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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Historical perspectives on pre-colonial irrigation in southern Africa
Author:Tempelhoff, Johann W.N.ISNI
Periodical:African Historical Review
Geographic terms:South Africa
indigenous technology
precolonial period
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17532520802249506
Abstract:One of the basic areas of interaction between water as natural resource and human societies as agents of cultural transformation is the technology of irrigation. In Africa at least 66 percent of the available water is used for purposes of irrigation. For more than 4000 years irrigation has secured food supplies for humans on a continent that is noted for its relative shortage of sufficient natural water supplies. There is a remarkable hidden power of water in the history of southern Africa. This is particularly the case when we consider the development of early irrigation technologies of Iron Age farmers. The small irrigation furrow of the subsistence farmer was just as important to an insular community of Bantu-speaking people in precolonial times, as is the sophisticated irrigation technology in present-day South Africa. Currently there is a paucity of information about precolonial indigenous irrigation technology. This can be ascribed to a number of factors of which the invasion of modern Western traditions in the nineteenth century is perhaps the most important. A number of other factors for the apparent blind-spot is also presented in this study. In southern Africa there are traces of indigenous precolonial irrigation works at sites such as Nyanga in Zimbabwe; the Limpopo River Valley; Mpumalanga; and South Africa's eastern Highveld. Reference is also made to specific strategies of irrigation used by Iron Age communities, prior to the advent of a colonial presence. Finally, attention is drawn to precolonial land tenure and State formation against the backdrop of Wittfogel's theories on hydraulic society. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]