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State forestry and spatial scale in the development discourses of post-colonial Tanzania: 1961–1971

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At independence, Tanzanian foresters believed that state-led forestry could provide a lasting contribution to the development aspirations of the newly independent country. Yet they were gradually marginalized within Julius Nyerere's project of socio-economic transformation. By exploring the spatial dimensions of competing land use discourses of the time, I hope to offer an interpretation as to how and why forestry's marginalization happened. I argue that at least some of this marginalization was the result of differences inherent in the scale of focus between forestry and the larger, contemporaneous socio-economic and political discourses dominant in the period. At independence, Nyerere positioned development efforts more squarely within the national political institutions of the state and for the nation, writ whole. With its professional and discursive ties to an international forestry order and its spatial biases, Tanzanian foresters were poorly placed to respond or adapt to changes in the political discourse and in the economic conditions of resource extraction. In short, they were unable to adjust to changes in the scale of development praxis in Tanzania. I conclude by suggesting two points. First, that the history of land use and natural resource management choices in post-colonial Tanzania can be better understood through a historical-geographical, or spatialized, theoretical framework. Second, that current historical-geographical theory could be fine tuned through reflection on its utility in describing and explaining land use politics in post-colonial developing contexts.
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Keywords: Tanzania; archives; discourse; forestry; interviews; post-colonial

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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