The ‘Guardian’ of 5 July 1980 carried a report of an F.A.O. study which estimates that the current harvest is 40% below normal and will provide only 25% of the maize required to feed the country. A shortfall of 289,000 tonnes must be imported adding to Tanzania’s foreign exchange debts.

The last time Tanzania was forced to make substantial imports of food was in 1973 and 74. The causes of that crisis are still being disputed and the arguments have an immediate relevance to the current situation.

The following reviews are concerned with aspects of the debate on Tanzania’s rural and agricultural policies.

By Michael F. Lofchie – Journal of Modern African Studies 16/3 (1978)

Comments on Lofchie’s article by Philip Raikes (Centre for Development Research, Copenhagen). Journal of Modern African Studies 17/2 (June 1979)

and John Briggs (University of Glasgow). Journal of Modern African Studies 17/4 (December 1979).

When a country like Tanzania with an economy almost entirely dependent on agriculture has to import large amounts of grain to feed her population as she did between 1974 and 1976 it is essential that the cause of the problem be clearly established. This, however, is proving difficult. The reasons for changes in agricultural output are rarely simple and interpretations of events in Tanzania tend to be influenced by the writer’s political ideology.

There were three major influences on Tanzania’s agricultural production during the early 70’s: the vil1agisation programme, Government pricing policy and the drought of 1973 and 1974. The key questions are what was the relative importance of these factors and was any one decisive? At the time the Tanzanian Government maintained that the disastrous harvests and consequent economic crisis were due to the widespread failure of the rains for two successive years. More recent research suggests that the drought may have come on top of what was already a substantial reduction in planting of food crops.

Michael Lofchie (Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles) is in no doubt that what he refers to as Tanzania’s policy of ‘rural collectivisation’ was the major cause of the slump in agricultural production. He argues that the policy failed to gain general acceptance among the great majority of the peasants and that they had to be coerced into moving to villages where they were unable or unwilling to produce a surplus of food for the urban areas:

‘The years of plummeting production and skyrocketing imports coincided precisely with the period of intense col1ectivisation. Though the major import crisis did not occur until 1974/75 Tanzania had to purchase large amounts of grain in each of the two preceding years.’

‘It is possible that some peasants deliberately lowered their production of maize, or withheld it from the official markets as a form of deliberate political protest… This form of protest should be understood as one of the factors which induced T.A.N.U. to forego the collective features of villagisation.’

and he concluded his article:

‘… some Tanzanian leaders may still not understand that the agrarian crisis of 1974/75 was partially rooted in the peasantry’s unwillingness to produce under socialist conditions, and not in any general inability or disinclination to produce an agricultural surplus.’

Articles in learned journals may be actually read by comparatively few but their influence can be estensive as second and third hand versions become established as ‘fact’. The challenges to Lofchie’s version from both Raikes and Briggs are to be welcomed and deserve equal publicity.

Writing from different standpoints (Raikes is a Marxist) both make the point that Lofchie’s use of the emotive term ‘collectivisation’ to describe Tanzania’s rural policy from 1967 to 1974 is highly misleading. Lofchie either does not appreciate or ignores the distinctions between the voluntary movement into cooperative production after the Arusha Declaration, the speeding up of this process under Party and Government encouragement between 1970 and 1973 and the change of policy to concentration of peasants into non-cooperative development villages after 1973. There is a crucial error in Lofchie’s account of the sequence of events; he dates the policy change from cooperative farming to villagisation as ‘the fall of 74′ i.e. when the food shortage was already apparent. In fact this decision was taken by the Party the previous year before the food shortage began.

Research into levels of peasant production suggests that there is a keen awareness of potential return and that production by peasants is very responsive to changes in real price. In Tanzania maize prices had been declining up to 1974 since there had been surplus in several years which had been exported at a loss; there was, therefore pressure to encourage the production of alternative crops which could be exported profitably.

Prices were also being depressed by the administrative costs of state trading and marketing cooperatives and the ability and incentive to produce were reduced by shortages of consumer goods, fertiliser and tools.

The Party resolution on villagisation plus the stories about how it was being implemented produced a state of great uncertainty among peasants who naturally responded by planting only for their family needs. The moves into villages were not planned to take account of harvests, some crops were destroyed, some people were moved too far to be able to return to tend or h8rvest the crop they had planted. The construction of homes in the new villages reduced the time and labour available for new planting. Some of the new villages were not well sited and there would h8ve been none of the knowledge of local soils and climate which peasants acquire by years of hard experience. Some people were also moved more than once and this possibility was a further disincentive to plant more than the minimum th0ught necessary for survival.

