HL Deb 31 May 1956 vol 197 cc656-701

3.22 p.m.

THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH rose to call attention to the rapidly increasing desiccation and the simultaneous destruction of forests, (especially in the low rainfall areas) in Africa south of the Sahara, to urge on Her Majesty's Government the need for the utmost speed in halting and reversing these processes, in order to preserve the means of survival in these areas, either by direct administration, or where this is necessary, by co-operation with other Governments; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving the Motion which stands in my name upon the Paper, I should like to say that I have tried to draw it up as uncontroversially as possible, in the political sense at any rate, and I hope that both the diagnosis of the desiccation now going on in Africa and the objective for its cure can be described as non-controversial. On the other hand the solutions, the methods and means by which we try to cure this condition, may show quite a divergence of opinion. Life and health depend on water and climate; and they are in very great jeopardy in certain parts of Africa for lack of these things. Africa is a country of vast potentials, many of them untapped. Those potentials—whether it be in the exploitation of minerals, the increase in population which Africa can successfully sustain for many years to come, or merely the industrial side—all must depend on climate and water. And these are both failing.

I have drawn the Motion as widely as possible, using the wording "Africa south of the Sahara." That is because deserts make bad neighbours, and the artificial lines which were drawn across the map of Africa in the last century had little consideration for climate or ecology or any other natural forces. Few States or dependencies in Africa can, therefore, cure their own ills in this connection alone. There must be, from time to time, many questions for close cooperation not only between British dependencies as such, but also between other countries and dependencies under different rules. I do not want to raise any heavily controversial point, but I think it is quite possible that the 1927 Agreement on the Nile may have to be reconsidered in some small matters. Indeed, if there were a liberation of Nile Waters in a small way to the Northern frontier of Kenya and parts of Tanganyika, the ultimate benefit would redound to Egypt and the Sudan. Equally, along the great northern stretch of Africa south of the Sahara the Sahara is the common enemy between all States.

This subject covers a vast field. I know that there are many of your Lordships much older in experience and fuller of knowledge on this subject than myself, but in the eight years during which I have been in Kenya I have had a chance of studying the problem in situ and again and again all the things with which one has had to deal have come very near to my own heart. For one reason or another I have had for the last six years to sit on the executive of the Board of Agriculture in Kenya. I have had experience through being on the Pasture Research Advisory Committee in that country since its inception, and I also have the honour to be chairman of the Forest Advisory Committee in Kenya, a Committee which advises the Government on some 5 to 6 million acres of forest and potential forest land. That brings me and has brought me into close touch not only with the Blue Book side but also in the field, often in waste places, and, above all, with the practical field officers who are dealing with the problem.

At this point may I say that any remarks that I may make later should not be regarded in any way as a criticism of the field officers in the Administration. Those whom I have known have not only been devoted servants of the public: they have been wise people doing a very difficult job, making bricks often with precious little straw, and getting in return pay far inferior to their merits and capabilities. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will forgive me if I speak in general upon Kenya rather than upon the rest of the countries involved but I feel that the problems such as I know and have seen them in Kenya are generally much the same in other countries, differing only in intensity and detail.

If one goes from Somalia to the Kalahari Desert, East of the Belgian Congo, one finds practically no one place where one can draw a wide circle and say: "This is a green and magic place, with water, forest and grass enough for everybody." It must be remembered that even in the Belgian Congo itself the forests there once stretched nearly to the Indian Ocean and across Kenya and Tanganyika to the Usambara Mountains. In this East Africa country—and I include Somalia in this, not by way of criticism of its Administration but because, ecologically, it is part of the great northern desert of East Africa and therefore must have, by its very immensity, an equal influence with the rest of that area—there are not far short of a million square miles. Of that area, I believe that roughly two-fifths is occupied by the great dry Northern district frontier which runs from Uganda to Somalia and the sea. The Royal Commission Report—that monumental work on East Africa—constantly stressed the relative smallness of the high rainfall and fertile areas not only in Kenya, but certainly also to a very great extent in Tanganyika, though in that respect Uganda is very much better placed. Yet this part of the world is half of the great heart of Equatorial Africa. It is the half from which the water flows in the veins of the rivers North and East, South and West. If that heart fails to beat, the water will cease to flow, and it is therefore everyone's concern that that should not happen.

I do not want to weary your Lordships with statistics about desiccation. I can only say that all the experts whom I have consulted and met personally have been very largely agreed on the fact that it is taking place, and that it is taking place rapidly. More than that, the men who spend their lives in administration in those areas give the same verdict, and with even more fear in their hearts of what may happen. I will give just two instances to illustrate this desiccation. The late Lord Delamere, at the turn of the century, crossed from Somaliland down into Kenya and discovered the mountain Marsabit rising out of what was then a grassy but dry plain, a little paradise on its own—indeed later corners called the little lake in its middle "Paradise Lake." To-day, that lake is dry, and occasionally swampy. Yet in this little area 25,000 million gallons of rain falls, on an average, every year. But that water no longer goes into the mountain: it runs off, taking the soil with it. The grave result of that may be seen in another instance where one finds the Perkerra River, which flows through an over-grazed and denuded basin and which has in periods of heavy rain no less than 55,000 cusecs. Yet in the dry-weather periods of real drought its flow is three cusecs. This water, which we need under the soil, is no longer preserved in the land: it rushes down in a muddy red torrent to the sea.

One could multiply these instances many times over. It may be said that natural causes, such as locusts and changes in climate, have caused this desiccation. But that is only true in rare cases. The real culprit is the ignorance, the apathy and the indiscipline of man—and I do not include one race only in that statement. It is due to gross overgrazing, regardless of thought for the morrow; for the nomadic African, by the very nature of his life, has to live for to-day and not think of to-morrow. It is due to the honey hunter, who will burn up thousands of acres of forest for one clutch of honey. It is due to the game hunter, who will burn thousands of acres of grass for an odd buck. These are the real agents of desert. Yet the greatest crop that the land can produce for the survival of man is not timber or grass but the water underneath it. Cubic feet per second in flow of water is infinitely more valuable than cubic feet per acre measured in terms of timber. Indeed, I believe that in the United States of America, close to urban areas, the yield of water per acre from under the soil comes to £700 per acre. I should say that very few growths of trees and very few crops could equal that.

I think that, remarkable as their Report was, the Royal Commission made one serious omission: they did not pay sufficient attention to the dry areas of East Africa, because of their apparent lack of an economic future. Yet these areas which are now the destroyer of our water supplies can be made their guardian, for denuded land is not only a loss in its own area and to the people who live upon it; it alters the whole temperature. It means that there are high temperatures by day and cold at night. Therefore, high winds are caused, so that there is wind erosion in marginal lands and the settled areas, even to the point of crop failure. For years, now, Governments have talked of this problem; for years, I think, they have known that the trend should be reversed. But for years they have never really tackled the problem. And yet if we do not tackle it soon, the whole solution will be like that of the Sybilline books. The greater the delay, the less the opportunity of repairing, and the fewer the means to repair it.

If that is the analysis, what should our objective be? Reafforestation of our mountain bastions in the dry country, for they are the sentinels against the advance of desiccation. The boundaries should be liberally demarcated while there is time, and not stingily confined. The next measure is almost equally important, and that is the restoration of grass cover to what all the old reports refer to as being the condition in which it used to be some forty years ago—within living memory. In addition, of course, there must be continued good management of forests and pasture to keep back and push back the desert.

The basic objective, therefore, is a very simple one. Why has it not been tackled? In developing countries, especially in multi-racial societies, it is always a temptation to do first the things which produce showy results. There are times when I cannot help thinking that the temptation to spend money on uplift, in order to give satisfactory answers to questions in Parliament, is greater than the will to face the realities of the situation. The desert and the dry countries generally are put away by nature away from the general centre of administration. It is generally a case of "out of sight and out of mind." so long as the officers in charge—from a Central Government point of view—have no troubled frontier incidents. The temptation is to "let sleeping dogs lie", because any attempt to control grazing with the nomad tribesman, means going against all his traditions, and inevitably from time to time this provokes incidents. Secondly, it is probable that such a thing gives no apparent immediate return, and, as I said, the temptation to do things which look well on paper is too great not to use money on such objects.

Dry lands are lonely administrative posts, and, though often administered by remarkable men, because they are in that type of area it is difficult to keep going a continuity of administrators and a continuity of policy. Therefore we are faced with a problem to which the Government of Kenya is stirring in some ways at last. Thanks to the generous help from the Government at home, the Swynnerton Plan for native agriculture in Kenya shows signs of remarkable achievements, and the results in more fertile settled areas, the luckier areas, are already apparent. Good work has been done and was being done even before the Swynnerton Plan came into being. However, only a little of the money spent under the plan has been allocated towards dry-land forestry. That is not enough for the purpose. Considerable research may be needed in forest ecology and hydrology, but the main means are already at hand. We know how to protect forests, with no cattle and no fires, with more forest rangers. We know how to use controlled grazing and, where necessary, to de-stock land. We know it is vitally necessary to be able to market regularly the stock resulting from de-stocking.

