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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2006  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 541-561

Dilemmas in Conservationism in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1890-1930


School of History, University of Liverpool, 9 Abercromby Square, Liverpool L69 7WZ, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Vimbai C Kwashirai
School of History, University of Liverpool, 9 Abercromby Square, Liverpool L69 7WZ
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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During the period between 1890 and 1930, European farmers and miners established commercial farms and mines in the Mazoe District of co­lonial Zimbabwe. The colonial cash economy was dependent on state support in expropriating natural resources at the expense of indigenous people. Min­ers received preferential treatment in timber and energy requirements from the government because they contributed the bulk of state revenue. This policy was a source of protracted conflict between miners and farmers over forest exploitation. However, the state also sought to orient settler farmers towards the production of export crops: tobacco, maize and cotton. The two major pil­lars of the colonial economy, mining and agriculture, directly caused a fun­damental transformation in soil and forest use, leading to deforestation and soil erosion. Soil erosion was a major risk that was faced along with the lo­gistic and financial difficulties of pioneer farming. It however highlighted the negative impact of settler farming, particularly the perennial cultivation of the same crop on the same field, notably tobacco and maize. Land was used for short-term economic gain. What was missing was a willingness on the part of the settler society to deal effectively with the problems of deforestation and erosion, and the need for radical change in individual and collective attitudes towards natural resources.


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