Paradigms, and British Colonial Development, 1920–1940,” in, Beinart, William and McGregor, JoAnn, eds., Social History and African Environments (Oxford: James Currey, 2003), 109–30Google Scholar. From the late nineteenth century some German and Swiss foresters were strong proponents of the concept of Mischwald or Dauerwald, the “mixed” or “permanent” forest that was an “integrated, organic unity.” Under colonial rule in Tanganyika this concept did not shape forest policy. Imort, Michael, “A Sylvan People: Wilhelmine Forestry and the Forest as a Symbol of Germandom,” in, Lekan, Thomas and Zeller, Thomas, eds., Germany's Nature: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental History (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 5580Google Scholar; Rollins, William H., A Greener Vision of Home: Cultural Politics and Environmental Reform in the German Heimatschutz Movement, 1904–1918 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 200CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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36 On the origins of taungya, see Troup, R. S., Colonial Forest Administration (London: Oxford University Press, 1940), 174–75Google Scholar; Bryant, Political Ecology, 70–71.

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39 Mallinson, Stuart S., “A Timber Merchant Looks at East Africa,” Empire Forestry Review 29 (1950), 1419, quote 17Google Scholar.

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41 Annual Report of the Forest Department, Tanganyika Territory (Dar es Salaam: Government Printer, 1946), 21 (hereafter Annual Report for specific years).

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44 Brookfield, “New Railroad and Port Developments,” 65.

45 DEFE 4/19, COS 6 (49) 2, “The Strategic Aspect of the Proposed Railway Development in East and Central Africa,” 10 Jan. 1949; T 229/712 “Survey on East and Central Railway Link,” 12 Jan. 1950, both in Hyam, Labour Government, 278, 293.

46 Brookfield, “New Railroad and Port Developments,” 60–70.

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49 Public Record Office (hereafter PRO) CO822/553, “A Review of Development Plans in the Southern Province of Tanganyika 1953,” 45–46; PRO/CAB 128/18, CM 83 (50) 4, “Production of Groundnuts in East Africa: Cabinet Conclusions,” 7 Dec. 1950, in Hyam, Labour Government, 293–94.

50 Tanzania National Archives (hereafter TNA) 35114, vol. II, Overseas Food Corporation to Hutt, Member for Development, 21 Oct. 1950.

51 Annual Report (1946), 2.

52 Cooper, Frederick, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 110–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hodge, Triumph of the Expert.

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55 Annual Report (1948), 5.

56 Warr, J. H., “The Sleeper Problem in India,” Empire Forestry Journal 5 (1926): 235–48Google Scholar; Annual Report (1949), 22.

57 Troup, R. S., Report on Forestry in Tanganyika Territory (Dar es Salaam: Government Printer, 1936), 89Google Scholar. Mvule was known as iroko in West Africa. During the colonial period the taxonomic name for mvule was Chlorophora excelsa.

58 TNA/ACC270/A/16/SD, Handing Over Notes, Southern Forest Division, July 1952.

59 Christopher Conte discusses migrant Kenyan pitsawyers in Highland Sanctuary, 85.

60 Eggeling, W. J., Forestry in Tanganyika, 1946–50 (Dar es Salaam: Government Printer, 1951), 13Google Scholar.

61 Annual Reports (1945), 9, and (1949), 19; Tanganyika's Timber Resources, 10; TNA ACC 270/A/20/SD, Agriculture/Forestry, Annual Report 1950, Southern Division.

62 TNA ACC57/9/1, Assistant Conservator of Forests to D.C., Kisarawe, 18 Nov. 1948.

63 TNA ACC57/9/1, DO Coast to Assistant Conservator of Forests, 23 Aug. 1949.

64 Aminzade, Ronald, “The Politics of Race and Nation: Citizenship and Africanization in Tanganyika,” Political Power and Social Theory 14 (2000): 5390CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Brennan, James R., “The Short History of Political Opposition and Multi-Party Democracy in Tanganyika 1958–64,” in, Maddox, Gregory H. and Giblin, James L., eds., In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence in Tanzania (Oxford: James Currey, 2005), 250–76Google Scholar.

