The Relative Failure of German Togoland as a Model Cotton Colony
J. Otto Pohl and Felix Longi
History Department, University of Ghana, Legon
The Germans established the colony of Togoland for the purposes of economic exploitation. It provided raw materials for German commercial interests. In particular the German colonial administration sought to cultivate cotton in Togoland for Germany’s textile industry. The Germans sought to encourage the Togoland natives to grow cotton instead of food on their own small holdings. The German colonial authorities aimed to make cotton growing a Volkskultur. This contrasted with the earlier failed attempt to establish cotton plantations based upon wage labor in German East Africa. The creation of commercial cotton growing in Togoland on this basis took place under the direction of the colonial state. A key component in this policy was the founding of a model farm and later an agricultural school by African American experts from the Tuskegee Institute. This innovation initially demonstrated great potential in fulfilling the economic goals of the German colonial administration in Togoland.
During the 30 years of its existence German Togoland was commonly referred to as the “model colony.” Togoland consistently ran balanced budgets and required far fewer military resources than German East Africa or German Southwest Africa to control. While the success of the colony from the point of view of German imperialists is generally accepted by most scholars there has been considerable historical debate as to the overall treatment of the native population. Yet an examination of cotton cultivation in German Togoland reveals that it fell far short of providing a replacement for US cotton. Yields stagnated in 1909 and by World War I, all of Germany’s colonies in Africa and the Pacific only provided 0.5% of its cotton needs. Unlike British India or Turkestan in the Russian Empire, Germany failed to make Togoland into a major source of cotton for its textile industry.
This paper will examine the reasons why the colonial administration failed to make Togoland a major supplier of cotton to Germany’s textile industry. In particular it will take a comparative approach and look at the success of Russia in transforming Central Asia into the primary source of raw cotton for its textile plants during the same years Germany’s efforts in Togoland failed. It will also look at the later successes by the British Cotton Growers’ Association in the areas of Togoland annexed to the Gold Coast. Both external and internal factors will be looked at to determine these causes.