Technology and Ecology in the Karoo: A Century of Windmills, Wire and Changing Farming Practice
Author: Sean Archer
Publication: Journal of Southern African Studies , Volume 26, Issue 4
Windmills and wire fencing entered the farming practices of the north-eastern Karoo in the final decades of the nineteenth century. A new grazing system came into being comprising artificial water sources and camps in which sheep and other livestock ranged freely. By the late 1920s this had displaced the old shepherding-plus-kraaling arrangements. At the time, the coming of the new methods was predicted to raise stocking rates, improve veld cover and lessen soil erosion. This paper asks what the ecological consequences have been when viewed historically. Information is drawn from available sources, and the replies are summarised of current farmers and other land resource managers in the Sneeuberg in response to questions about the impact of the camp system. Recent debates about alternative models of rangeland ecology are surveyed as an essential preliminary to the construction of historical hypotheses. Finally, more far-reaching and demanding questions on environmental change in the Karoo are posed for future research work.