65 TNA/ACC270/A/16/SD, Handing Over Notes, Southern Forest Division, July 1952.

66 Hyam, “Introduction,” xxv; Bryant, Political Ecology, 168–70; Anon, ., “Nationalization of the Burma Teak Industry,” Empire Forestry Review 27 (1948): 205–6Google Scholar.

67 Annual Report (1948), 1, 20.

68 Anon, ., “The Forest Adviser's Visit to Tanganyika,” East African Agricultural Journal (Apr. 1947): 197–99.Google Scholar

69 TNA/16/25/15, Conservator of Forests to Provincial Commissioner Lindi, 17 Aug. 1948, 18; CF to A. H. Pike, Lindi, Sept. 1948; Braund, H.E.W., Calling to Mind: Being Some Account of the First Hundred Years (1870–1970) of Steel Brothers and Company Limited (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1975), 57Google Scholar.

70 Anon, ., “A Teak Substitute,” Empire Forestry Review 26 (1947): 1415.Google Scholar

71 Burgess, Neil and Clarke, G. Philip, eds., Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa (Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.: IUCN, 2000), 8789, 90–93Google Scholar; Forest Division, Tanganyika's Timber Resources (Dar es Salaam: Ministry of Lands, Forests, and Wildlife, 1962), 7Google Scholar.

72 Annual Report (1924), 3–4.

73 The difficulties in growing mvule are discussed in “Report on Chlorophora,” reviewed in Empire Forestry Review 36 (1957): 306–7.

74 Annual Report (1948), 1; Tanganyika's Timber Resources, 10.

75 TNA G8/665, Verhandlung der Landkommission des Bezirksamtes Lindi, No. 30, 19–21 Aug. 1910. In recent years coastal forests have been identified as distinct biota owing to a large number of unique plant and animal species. Burgess and Clarke, Coastal Forests.

76 TNA 16/25/15, W. Robertson, Conservator of Forests to A. H. Pike, Sept. 1948.

77 Plant Sciences Library, Oxford Forest Institute, “Forest Adviser's Note on a Visit to Tanganyika, October-November 1951,” 5.

78 PRO/CO/822/154/2, Report of Working Party, Dec. 1950, 107.

79 Annual Report (1951), 19.

80 Annual Report (1951), 43.

81 TNA ACC 460/4/25/32 Vol. I, Notes by K. L. Sanders, Deputy Labor Commissioner, 9–20 Dec. 1952.

82 Sangster, R. G., Forestry in Tanganyika, 1951–55 (Dar es Salaam: Government Printer, 1956), 12.Google Scholar

83 Annual Report (1954), 36.

84 Tanganyika's Timber Resources, 7.

85 TNA ACC270/A/20/SD, Acting Conservator of Forests, Annual Report for 1950, 6 Jan. 1951.

86 TNA ACC640/4/25/32/I, Ministry of Labor; Braund, Calling to Mind, 57.

87 Tanganyikan labor legislation is discussed in Shivji, Issa, Law, State and the Working Class in Tanzania, c. 1920–1964 (London: James Currey, 1986)Google Scholar.

88 Cooper, Decolonization, ch. 8.

89 Coulson, Andrew, Tanzania: A Political Economy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 139Google Scholar.

90 Rizzo, “What Was Left of the Groundnut Scheme?”

91 TNA ACC460/4/25/21/I, Ministry of Labor.

92 TNA ACC460/4/25/21/I, Strike Report—Steel Brothers Limited, Rondo.

93 Shivji describes the Building and Construction Workers Union as among the more radical unions in Tanganyika because it tended to be more tenacious in its strikes and because it refused to affiliate with the much larger Transport and Government Workers' Union. Shivji, Law, State and the Working Class, 187, 195.

94 Shivji, Law, State and the Working Class, 185–86; Tanganyika District Books, Nachingwea, Vol. II, Extracts from Annual Reports of the District Commissioners (1957).

95 Sunseri, Thaddeus, “‘Something Else to Burn’: Forest Squatters, Conservationists and the State in Modern Tanzania,” Journal of Modern African Studies 43, 4 (2005): 609–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

96 Agrawal, Environmentality, ch. 4.

97 TNA 16/25/3, District Officer Songea to Provincial Commissioner Lindi, 21 Apr. 1933, 144. James L. Giblin provides examples of the preservation of sacred forests in order to legitimate chiefs in A History of the Excluded: Making Family a Refuge from State in Twentieth-Century Tanzania (Oxford: James Currey, 2005), 222–31.

