Agricultural Policies in Mainland Tanzania by Andrew Coulson:
Review of African Political Economy, No. 10, Sept. to Dec. 1977
Coulson’s article gives a thorough survey of the vicissitudes in agricultural production policies in the thirty year period 1946-1976. The article also contains some discussion, although with less comprehensive coverage, of agricultural marketing structures over the same period.
In choosing this period for study – a period which covers the last fifteen years of colonial rule and the first fifteen of independent government – Coulson is arguing a basic continuity in the assumptions underlying agricultural policies. Three such assumptions, which seem to me the most important emerging from Coulson’s article, are:
(i) a belief in the necessity for government intervention in agriculture. Coulson argues that this was stimulated by the command economies of World War II and by the acceptance of keynesian economic theories;
(ii) a goal of increasing the agricultural surplus. This has taken either or both the forms of seeking to raise output of export crops, or increasing the production of food crops to supply the non-agricultural population;
(iii) the assumption that in agriculture the initiation and implementation of policy had to be carried out by government officers, because the African population was ignorant and backward.
Coulson describes various forms which agricultural policies assumed against the background of these assumptions. His description is particularly clear for the colonial period, rather less so for the fifteen years after Independence. It is useful to list the main features of successive policies.
Up to the mid 1950’s three different approaches are identified:
(i) encouragement of white settlers who were expected to introduce large-scale ‘modern’ capitalist agriculture;
(ii) the groundnut scheme- intended to produce supplies of oils for Britain by establishing modern, large scale, but state owned estates.
(iii) the ‘Land Development and Soil Conservation Scheme’. This was intended to introduce ‘modern’ methods to African peasant farmers by dint of by-laws and legal sanctions enforcing specific, and very detailed, farming methods.
None of these schemes were long-lived and all failed. The settlement of white farmers met successful resistance by African farmers to the appropriation of land; the groundnut scheme was technically ill-founded; whilst African farmers met the strict control of their farming practices with passive resistance. As Coulson points out, the failures of the latter two policies were not only organisational and political, but also technical. Grounded in a faith in western methods, the techniques invoked were generally wholly inappropriate to Tanzanian, or peasant farmer, conditions.
From the mid 1950’s up to the late 1960’s there was a shift in attention towards those African farmers who individually or collectively appeared likely to develop modern, westernised agriculture. In the last years of colonial government and early years of independence the ‘focal point’ approach channelled advice, equipment and credit towards the more successful and wealthier individual African farmers. The nebulous belief behind this approach was that others would copy the methods of the successful. In fact this approach exacerbated the inequalities in land holding and access to other resources, and appeared likely to lead to a polarisation of the rural population into capitalist farmers and landless wage labourers. Opposition to policies which thus encouraged inequality caused a shift within the same ‘focal point’ approach towards groups of farmers rather than individuals in the post-Independence ‘settlement schemes’. These aimed to re-settle groups of farmers on new land, make available the tools of modern farming and await a transformation in agriculture, which would again trigger imitation by other groups.
Coulson argues that during this period agricultural production did increase. He ascribes this to the emergence of some large scale African farmers and to the expansion of the area of individual peasant farms. He notes the agricultural failure of the settlement schemes; and also argues that the intervention of agricultural ‘experts’ had little to do with the growth of production. As in the previous period, many of the approaches canvassed by the extension service were inappropriate or incorrect, whilst in addition the size of the service meant that few farmers had much direct contact with extension advice in any case.
Since 1967 agricultural policy has again taken a mass, rather than a selective approach, first with the encouragement of ujamaa villages then with the villagisation programme. In both the voluntary formation of ujamaa villages and the wider and compulsory villagisation scheme, emphasis has been placed on the resettlement of population into villages rather than the scattered settlements of individual households and farms, which had been common in many areas.