If I may call your Lordships' attention to a solution, I think I can best illustrate it by taking a district officer's area in dry country. I think I am treading on nobody's toes if I say that, given the will by the central Government and the allotted funds to the district commissioner, his first job is to make his men a team, because it is necessary not only to have civil administration, but for veterinary officers, agricultural officers and forestry officers to work in a team. When he gets that team the plan is reasonably simple. The first thing to tackle is the forest areas demarcation, and then to get water piped outside the forest area. Then he decides on the order of the areas which he will turn into African ranches, with controlled grazing and limited stock. Thirdly, he will get water supplies properly stationed, so that erosion by the long walks by stock to water holes can be prevented—he must have them spaced in the right way.

Fourthly, he must ensure stock markets. It is difficult to persuade a tribesman to market cattle which are his lifeblood. Therefore the provision of a fair stock market and one that never fails, even though from time to time it may cause temporary Government loss, is vital. Finally I think it is necessary to be prepared, where persuasion fails, to consider compulsory de-stocking—but only where persuasion fails. When the fate of a great part of a continent, is at stake, I do not think we can allow a few hundred thousand tribesmen to dictate what is going to happen in the way of desert making.

All this boils down to administration. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, has so much greater experience of administration than I that I hesitate to dwell on this point, but primitive tribesmen who have, a code and a life of their own hate change, and what they hate even more is chopping and changing. They must know the administrator and his colleagues really well. If the district commissioner is changed once a year, they barely get to know him before a newcomer comes in, and they have all the fun of playing up the newcomer until he has proved his mettle—and then he is moved. It is the bane of the Service that this constant changing takes place. Next door to where I live in Kenya, in the dry area, the present very able district commissioner has the record length of stay since it became an administrative area—that is eighteen months. In the area of Eldama Ravine the district commissioner has been changed forty times in thirty years. I. shall not weary your Lordships with further illustrations. Many of my African friends whom I meet on the reserves or in the cities ask me exactly the same question: "Why not give us people we know to deal with, from whom we can learn?"

I have said that there are no immediate financial results. I know of areas where the native stock, exhausted stock on exhausted land, fetches an average of £4 a head. Yet we find that on exactly the same land in the same climate, with the same foundation of native stock managed by Europeans, and with grazing capacity increasing all the time, the stock fetches five to six times as much. If we could get the present position reversed in the dry areas which are being denuded and overgrazed, it would not be very long before we could pay the interest, and more, on the expense incurred. In passing, I would say that there is one thing I do not think we should do with the tribesman: that is, ask him to pay for results on schemes yet to be. He should be asked to pay only when a scheme has been completed and its use proven. If he is asked to pay when the results are to be seen he will do so willingly. On the other hand, if there is one failure on which he has to pay, the result will undo all the good work of years.

There are other, later, financial benefits. Improvements of this sort mean better roads and communications and more water supplies, and these mean considerably lower costs of administration for security purposes to keep law and order. Again, East Africa, and particularly Kenya, has barely been tapped for mineral deposits, and there are indications that there may be very large deposits, especially in some of the dry areas. From the business point of view, the exploitation of minerals must depend on the availability of water, meat and timber. There, again, another large benefit could be reaped. Again, because these areas are the guardians of water supply in the higher rainfall areas, the potentialities of irrigation and hydro-electric power will equally be helped.

After the trials and miseries of the Mau-Mau rebellion, owing to the success of the Government in the last two years of administration things are very much easier. One of the remarkable changes that has taken place is, I think—if we except political differences—the desire of level-Leaded Africans to work in harmony with Europeans on the projects of reclamation that really affect their people and ours; and that is a good will which we cannot afford not to tap as soon as possible. Secondly, I think the moment is ripe to strike now, because, as yet, there is little over-population or sign of over-population on the fringes of the dry countries. Therefore, it will be easy to get the land for forestry demarcation; but later on it may be difficult.

Over wide areas our avowed programme is, as and when it is reasonably possible, to give self-government to the various dependencies for which we are responsible. I think it would be a shoddy shuffling over of responsibility to hand over magnificent Parliament Houses and at the same time a wasting land. The land must be saved before we give the people the means to govern themselves; bread must come before votes. In my view, this situation is not only one which concerns the Colonial Office in inter-territorial matters, but is one in which they can help enormously by emphasising in their directives on policy to the various dependencies the need for tackling this problem as early as possible; and it is one they can emphasise, too, by giving priority, where colonial funds are at their disposal, to doing first things first.

In the eight years that I have lived on the green foothills of Mount Elgon I have come to have a warm and deep affection for that piece of country; and I have equally a warm and deep affection for most of my African neighbours. In the years which I hope I shall still have of working life I shall deem it, perhaps, one of the greatest things I can do to add to my own happiness if I can have some share, however small, in the regeneration of the dry lands. I beg to move for Papers.

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, I shall intervene for only a few moments in this debate, because it would be wrong, I think, if a subject of such vast importance to the livelihood of the peoples who inhabit the parts of Africa to which the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, has referred did not receive some comment from this side of the House. I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say how delighted we are to hear the noble Earl again. We rarely have the good fortune to be addressed by him, because he has responsibilities, political as well as farming, in East Africa, and he spends most of his time there. If I remember rightly—he will correct me if I am wrong—on the last occasion that I heard him address your Lordships he was speaking from one of the Back Benches on the Government side of the House. I do not know whether his change of location has any political significance, but, of course, I very much hope that it has.

I agree completely with the noble Earl's diagnosis of the main cause for this evil of the declining forest area in Africa, south of the Sahara, as being due to the primitive methods of farming used by the local populations, shifting cultivation and the uncontrolled grazing of farm animals. The noble Earl expressed this in a more eloquent way when he said that the main cause was the ignorance, indifference and apathy of man. I think he will agree that he said in words far more eloquent than mine what I have just tried to express in my own way. If we can all agree as to the diagnosis of this evil, then I think it will be much easier for us to find the appropriate cure. The noble Earl went on to mention one or two of what one might term subsidiary causes, such as devastation by locusts, and climatic changes. I am not sure whether he mentioned, or gave much emphasis to, the cutting down of timber for use as fuel. Of course, this is bound to happen on a large scale so long as other sources of power remain unused. Let us hope that more coal will be made available in these parts of Africa; let us hope that water will be used in larger measure for electricity; and let us hope, locking ahead into the future, that atomic energy will be used for power—because atomic energy seems peculiarly suitable for isolated parts of the world where other fuel is not easily available.

But let us concentrate on the main cause of all this trouble: primitive traditional agricultural techniques. The damage that is done by these techniques is greatly aggravated in the places where there is over population; and overpopulation occurs in many parts of East and Central Africa. There, of course, the soil loses its fertility and is carried away by wind erosion. So it is really essential, both for forestry and for agriculture which provides the food that is needed by the increasing African population, that this evil should be counteracted with the least possible delay.

The noble Earl referred to the efforts of the local Administrations, and there is no doubt—I think we shall all agree as, to this—that the local Administrations in the territories where this is going on should do everything they can to instruct the African farmers in the arts of settled cultivation and animal husbandry. We all know that colonial Governments are well aware of this responsibility, although again I expect that most of us would agree with the noble Earl that there has been unnecessary delay and that progress might have been more rapid. At the same time, I think it is only fair to colonial Administrations to any that there has probably been more progress in the last ten years thin in any comparable period in the colonial administration of this country. I think that should be said, because I am sure the last thing we want to do is to belittle, the efforts that have been made by those who are responsible on the spot. They fully realise that the best way to show African farmers how to use up-to-date methods is to encourage them to employ these methods on their own farms, and in this way to become an example of successful farming to their neighbours.

I think the old-fashioned habit of running model farms with European and British agricultural experts has long ago been given up. But there is enormous scope for the expansion of work of this kind if more money and trained personnel are available. Here we have the importance of grants provided by Her Majesty's Government from Colonial Development and Welfare Funds. These grants are of absolutely first-rate importance for the work that is done by the local Administrations. Then, of course, we are hound to face the difficulty of the shortage of trained personnel—veterinary experts, forestry experts and agricultural experts in the employment of the Colonial Governments concerned. I would suggest that this matter might be suitable for community development, for self-help. I do not know whether this has been included among the matters which are dealt with in that way, but where there is a district officer who can infuse his own enthusiasm into the villagers and get them to take steps against soil erosion, a great deal can be done without any expert technical assistance.

The matter dealt with in the second part of the Motion moved by the noble Earl—namely, the possibility of international co-operation—he dealt with, perhaps, rather less fully than the first part, but it also is of importance and should be examined carefully by Her Majesty's Government. I hope the noble Earl who is to reply will consider carefully whether international co-operation between the Colonial Powers in this part of Africa for improving forestry and agriculture might not be even more effective than it is at the present time, through the fullest possible use of the Committee for Technical Co-operation South of the Sahara. As your Lordships know, this Committee already deals with a number of important subjects, from locusts to transport. and has done valuable work in coordinating the activities of all the Powers with dependencies in this part of the world. But I do not think that the falling off in forestry—and the result of this falling off on aridity, and the effects of aridity on agriculture—is a subject that has been included on the agenda of this Committee.

