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date: 30 March 2023

The Groundnut Scheme and Colonial Development in Tanganyikalocked

The Groundnut Scheme and Colonial Development in Tanganyikalocked

  • Matteo RizzoMatteo RizzoSenior Lecturer, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London & Research Associate, Society, Work & Politics Institute (SWOP), University of the Witwatersrand

Summary

The East African Groundnut Scheme (EAGS) in Tanganyika stands among the most dramatic examples of failure of British late colonial developmentalism and imperialism. Frantically planned and launched in Tanganyika in 1946, the EAGS was the most colossal attempt in the history of colonialism to apply modern technology and mechanization to farming in Africa. Aiming to cover over 3.5 million acres of land—an area the size of the state of Connecticut in the United States, or of Yorkshire in the United Kingdom—the EAGS envisaged the annual production of six hundred thousand tons of peanuts by its fifth year of operation, and eight hundred thousand tons annually once at full capacity. A new port, new railway lines, and new roads were built as part of it. Such large-scale production of groundnuts, and of the vegetable oil that could be derived from them, had two strategic goals. First, it aimed to address the increasing shortage of oil rations affecting British households post-World War II (WWII). Second, through the export of surplus groundnuts and/or oil, and a scheduled annual saving of £10 million to the British government’s bill for food imports, the EAGS was meant to play a key role in repaying the $3.5 billion debt that the United Kingdom accrued to the United States after the war. However, in stark contrast with its grandiose goals, when the EAGS was abandoned, in 1952, it had imported more groundnuts as seed than what it actually harvested, and £36 million of British taxpayer money had been spent for the undertaking. A series of shortcomings, all rooted in the inadequacy of the planning of the EAGS and the lack of a pilot phase, brought about the demise of the scheme following its dramatic failure to meet its goals.

Subjects

  • East Africa and Indian Ocean
  • Economic History

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