So the drought came in years when planting was only intended to meet family needs. Usually a poor harvest means that there is no surplus to be marketed but poor harvest from low planting meant that there was not even enough to feed the family hence the need for imports and relief food.

The implication of the Raikes and Briggs analysis might be that once the new villages have become established and given suitable prices and reasonable rains Tanzania will be able to feed itself. In fact, Raikes, like Lofchie, but for totally different reasons, doubts whether the civil service and Government will learn what he sees as the right lesson which is the need to transfer real power to the villages

…those who assist from the outside must seek to develop among the villagers the idea that if they are united they can increase not only their welfare through production but also their political strength.’

The ability of the new villages to produce sufficient food for themselves and the urban areas as well as export crops to finance development also depends on a further factor which the political scientists have largely overlo0ked, the ecological effects of villagisation.

Prior to vi11agisation there was a relationship between settlement patterns and the type of agriculture which the land and c1imate would support. At the extremes the pastoral, nomadic Masai moving in response to the availability of pasture and water and the Chagga with permanent homesteads made possible by fertile soil and constant water from furrows. Over much of mainland Tanzania the size of village or hut clusters depended on how long the land had to be left fallow before it could be re-cleared and cultivated, the longer the period the more scattered the population. The relationship could be disrupted by other factors, for example in her book reviewed elsewhere in this Bulletin, Michaela von Freyhold argues that the population of Handeni was over dispersed as a result of the rinderpest epidemic of the late 19th. century and unable to obtain the best use of the land as a result of this historical catastrophe.

Accounts of the implementation of the villagisation programme refer to the speed of the operation, which frequently left inadequate time for planning- even if the administrative and agricultural skills had been available. This speed and the poor planning are the likely causes of many of the mistakes over the location and size of the new vi1lages. There are similar references to villages being sited on unsuitable land in the Articles by P.L.Raikes and Andrew Coulson in the Review of African Political Economy No.3 and in the first hand account by Juma Mwapachu in The African Review Vol. 6/1.

Adolpho Mascarenhas, Director of the Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use Planning, University of Dar es Salaam, writing in ‘After Vi1lagisation – What?’ (his contribution to ‘Towards Socialism in Tanzania’) describes the variation in average size of new village populations as ‘startling’ – from over 25O families in Shinyanga to just over 500 in Morogoro and Pwani. There is no apparent relation between these variations and the agricultural quality of the land on which the villages were sited. Indeed, the figure of 250 families (about 1,250 people), the official minimum seems to have been calculated to provide a population for which it is economic to provide a school and other services rather than having any re1evance to the capacity of land to support that number with the knowledge and tools they are likely to have available.

Helge Kjekshus (‘The Tanzanian Villagisation Policy: Implementation Lesson and Ecological Dimensions’, Canadian Journal of African Studies X1/2), claims ‘it is doubtful whether the change of settlement pattern is consistent with the fundamental requirements for economic development in the Tanzanian ecology.’

This view would surely be shared by anyone who has seen the very large new settlements strung along the Iringa/Dodoma road in concentrations which seemed to preclude the possibility of the inhabitants being involved in any form of viable agriculture.

Mascarenhas gives only very guarded comments in his less than half page on ‘implications of size of villages’ but he does refer to the need for care in fragile environments where land must be frequently rotated and ‘consequently there is a village size beyond which the villagers would waste too much effort getting to and from their fields.’ Later in the same article discussing the problems arising in the villagisation programme Mascerenhas lists along with the potential advantages of villagisation the immediate risks ‘of hazards such as disease, fire and water contamination: ‘Longer term problems will depend on the nature of the particular village site, a sudden concentration of population means a demand for wood for houses and fuel which destroys the trees around the new village, similarly livestock can exhaust the immediate grass cover ‘in such situations villages are rapidly surrounded by barren land that will be quickly eroded by rains’; and later ‘unless it is accompanied by a successful effort to introduce agricultural practices that will be more appropriate to the more dense and permanent cultivation … villagisation may even lead to declining productivity’.

