K. R. S. Morris and Tsetse Eradication in the Gold Coast, 1928-51

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article investigates the anti-tsetse fly work of colonial entomologist K. R. S. Morris in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast between 1928 and 1951. Morris's main programme was directed at the Lawra District of the north-west, where he claimed to have eliminated the tsetse population and trypanosomiasis by the end of his tenure. This achievement allowed farmers to move into the formerly infested land and reclaim the area for agricultural development. As an added benefit, Morris also claimed, eliminating tsetse flies in the Lawra District reduced the incidence of sleeping sickness in the main market towns of north-west Ashanti. The article charts Morris's work, which is historically significant for a number of reasons. First, it reveals much about the connection between anti-tsetse work and colonial development doctrine in northern Ghana. Second, it highlights the importance of studying colonial practices. Morris's clearing programme appears to have worked, but it was almost certainly based on faulty theories of tsetse ecology. In this sense, the story of anti-tsetse work in the Northern Territories shows that we might learn as much from colonial practices as from colonial ideologies.

RESUME

Cet article examine les travaux menes par l'entomologiste colonial K. R. S. Morris pour lutter contre la mouche tse-tse dans les Territoires du Nord de la Cote de l'Or entre 1928 et 1951. Le principal programme de recherche de Morris ciblait le district de Lawra, au nord-ouest, ou il pretend avoir elimine la population tse-tse et la trypanosomiase au terme de ses travaux. Ce faisant, il a permis aux paysans de s'installer sur ces terres autrefois infestees et de les rendre cultivables. D'autre part, Morris affirmait egalement que l'eradication de la mouche tse-tse dans le district de Lawra avait diminue l'incidence de la maladie du sommeil dans les principales villes de marches du nord-ouest de la region Ashanti. Cet article retrace les travaux de Morris, qui revetent une importance historique plusieurs titres. D'abord, ils nous renseignent sur la relation entre la lutte anti-tse-tse et la doctrine du developpement colonial dans le nord du Ghana. Ensuite, ils soulignent l'interet d'etudier les pratiques coloniales. Le programme d'eradication de Morris semble avoir reussi, mais il reposait presque certainement sur des theories erronees de l'ecologie de la mouche tse-tse. Dans ce sens, le recit des travaux de lutte anti-tse-tse dans les Territoires du Nord montre que l'on peut apprendre autant des pratiques coloniales que des ideologies coloniales.

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In 1951, colonial entomologist K. R. S. Morris made the remarkable claim that he had eliminated trypanosomiasis from the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. The claim came at the peak of Morris's work, which stretched back to 1928 when he arrived in the colony fresh from his training at the Royal College of Science and the Imperial College of Science and Technology. Retrenched in 1931, Morris returned to the Gold Coast in 1937 to take up the position of Medical Entomologist. (1) The colonial administration supported Morris fully between 1937 and 1950, driven by the fear that sleeping sickness threatened the colony's labour supply and the agricultural potential of the Northern Territories. Morris protested the economic motivation of the colonial administration, but he threw himself into his work and developed the colony's first comprehensive anti-trypanosomiasis programme. The project attacked the disease by eliminating the tsetse population through bush clearing and the resettlement of farming communities in the cleared areas to protect against re-invasion. Focusing on the north-western corner of the Northern Territories, by 1950 Morris's team had resettled two thousand farmers and, he claimed, opened up six thousand acres of farmland.

Morris's activities built on a well-established pedigree of colonial work on trypanosomiasis. …

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