Accepted paper:

Extending the Pastoral Frontier. Expert Knowledge and the Introduction of Trypanotolerant Cattle in French Equatorial Africa, c. 1945-1960


Samuël Coghe (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the introduction of trypanotolerant cattle in several parts of French Equatorial Africa during late colonialism. It focuses on the role of new bodies of expert knowledge on local ecosystems, cattle disease susceptibilities and cattle farming techniques in this process.

Paper long abstract:

After the Second World War, French colonial veterinary doctors started to introduce, acclimatise and breed trypanotolerant cattle in several regions of French Equatorial Africa (AEF) where cattle farming had thus far been deemed impossible due to endemic animal trypanosomiasis. Inspired by similar successful experiments in the neighbouring Belgian Congo, they believed that, if carefully prepared, the extension of the 'pastoral frontier' could be made possible - and would in the long run constitute a major contribution to solving the intertwined problems of malnutrition, underpopulation and economic underdevelopment. This paper analyses the rationalities, practicalities and consequences of this experiment. It thereby pays particular attention to the role of expert knowledge. Indeed, the extension of the 'pastoral frontier' into the humid savannas of French Equatorial Africa was not only a huge logistical operation, which involved the purchase, transport and acclimatisation of thousands of trypanotolerant animals from West Africa and the Belgian Congo. It also hinged on the production and mobilisation of new bodies of expert knowledge on local ecosystems (ranging from soil and vegetation types to the exact distribution of tsetse flies and trypanosomes and the varying disease susceptibilities of different breeds of cattle) and cattle farming techniques that were thus far virtually unknown in the region. Here, the paper also shows how European companies, African villagers as well as migrant African herders bought into this project, as they tried to benefit from the opportunities it raised.

panel Econ05
Commodity frontiers and knowledge regimes in Africa, 1800 to present