There is some evidence that at the official level there is some awareness of the need for positive conservation measures to offset the impact of larger concentrations of people and animals. In ‘The Arusha Declaration – 10 Years After’ Julius Nyerere commends those villages which had planted trees and there are reports that this practice is to be encouraged nationally. Discussions are beginning on the next mass radio education campaign which could be on environmental protection and conservation.

If the size or site of a village is unsuitable the effects on its agricultural land and output are likely to begin to show after four or five years. The thousands of villages established between 1970 and 1975 are now facing the test of ecological viability.


The following review argues that the political explanations for the failure of ujamaa commonly advanced are misleading and offers prima facie evidence from one Region to show that ujamaa is there evolving in a direction that should prove beneficial and productive.

UJAMAA VILLAGES IN TANZANIA – Analysis of a social experiment
by Michaela von Freyhold. London Heinemann, 1979. £3.95.

Twelve or thirteen years ago world-wide interest was aroused by the pioneering efforts of groups of Tanzanians to create new rural communities based on principles of consent, self-reliance, equality and individual responsibility for the common good. Originally, the impetus towards ‘ujamaa’, as the new way of life was called, was sustained by the enthusiasm and conviction of its practitioners. Widespread dissemination of ‘ujamaa’ depended on the manifest success of these pioneering efforts in providing an attractive way of living, a shield against the recurring hazards of the natural environment and a marked increase in material prosperity.

That the hopes of the pioneers, at least in the form in which ujamaa was originally conceived, have remained largely unfulfilled is now a matter of history. The reasons for this misadventure have been sedulously explored by numerous scholars. Were the impediments to success the emergence of political obstacles, or was the psychological leap forward greater than the average peasant could comprehend or accomplish, or were the technical advantages of cooperative production too modest to provide the necessary unquestionable proof of superiority? It was questions like these that have been posed and the general verdict has not been encouraging.

The book by Professor von Freyhold can be counted among the most serious, the most informative and the most perceptive of the recent accounts that have appeared on this subject. Based on field research in the Handeni District of Tanga Region and a study of more than 100 reports on ujamaa villages throughout Tanzania, Professor von Freyhold has reached sombre conclusions about both the success hitherto of Tanzania’s ujamaa experiment and its future prospects. It is not an unsympathetic study. She speaks of the gratitude to the villagers of her team, who ‘shared their houses, their food and their thoughts’ and her regret that they ‘could not make a more practical and constructive contribution’. Nevertheless, the author felt bound to conclude that the reasons for failure were not attributable to any lack of technical advantage that could be secured by communal enterprises, but to the absence of motivation and a political will to make this mode of production succeed. She sees this mood among the villagers as the result of the failure of the ruling party, TANU (now CCM), to support poor and middle peasants against an authoritarian bureaucracy and the failure of the bureaucracy to see to it that technical officers served the villages loyally and intelligently. Repeated attempts at compulsion by the bureaucracy on colonial lines, official interference with incipient local initiatives and government assumptions of superior wisdom had, she feels, destroyed faith in the possibilities of democratic communal enterprise, given positive encouragement to individualist attitudes and, in some places, to the emergence of a petty capitalist or ‘kulak’ class. These developments are described and documented at considerable length in the main part of this book devoted to ‘General Analysis’.

On the author’s assumptions, it is difficult to find fault with the main diagnosis of the failures of ujamaa, notwithstanding some generalisations that seem unsupported by the evidence. For instance, speaking of the former village development committees, Professor von Freyhold maintains that ‘in practice, those ten-cell leaders who attended these meetings were usually immediate neighbours of the village executive officer and wealthier peasants who expected that contacts with officialdom might he of some use to them’. The reference on which this generalisation is based is found in a report of research in three villages in the Mwanza Region. But leaving aside such risky conclusions, the evidence as presented leaves little room for doubt about the general truth of the claim that ‘the creative potential of the peasantry remained submerged under kulak and bureaucratic hegemony’, however much this diagnosis requires to be modified in the circumstances of particular areas.

However, in spite of the painstaking and careful analysis, there are important respects in which I believe the interpretation falls short and as a result fails to provide a reliable guide to the future prospects of ujamaa. I do not feel that Professor von Freyhold has adequately assessed the psychological and moral problems of regional administration and I believe, on the contrary, that she has appeared to accept the general validity of a stereotype, which is unsatisfactory even for the colonial district officer. It is unfair and misleading to regard the activities of a bureaucracy as being mainly motivated by the conscious or unconscious protection of their own class interests. Professional skill, insight and esprit-de-corps also deeply influence official behaviour, often in a direction that has little recognisable connection with self-interest. The problem is not primarily that of neutralising the class aspirations of the bureaucrats, but of increasing official awareness of the attitudes they must adopt and the actions they must take in fulfilment of their professional role.