If I am right, will the noble Earl consider carefully asking his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to bring this matter to the attention of the other Governments, with a view to having it put on the agenda of the Committee at a convenient and early moment? As I say, I am not aware that it has ever been discussed. The noble Earl, Lord Munster, will be able to tell me whether I am correct or not in taking the view that there has not been a full discussion of this matter, at any rate in recent years; and if that is the case, should it not be raised at an early moment? Surely, we have here an existing international agency, a piece of international machinery, which should be used to the fullest possible extent to pool information and co-ordinate policy between the different Colonial Powers. I hope that the noble Earl, in his reply, will say something about the second part of the cure which the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, was advocating, as well as about the first part, which was limited to what we can do as a Colonial Power, acting on our own. I conclude by saying how grateful I am to the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, for raising this matter, and how much we all hope that the Government may be able to give us an encouraging reply.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to make a contribution to the debate on this subject, I am conscious of possessing none of the practical farming knowledge or the practical experience of conditions in the north of Kenya, which the noble Earl who moved this Motion possesses to such an eminent degree. But since the problem with which he is dealing is fundamentally, as he said himself, an administrative one. I have, of course, been very familiar with it. It applies not only to East Africa but also to West Africa, and, indeed, to most parts of Africa where the rainfall is small and unreliable, and where the soil is poor, unproductive and highly friable. That description applies to the greater part of Africa.

The recent East Africa Royal Commission devoted a great deal of attention to this question, and gave it important space in their Report. Chapter 20 of that Report deals largely with their findings on the subject. As they point out, pastoral tribes are very retentive in their ways, and their ways of misusing land are bound up inevitably with a multitude of tribal customs and traditions. As we know, old customs die hard, and the Pax Britannica has been responsible for a great many of these difficulties, in that it has eliminated many of the natural checks like death and disease, so that bad land usage can go, and has gone, its own uninhibited way, to deteriorate finally into desert. The Royal Commission Report contains some extremely devastating descriptions of what has happened in East Africa over the years. I do not think it is necessary to quote them in any detail, because I am sure that most of your Lordships have read that Report, but perhaps one description might not be amiss. I quote from page 281 of that volume, where the Commission say about an area of Kenya: The water balance has been greatly affected and the region is moving towards progressive desiccation. The local climate is affected by this, and dryness is breeding dryness, for the heat increases the velocity and drying potentiality of the lower wind currents which may carry an increased desiccating effect into contiguous land areas lying in the direction of the prevailing winds. Then they go on to point out that these conditions are not peculiar to Kenya, but that in Uganda and Tanganyika also there are vast areas which come under the same description. They say finally, at the end of one of their sentences dealing with all those three States, that the erosion from this state of affairs is appalling in some areas, and under current usage the region may well become a desert within another generLtion. I do not think anything could be more conclusive than that.

If we turn to the Swynnerton Report, whose conclusions have been accepted, I understand, by the Kenya Government, the sentence which stands out in my mind (I quote from page 32 of that Report) is this: It must be clearly recognised that the failure to control stock numbers in the pastoral areas and to preserve the land against denudation, represents the greatest failure that has occurred in the field of agriculture since the advent of British administration to Kenya…. I should hasten to add that, like the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, I am not criticising officers in the field; I am not attempting to criticise anybody in particular, but I am trying to emphasise the fact that these things are as known to the Government as to any individual amongst us, and it is Government policy to deal with them. I am trying to underline the necessity which ran through the speech of the noble Earl who moved this Motion—the necessity of urgency, of concentrating and giving priority to what really matters.

The magnitude of the problem transcends all other issues. Let those who will concentrate on new Constitutions and political progress and universal suffrage. But all that will come to nothing if the welfare of the people is not tended by trying to solve this agricultural problem. After all, the welfare of most of these countries depends upon having a Government—let us face that fact; it is as simple as that—which gives absolutely top priority to this question of land usage and which has the courage to throw all its educational and financial weight into the struggle. That is why I urge that this is almost purely an administrative matter, rather than a scientific one.

The Forestry, Agricultural, Veterinary and Water Departments of any Government working as a team know what has to be done—there is no doubt about that—but they need behind them the drive of an accepted policy and a determined Govern- ment fully alive to its supreme importance and resolved to carry it out. I know as well as anybody that there are limits to the pace at which one can transform the outlook and habits, of primitive people. But this is a mountain which faith can move. It requires patience, wisdom, tact, abounding confidence—but not caution. Rather does it require a sense of sleepless urgency because the time as the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, pointed out, is very short.

I realise that the Swynnerton Report has been accepted by the Kenya Government, but what we are asking is that urgent, continuous action to carry out the policy should be put into effect. The technical experts know how to deal with it, but there remains, from the administrative point of view, the human problem: how fast can the primitive people concerned be led forward? The answer to this question lies really with the Administration again: How dynamic is the conviction and determination of the Government both here in London and in the Colonies? No doubt the administrative and technical officers on the spot are capable of working this miracle if they have the leadership and support.

I hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply for the Government will reassure us on this point, because, on October 20, 1953, a Written Answer was supplied in another place by the then Secretary of State who, while admitting (I will not go over all that again) all these conclusions which the Royal Commission studied so cogently, seemed to take refuge in the statement [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vo1. 518, col. 253]: No true deserts without vegetation exist in Kenya except in the Northern Province, and there is no evidence that these wastes are spreading. We know—probably we all know—that it is quite true, scientifically speaking, to say that the climate of the Sahara has not charged. The spread of the Sahara south cannot be attributed to climatic changes but it can be attributed and must be attributed—for there is all the evidence to show that it is happening—to human agency. But the passage in the statement made in 1953 to which I want especially to call attention is the last sentence (col. 253): But the problem of inducing primitive peoples to abandon their traditional ways and adopt good farming methods has not yet been solved … I know as well as anybody else does that that simple statement, as it stands, is quite true; but to my mind it carries a very defeatist implication. We should not accept such a statement. It can be done, but it needs the wholehearted determination of a Government who are provided with the funds and who have the enthusiastic young officers—and all of us who know the Colonies know that they already have them. All that is required is the leadership and determination at the top; and when I say the "top", I Include London, as well as abroad.

I know that there is a popular theory that the cultivation of forests improves the rainfall, but I understand that the latest scientific views are that that is not correct; that forest cover can make a difference of about one per cent. in rainfall, but otherwise does not affect it to the extent that was once thought. What it can do, however, is to conserve rainfall. As we know, forests absorb and hold the stream flow. They help in preventing floods and in arresting soil erosion. It is therefore obviously most desirable to retain forest cover in catchment areas, on hillsides, particularly in low rainfall areas.

To get the picture into perspective it is necessary to examine conditions in the Colonies. Everywhere the principal occupation of the people is peasant agriculture, usually with very little in the way of alternative industrial employment. I know that percentages vary, but the proportion of the population engaged in agricultural work is generally somewhere about 80 per cent. When we remember the forestry history of our own country, or of the United States of America, it is hardly to be wondered at that countries which are more backward and less well-endowed with finance, manpower or mechanised aids to modern agriculture have generally taken a similarly shortsighted view of correct land use.

Farmers, African as well as others, do not change easily, and agricultural departments in the tropics have seldom been able to achieve the adoption of an alternative method to the shifting cultivation which is traditional. As we know, this method of cultivation is destructive and prodigal in its demands for land, but we should remember that, if there is an adequate reserve of land the fallow period can be long enough to make the system efficient. If, on the other hand, settled conditions come—as they have come with peace and the general improvement in health and other things which we have brought with us—then population pressure by man and beast increases, and the results are either a reduction in the area farmed or a shortening of the fallow period, or both. The whole balance in the way of land usage can be upset, and it has been upset in these Colonies.

My Lords, I hope that I have said enough to show that the problem is an administrative one, affecting the life of the bulk of the population and not, therefore, one susceptible of easy solution. What then, is the answer for the future? International action will not usually help much, since the problems are localised, but such action has taken place. For instance, in 1936–37, an Anglo-French Forestry Commission submitted a valuable report on the Sahara. The Commonwealth Forestry Conferences which meet at quinquennial periods are valuable watchdogs of the forestry position in all parts of the Commonwealth, as their resolutions prove.

In 1954 the 4th World Forestry Congress met in India. Their findings have not yet been published, but they deal with many of the points covered by this Motion. Incidentally, I suggest that it might be well to examine the many village projects now being promoted in India, sometimes with the backing of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, as offering a possible line of approach to the initiation of better methods of husbandry in backward regions. Similar methods are being undertaken in various parts of the Commonwealth. There was a recent and most interesting talk on the B.B.C. by Lady Eve Balfour about work in the Machakos region of Kenya. She told how apathy and even active opposition were, by better handling by the authorities, converted to enthusiasm and encouragement for measures of rehabilitation of one of the worst eroded areas in the Colony. I quote that to show what can be done by somebody who is there and is known to the people, if there is what Lord Portsmouth pleaded for—a period during which that knowledge can be turned to effect.

