Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Broken houses: Science and development in the African Savannahs

  • 35 Accesses

  • 6 Citations


In many developing countries people and livestock suffer from preventable or curable diseases, and their agriculture is vulnerable to natural disasters. A considerable amount of technical aid is directed at alleviating these problems using modern science and technology, and yet most of these efforts either fail or even leave peasants and pastoralists worse off than before. In this paper we consider some of the problems that arise in relation to development projects, focusing our attention on the savannah regions of Africa and, in particular, on the control of tsetse flies, which are the vectors of the African trypanosomiases, called nagana in cattle and sleeping sickness in people. We present a detailed case study of a project designed to enable a Maasai community in Kenya to carry out their own tsetse fly control. We examine the complex set of relationships and power structures that mediate the actions of the players in development: scientists, local communities, governmental and nongovernmental institutions, and development agencies. The purpose of this paper is not to present solutions to complex and difficult problems but rather to raise questions that should provide a framework for a debate concerning the role of science and technology in the development process.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Hancock, G.The Lords of Poverty London: MacMillan, 1989, p. 42.

  2. 2.

    Gnaegy, S. and J. R. Anderson, editors,Agricultural Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Workshop on Research Issues. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991. Cited in INTERPAKS (International Program for Agricultural Knowledge Systems), 8 (No. 2 1991): p. 4.

  3. 3.

    World Bank.Kenya Bura Irrigation Settlement Project. Project Completion Report. CR. 722-KE/LN. 1449-KE. World Bank, Agricultural Operations Division, Eastern Africa Department (July 31, 1989).

  4. 4.

    Desowitz, R.The Malaria Capers: More Tales of Parasites, People, Research and Reality. New York: W. Norton, 1991, pp. 275–276.

  5. 5.

    Cheru, F. “Structural Adjustment, primary resource trade and sustainable development in sub-saharan Africa.”World Development 20 (1992).

  6. 6.

    Zerihun, T.Rural Development Schemes: A Comparative Study of the Awash Valley Settlement Schemes in Ethiopia and the Gezira Settlement Scheme in the Sudan. M.S. Thesis. Uppsala: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 1983. Discussed in F. Cheru, “Structural Adjustment, primary resource trade and sustainable development in sub-saharan Africa.”World Development 20 (1992).

  7. 7.

    Solbrig, O. T. and M. D. Young. “Toward a sustainable and equitable future for savannahs.”Environment 34 (1992): 7–35.

  8. 8.

    Bekure, S., N. De Leeuw, B. E. Grandin, and P. J. H. Neate, (editors). “Maasai herding. An analysis of the livestock production system of Maasai pastoralists in eastern Kajiado District, Kenya.”ILCA Systems Study 4. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: ILCA Press, 1991.

  9. 9.

    Huntley, B. J. and B. H. Walker.Ecology of Tropical Savannahs Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1982. Cited by C. H. Scholtz and S. L. Chown. “Insect conservation and extensive agriculture: The savannah of southern Africa.” InPerspectives on Insect Conservation edited by K. J. Gaston, T. R. New, and M. J. Samways, to be published.

  10. 10.

    Kleiner, K. “Methane sniffer monitors bovine belchers.”New Scientist 7 May, 1994, p. 14.

  11. 11.

    Ellis, J. and D. M. Swift. “Stability of African pastoral ecosystems: Alternate paradigms and implications for development.”Journal of Range Management 41 (1988): 450–459.

  12. 12.

    Williams, B. G., R. D. Dransfield, R. Brightwell, and D. J. Rogers. “Trypanosomiasis: Where are we now?”Health Policy and Planning 8 (1993): 85–93.

  13. 13.

    P. Stevenson, personal communication.

  14. 14.

    Dolan, R. B., A. R. Njogu, P. D. Sayer, G. Okech, and H. Alushula. “Trypanotolerance in East Africa: The Orma Boran breeding and selection programme.”Proceedings of the Nineteenth Meeting of the International Scientific Council for Trypanosomiasis Research and Control. Lome, Togo, 30 March — 3 April 1987. OAU/STRC (1988).

  15. 15.

    W. Wint, personal communication.

  16. 16.

    UNDP Report of Evaluation Mission onTsetse Control to Assist Migratory Pastoralists URT/86/014/A/01/12, 1990.

  17. 17.

    Brightwell, R., R. D. Dransfield, C. A. Kyorku, T. K. Golder, S. A. Tarimo, and D Mungai. “A new trap forGlassina pallidipes.”Tropical Pest Management 33 (1987): 151–159.

  18. 18.

    Dransfield, R. D., R. Brightwell, M. F. Chaudhury, T. F. Golder, and S. A. R. Tarimo. “The use of odour attractants for samplingGlossina pallidipes Austen (Diptera: Glossinidae) at Nguruman, south-western Kenya.”Bulletin of Entomological Research 76 (1986): 607–619.

  19. 19.

    Williams, B. G., R. D. Dransfield, and R. Brightwell. “Tsetse fly (Diptera: Glossinidae) population dynamics and the estimation of mortality rates from life-table data.”Bulletin of Entomological Research 80 (1990): 479–485.

  20. 20.