Two influences can be seen to have impaired the official capacity wisely and disinterestedly to fulfil the tasks set before them in the villages. First, both in time and importance is the continuing influence of the colonial myth that the proper modus operandi of an official is to assert his authority and to order people around. The word ‘myth’ is appropriate, because it is not always the facts about colonial officialdom that have been influential in forming the stereotype which ignores the service of many wise and enlightened colonial officers, who to this day have remained staunch friends and supporters of independent Tanzania and who regarded their service as a preparation for that outcome. Nevertheless, there were sufficient colonial officials of a more thoughtless and arbitrary stamp whose handling of shifting agrarian and settlement policies certainly lent colour to the stereotype and whose actions laid bare the irresponsible nature of colonial power.

This inherited view of the work of administration persisted for some time. It was not at first perceived that a very different mode of administration was needed in independent Tanzania. The problem was intensified and prolonged by the rapid increase of the official class after Independence and the promotion of inexperienced officers to commanding positions as a result of the ‘localisation’ of posts, whose own initial insecurity often prompted recourse to arbitrary action and impatience with divergent opinions. The kind of administrative finesse needed to deal constructively with the spontaneous ujamaa communities called for a degree of maturity, based for the most part on long experience, which at the time was in very short supply.

It is important to understand the delicacy of the task which often confronted regional officers in the villages and the sophistication needed for a proper response to it. In essence, this consisted in creatively fusing the spontaneous aspirations of the villagers with national aims and the knowledge and resources of the bureaucracy, in such a way as to encourage village self-determination. There is little doubt that in the early seventies the importance and difficulty of this task was lost on many of the officers entrusted with the implementation of policies of ‘ujamaa’ and ‘kujitegemea’. Moreover, as government intervention grew from the time of Presidential Circular No.1 and climaxed with the villagisation programme, the officials were in an increasingly impossible situation. To expect them to encourage spontaneity in ujamaa terms, while at the same time enforcing villagisation, was asking for the unattainable. In the end, it was villagisation that largely succeeded, while ujamaa was seriously undermined.

The second adverse influence was a growing disequilibrium between unity and diversity in Tanzania. Like the initially limited professional capacity of the administration, this development was an inevitable concomitant of the early years of independence. In common with other new African states, Tanzania faced the problem of creating a sense of nationhood in an area artificially delineated by the colonial powers, in which hitherto the strongest loyalties had been tribal in character and local in their range of operation. There seemed, therefore, to be a strong justification for those unifying influences, which might be expected to emphasise the claims of the nation over against those of the tribe. In Tanzania, moreover, the endeavour to develop and implement policies based on an entirely distinctive social philosophy and to depart fundamentally from norms created during the days of the mandate also had the effect of emphasising the importance of national policies and of casting doubt on the wisdom of sectional or local idiosyncrasy. For such reasons the first decade of independence saw a growing emphasis on normalising and unifying policies and an increasing belief in the superior virtue of single, national solutions of Tanzania’s problems. National norms were created, such as the minimum village size which could not possibly suit all circumstances. Enterprises that did not fit in with the prescribed policy of TANU leadership for ujamaa were unacceptable and if a village drew its inspiration from local initiatives outside the structure of TANU it could not be xx to proceed. At this time, the leadership, with certain resplendent exceptions, had not yet gained insight into the fact that good administration, often depends on a judicious acceptance of non- conformity rather than on the blanket enforcement of a norm.

Professor von Freyhold’s book covers this period and the conclusions that she draws on grounds of political theory are explained by the growth of class structures and interests that destroyed both the will and the opportunity to undertake communal production in the villages. The result is that her prognosis is profoundly pessimistic, because she sees a turn of the tide as becoming possible only with a drastic reversal of present social trends.