Incidentally, in passing, I admit as a colonial administrator in days gone by this terrible drawback in colonial administration of the constant movement of officers. We were always trying to arrange matters so that it did not happen, and in the time when my noble friend Lord Swinton was resident minister in South Africa he put his foot down and said he would not have officers moved who were doing valuable work where they were stationed. But in defence, or perhaps by analogy, I may say that in thirty-nine years of my own colonial service I served under twenty-one Secretaries of State.

In relation to Kenya, it is also worthy of note that Jomo Kenyatta, when opposing white rule in the same areas, is reported to have conducted a campaign against the soil conservation measures of the Kenya Government because he knew of their importance in achieving the betterment of the people. I am reminded of a story about one of our Colonies when a Governor on safari was visiting a district bordering on the colony of another Power. He was being shown round by a local chief and they stopped on a hillside which was barren and bare of vegetation. But not far away the hills extended into a neighbouring territory where they were green and tree-clothed. Not unnaturally, the Governor asked the chief why this was so. Without hesitation the chief replied "That, sir,"—pointing to the other territory—" is the land of 'You must'; this"—looking round him to our own territory—"is the land of 'if you please'." I think that indicated in a few simple words one of the weaknesses of our administration. A Government must finally govern. It must be firm and it must not be a land of "if you please," especially in dealing with situations such as this.

May I quote another incident? It is rather like a notice which I once saw in a factory in America, which said The boss is sometimes wrong, but remember that he is always the boss. Any Government should see to it that it is in that position. It is, I know, important to remember that the habits of centuries cannot be changed in a day, nor can propaganda for better land use be made convincing to sceptical peasant farmers without some demonstration of the benefits to themselves. If they can see the advantage, particularly the financial advantage, Africans will in time adopt new methods. But there is no blinking the fact that to convince farmers and gain their confidence may take years of hard work.

The only way to eliminate harmful land use is to demonstrate better methods. As has already been stated several times, this involves co-operation between the different departments of Government concerned and a driving will-power from on top. The provision of land for protection reserves can be the most important of all land uses, and in these days of impending self-government it would be well, in my opinion, remembering that the new intelligentsia is inclined to favour training for professions more white-coated than agriculture and forestry or animal husbandry, to see that in the pool of overseas officers recently announced the land-using departments are strongly represented, since they are essential to the future well-being of our Colonies.

Finally, I should like to say that in a country where shifting cultivation is normal agricultural practice, it cannot he altered just by Government decree. To khink that it can is to delude ourselves. It must be replaced, if at all, probably after many years of patient work, by something better. After all, to most Africans shifting cultivation, inevitably involving the cutting down of forest or bush, is agriculture. They do not understand any other methods, and the efficacy of any modification must be proved to them beyond any doubt before it will readily be adopted. A policy of forest reservation and balanced land use, within their financial limitations, is, as I have already said, the approved policy in our Colonies to-day. But it has to be supported by all the means in our power. Something more is wanted than approved policy. We in this country all know what is the value of an approved policy: we have our road policy. Something more than that is wanted—dynamic conviction, education of every kind, ample financial support and wisely-tempered authoritative guidance. When I say that I think a Government should govern, I exclude the totalitarian methods which lend success to Russian plans, just as I also exclude the hesitating timidity of our own methods. The Government have to go all out in their efforts raid they have to give top priority to their agricultural policy. I support the Motion.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, briefly, but most cordially, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Portsmouth in the Motion which he has brought before your Lordships, in a speech as fascinating as it was informative and constructive. I hope he will come more often to this country, and I hope whenever he comes he will certainly play his part in this House. He is one of the classic examples of the Peer who is able to attend only occasionally but is quite invaluable when he does come. The Motion he has brought forward is very important. The problems he has raised are all-important and all-pervading—allpervading because they raise at least two big related problems, and their ramifications are infinite. There is the problem of what the noble Earl calls in his Motion desiccation, the wasteful use of land and the encroachment of the desert. Let us not argue too much about how fast the desert encroaches. Man can create a new desert, and is busily engaged in doing so in many parts of the world. Then there is the whole problem of erosion and its causes. Both should be tackled vigorously.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that it is desirable that we should get international collaboration. I think his experience is like mine. Locust control is an exception; it is one of the few international organisations which I have found working intensively and well. I was extremely anxious, therefore, when I read that locust control officers, who are international officers, will be expelled from Saudi Arabia, which is one of the places where this pest breeds. Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Munster, could say a word on this matter. If locusts are to be dealt with, it is vital that these officers should be able to go in, find the breeding grounds and tackle the insect there, because effective action can be taken only in its first few weeks of life. I know that political questions arise in that part of the world, but surely it cannot be to the interest of any country to encourage an incursion of locusts all over the world. That is not going to be good pan-Arab propaganda. We do not want pan-locust propaganda, for that is not going to help. With that exception, one generally gets in the international field a useful exchange of ideas and experience; but to make that effective—and immediate action is needed in this matter—I believe we have to take action in our own territories, because they are under our control and also because by doing so we are giving a good example.

Let me say a word on the first of the problems—encroachment. I believe it is true that the Sahara, certainly on the western side, does not encroach rapidly. I expect one could find a statistic to show that the Sahara is to-day very much where it was one hundred years ago. On the other hand, as my noble friend, Lord Portsmouth, pointed out, one can get, and is getting, a very much faster encroachment on the eastern side, in the desiccated areas of Kenya. If the word "encroachment" is the wrong word, surely what we have to do is to stop the desiccations; and, first of all, we have to stop the destruction of timber, soil and grass, and secondly to improve the area by planting. When I was Minister of State in Africa, I found that good work was being done by experimentally planting, in Africa, trees brought from other parts of the Commonwealth. That is very desirable, because one often finds that a tree which has never before been tried there and is not indigenous may be quite quick-growing, like some of the acacias and teak, which were successfully introduced.

That work is useful, but of course one has to apply the knowledge gained; and there I cannot too strongly support what the noble Earl has said about the importance of this being a co-operative undertaking. All departments have to work together. There is the district officer, the man who knows the African on the spot. The forestry, agricultural and veterinary officers have to work with him and together. I can give your Lordships an example of how it should not be done, drawn from a territory over which the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, was presiding at the time, and on which he took very prompt steps when I was able to draw his attention to it. I happened to visit the Plateau Province in the north of Nigeria. There I found an interesting experiment going on with pigs. It was being conducted by the veterinary department, who were breeding and feeding pigs, and had introduced a new system of silage. But this was most improper, because (as it was explained to me) though it was the function of the veterinary department to cure a sick pig, it was quite outside that department's province to prevent the pig from getting sick by feeding it. That was a gross traversing of the parish boundary and called down devastating comment and endless minutes from the Department of Agriculture.

I found that a nice young man in the Department of Agriculture was conducting sonic agricultural experiments and trying to persuade people to farm a little better. I suggested that he might find silage useful. He said he did not know how to make silage and I told him that if he had a car or motor cycle and would ride a few miles he would find that the veterinary department were making excellent silage. He was going to do that, but suddenly wondered whether he might get into trouble with his superior if he visited the veterinary department. Then there was a forest officer. It was very necessary to plant trees in that area, not only as an anti-desiccation measure but for fuel, because they were collecting and using as fuel dried dung which ought to have been used as manure; so very properly the forest officer decided that he should plant some trees. Unfortunately, because he had had no consultation with the agricultural officer, he was planting trees in the best agricultural land instead of on the hillsides where these acacia-like trees would have grown very well and been most useful. Here were three keen people all trying to do their job, good, assiduous public servants—hardly on speaking terns with one another. That kind of thing is quite impossible. There must be team work all through.

One cannot discuss these problems separately so I will say a word about erosion—erosion caused by the wrong system, or lack of system, the wrong kind of farming, the burning of grass, the destroying of humus and, of course, by over-stocking. I understand that this problem is not as bad as it was when I was in charge in Africa during the war and when I was out there many years before that, when I was Secretary of State. I think that Kenya is or was then—because of what Lord Milverton has called its old customs—about the most difficult place to deal with. In Kenya a cow was not just a cow: it was wealth, money. And the bride-price was paid in cows—an appropriate dowry. But unfortunately custom came to lay it down that a cow was a cow and that a bad cow was worth as much as a good cow. That is still so, is it not? Well, of course, Gresharn's Law applies to cattle as well as to currency, and the bad cow's were quickly driving out the good.

But then there was depreciation of the cattle currency, a devaluation—if that is not an ominous word to use. It was even more fatal than any monetary devaluation which has taken place, except possibly the devaluation of the mark after the First World War. Some bright "spark", or some tribal kgotla, decided that one cow equalled so many goats. Therefore the goat became currency; and of all the awful, devastating eroders, as my noble friend I am sure will agree, the goat is the worst. The goat really is Public Enemy Number 1. It is worse than the rabbit in this country; and if we have profited so greatly by eliminating the rabbit I think there must be some concerted effort to eliminate the goat.

