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Development projects: attitudes and the groundnut schemes

Looking for attitudes to development

It is very important that the people should have a full and clear understanding of what their government is doing and why it is doing what it is. Ignorance of this is apt to breed misunderstanding, suspicion and discontent, all of which can be dispelled by a fuller knowledge of the aims and actions of the government which are invariably dictated by what the government believes to be the interests and benefit of the people.

This exhibition will examine whether the pages upon pages of development propaganda had the desired effect described in the passage from the Uganda review above, or whether misunderstanding, suspicion and/or discontent continued to characterise African responses to post-war development throughout the lifetime of the policy.

British development in post-war Africa is well documented in a wide range of historical sources. The pages of works in the FCDO Historical Collection periodicals are no exception, containing within them information on dozens of projects: from the Kware irrigation scheme in Nigeria to the Kikuyu Young Farmers’ Club in Kenya.

This and the following section of the online exhibition examine a few of the highest profile development projects, which were afforded regular reports in contemporary periodicals and have since received significant historical attention.

Groundnut schemes

Photographic scenes of a boat being loaded with produceGroundnuts being loaded for shipping to Europe from the GambiaOne of the best-known development projects in post-war Africa was the Tanganyika groundnut scheme.

This and similar schemes across Africa involved pouring massive investment into regions for the clearance of land on which to grow groundnuts (peanuts) for British consumption.

The Tanganyikan example in particular has become infamous for its spectacular failure, undoubtedly due to poor planning, based on a survey conducted over only seven weeks.

Prior to the embarrassing and premature end to the saga, groundnuts received a great deal of attention in the periodicals.

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