    Brightwell, R., R. D. Dransfield, and B. G. Williams. “Factors affecting seasonal dispersal of the tsetse fliesGlossina pallidipes andG. longipennis (Diptera: Glossinidae) at Nguruman, south-west Kenya.”Bulletin of Entomological Research 82 (1992): 167–182.

  21. 21.

    Dransfield, R. D. and R. Brightwell. “Problems of field testing theoretical models: a case study.”Annales de la Société belge de Medécine tropicale 69 Supplement 1 (1989): 147–154.

  22. 22.

    Williams, B. G., R. D. Dransfield, and R. Brightwell. “The control of tsetse flies in relation to fly movement and trapping efficiency.”Journal of Applied Ecology 29 (1992): 163–179.

  23. 23.

    Dransfield, R. D., B. G. Williams, and R. Brightwell. “Tsetse and trypanosomiasis control: Myth or reality?”Parasitology Today 7 (1991): 287–291.

  24. 24.

    Dransfield, R. D., R. Brightwell, C. Kyorku, and B. G. Williams. “Control of tsetse populations using traps at Nguruman, south west Kenya.”Bulletin of Entomological Research 80 (1990): 265–276.

  25. 25.

    van Klinken, M. K. “Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado (Kenya): Taking the future into their own hands.” Paper presented at the joint IWGIA-CDR conference on “The question of indigenous peoples in Africa,” June 1–3, 1993, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  26. 26.

    Dransfield, R. D. and R. Brightwell.Project Report on the Olkirimatian and Shompole Community Development Project. (1993) Copies available on request from the present authors.

  27. 27.

    van Klinken, M. K. Letter to Director SNV/Kenya, 11 November, 1991.

  28. 28.

    Anonymous. “Nguruman: A model for integrated vector management.”Dudu 42 (1992): 4–5.

  29. 29.

    Ford, J.The role of the trypanosomiases in African Ecology: A study of the tsetse fly problem. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

  30. 30.

    Culpeper, R. “With Lewis Preston at the helm, whither the World Bank?”Ceres March–April 140 (1993): 6.

  31. 31.

    Williams, G. P. “The World Bank, population control and the African environment.”South African Sociological Review 2 (1992): 2–29.

  32. 32.

    World Bank. “Land use and land tenure systems in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya: The state of the art and policy options.” Composite report prepared for the ASAL Team of the World Bank's Resident Mission in Eastern Africa, May, 1993.

  33. 33.

    World Bank.The Uganda World Bank Livestock Services Project. Project Proposal, August, 1990.

  34. 34.

    Hanlon, J. “Can South Africaride the IMF Tiger?”AFRA News (June 1993): 14–15.

  35. 35.

    Clarke, S. E. “The war against tsetse: Tsetse fly eradication along the Shebelle River, Somalia.”Rural Development in Practice 2 (1990): 17–19.

  36. 36.

    Campbell, D. “Businessmen destroy Somali forests.”Farm Africa (August 1989): 5.

  37. 37.

    Proposal for a three-year extension of the preparatory phase of the EC funded regional tsetse and trypanosomiasis control programme (RTTCP) of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Prepared by the Office of the Regional Co-ordinator, RTTCP, Harare, Zimbabwe on behalf of the Regional Standing Committee for the RTTCP. December, 1990.

  38. 38.

    Regional Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Control Project — Zambia. Preparatory work on a Land Use Planning Unit (LUPU). Final mission report. November, 1992. Prepared by H. G. A. van Panhuys, Metzen und Partner Consultants GmbH, Frankfurter Strasse 63–69, D 6236, Eschborn 1.

  39. 39.

    Plucknett, D. L. “International agricultural research for the next century.”Bioscience 43 (1993): 432.

  40. 40.

    van Wijk, J. “Vandana Shiva explores ‘The Violence of the Green Revolution’.”Biotechnology and Development Monitor 11 (June 1992): 24.

  41. 41.

    Kenya Power Company Ewaso Ngiro (South) Multipurpose Project: Environmental Assessment Stage III Reports. Nairobi: Knight Piesold and Partners, 1993.

  42. 42.

    Ormerod, W. E. “A critical study of the policy of tsetse eradication.”Land Use Policy 3 (1986): 85–99.

  43. 43.

    Savory, A.Holistic Resource Management. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1989.

  44. 44.

    Kituyi, M. “Land utilization in Kajiado: Some reflections and policy suggestions.” InProceedings of the Second Conference on the Future of Maasai Pastoralists in Kajiado District (Kenya), van Klinken, editor, Kajiado: Kenya, ASAL, 1991.

Download references

Additional information

Brian Williams in the director of an epidemiology unit that carries out research into the health and safety of South African mine workers. He has previously worked on the control of tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis in Kenya and on modelling vector borne diseases at Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine.

Catherine Campbell has worked in South Africa, as a clinical and social psychologist, in areas such as community health and social identity. She currently lectures in the Department of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is collaborating with Brian Williams in a study of South African mineworkers' perceptions of health and illness

Roy Williams is head of the South African Council for Higher Education, one of the oldest educational development non-government organizations in South Africa. His research interest is in the application of discourse theory to development issues.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Williams, B., Campbell, C. & Williams, R. Broken houses: Science and development in the African Savannahs. Agric Hum Values 12, 29–38 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02217294

Download citation


  • Natural Disaster
  • Development Project
  • Agricultural Economic
  • Modern Science
  • Development Agency