TANZANIA CRISIS – NORDIC VIEWS
Tanzania: Crisis and Struggle for Survival. Edited by Jannik Boesen, Kjell J. Juhani, Koponen and Rie Odgaard, Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden. 1986. (distributed by Almqvist and Wiksell Ihternational. Stockholm) 325pp. Sw Crowns 185 (approx. £18.50)
This is an important book. It provides key insights to the underlying causes of the crisis, especially how different policies could have shielded the country from the worst effects of the world economic recession which has affected all countries – the less developed countries more than most.
The book consists of 16 papers written by Nordic scholars with many years of experience working in Tanzania, covering population growth, macro-economic policy, various aspects of agriculture (including agro-pastoralism and pastoralism), manufacturing industry (both. large and small scale), rural water supply and health services. They criticise the aid policies of Nordic governments (and other external advisers and aid agencies) as much as Tanzanian policies, wrong decisions of the one often supporting those of the other. However, they explicitly distance themselves from ‘much of the latterday criticisms of Tanzanian policies’ and their claim to share ‘a basic sympathy with Tanzanian aims and ideals’ was clearly demonstrated in their approach. Thus, their criticisms are of the practical and constructive kind that can provide the basis for developing new policies to solve current problems and avoid similar crises in the future.
In fact, the overriding cause of the crisis (or the degree of its Intensity) brought out in virtually all the papers was the extent to which the Tanzanian Government, during the years following the Arusha Declaration, went in almost the diametrically opposite direction to the declared policy of socialism and self-reliance. Thus, the industrialisation programme was almost totally dependent on outside support and imported inputs . To keep industries running, even the bulk of the small industries established during this period, required ever more foreign exchange. Unfortunately, the world recession, with the declining prices of primary commodities upon which Tanzania was dependent for its foreign exchange earnings, together with the dramatic rise in interest rates, coincided with the time the accumulated debts from this exercise had to start being repaid. Meanwhile, the administrative apparatus, and other parts of the managerial and service sectors had expanded vastly, which increased the demand for financial resources at state level. At the very time the Government needed the peasants to produce more, every incentive had been taken away, through low producer prices to pay for the tasks the state had taken on. The increasingly overvalued exchange rate also went against self-reliant solutions, making imports of goods (technology, industrial and agricultural inputs and consumer goads) cheaper than they otherwise would be , which undermined local supplies of these or substitutes.
Similarly, the approach to solving problems peasants faced was to make them more dependent on the state rather than more self-reliant. The excellent paper on rural water supply by Ole Therkildsen, For instance, showed how the Government committed itself to provide water supplies – a commitment in the end it could not fulfil – rather than supporting villagers to do it themselves. The technocratic approaches of Nordic and other agencies assisting the Government further undermined any steps towards self-reliant solutions. Recipients were the last people to be consulted, which itself is the antithesis of socialism.
Many of the papers showed that when the country had to be more self-reliant because there was no foreign exchange and a dearth of goods, it was the peasants and ordinary people rather than the policy makers who had the greater capacity to improvise and innovate in order to survive, developing their own local network of trade and barter to substitute for the unreliable and unrewarding state system. If socialism and self-reliance is to be put back on the agenda, the Government has to trust ordinary people to develop local solutions to local problems, and to create a stimulating macro-economic environment to enable them to do this. A start has already been made in the form of better producer prices. It is the organisation of production that has now to be tackled. The key to this is the newly created village structure. Unfortunately, most of the authors were rather negative about villagisation, blaming the policy for such things as environmental degradation, fuel shortages and long distances from fields. However, one may criticise the means used in some places, it is only by bringing people close together that true advantage can be taken of cooperation in production. Through cooperation, all those problems, and many others besides, such as financial support for village health workers, a crucial factor noted by Harald Heggenhougen, can be solved. But, above all, given the right sort of support to those who lack political and economic power, cooperation forms the basis for gradually increasing productivity and diversifying production, thus creating new financial resources in the hundreds of rural communities, Neither the authors of this book, nor the Government seem to have a very clear idea of the forms cooperation should take. Perhaps it should be left to the peasants and workers to work it out for themselves for a change – with a little help from their friends.
Collins Guide to the ‘Wild Flowers of East Africa. Michael Blundell. 1987. £12.95
Faced by a book describing 1,200 wild flowers, an amateur scarcely knows where to begin a review. However, when the three volumes of the Flora of Tropical East Africa are completed, this will probably cover about 11,000 species so one cannot but congratulate the producer of this present book on making a selection of plants which can be contained in a large pocket sized book. No doubt it will become essential to plant loving travellers and residents in East Africa.
Identification of plants is intended to be mainly from the beautiful colour photographs of which there are 864. Descriptions are given in reasonable botanical terms (there 1s a glossary and a guide to leaf and flower forms at the back of the book) and grouped together in families. Grasses and sedges are not included but flowering trees are. I was at first surprised to open the book and find the Baobab tree included but it does have a lovely white flower worthy of notice and quite unlike the tree’s massive form.
We must not expect to find in this book the ornamental flowering bushes which we are so familiar with, such as frangipani, Chinese hibiscus or jacaranda, as these are not classed as ‘wild’. Nevertheless, there are very many beautiful flowers to be found; some spectacular ones lie the Flame Lilly (Gloriosa superba) and others with fascinating form and colour.
Incidentally, the African Violet (Streptocarpus), I discover, actually does look like a violet when growing wild in East Africa (mostly in Tanzania)