1887

n Historia - Profits, harvests or public revenue? Divergent interests and guano fertiliser struggles in the Cape Colony; c. 1872-1910

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Abstract

During the first 50 years of its existence, the Cape guano trade was controlled by entrepreneurs who were profit and export orientated. They used their control over certain offshore islands through long-term exploitation leases to fix prices and to manipulate supply to their maximum advantage. Internal divisions, limited financial means and a lack of sophisticated fertiliser knowledge as well as weak farmer organisation, prevented Cape farmers from reversing this situation. Faced with declining soil quality, noxious weeds and decreasing harvests that threatened to scupper their livelihoods, Cape farmers made skilful use of protest, petitioning and pressurising their public representatives and finally succeeded in securing government intervention and access to cheaper and subsidised guano. Fearing their exclusion from the hitherto lucrative trade, guanopreneurs and their political allies resisted this move strongly. The ensuing battle for control of the Cape guano fertiliser market not only saw the last attempts by entrepreneurs to resist state appropriation of the product, but also inadvertently gave guano a small role in the unfolding of political events in the years leading up to the establishment the Union of South Africa.

Tydens die eerste 50 jaar van sy bestaan was die Kaapse ghwano-handel in die hande van wins- en uitvoergedrewe entrepeneurs. Die het deur middel van langtermyn eksploitasie-kontrakte beheer oor nabygeleë eilande uitgeoefen, wat hulle in staat gestel het om pryse vas te stel en die beskikbaarheid van ghwano vir hul eie gewin te reguleer. Onderlinge verdeeldheid, beperkte finansies, onkunde oor bemesting, sowel as gebrekkige samewerking, het aanvanklik gekoördineerde optrede deur die Kaapse boere in die wiele gery. Met die grondgehalte wat egter algaande verswak het, skadelike onkruid en kwynende oeste wat hul brood en botter bedreig het, het Kaapse boere deur middel van die vernuftige gebruik van protes, petisies en druk op hul openbare verteenwoordigers, uiteindelik daarin geslaag om die regering te noop om in te gryp, en sodoende toegang tot goedkoop, gesubsidieerde ghwano verkry. Die "ghwanopreneurs" en hul politieke bondgenote, wie se aandeel in die winsgewende handel daardeur in gedrang gekom het, het dit heftig teengestaan. Die daaropvolgende stryd om beheer oor die Kaapse ghwano bemestingsmark was nie net tekenend van die entrepeneurs se laaste pogings om staatstoe-eiening van die produk te beveg nie, maar het ook 'n klein rolletjie aan ghwano toegeken in die politieke gebeure wat Suid-Afrika se Uniewording voorafgegaan het.

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/content/hist/60/2/EJC183137
2015-01-01
2016-12-04
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