CRC TRR 228 Project A02

Past Futures

Micro-histories of rural development in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area

A02 Past Future


A02 explores the histories of future-making in the borderlands of the KAZA region to understand the processes of development and political change in this rural landscape.

Project Summary

Past Futures investigates the history of ‘future-making’ in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA), considering the history of rural development and the history of political schemes devised for the administration and control of the KAZA region. These histories have been deeply contested with KAZA, as rival external actors have sought to impose their own visions of the future upon the peoples of the KAZA, and as both movements of colonization and secessionism have challenged the sovereignty of the region. The project adopts a methodology that mixes archival research with the collection and analysis of oral histories.

Rural development programmes have been a prominent feature in the political economy of the region of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA) since the 1950s, although their character, extent, and aims have varied enormously. Through their policies for development, colonial and then post-colonial governments in this region sought to redefine patterns of land use, dictate the functioning of local social ecologies, and drive local thinking about future-making. The region has also been subject to ambitious political schemes to possess or redefine its sovereignty – involving secessionism, empire-building and radical schemes of ‘future-making’.Past Futures will consider what impact the history of past political and economic development interventions now has upon the reception of and engagement with current initiatives in the region – and the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA) that now binds five countries together in a shared scheme for land management and conservation development. Past, present, and future are linked through community experience of these past interventions: to know what future the rural communities of the KAZA imagine for themselves today, we must understand how their historical experience of past development has shaped their expectations. The project will draw upon case studies from Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, covering the period from 1890 to the present.

Research Regions: KAZA TFCA

Past Futures investigates the history of ‘future-making’ in KAZA, considering the history of rural development and the history of political schemes devised for the administration and control of the KAZA region. These histories have been deeply contested within KAZA, as rival external actors have sought to impose their own visions of the future upon the peoples of KAZA alongside challenges to the sovereignty of the region from movements of both colonization and secessionism. The project adopts a methodology that mixes archival research with the collection of oral histories, with a strongly critical approach being taken toward both.

  • In how far is development in KAZA defined by local demands, or shaped by external supply? To what extent have local communities here got the development they wanted? And to what extent have they appropriated this development?


  • Have the benefits of development allowed people to make better futures? Who have been the beneficiaries of rural development interventions, and of the exercises in political ‘future-making’ in KAZA?
  • Archival Research
  • Interviews with prominent community members & (former) government officials
  • Oral histories

The Kilombero valley region has been the stage for a far greater number of development visions than we had previously realised. Most of these were state- or capital-led and many either ultimately unrealized or unsuccessful. This project traces these successive waves of investigations, plans, and trials – indeed, acts of ‘future making’ – to better understand how the valley was viewed and understood by those who sought to impose development from above, and how this was met by those whose roots had long been planted in the valley soil. The project argues that the valley’s ecology was often misunderstood, and its capacity for large-scale agricultural production was frequently overestimated. The result is that we can trace the same assumptions, the same challenges, and the same mistakes across an entire century. The project concludes by assessing how this history has shaped the valley of today; and, while some projects can be said to be ‘successful’, what scope is there for history to repeat itself in the future?

May 2018

Launch of the project (Nairobi)
August 2018 & April - June 2019
Field data collection
May 2019
Presentation, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
June 2019
Presentation at ECAS conference, Edinburgh
July – October 2019
Field data collection
Data analysis and publication preparation
November 2020
Presentation, Global History Africa@Warwick webinar
January 2021
Presentation, CRC Jour fixe
August 2021
Thesis submission
Launch of second phase
September 2022
Presentation at CRC TRR 228 second phase launch in Windhoek, Namibia
October 2022
'Bringing Research Home' dissemination grant by the British Institute in Eastern Africa (Nairobi) awarded to Dr. Jonathan Jackson (A02) to return to the sites of his research and present findings from phase 1.0 to the communities with whom he worked.


Historical studies of KAZA provide an important foundation and background to the wider work of the CRC in this region, providing important context and continuity. The focus on ‘future-making’ also places Past Futures at the very heart of the concerns of the CRC, complementing and enhancing the work of projects in other disciplines, including Anthropology and Geography. This is made effective by the combination of political ecology and political economy approaches in the work of Past Futures, enabled through extensive archival research, and the collection of oral histories within the KAZA region.

18 January 2024.   David Anderson will present a seminar onSouth African imperialism and Caprivi’, at the African Studies Centre, Leiden University, The Netherlands.


In December 2023, David Anderson and Kyle Melles will undertake archival research at the South African National Archive in Pretoria, and at the South African Defence Archive in Irene.


In December 2023, Jono Jackson will undertake archival and field research in Zambia.


7-8 December 2023.  David Anderson will participate in a research workshop, at the University of Jena, on 'Emergency Mindsets: On the History of States of Exception’.  He will present a paper entitled The Evolving Arts of Emergency Powers under British Rule, 1919-1998.