I understand that now it should be easier to deal with this problem. The noble Earl was right if I may say so, in declaring that you must de-stock. But if you are going to de-stock, the man concerned must have a market for what you take from him. I found during the war that I could get biltong made very simply and cheaply in Northern Nigeria, merely by drying it in sheds. I turned one of the United Africa Company people on to this work. He had never made biltong in his life before. But we made thousands of tons of it and fed all the workers on the public works and a very large number of men in the Army on biltong. It bagged up very nicely. The cattle were not very large. We usually managed to get a beast into a bag—and that was our slogan. It might well be that, without establishing great works, if there is not a ready market for the fresh meat, particularly in these dry areas, a simple biltong factory might be equally useful, and the meat would be readily bought by any contractor who is dealing with public works. But that, I am sure, must be dealt with.

In passing I would say this—I am sure I shall not be accused of introducing a controversial note. The vital thing is to get Africans to farm better. The worst thing that could be done in Kenya would he to take away well-farmed land in the White Highlands in order to add it to some African reserve. That would not do the least good to the African. It may be that some of the farms in the White Highlands ought to be split up more—indeed, I think that some of them ought to be—and also to be farmed more intensively in the most efficient way. But certainly the best service that could be rendered to African agriculture is to keep up the highest possible level of farming in the White Highlands, where Africans can get full employment and also learn how to farm. I most strongly commend the Motion to the House and to the Government. I think there could hardly be a more important subject and I fully agree with the noble Earl that "water is all".

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, having the privilege of representing the Society for the Conservation and Preservation of Flora and Fauna I wholeheartedly support the Motion before us to-day. One is tempted to ask why we have done so little since the war. My Society and many experts consider that the next three years will be vital and will offer our last chance. We look round and see magnificent work being done in Nepal, Ceylon, Afghanistan, and the neighbouring countries, and in South Africa and the Belgian Congo. I happen to have the privilege of being trustee of the Belgian National Parks and so can speak on that score. In Nyasaland, in spite of the appeal by Sir George Stapleton in The Times newspaper, we have the Colonial Development Corporation developing the Nyika Plateau. In the Serengette erosion is getting worse and worse with the advance of perfectly useless cattle and goats. In the Rhodesias, vast slaughter of game is taking place in the elimination of the tsetse fly. To learn what our foreign friends are writing of us, may I suggest the reading of This Plundered Planet, by that great zoologist, Fairfield Osborne, and No Room For Wild Animals, by that great German zoologist, Dr. Gymem. I beg to support the Motion.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, having spent the last two years in East Africa I am very glad to be able to be here to support my noble friend Lord Portsmouth to-day. I think I can say that I am the only Member of either House of Parliament who has spent the last two years in East Africa and has no financial interest in any of the territories there. I spent most of 1954, when the Mau Mau rebellion was at its height, in Kenya and I was there throughout 1955 when the situation steadily improved. As one of the three Field Commanders of the Security Forces in Kenya I have been responsible at one time or another for the security of the whole area, including Mount Kenya, the Aberdare Forests and a large number of districts in the settled areas, as well as the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru native reserves most affected by the Mau Mau. I have also paid short visits to other East African territories.

During these two years I have worked in the closest possible touch with provincial and district commissioners, police officers, agricultural and forestry officers, members of the Legislative Council and settlers in Kenya. So I think I saw all aspects of life in Kenya—the life of the African, the European and the Asian. My only regret is that I was not often in as close touch with the Mau Mau as I was with all other communities in the country. It was impossible, in the course of my work, not to learn a great deal about the problems of the communities in Kenya, and I became extremely interested in them. The biggest of these is the increase in African and Asian birthrate which is caused by the remarkable decrease in infant mortality, thanks to efforts by Government and the efforts of the medical missions. Therefore the only solution to the problem of too many people on too little land is to bring more land into cultivation.

Your Lordships are fortunate to-day in having my noble friend Lord Portsmouth, who is on one of his all too short visits to England, to move this Motion. I have stayed with him on his lovely farms in the north of Kenya and seen what he has done at his own expense to prove various experiments. The important position he held, first as Chairman and later as President of the Kenya Electors' Union, and the great work he has carried out in forestry and agriculture, make him singularly well-fitted to address your Lordships. I hope that the Government will most carefully study the proposals he has made. From all that I saw, I am convinced that very great capital investment is essential for the development of water supplies and for improvements in agriculture and forestry. It is the only answer to the problems of the ever-increasing birthrate, of the continued erosion as a result of overpopulation in a few of the native reserves, and of over-grazing in nearly all of them.

I should like to say a word about the Kenya settler. There has been a great deal of criticism of him generally by people who know very little of the development of Kenya in the last fifty years. It is not often remembered that the early settlers were encouraged to take up land in Kenya by the British Governmerit—indeed, by your Lordships' predecessors in this House; and when one has seen their remarkable achievements in opening up the country and providing livelihoods for thousands of Africans, one cannot fail to feel for them fie deepest respect and admiration. Their load has been a very hard one, and many have been ruined in making the experiments that have ultimately led to the prosperity which only recently has been generally achieved.

I should like to commend to any noble Lords who are interested a remarkable book written by Mrs. Elspeth Huxley called The White Man's Country, dealing with the life of the late Lord Delamere and his fellow-pioneers. In it you will read of the appalling difficulties of the early settlers, difficulties which I am afraid were accentuated by ignorance of their problems in the early days in this country, and by frequent chances in the Government and responsible Ministers. The result of these early days of frustration has left many of the older settlers with a deep suspicion of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. The Mau Mau rebellion, through which they have lived for nearly four years, under the constant shadow of sudden assassination, has left them more than ever determined to preserve their homes and the lovely farms which they have hewn out of the forest or won from the and plains.

They have proved what can be done in areas winch formerly supported only wild beasts and a few nomadic tribesmen with poor, under-fed flocks. In many cases, every penny of profits that these agriculturists make goes into further development—I should say in almost all cases out on the farms and on the ranches —in the sinking of boreholes and in other agricultural projects, so that in bad years of drought they may survive where their predecessors went under. It is these settlers, by their own exertions, by learning the hard way, who have proved what crops and what herds will survive the uncertainties of the tropics, and how disease of man and beast and grain can be conquered. They have been aided in recent years by the fine work of the Agricultural and Forestry Departments of Government. They have continued this research, and the African has benefited enormously from these results.

Recently, I was horrified to see in Kenya signs of the wrong kind of settler —the noble Earl hinted at this matter in his speech. There are people going out to East Africa—none of them British, so far as I know—buying up land and working it as hard as they can for a few years, making big profits and then going out and leaving behind a complete desert. That has only begun to happen recently, because it is only recently that farming there has shown such very big profits. I did not give the noble Earl, Lord Munster, notice atilt I should raise this point but I hope he will bring it to the attention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State, because I think it is something which the Governments of Kenya and of adjoining territories must watch. If farming is going to do really well in East Africa we shall Lind these "sharks" (if one can call agriculturists "sharks") coming in and doing an appalling amount of damage in order to make profits and get out.

As a soldier, I am naturally inclined to look at the problem from the point of view of the future internal security of the East African territories and the effect on it of these local problems. We know well how the Mau. Man revolt was fomented by agitators who were able to exaggerate grievances over land shortage. The noble Earl has referred in the terms of his Motion to "direct administration" and I should like to say something about the present administration of the country, which is similar to that in the other East African territories. Having worked so closely with the officers of all departments in the field, I was enormously impressed with the high quality of leadership shown by members of the civil Administration in the field. Such keenness and devotion to duty by these officers during the last four most difficult years can seldom have been equalled in the long record of colonial administration.

I was delighted to hear personally from the Governor of Kenya only a week ago that these long tours of duty of 2½ and 3 years without any home leave, at least so far as Kenya is concerned, have been considerably reduced, and I congratulate the Government on their appreciation of this problem. I saw for myself the serious disadvantages of these long tours. One was that in the difficult times which Kenya has been through an officer became so completely tired out by 2½ or 3 or, even, in many cases, 4 years without home leave that his work undoubtedly suffered a great deal. But an even more important effect is that an officer going on six months' leave after 2½ or 3 years has to hand over his responsibilities to another and, as we have heard from the noble Earl, is frequently given a different appointment when he returns from long leave. I myself found considerable disadvantage in working with the Administration in restoring security when so many officers were continually changing over. It had a most unstable effect, because as soon as an officer got to know his territory really well, he was liable to leave.

Moreover—and this is a point that has not been mentioned, though it is of great importance—the system hardly encourages anyone to learn the dialect of his people (and in Kenya there are a great many dialects) if he is liable to be moved to a different area in three years' time. I am sure that the new system, which will enable officers to stay much longer in one place, will have a great effect in improving administration in the country. I hope that it will be adopted elsewhere, if the long tour is still retained in other Colonies. Nevertheless, even under this system I was immensely impressed by how much the civil officers in administrative, agricultural and forestry departments knew of the peoples and the land under their care, and it was a real privilege for me to work with men of such high integrity and devotion to duty.

The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has referred to the tremendous importance of team work. The continuance of the close team work that we have had to use in order to overcome the appalling difficulties that face us in the different situations in Kenya—the team work between the soldier, the policeman, the administrative officer, the agricultural officer and the forest officer, of which I have had personal experience—will be a great thing in the future in the development of the country.