98 Examples of the problems that colonial-era chiefs had in balancing the demands of the colonial state and the needs for local legitimacy include Spear, Thomas, “Indirect Rule, the Politics of Neo-Traditionalism and the Limits of Invention in Tanzania,” in, Maddox, Gregory H. and Giblin, James L., eds., In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence in Tanzania (Oxford: James Currey, 2005), 7085Google Scholar; Gregory H. Maddox, “Narrative Power in Colonial Ugogo: Mazengo of Mvumi,” ibid., 86–102.


99 Conte, Highland Sanctuary, 10.

100 TNA ACC336/AN.4/67/010, Forest Reserves, Southern Province, 1958.

101 Giblin, History of the Excluded, 214–22.

102 Agrawal, Environmentality, 77–81.

103 Interviews with the author, Mambisi, 17 July 2004, and Kinjumbi, 24 July 2004.

104 Young and Fosbrooke, Smoke in the Hills, 62–69.

105 Annual Report (1956), 13.

106 Annual Report (1959), 11.

107 Giblin, History of the Excluded, 218–20.

108 These and other numbers are based on data from Annual Reports, 1945–1959.

109 As noted in TNA ACC 270/A/20/SD, Annual Report of the Southern Forest Division for the Year Ending 31st December 1949.

110 TNA ACC 270/A/20/SD, Acting Conservator of Forests to Conservator of Forests, Rondo, 6 Jan. 1951.

111 “Fire and Forest,” East African Agricultural Journal (July, 1947), 1–2.

112 Annual Report (1960), 12.

113 Annual Report (1954), 17.

114 Annual Report (1957), 7, 17; Neumann, Imposing Wilderness, 118.

115 Annual Report (1956), 6.

116 Annual Report (1957), 14.

117 Annual Report (1958), 12.

118 TNA ACC270/A/15/SD, Diary of District Forestry Officer Southern Division for week ending 3 March 1951.

119 Annual Report (1957), 18.

120 TNA 16/25/3, Trotman to Provincial Commissioners, 9 Feb. 1952, 411.

121 TNA ACC270/A/15/SD, Diary of District Forest Officer Southern Div. for week ending 3 March 1951.

122 TNA ACC270/A/20/SD, J. M. Bryce, Acting Conservator of Forests, Annual Report for 1950, 6 Jan. 1951.

123 Those organizations were the Tanganyika African Tenants' Association and the Tanganyika African Traders' Union. TNA ACC540/F2/2, Mogo Forest Reserve; “Ripoti ya Tume ya Rais ya Kuchunguza Matukio ya Tarehe 26 na 27 January 2001,” par. 52. TATU was founded in 1956 by African businessmen seeking to compete with Asians.

124 Iliffe, Modern History, 558–62; Coulson, Tanzania, 135–37.

125 Annual Report (1960), 12.

126 Tanganyika District Books—Nachingwea District, Book II, Extracts from Annual Reports, 1960, “Land.”

127 Annual Report (1962), 14.

128 Iliffe, “Breaking the Chain,” 174.

129 Ibid.,” 177.


130 Annual Report (1965), 16–17.

131 TNA ACC460/4/25/32 Vol. I, Labor Officer Lindi to Laborcom DSM, 19 Jan. 1959, and 26 Mar. 1959; Anon., “600 Workers End Strike,” Tanganyika Standard, 18 Oct. 1959.

132 Annual Report (1961), 19–20; Farrer, R. P., “The First Eight Years on the Rondo,” Empire Forestry Review 39 (1960): 8993.Google Scholar

133 TNA ACC604/FD33/19, Regional Forest Officer, Mtwara to Director of Natural Resources, Dar es Salaam, 16 Jan. 1970; Forest Project Officer to Director of Natural Resources, 4 Aug. 1970.

134 TNA ACC604/FD33/19, Afisa Mali Asili to Mradi wa Msitu Rondo, 1 Oct. 1974.

135 Godfrey Stalin Mwafongo, “The Sky-Scraping Rondo Forest,” The Nationalist, No. 2141, 15 Mar. 1971.

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