The British Empire Library

More A Way Of Life Than A Livelihood: An Autobiography

by Andrew S MacDonald

Courtesy of OSPA

Andrew Seager (British Somaliland, N Rhodesia, Tropical Agriculture Association)
The book describes the author's career as a tropical and perhaps also sub-tropical, agriculturist between 1950 and 2000. He started his career as an Agricultural Officer in the Colonial Service in Sierra Leone, then was posted to Uganda and Mauritius. After Mauritius became independent he became an agricultural consultant, working for consulting companies and eventually had assignments with the World Bank. He visited and worked in many countries, mostly in Africa but also in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and many others. In his Colonial Service days he had to spend, by order of his directors, 10 days a month in the field, to learn what the locals are doing and why they are doing it; those of us working directly or indirectly under the influence of Roger Swinnerton, the Director of Agriculture in Kenya, were expected to spend 20 days a month in the field for the same reason. The purpose was that any recommendation to be made to improve yields had to take into account the reason for the ongoing practices, which may not have produced the highest yields in the best season but produced yields in weather conditions that may have been bad that year and also ensured a more or less balanced diet; hence the much-maligned mixed cropping by today's experts which undoubtedly depresses the yield of the cereal but provides muchneeded protein.

His description of the countries he visited were not only of their agricultural practices but all aspects or life, something that can only be acquired by knowing how people live and why they have been doing for the last perhaps hundreds of years what they have been doing. Changes were and are necessary: population increase, new varieties of the traditional crops are being developed, the climate changes, but reason for the traditional practices has not disappeared and must be recognised when changes are recommended. This is something to which most of today's experts do not give enough attention: they tend to advise for maximum yields In good seasons and not yields in not-so-good seasons, which crop varieties and cultural practices that perhaps do not give the possible maximum in good seasons.

The book should be compulsory reading to all would-be advisers on agricultural improvements in developing countries who, necessarily, did not have the 10-days per month exposure over the years to conditions in the field. Rural life in them is governed by average seasons, not the best, and equally, not the worst.

British Empire Book
Andrew S MacDonald
978 0 953 196 51 7


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