Bushenyi District in southwestern Uganda has experienced significant agricultural change in the past two decades (fig. 2.1). This change must be understood within the context of the even greater and ongoing transformation in agriculture created by the colonial political economy since 1900. The most important changes have been the closing of the land frontier due to increasing population growth and changes in land-tenure policies and the incapacity of the state to stimulate production of export crops and maintain basic levels of political security and economic certainty. Together these factors poise the district on the edge of significant changes in agricultural practices that will require more effective use of the land in order to feed its inhabitants and to earn them adequate incomes. But few postindependence changes in production techniques, use of labor, or cropping intensity appear to have been widely adopted in the district thus far.
Population pressure on the land has turned a district considered lightly populated at independence into one in which the sons of many poor farmers will not inherit enough land to grow crops sufficient to feed their families. Nor will they be able to move onto unused public land, the conventional solution to this problem in both the precolonial and colonial periods. Since the 1960s, changes in land tenure and rapidly rising land values have caused all the remaining public land to be fenced and converted into private farms.
The change in relations between the state and farmers has been equally dramatic. The state has always attempted to promote and control the production of export crops. During the colonial and early independence periods, government officials maintained this vital function by creating close contacts with farmers through by-laws, taxes, cooperatives, extension advice, provision of seeds, and production subsidies. The