I do not think I need say much more about the appalling difference between the wonderful farms of the British settlers, as the result of years of hard work and scientific study of the problem, and the pathetic native land unit, overstocked and eroded, next door. One can see what can be done by looking at the two. In Kenya, it is no longer a question of "learning the hard way." There is no shortage of highly qualified experts among the officials and the settlers, such as my noble friend Lord Portsmouth. At present, in many cases serious steps have to be taken to persuade African tribesmen to limit their flocks or move away in order to give the land a chance to recover from overstocking; and here again, when the administrative officers remain longer in their own territories, they will be able, by their own knowledge and experience, to control the grazing in their areas without having to take the serious step of compelling tribesmen to limit their stock or to take it elsewhere.

A great development project is now taking place in the area known as the Tana River area, in Kenya, which should bring a huge district, formerly almost unpopulated, into highly productive cultivation. I had the privilege of escorting the Secretary of State for the Colonies on his last visit to that area. This project is sited close to the tribal areas affected by the Mau Mau, and will give employment and a livelihood to a great many families of these affected tribes. But I should like to see an equally energetic effort made in other tribal areas. Indeed, the Askaris of the King's African Rifles, who come from most other East African tribes and have a wholesome loathing for Mau Mau and all its bestiality, are seriously perturbed that much will be done for the disloyal elements but nothing for those tribes with long records of magnificent service to the Queen in Burma and Malaya, as well as in Kenya, and of wholehearted work for their countries in East Africa. I am sure that experience gained in the Tana River project could be put into effect elsewhere in East Africa; but do not let us have to wait too long.

In the Northern Frontier District there has been for many years considerable raiding carried on by Abyssinian tribesmen into Kenya, on the one side, and by Kenya tribesmen into Abyssinia, on the other. Keeping the peace in this area has tied down for long periods units of the King's African Rifles. Water development in this remote area would be a great factor in bringing about more stable conditions, as well as raising the standard of living above the semi-starvation point which has been so much the cause of tribal raids in the past.

When I last addressed your Lordships it was on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, regarding helicopter development, and some of your Lordships may remember that I pleaded for a helicopter for Kenya. So quickly did the Government act that one arrived at Mombasa the next day—by sea. I received full credit for this when I got back to Kenya. It was a great success, from the point of view of security and in getting our wounded away. I feel that there are great possibilities for the use of helicopters in East Africa in controlling stock movements, and I suggest that that is a matter to which serious consideration might be given.

Much has been said about multi-racial government for Kenya. It must be borne in mind that Kenya and Tanganyika have been in contact with civilisation for little more than fifty years. On one of my tours I took a party of Members of another place to visit an educated African chief in one of the Kikuyu districts under my charge. He said: "We do not ask to govern Kenya. We know we cannot do it. We ask only for the opportunity to increase our education and knowledge, so that we can play our part more and more in the development of the country." That is the right attitude. Education in agriculture, land development, soil conservation, animal management, and in technical subjects and medicine, is needed before Western social science and politics. Let us concentrate on those subjects for the African, both in the colleges and universities in Africa and here at home. There are many jobs waiting for those who qualify in such subjects, and such people will be far more valuable citizens when they get home to their own countries than if they study politics and sociology at this stage in their development. After all, we should have learned by now that agitators always spring from those who find that there are no jobs for them when, with a smattering of Western political theories, they return to their home. There are great opportunities before us in East Africa. Capital investment in development schemes will, I am sure, yield great dividends. Let us profit from our own mistakes and the hard work of the pioneers and administrators, and firmly accept the challenge while there is yet time.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support, in a few words, the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Portsmouth. I think almost every noble Lord who has spoken this afternoon has stressed the undoubted fact that running water is a fundamental condition of man's existence. That is as true in this country as it is in East Africa, but the point is not brought to such a fine, focus. I was standing by the River Tweed yesterday afternoon, on whose banks in sad abundance trout and salmon are being washed up dead because of the present drought. But the Tweed has a good catchment area: this is only a passing malaise; the rain will come, the river will rise, the fish will eventually multiply once more and water shortages will be at an end. But in a country like Kenya, to which my noble friend Lord Portsmouth has drawn our attention, it is very different. It could become a desert in fifty years, utterly incapable of supporting human life. Man has made far more deserts than he has ever reclaimed, and anyone who has ever seen any of those deserts in the making is never likely to forget it.

I was in Saskatchewan in Western Canada in the early thirties. The settlers who first went out there found the land suitable for growing wheat; the price was good, and they grew wheat year after year after year, until the soil became so fine that it started to blow away. Then came the drought. I was introduced by a friend of mine to his small son, who at the age of seven years had never in his life seen rain. I have never seen a spectacle like those Saskatchewan prairies. You would see a farmhouse chimney sticking out of a dune of dust which might have been in the Sahara, with nothing except broken barbed wire fences and the skeletons of long-dead cattle. But the point of no return had happily not been reached, and man settled down to repair the mischief that he had so thoughtlessly wrought. By planting fast, tall growing grasses across the line of the wind, they stopped the drift of the dust, and then providentially the rains returned. Now, I suppose, it is a more prosperous agricultural area than it has ever been in its history. But the point of no return had not been reached, and however well aware we may be of the problems in our East African and West African territories, it could be reached there before we noticed it.

I suppose that all problems of this kind always shade into a world problem, whereas in what one might call the group of older countries one of the greatest problems is what might be called urbanisation. Men drift from the land to the cities with such a momentum that it appears not impossible that in a generation's time these populations may be like great urban trunks, standing there with difficulty because their roots in the soil are too small either to support their bulk or to nourish them. But as a result of good government and bad farming in a great many territories under our control, we find the population rising by leaps and bounds, so that it will double itself in the East and West African territories and the West Indies in round about twenty years. But there is little sign where double that amount of food is coming from. The land may be dwindling year by year with erosion and the people multiplying, and, as the catchment areas are despoiled, our disasters will accumulate.

The noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, carried us all with him when he said that in dry countries the main harvest of the forest was not wood but water. All life depends upon the green plant, and the green plant depends in turn on climate, soil and water. It is rather inevitable that in the last half century in Kenya the speedy development by both black and white should have despoiled many of the catchment areas which used to provide the rainwater. Now the forests of Kenya are but 2.5 per cent. of Kenya's total area. I find it depressing to talk to many young Africans who are learning a profession, when their country so bitterly needs agricultural officers, veterinary officers, engineers and men to deal with the problems of the soil, only to find that they are becoming political lawyers. The appalling irrelevance of that to their problems is something we must try to bring home to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, out of his great experience, said that not the least cogent factor in bringing about erosion and the despoiling of the water supply was the Pax Britannica. He mentioned a place called Machakos which I know well, as I think the noble Earl does. He told us this afternoon that the harm done there by erosion was, by a co-operative effort of all races being gradually put right. I am delighted to hear it. Machakos was a forest in the days when the Masai spent their time raiding the Wakamba; but when we brought the Pax Britannica there was no further need for the Wakamba to have a forest in which to shelter, so they cut the forest down, with the results that have been described.

To bring my remarks somewhere near their close, I would say this about Kenya. Rainfall is patchy there, as all of us who know the country know; but the mist on the high ground is almost always present. It is absolutely vital to trap every drop of water, whether it comes by rainfall or through that mist. An American scientist has estimated that in the forests of the Pacific coasts of Northern America, in the days of the year when no rain falls, the equivalent of eleven inches of rain accumulates from the dropping of the mist; and that mist is only of beneficial effect where you have a standing high forest. In Kenya the ranges of mountains in the Northern Frontier Province have their springs, most of which are dwindling. In the Matthews range that runs down the Samburu country, overgrazing, burning of the herbage and grazing up to the sources of the springs is causing frightful devastation. As an example of what can be done, the administration have piped one of these springs and led the water down into the lower levels into an otherwise and area, to keep the cattle off the high lands and to bring some measure of fertility with it. Disafforestation has taken place in the Kikuyu Reserve, in the Kakamaga district of the Nyanza province, and in Kisumu. I am not suggesting for a moment that a lot has not been done by the Swynnerton plan or the planting of trees by private farmers, but it is the high catchment areas that matter. They are absolutely vital to everything that goes on on the lower levels below them.

I could not help being surprised that the Royal Commission's Report, which had so much wisdom and detail in it, had apparently so little to say on the subject. I do not suggest that anything I have said this afternoon is news to Her Majesty's Government in Westminster or in Nairobi. We all know the difficulty that the Mau Mau rebellion has brought in getting the available hands to do the work, not the least in regard to forest guards to keep those forests intact. I believe we are extremely fortunate to have in Sir Evelyn Baring a Governor who is extremely competent and an extremely keen forester, and whose work in Swaziland in that respect will be long remembered.

