African Environmental Crisis: A History of Science for Development, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

African Environmental Crisis

A History of Science for Development, 1st Edition

By Gufu Oba


248 pages | 21 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367432614
pub: 2020-04-02
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This book explores how and why the idea of the African environmental crisis developed and persisted through colonial and post-colonial periods, and why it has been so influential in development discourse. From the beginnings of imperial administration, the idea of the desiccation of African environments grew in popularity, but this crisis discourse was dominated by the imposition of imperial scientific knowledge, neglecting indigenous knowledge and experience.

African Environmental Crisis provides a synthesis of more than one-and-a-half century’s research on peasant agriculture and pastoral rangeland development in terms of soil erosion control, animal husbandry, grazing schemes, large-scale agricultural schemes, social and administrative science research, and vector-disease and pest controls. Drawing on comparative socio-ecological perspectives of African peoples across the East African colonies and post-independent states, this book refutes the hypothesis that African peoples were responsible for environmental degradation. Instead, Gufu Oba argues that flawed imperial assumptions and short-term research projects generated an inaccurate view of the environment in Africa.

This book’s discussion of the history of science for development provides researchers across environmental studies, agronomy, African history and development studies with a lens through which to understand the underlying assumptions behind development projects in Africa.

Table of Contents

1 African environmental crisis: Is it a myth: An introduction


2 European exploration of East Africa: Textual analysis of travel narratives, 18311900

3 Imperial scientific infrastructure: Science for development, 18481960s

4 African environmental crisis narratives: Schemes, technology and development, 19041960


5 Experimental science and development: A re-evaluation of the Environmental crisis hypothesis, 1939–1960

6 Social science research: Behavioral responses to development, 19191950

7 Administrative science for development dialogue: Three Kenyan case studies, 19431954


8 Tsetse fly control in East Africa: Environmental and social impacts, 18801959

9 Locust invasion and control in East Africa: Economic and environmental impacts, 18901960s


10 A synthesis: Conclusions and epilogue


About the Author

Gufu Oba is professor at the Faculty of Landscape and Society (LANDSAM) in the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. His work is interdisciplinary; combining natural sciences, pastoralism and environmental history. His previous books include; Nomads in the shadows of empires (2013), Climate change adaptation in Africa (2014) and Herder warfare in East Africa (2017).

About the Series

Routledge Studies in African Development

The series features innovative and original research on African development from scholars both within and outside of Africa. It particularly promotes comparative and interdisciplinary research targeted at a global readership.

In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods.

The series welcomes submissions from established and junior authors on cutting-edge and high-level research on key topics that feature in global news and public debate. To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Helena Hurd ([email protected]).

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries