1900 to 1962 - Pre-Colonial Agriculture & the Rise of Cooperatives 1900-1962

Buganda, with its strategic location on the lakeside, reaped the benefits of cotton growing. The advantages of this crop were quickly recognized by the Buganda chiefs who had newly acquired freehold estates, which came to be known as mailo land because they were measured in square miles. In 1905 the initial baled cotton export was valued at £200; in 1906, £1,000; in 1907; £11,000; and in 1908, £52,000. By 1915 the value of cotton exports had climbed to £369,000, and Britain was able to end its subsidy of colonial administration in Uganda, while in Kenya the white settlers required continuing subsidies by the home government.

The income generated by cotton sales made the Uganda but more particularly Buganda kingdom relatively more prosperous, compared to the rest of colonial Uganda, although before World War I cotton was also being grown in the eastern regions of Busoga, Lango, and Teso. Many Baganda spent their new earnings on imported clothing, bicycles, metal roofing, even cars and many also invested in their children’s education. The Christian missions emphasized literacy skills, and African converts quickly learned to read and write. By 1911 two popular journals, Ebifa (News) and Munno (Your Friend), were published monthly in Luganda.

The Rise of Cooperatives:

From the 1950s until independence in 1962, British Colonial Office policy encouraged the development of co-operatives for subsistence farmers to partially convert to selling their crops: principally coffee, cotton, tobacco, and maize. David Gordon Hines (1915–2000) (as Commissioner of Co-operatives from 1959 to independence in 1962 and then as a civil servant until 1965) developed the movement by encouraging eventually some 500,000 farmers to join co-operatives. He, as an accountant, plus a team of 20 (British) District Co-operative Officers and some 400 Ugandans established the constitution and accounting procedures of each co-operative. They ran courses at a co-operative college in Kampala; settled disputes; established a co-operative bank; and developed marketing in a population that largely had no experience of accounts and marketing. Each co-operative had 100 to 150 farmer members who elected their own committees.[2]

In each political district, there was a co-operative “union” which built stores and, eventually, with government money, processing factories: cotton ginneriestobacco dryers, and maize mills. The number of farmers involved rose exponentially as the co-operatives made the profits that the Asian traders had previously made. The roads, other infrastructure and security were better in this colonial period than in the late 1900s, so allowing relatively efficient transport and marketing of agricultural products.

Uganda enjoyed a strong and stable economy in the years approaching independence. Agriculture was the dominant activity, but the expanding manufacturing sector appeared capable of increasing its contribution to GDP, especially through the production of foodstuffs and textiles. Some valuable minerals, notably copper, had been discovered, and water power resources were substantial. In 1967 Uganda and the neighboring countries of Kenya and Tanzania joined together to form the East African Community (EAC), hoping to create a common market and share the cost of transport and banking facilities, and Uganda registered impressive growth rates for the first eight years after independence

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