I rose merely to make this point and underline it where others have made it. Governments are pressed by troubles and responsibilities calling for urgent settlement, but the solution of this problem is a condition precedent to all life in arid countries. It is like an hour glass. You do not hear an hour glass. You turn your back on it and you may forget about it; but whey you turn and look at it again you see the sand has fallen a little further. There is a point of no return where a country like Kenya could easily become a desert, through our failure to take action in time. What I feel is a matter of prime importance is that those forests which serve as catchment areas, and keep the streams flowing, should be demarcated, protected and, if possible, extended, and that every man of good will should be made to realise that upon the success of this depends the survival not only of his race but of all mankind in those areas.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, at the end of a debate which has ranged so widely as this has done, perhaps I may be forgiven for calling attention to two or three points that seem to me not to have received the attention they might. The debate has been focused largely on Kenya and East Africa, although the noble Earl in his Motion referred broadly to "Africa south of the Sahara." In his remarks the noble Earl did scarcely the justice they deserve to the efforts of successive Governments and the different Colonial Governments, because I think it is remarkable that so much has been done to combat what is a very serious and a very large-scale problem. In particular, I think the point referred to my noble friend Lord Listowel is worth a little more emphasis—the direct deforestation that has occurred over many years, and is still going on, in the cutting of timber for fuel. The copper belt in Northern Rhodesia; even, I think, the East African Railways, and many other elements of the industry and economy of African countries, still depend on cutting down forests. Until more success is achieved in developing new sources of power, that will continue to happen. That, after all, is a far quicker and far more devastating step towards desiccation than the slow deterioration which is caused by bad agriculture.

I should like to remind your Lordships that the Report of the Colonial Development Corporation, which we shall be debating in a week or two's time, refers to sonic of the coalfields in Africa which have been discovered and proved but cannot be utilised because of economic and transport difficulties. There is the Tanganyika coalfield and others of the same kind. We know that steps are being taken to increase the utilisation of the hydro-electric potential of the Zambesi and another scheme for the Shire River in Nyasaland. All those will help directly towards stopping the deforestation, which is the source of much of the noble Earl's complaints.

On the positive side, do not let us forget that a great deal has been done in the way of direct reafforestation. The Colonial Governments have now been active for many years. In the Annual Report on the Colonial Territories which has just been received we read The East African Agriculture and Forestry Research Organisation continued studies on the basic problems of tropical agriculture particularly related to soils and soil moisture availability", and so on, and also the possibilities of forestry. The Colonial Development Corporation, which I think the noble Marquess, Lord Willingdon, mentioned, are undertaking, in conjunction with other interests, afforestation on the Nyika Plateau in Nyasaland, and we know that they have a highly successful and large-scale afforestation scheme in Swaziland.


Can the noble Earl assure the House that the Nyika experiment is successful?


I think we shall hear more about the Colonial Development Corporation next week. I can only quote what I read in the Annual Report about the possibilities of softwood afforestation; that the negotiations are going on; that the pilot forestry scheme is being continued and that trial plantations are being extended. It may or may not be successful in the long run, but that is a positive contribution towards reversing the trend with which this Motion deals.

There is one other point to which the noble Earl referred in his opening speech that I would venture to contest. I think he complained about money being spent on what he called "uplift" among African populations. If by "uplift" he includes education, surely that is the first essential step towards eradicating the bad agricultural habits of African peoples. When it is the time-honoured custom of an African society to regard cattle as wealth, it takes time and education to eliminate that attitude; and until we have eliminated it we cannot reduce the overstocking and over-grazing which has always been one of the most vicious influences on the land in Africa. So I hope that Her Majesty's Government will confirm that they regard education in good agricultural methods as one of the most important measures which they can take to improve this situation.

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl has raised this afternoon a matter which I believe has been of absorbing interest to us all. I venture to think that it will be of equal interest to the many millions who live and dwell in Africa. If I may say so, the noble Earl presented his case to the House with an effortless lucidity which was indeed a pleasure to hear. In fact, no one could complain that he offered or made any criticism directed against field officers or the Administration. I think it was the noble Earl who has just sat down who mentioned that the debate has ranged far and wide this afternoon. I shall certainly endeavour to reply to many of the questions which were addressed to me, although I am bound to admit that certain matters which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, were a little outside the purview of this Motion.

I am bound to say at once that the Motion which the noble Earl has moved is of an extremely technical character and relates to that vast stretch of land south of the Sahara Desert, which of course is not entirely a British responsibility but the concern of many other Governments as well. Inter-Governmental co-operation has existed for some time, through the organisation known as the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa South of the Sahara Desert. This was the body which was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. That Commission acts in a consultative or advisory capacity but not on an executive basis.

According to the noble Earl's Motion, we can divide the problem quite distinctly into three sections. The first is desiccation, including some reference to soil erosion, which was mentioned by a number of noble Lords who spoke this afternoon. Secondly, there is the destruction of forests; and, thirdly, there is forest exploitation. As regards the first point, desiccation, there is, I know, a belief which has been expressed in some quarters (though I do not think it was expressed here this afternoon) that the Sahara Desert is encroaching on the fertile areas south of the desert itself. In point of fact, there is no solid basis for this belief. It so happens that the present Forestry Adviser to the Secretary of State was a member of the Anglo-French Mission which investigated this very matter in Northern Nigeria and in the French Niger Colony in 1936. That Mission was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. The conclusions which that body reached indicated that in fact there is no rapid increase in desiccation South of the Sahara.

In the South Western fringe, that is to say, in the area bordering Nigeria, investigation has shown that, if any change is occurring, it is so slow as to be hardly perceptible except over the centuries. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Swinton, that this is not a matter to argue about. Over 100 years ago the explorers, Barth and Clapperton, recorded the southernmost limit of the Tenere sand dune fields north of Lake Chad as roughly the Sixteenth Parallel, and I am advised that that is where it is to-day. Moreover, the level of the water table in that area shows no change at all. In the light of all these facts, and many more of an even higher technical nature, which I do not think I need mention this afternoon, it is not really possible to accept the belief that a process of desiccation is taking place.

As regards soil erosion, which was mentioned fully and forcefully by my noble friend Lord Swinton, and by the noble Earl who introduced this Motion, we know that it does occur, and we know also that it is due to many causes, all of which have been mentioned here to-day—for instance, uncontrolled grazing, excessive burning and the cultivation of steep slopes, as well as deforestation. The Colonial Agricultural Department and research organisations are fully alive to the problem, and measures are being taken to arrest the process and to endeavour to restore fertility to the land already eroded. But to achieve any success must necessitate carrying the people with us; and this is always a slow process.

Let me turn from that to say a few words on the destruction of forests. The destruction of forests, and more particularly of the woodland and scrub which are characteristic of the low rainfall areas, is going on at an increasing rate. I am advised that the reasons for this are twofold: first, to provide browsing for stock in areas where the grass is poor; and secondly, to meet the requirements of the bush fallow system of agriculture which is so widely practised in Africa and alterations to which are so extremely difficult to establish. In the first case, it has to be remembered, as was also mentioned by the noble Earl, that nomadic grazing is in some parts the best, indeed the only, use to which vast tracts of country with erratic and scanty rainfall can be put. The chief damage done by the graziers is in the lopping of trees for browse—that is to say, hacking half through the branches. I recognise that that naturally keeps the foliage greener for a longer period, but of course it exhausts the tree far more than if the branches were cut clean off and dragged away from the stump, where, incidentally, there would be less fear of the appalling damage and danger caused by fire. Educative and control measures—matters which have all been mentioned this afternoon—can lead to a restriction in this and similar practices. But the stock must have browse, and the nomadic graziers, who in any case strongly object to interference by Government and are most resistant to change, will naturally insist on it.

Here, let me say that I was somewhat surprised at the observations which were made by my noble friend Lord Milverton, who was critical of observations which had been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, at the time when he was Secretary of State. What my noble friend stated is a matter which I feel certain the noble Lord must know and must agree with—namely, that the problem of inducing primitive people to abandon their traditional way and adopt good farming methods has not yet been solved, and that it will take many years before we can say definitely that it has been finally solved. Coercion in agriculture is possible only if the majority of people accept the policy, and it is certainly not possible if we have, in fact, 100 per cent. opposition—as happens in these cases. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Swinton said, that it is increasingly important: to get Africans to farm better; and that, of course, is the purpose of the action which we are now endeavouring to take. I am advised that these nomadic graziers are probably not increasing numerically to any large extent, but that the bush fallow agriculturists certainly are as a consequence of the improved medical facilities which were mentioned by Lord Thurlow, and the cessation of tribal wars.

May I here say something now about the bush fallow system of agriculture, which I think is perfectly sound and, indeed, unobjectionable, provided that the farmers are limited in number and do not burn the tree stump. If the trees are all cut fairly close to the ground and the branches dragged away from the stump, they can then be burned for ash. The area is then cropped for a period, let us say, of two years, and subsequently will have to be left for a sufficient period of time for the tree fallows to grow again and for full fertility to be restored. If, for example, this takes ten years and the cropping period is two years, the farmer must have five times as much fallow land as he has under crops. So long as this amount of land is available, the system is sound agriculture and does no harm to the land, which will then have time to recover. But once the population starts to increase and the available fallow area becomes inadequate for that required to restore fertility, the pressure of the population will naturally cause the progressive deterioration of the whole locality.

Let me say again that the system cannot be changed until alternative methods have been proved; and until the local inhabitant sees that the new methods are better, he cannot be expected to support change. Only by a process of experimentation from the research plot through pilot projects up to test areas, can the new systems be proved and established—and, as I say, this process certainly cannot be hurried. Land use planning—by which I mean the planning for optimum utilisation of all the resources of the land—can be based only on careful survey of these resources and close co-operation between the various departments of Governments concerned. This subject was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Milverton. Of course, a fundamental question in land use is the probabilities of land tenure, and it is well known that this is one of the most difficult questions which confront us in Africa to-day.