In discussing this latter phase of ujamaa and villagisation, Coulson deals more with the political and administrative aspects of the policies than with the agricultural. Had he looked in more detail at the production policies which villages are encouraged to follow, he would have seen an extension of several aspects of plans developed, and abandoned earlier. The Ministry of Agriculture, together with aid bodies – notably the World Bank – have sought to expand cash crop production by peasant farmers by encouraging the cultivation of at least one cash crop in each area of the country. This encouragement has ranged from the minimum acreage by-laws mentioned by Coulson to credit and input packages which seek to schedule and direct production of crops which have been chosen for the area by planners and administrators.
Coulson states in a resume of the article that “a general conclusion is that those who controlled the State consistently misunderstood fundamental aspects of peasant agriculture and over-estimated what the use 0f State power could achieve in rural development”. This he certainly shows in the case of policies up to the latest phase. However, he has not been able to show conclusively that in the case of villagisation the State has over-estimated what it ~an achieve, since he has come to no clear conclusion about the State’s goals in villagisation; nor, as he makes clear, are the results of villagisation fully evident in any respect yet, be it political, agricultural, or social.
More generally, Coulson appears to hold doubts on the viability of any government intervention in agriculture. This is suggested by brief references to the success, in ecological terms, of pre-colonial agricultural systems and the repeated reference to the localised successes of the ‘focal point’ approach, where individuals were motivated by ‘the possibility of getting rich’. Since this individualistic approach cannot be compatible with any socialist system, it would be interesting to know whether Coulson perceives any forms of government intervention in agriculture compatible with both socialist aims and success. A quick answer to this might take the form of the need for involvement of farmers in formulating plans and policies. Whilst this broad statement is unexceptionable, there are enormous problems in conceiving, let alone implementing, structures that would involve the mass of farmers in a real, not a nominal, way; and in reconciling the contradiction between an economy in which commerce and industry are dominated by the State and agricultural production by small-scale peasant producers. In the post-Arusha Declaration period, this is maybe the central problem of agricultural policy in Tanzania.
(The reviewer has recently returned from Tanzania, where she was working as an FAO adviser. Ed.)
Tanzania’s Ujamaa Villages: the implementation of a rural development strategy by Dean E. McHenry Jr.: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
Discussion of Tanzania’s rural development policies is an ideological battle ground where the contenders whether seeking to defend Nyerere’s policies or attack them from the left or the right are too often content to collect and present only the evidence that supports their case. The size and diversity of the country make genuine research difficult and expensive and there is a tendency for articles to quote the same references, comments and conclusions. It is not surprising that views on ujamaa villages and villagisation have become polarised and stereotyped. There has been a deplorable absence of hard facts and unbiased analysis.
In marked contrast to most published work, Dean McHenry has provided an invaluable dispassionate study of the context within which the ujamaa village policy was formulated, the methods by which its implementation was attempted, the extent to which the efforts have been successful and the lessons for Tanzania and countries with similar problems.
McHenry undertook most of his research while teaching at Dar es Salaam University and he clearly has a profound basic sympathy for Tanzania and Nyerere’s policies and a wide understanding of the issues. He makes extensive use of published information and speeches, but he has also done his own researches at village level.
The study begins with the necessary reminder that neither the problems identified in the Arusha Declaration, nor the solutions proposed, were new. In ‘Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism’ Nyerere linked the cooperative aspects of traditional African society with his ideas for reviving rural communities. To emphasise the new approach represented by Arusha, no reference was made to the efforts made during the colonial period to resettle and concentrate peasants first as anti-sleeping sickness measures and later to open up new ground and crops. Emphasising new approaches made political sense, but colonial settlement schemes are part of Tanzania’s history remembered by the peasants, even if the lessons had to be relearnt (largely at the peasants’ expense) by a new generation of politicians and administrators. Colonial officials had also to face the practical and moral problems of implementing policies which were not understood, or resisted by those who were supposed to benefit. If the politicians and administrators of independent Tanzania had had the time and inclination to study the recent history of their country, they would have been better prepared to face the problems posed by the vastly more ambitious policies for the creation of ujamaa villages and then total villagisation.
