This film is held by the BFI (ID: 59482).


Produced to encourage farmers to take the advice of Government Agricultural Officers, the film compares two black farmers. One is keen to improve and listens to the advice of the agricultural officer, while the other is lazy and ignores all advice. The keen one improves his crop, the other's crop remains poor.

The film introduces two poor neighbouring farmers, Panganai and Washoma. Both travel to sell their modest crop of maize, but Panganai is not content, either with his crop or the sledge on which he carries it. Another more successful farmer arrives carrying his harvest on a scotch cart. Panganai vows to 'find a way to get better crops, then I'll have a scotch cart as good as that one'. Panganai and Washoma happen to see a demonstration being given to a group of Africans by a European provincial agriculturist. Washoma shows no interest, but Panganai asks the African agricultural demonstrator, Machiri, to help him.

Machiri visits Panganai's land, after which Panganai sets to work following all of his instructions. Meanwhile Washoma sits drinking, believing that the 'land will look after itself'. Machiri attempts to help a drunken Washoma, but Washoma is not interested - 'you're always telling people how to do things, well you've come to the wrong person this time'. The hard work of Panganai is rewarded while Washoma gets a 'lazy man's reward'. Panganai makes several trips to sell his crop and now buys the much-coveted scotch cart. The commentator explains how different it was last year, before he listened to the provincial agriculturist and the demonstrator. Washoma sets out with 'two sets of poor crops on a clumsy sledge', and passes Panganai and his new scotch cart. The commentator states 'that is the end of the story of the two farmers. Panganai going home with his scotch cart and Washoma still dragging his old sledge off to the store'.



The Central African Film Unit (CAFU) catalogue listed The Two Farmers as its fourth production. The director Stephen Peet explained, in an interview with Kedmon Hungwe, that he developed the idea for the script while working on another film – probably Mujenjo Builds a Bridge – in the agricultural district of Tanda, in Southern Rhodesia. The filming for The Two Farmers also took place here, with Peet using a government-sponsored agricultural demonstration plot in the Chiduku Reserve near Rusape (Hungwe, 1991, 231).

Peet acknowledged that on viewing the film in 1988, he found it ‘appallingly exaggerated’ (Peet had, in the meantime, become an acclaimed maker of BBC television documentaries, particularly associated with the long-running oral history series Yesterday’s Witness) and ‘was of the opinion that the elaborate State-funded system of farming portrayed by the film was an exaggeration of what was attainable by individual peasant farmers’ (Hungwe, 1991, 231). However, Hungwe suggested that the film ‘appears to have been successful with rural audiences’, and Rosaleen Smyth noted that the names of the wise and foolish farmers – Panganai and Washoma – were commonly used ‘to apply, where apposite, to local farmers’ (Smyth, 1983, 142).

Furthermore, Hungwe argued that ‘as a result of the success of The Two Farmers, the CAFU adopted Peet’s script as a guide for many subsequent scripts’ (Hungwe, 1991, 232). George Pearson, the director-in-chief of the Colonial Film Unit, referred to this narrative formula – also used in the previous CAFU production, Zimbani– as ‘the parable of Mr Wise and Mr Foolish’ (Smyth, 1983, 136). James Burns recognised Zimbani and The Two Farmers as ‘typical of the agricultural instruction films’. ‘They contain none of the moral complexities’ he wrote, ‘evident in the film scenarios proposed by Africans. In their place are the simple dichotomies of modern and traditional, cooperative and intransigent, wise and foolish’ (Burns, 2003, 83). This formula was also criticised by an African member of the Gold Coast Film Unit in Colonial Cinema in 1950, as he argued that this ‘mock heroic’ formula was based on the assumption that Africans are ‘uneducated’ and would not understand a more complicated narrative (Colonial Cinema, 1950, 29).

Many of the films followed an established mode of storytelling, but the narrative itself and the message promoted were also largely consistent across the Unit’s work. Rosaleen Smyth argued that ‘Many farming films have variations on one plot; an impoverished farmer gains material prosperity and happiness through joining some government farming scheme’ (Smyth, 1983, 136). Pius Nyambara suggested these films ‘represented a new strategy that the state used to promote a new style of rural life attainable through cultivation’ (Nyambara, 2000, 110). The films were also as, James Burns noted, ‘generally temperance-minded: Mr Foolish characters invariably preferred inebriation to hard work’ (Burns, 2003, 82). This is evident in The Two Farmers as the CAFU catalogue notes that Washoma ‘is content to loaf, to drink and to stay poor, but Panganai wants better things’ (CAFU Catalogue, 1).