My Lords, thirdly and lastly, I want to turn to forest exploitation, which was mentioned in some detail—


Can the noble Earl say something about the size of the cattle population? He has dealt with deforestation and with human population; but if the cattle population is increasing much more rapidly that leads to greater desiccation.


I have no figures which I could indicate to the House to-day on the increase in the cattle population, but I think it is quite true to say that that has definitely occurred.

Lastly, let me turn to forest exploitation, mentioned by the noble Earls, Lord Portsmouth and Lord Swinton. We know that forests in other climatic belts in Africa are now being intensively worked; and no forest can make its proper contribution to the wealth of a country unless it is properly managed and worked, Naturally the timber will contribute to local development and in some cases to a very useful and substantial export trade for the country concerned. Exploitation does not necessarily mean the destruction of a forest; the proportion of marketable trees may be, and often is, extremely small, and their removal may not affect the forest structure. Only in areas which are to be devoted to agriculture is the timber produced by "salvage felling"; but it has to be recognised that with the pressure of population on the land some parts of the high forest will have to be turned over to agriculture and this is the best use for them. In the forest reserves areas exploitation is systematic and is managed with a view to securing that in a period, according to the type of tree, there will be a fresh crop of timber standing.

From what I have said the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, will, I think, agree that desiccation, if it exists, is dependent on climatic oscillations over centuries and cannot be halted or reversed by Government or by anyone else. Every effort is being made, however, to halt and reverse the process of soil erosion, but any new agricultural system can be introduced only over a period of time. Policies intended to secure that sufficient forest is preserved to protect the land and provide for the needs of the people have been, or are being, prepared for all Colonies, and in most cases have already been formally endorsed by the local Legislatures.

The noble Earl will probably know that the staffs of the Colonial Forests Departments have been increased. Their functions are many. They control felling where that is necessary in the interests of the country; they initiate the reservation of forest areas and potential forest areas in order to secure for the future an adequate forest estate to protect catchment areas and reduce run-off; they deal with forest regeneration—the organisation of planting programmes, whether of territorial or local significance; they undertake research both on silviculture (which, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said is so highly important), and on timber utilisation. They also seek to educate all sections of the population in forestry matters by advice and demonstration. To do all that naturally requires considerable staff and these figures will clearly indicate the actions which have been taken over the last few years. The pre-war figure of the strength of forest staffs in the British colonial territory south of the Sahara was 1,649. The latest post-war figure I have is 5,316, of which 919 are at present serving in Kenya. That total of 919 has increased in the post-war period from 285, which was the total at the beginning of the war. Since then there has been a 300 per cent. increase. Nevertheless there are still a number of vacancies, and as the process of staffing the service from the local population continues it will be essential for some of them to come forward and take up what may well he a more lonely career, in forestry, than the professions of medicine, law or politics.

As the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, mentioned, provincial and district teams are now an accepted feature of present-day British administration in the African territories, and are indeed vital. Over our own territories in East Africa there is co-operation through the East Africa High Commission, and in West Africa through the West African Inter-Territorial Secretariat. There is co-operation with other Governments in Africa through the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa South of the Sahara, which held its first Forestry Conference in Abidjan, in the French Ivory Coast, in 1952. It will hold a second conference this year, but its subject will be confined to tropical rainfall forests. The holding of a conference on arid zone development under the Commission's auspices is now under consideration. There is constant contact between technical officers and an abundance of literature from which they can learn of one another's work. The colonial territories also have the advantage of the Quinquennial Commonwealth Forestry Conference where they meet foresters from other countries of the Commonwealth. The forestry adviser to my right honourable friend is to visit Kenya. Uganda and Tanganyika next month and will look particularly at the arid areas; and he will make contact with the noble Lord on his arrival out there.

As there has been much mention of the Government of Kenya in this debate, I feel that I should reply to as many of those points as I can, although, perhaps, they are not strictly germane to the Motion on the Paper. Before doing so I should like to answer the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, on the question of the expulsion of the locust team. I would refer my noble friend to Questions asked in another place on May 7 and 14. I understand that Her Majesty's Ambassador in Saudi Arabia is watching the situation closely and will naturally report developments back to my noble friend; but I would add that Press reports that the team were leaving on May 1 were in fact incorrect.

May I now turn to Kenya? The Kenya Government is fully conscious of the vital importance of water development as a means of increasing the carrying capacity of land, both in agricultural and pastoral areas. I believe they are just as aware as we are that water is a vital necessity for all mankind. A most significant single development is probably the pilot scheme which has been started in the Mwea area, which is intended to be developed as rapidly as possible to provide additional agricultural land under irrigation, growing rice as a cash crop for the resettlement of Africans displaced by the Emergency. The Government of Kenya has secured the services of an experienced officer from the Sudan to advise and direct the development of this scheme. Other schemes of irrigated agriculture are under consideration, and development of this kind is recognised as of the first importance if some of the marginal lands in Kenya are to be brought into production. As the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, no doubt observed during his service in Kenya, a prominent feature of the development of new villages for the Kikuyu in the Central Province, originally designed for security against Mau Mau attacks but now being developed to provide improved social and economic conditions for the people, has been the protection of springs and the provision of improved water supplies for domestic and agricultural purposes.

The Government of Kenya are already reviewing the arrangements for development and control of water supplies, in the light of the recommendation of the East Africa Royal Commission for the establishment of a separate water department for all rural water development. In the estimates for the year 1956–57 the Kenya Government have set aside a sum of £500,000 for the development of urban and rural water supplies. In addition, under the Swynnerton Plan for the intensified development of African agriculture a sum of £54,000 is assigned for the development of rural water supplies and irrigation. Here I should like to say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Milverton that it is right that this Swynnerton Plan should naturally concentrate on areas where there will be some fairly quick return, in order to raise the standards of the Africans concerned. Of course, the recovery of arid areas is naturally a very much longer process.

As regards the need for loans for capital investment, I think it is right that I should remind the House that since 1949 over £600 million has been provided from the United Kingdom towards long-term investment in the Colonies in the form of grants and loans, the majority on Government account but a significant element in the form of private investment. Of this outflow of capital from this country, Kenya, as we all know, has certainly had a fair share, but that is not to say that enough has been made available to meet all the pressing needs to which attention has been drawn by the noble Earl and others in the course of to-day's debate. Under the current Colonial Development and Welfare Act, Kenya has received an allocation of £5 million which is being applied to the development of African agriculture which, as a I have said, includes work on water development.

I was very glad to hear Lord Thurlow speak of the high quality of leadership shown by all the officers in Kenya. Indeed, it was comforting to learn from one who has served out there for so long that he was so greatly impressed with all he saw. I hope that I have now answered as many of the questions which have been put—


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but may I ask him whether he can say something before he sits down about the point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Thurlow (the noble Earl's attention may have been distracted at the time) about recent arrivals of an undesirable type of settler and whether the Government of Kenya have any policy upon the matter?


My Lords, that matter is far divorced from the desiccation of land; I do not think I could enter into a discussion to-day on a question as to whether some of the new settlers in Kenya are not of the right type when the Motion calls attention to destruction of forests, lack of rainfall, means of survival and the need of reversing erosion processes in the areas in question. I hope that my noble friend will forgive me if I do not enter into that question to-day. I have tried to answer your Lordships' questions on what is a very technical matter. I am very glad that the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, has seen fit to raise this subject, which, as I have said, is one of great interest to everyone in this country and in Africa as a whole.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to me to-day to realise how much and how widespread is the support that I have had from all sides of your Lordships' House on this Motion. It is too late now for any tilting of lances between myself and the noble Earl, Lord Munster, on certain points. But I should like just to say this on one point. If he talks of desiccation in terms of average rainfall, I do not know enough to test his theory; but if he talks of desiccation in terms of dryness underground, I contest it very much. I believe that the ground is getting drier underneath.

The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, taxed me for speaking about spending money on "uplift." He then mentioned education. In speaking of uplift I did, in my mind, include education—though perhaps not the type of education of which he spoke, which is education for technical and practical agriculture and other subjects. But for thirty years that has been woefully behind in relation to other types of education. Some of it has been so "suitable" to the African mind that it has included acting plays by Sheridan in Nyanza schools. I do not think there is anything more that I wish to say now, except this. This problem divides itself into two parts. A great deal has been said about the necessity of dealing with the cultivator, as distinct from the pastoral tribesman, the grazier. On the whole, from what I have seen, the progress which has been made has been really startling, especially in the case of the cultivator—I refer especially to change of method. The work he has been doing has been remarkable, and it has been due in no small degree to the assistance given by those responsible for Government administration.

What is so woefully behind-hand is the development of dry country forests and dry country grassland, which are the real parents of water supply for the rest of the country. I shall not rest happy until much more is done. The reafforestation taking place in the wetter areas does not even start to give back what has been lost in the last thirty years. I shall rest only when we see a real net gain in forestry in the wet and the dry country. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.