These stories are anecdotes of personal, first-hand experiences of conservation and development practices and initiatives in east, central and southern Africa over a period of the last seventy years. There are humorous incidents, often at the author’s expense. They are a tragi-comedy since there are serious implications for the management of natural resources and the conservation of indigenous forests.
The author is a survivor of one of the biggest development failures undertaken by the British, known as the Groundnut Scheme in Tanganyika, where he was taken as a child by his parents. Later he moved to Kenya where his father worked for the East African Railways. This magnificent railway system opened up the country to development, though the initial intent of what was first called the Uganda Railway was to seize political control of the interior. These colonial projects were large-scale and top-down and not primarily for the benefit of the local population or the environment.
In some ways conservation and development initiatives have changed for the better but there are many obstacles, such as a lack of political will, corruption and burgeoning populations leading to resource conflicts. This has hampered the sustainable management of the environment and indigenous forests. From the author’s personal experiences of small-scale initiatives, the bottom-up approach has more promise. The challenge is to rapidly scale these up as there is a drastic need for urgent action. Climate change leaves little room for further procrastination.