3 November 2023.  The Past Futures project will host a Work-in-Progress Workshop on the theme of 'Past Futures: New Histories from Southern Africa'.  To be held at the Wolfson Research Exchange, in the Main Library at the University of Warwick, from 10.30 am to 6 pm, on Friday 3 November, this workshop will feature presentations from all of the project team, alongside other invited speakers who will include Simukai Chigudu, Miles Tendi, Diana Rodriguez Cala and Romi Nghitevelekwa.


20 October 2023. Luregn Lengennhager and David Anderson will both participate in the 10th Annual 'Researching Namibia Day', hosted by the Basler Afrika Bibliographien, in Basel, Switzerland. Anderson will present a paper on 'The politics of decolonization and the future of Caprivi Zipfel, c.1956-66'.


From late September through October Jono Jackson will undertake archival research in Windhoek, Lusaka and Livingstone, and will conduct fieldwork around Katima Mulilo and in Barotseland.


Agade, K. M., Anderson, D., Lugusa, K., & Owino, E. A. 2022. Water Governance, Institutions and Conflicts in the Maasai Rangelands. The Journal of Environment & Development, 31(4), 395–420. DOI

Jackson, J.M. 2022. ‘Coercion and Dissent: Sleeping Sickness ‘Concentrations’ and the Politics of Colonial Authority in Ulanga, Tanganyika‘, The Journal of African History, pp. 1-18. Full text

Jackson, J.M. 2021. ‘Off to Sugar Valley: The Kilombero Settlement Scheme and Nyerere’s People, 1959-69’ ‘. Journal of Eastern African Studies. DOI

Jackson, J. M., & Ching’ota, F. 2023. Maono ya Bonde la Kilombero, Tanzania: Historia za Maendeleo Yake [Visions for Kilombero Valley, Tanzania: Histories of Its Development]. Utafiti, 18(2), 160-177. DOI

Chuhila, M.J. 2019. ‘Agrarian change and rural transformation in Tanzania: Ismani 1940 – 2010.’ UTAFITI: Journal of African Perspectives, Volume 14, Number 1, PP 1-23. Link

Chuhila, M.J. 2019. ‘African Environmental History: East African Progress, 1970s to the present ‘ Tanzania Zamani, Volume 11, Number 1, PP 1-29.

Minja, E., Chuhila, M.J., 2022. Ujamaa in the Kilombero Valley: Msolwa and Signali Villages as Symbols of a National Project, ca. 1967 – 1990s. Tanzania Zamani, Vol 14, No 1. Full Text

Project News

Kilombero Valley in Tanzania

Francis Ching’ota and Jonathan Jackson on Broadening Participation in Research Through Building Sustainable Relationships and Disseminating Knowledge

In their latest publication titled “Maono ya Bonde la Kilombero, Tanzania: Historia za Maendeleo Yake”, Francis Ching’ota, an Assistant Lecturer from the National Institute of ...
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Video Lecture: Women Missionaries and Colonial Silences in Kenya’s Female “Circumcision” Controversy, 1906-30 – David Anderson

David Anderson, Project A02 “Past Futures” gave a presentation as part of the Faculty Lecture Series on 26 November 2022. Find the full video lecture ...
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poster of david anderson presentaiton on the contest for caprivi

Online Lecture: The Contest for Caprivi: Tshekedi Khama & Bechuanaland’s Bid for Control – David Anderson

Wed | June 21, 2023 | 17:30 CEST Join us for 9th episode of Ko Isong public lecture organised by The Botswana Society: Click here ...
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A cover image with the logo of the crc future rural africa

Podcast: Whose History? The ‘Migrated Archive’ and Britain’s Colonial Past with David Anderson

David Anderson, Project A02 Past Futures   An online lecture as part of the Out of the Ashes Lecture Series, with David M Anderson Professor ...
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The Logo of ECAS Conference 2023

CRC-TRR Future Rural Africa at ECAS 2023

As ECAS 2023 is set to begin in Cologne on May 31, we are not only thrilled to announce that the CRC Future Rural Africa ...
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Team Members A02

Profil Anderson

Prof. Dr. David M. Anderson

University of Warwick

kayla brown

Kayla Brown

University of Warwick

Jonathan jackson portrait

Dr. Jonathan M. Jackson

University of Cologne

UniBasel, Gesellschaftswissenschaft, MA, Portraits, Luregn Lenggenhager, ZASB,

Dr. Luregn Lenggenhager

University of Cologne

CRC Logo tranparent

Dr. Kletus Likuwa

University of Namibia

kyle melles

Kyle Melles

University of Warwick

Sishuwa Sishuwa

Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa

Stellenbosch University

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