Class formation is inevitable in any form of society and the tendency is particularly strong in a Third World Country, where differences in material wellbeing, education and experience are inseparable from progress. What is important is not the pursuit of some will-o’-the-wisp of a classless society, but the containment of competing class interests within reasonable limits and their redirection as far as possible towards communally acceptable goals. It is in this effort to limit the harmful effects of class formation that Tanzania has made some remarkable and pioneering advances. Though breached from time to time, the main impact of these measures has been effective in protecting Tanzania from some of the extravagant and destructive developments visible elsewhere in the Third World.

Professor von Freyhold also overlooks the maturation of Tanzania’s youthful public service. There are now many officers with ten or fifteen years of experience behind them since Independence. Experience is an important asset in public service that no crash programme of training can supply and although not all succeed in benefiting from their experience, for many the ability to reflect on the lessons of the past is a source of wisdom, moderation and self-confidence.

The advantages that flow from the exercise of these high administrative skills are, I believe, clearly apparent in the trend of developments in some parts of the country, which I was privileged to observe earlier this year. The liveliness, self-confidence and originality of some Village Councils, their development of communal farms of 100 hektares or more, serviced on a strict two day a week rota by the ten household cells, the accumulation of village funds often running into tens of thousands of shillings, the use of such funds substantially for communal investment, the transformation of the countryside brought about by the progressive displacement of traditional houses by ‘nyumba bora’ (good, i.e. permanent houses), the installation of village water supplies and the building of schools, clinics, maize mills and other common services – all of these developments and many others were testimony to a new communal spirit and a more confident and effective village democracy. They were not visible everywhere – far from it. But the fact that such changes were found in some areas is an encouraging portent.

These psychological changes are difficult to account for with certainty and no doubt there are a variety of causes. It seems likely, however, that one important cause was the increasing skill of the officials in encouraging the greatest possible responsible self-management among the villagers. We were privileged to visit a number of villages in company with the Regional Commissioner and a group of technical officers from Region and District and to observe the relaxed atmosphere in the Village Council, the fertility of the Council members in putting forward their development proposals, the care with which the Regional Commissioner listened to these representations and to the problems encountered by the villagers and the helpful and friendly way in which he reacted. The Regional Commissioner did not fail to give his own ideas about a proposal for tractorisation, that yields would have to be considerably increased to pay for it, that technical maintenance skills were not readily available to the village and that fuel, apart from being costly, was not always obtainable. Against this, he argued the merits of an ox haulage programme, the local availability of feeding stuffs, the increased production at moderate cost and the usefulness of manure. These matters were not put forward as commands from on high, but as considerations to be weighed.

The impression created by these incidents was of a skilful management of Regional affairs with a clear recognition of the rights of Village Councils to take decisions and the importance of respecting and encouraging village initiatives. Such sophisticated management is evidence of professional maturity and suggests that, with the passage of time, some officials have got well beyond the uncertain and arbitrary handling of village matters a decade earlier. When we realise that this kind of Regional management calls. for an intimate familiarity with the psychological reactions of villagers within the context of the local African culture, any immodest thought that outsiders could teach successful administration in rural Tanzania must be banished from our minds.

This diagnosis of the manifest progress visible in some parts of Tanzania may require modification or supplementation in the light of closer study, but as to the progress itself there are figures to add confirmation to the visual impression. Maize sales to the National Milling Corporation in the Region referred to above rose from 8,240 tonnes in 1973-4 to 18,000 tonnes in 1977-8 and an expected 22,930 tonnes in 1979-80. Similar encouraging increases were recorded for other products. These are not the kinds of results that one would normally associate with an apathetic and discouraged peasantry.

I do not deny the dangers identified by Professor von Freyhold in her political analysis and without doubt they have played their part in the travail through which ujamaa has passed since Litowa was established in 1961. I also accept that my more encouraging reaction is based on prima facie evidence and calls for more careful study. But I am persuaded that the political and social influences described in the book are not the only, or perhaps ultimately the most important, determinants of the fate of ujamaa, nor indeed the only considerations to take into account in guessing at its future. There are, thank goodness, far too many unforeseen, creative and indeed disinterested aspects of human character to justify sole reliance on socio-political analysis based on class formation and the pursuit of class interests as the main clue to events, or the best guide to their future unfolding. What the bureaucracy in some areas now seem to be creating is a confident village democracy and if this policy is continued it will gradually create in the villages centres of opinion and influence, that will provide an antidote to the less creditable and self-interested facets of bureaucracy. I do not think that the future of ujamaa is devoid of hope in such circumstances.

J. Roger Carter

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