The Two Farmers played throughout Southern Rhodesia, but was also screened extensively in Nigeria in 1952 as part of research into rural audiences there. Most of the reports suggested that the audiences – and commentators – struggled to understand the principles on which the demonstrator developed the farm, while others did not see the need for improved techniques, or did not believe that these methods would work on their land. Furthermore, the reports emphasised that the farmers in Nigeria did not have much need or desire for a scotch cart. However, the reports also noted that the local commentator would modify aspects of the story – for example the characters were given names in Yoruba, Hausa and Birom – indicating that these films were often adapted for specific audiences (Morton-Williams, 1952, 32, 102-108).  



In both its narrative format and message, The Two Farmers deploys some of the dominant strategies used by British filmmakers in addressing African audiences. First, the film’s narrative structure – the Mr Wise and Mr Foolish format – used previously in Bekefilm pictures, such as Post Office Savings Bank (1935), and in Colonial Film Unit productions, was now widely adopted by the Central African Film Unit and established as the ideal framework within which to present these instructional messages.

Secondly, the film promoted a message of African development under European supervision. Although European characters are only seen briefly in one scene – in which the European provincial agriculturalist demonstrates the ‘modern’ methods of farming – the voiceover provides a British instructor throughout, and again speaks at, and for, the African characters. At many screenings, a local commentator would have provided the commentary, but the representation of the good and bad farmer is still defined on screen in distinctly British terms.

The film constantly reiterates the value of hard work – ‘you worked well and here is your reward… well done indeed Panganai, you’ve earnt it’. In contrast ‘Washoma got his reward too – a lazy man’s reward’, while drink is used as a signifier of his lack of self-control. The film directly relates the adoption of these British agricultural methods and of these perceived British qualities – hard work and discipline – to success. This success is defined predominantly in financial terms, as Panganai is motivated throughout by a desire for a new cart. Yet, success also serves as a means of social advancement, as Panganai seeks to show off his cart to his neighbours: ‘wait ‘til all my neighbours see it’.

The Two Farmers also seeks to develop a level of responsibility amongst the Africans and to encourage cooperation with the British officers. This is illustrated both by the character of Machiri – an African instructor, supervised by British officials, and administering British policies – and by the examples of the two farmers. Washoma complains to Machiri that ‘you’re always telling people how to do things’, as he illustrates – and ultimately exposes as foolhardiness – a resentment towards state intervention. In contrast, Panganai endorses a message of cooperation between the state and the individual. ‘He’s done his share’, Panganai remarks of the demonstrator, ‘now it’s up to me to do mine’.

Tom Rice (September 2008)


Works Cited

Burns, J. M., Flickering Shadows: Cinema and Identity in Colonial Zimbabwe (Ohio: Ohio University Research in International Studies, 2002).

The Central African Film Unit Catalogue, accessed at the BFI.

‘Central African Film Unit’, Colonial Cinema, September 1949, 27-28.

Hungwe, Kedmon, ‘Southern Rhodesia Propaganda and Education Films for Peasant Farmers, 1948-1955’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1991, 229-241.

Morton-Williams, P., Cinema in Rural Nigeria: A Field Study of the Impact of Fundamental-Education Films on Rural Audiences in Nigeria (Lagos: Federal Information Services, 1952).

Nyambara, Pius S., ‘Colonial Policy and Peasant Cotton Agriculture in Southern Rhodesia, 1904-1953’, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2000, 81-111.

Odunton, G.B., ‘One Step Ahead’, Colonial Cinema, 8, 2 (1950), 29-32.

Smyth, Rosaleen, ‘The Central African Film Unit’s Images of Empire, 1948-1963’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 3, No.2, 1983, 131-147.




Technical Data

Running Time:
18 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
665 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
PEET, Stephen
IZOD, Alan
PEET, Stephen
Production Company
Central African Film Unit



Production Organisations