There had been little change in the social and economic conditions nor in the administrative resources available. The new factors were the enhanced powers of the Government and the existence of a national political party and great reliance was placed on the ability of the Party to inspire and mobilise popular support for the new policies. In a detailed examination of the structure of the Party, its membership and operation, McHenry identifies some of weaknesses as an instrument for mass political education. Similarly, he demonstrates that the Government machine was no more effective than its colonial predecessor in establishing genuine popular involvement in decision making.
The ujamaa villages were expected to make possible the provision of basic services to the rural population, increase agricultural production by the introduction of improved farming methods and move society decisively in a socialist direction. The political initiative for this new approa.ch to development in the post-Arusha period was born of frustration at the failure of officials, experts and extension workers to produce any perceptible progress towards rural transformation, stimulate stagnant agricultural production, or deal with the disarray of the cooperatives.
The objective of moving peasants into villages was achieved, but it was not done by political inspiration, nor the complex of material and status incentives, which the Government machine could offer. The mass movement of the reluctant was eventually achieved by force or the threat of force and McHenry plots the shift in policy, resulting from the conflict between ideology and the practical problems of its implementation, by which first the objective of communal work was abandoned and then the way opened for force to be employed. Although the Government never specifically authorised force and denounced cases where it was used in excess, there is no doubt that local politicians and administrators were under pressure to produce results and no guidance was given on the alternative methods which were permissible. McHenry rejects the official defence that force was never policy and that its use was rare; the stories of the occasions when it was used spread rapidly and provided a powerful incentive to those who were resisting other arguments.
The variety of methods used to induce people to move into villages inevitably resulted in a wide range of motivations and confusion of ideas as to what ujamaa entailed. McHenry’s personal research involved collecting information from ujamaa villages in four Regions on how much and what kind of work was being done communally and who participated. The conclusions indicate that a small proportion of food was being produced communally possibly because there was too much risk in leaving such a necessity to a new and untried method. In non-agricultural activities communal work was much more common possibly because it was practical and permissible to enforce participation.
The unresolved question remains why did Tanzania’s leadership expend so much effort on achieving villagisation? They must have known that the provision of the promised basic services could not possibly keep pace with the creation of new villages, thus inevitably producing disillusionment. Implementing the policy strained the Party’s principles, but produced meagre material gains; indeed agricultural output may well have fallen. Was it simply a method of ensuring greater Party and Government control over the peasants, or are there long term gains still to come?
As well as presenting a coherent and carefully documented account of Tanzania’s rural development policies, McHenry’s book is an invaluable work of reference containing more than 60 tables of informaticn. Anyone engaged in teaching the politics or economics of Tanzania should ensure that their students do not see this book first unless they are already certain that they are quite clear on the composition of the National Conference, National Executive Committee and Central Committee, or are quite familiar with ‘number of inhabitants per agricultural officer by Regions and years’.
One word of warning. Skip the first chapter, which contains a valiant attempt to define ‘development’, ‘policy’ and ‘implementation’, but becomes hopelessly bogged down in statements such as: ‘Other ends which are sometimes used to define this non-choice orientated conceptualisation of development include …’. Presumably this is for the benefit of his sponsors, because once McHenry actually begins writing about Tanzania he presents the complexity of facts and opinions with splendid clarity.
A Modern History of Tanganyika by John Iliffe: Cambridge University Press, African Studies Series No. 25, 1979, Paperback f7-95. 616 pp.
All friends of Tanzania will welcome the appearance of John Iliffe’s great work: ‘A Modern History of Tanganyika’. This book was researched during the 1960’s when John Iliffe taught at the University of Dar es Salaam and was written in the 1970’s while he was teaching at the University of Cambridge. It is a fundamental contribution not only to the history of Tanganyika but also to the overall understanding of the history of Africa. It will undoubtedly go down as one of the great publications of this decade. The first quarter of the book deals with the nineteenth century and with the crisis of the colonial advent and the coincidental ecological catastrophe of the early twentieth century. The remaining 450 pages are concerned with the twentieth century up till 1961. The Bulletin hopes to carry a full review in its next number. Meanwhile at under £8 for the paper back this must surely be one of the best buys on any member’s shopping list.