UNESCO GENERAL HISTORY OF AFRICA. ABRIDGED EDITION. Volumes I, Il and VII. Editors respectively J. Ki-Zerbo, G. Mokhtar and A. Adu Boahen. Different editors for each volume. James Currey Publishers. May 1990. £4.95 each volume.
This history, which is being undertaken as a result of an instruction given to the Director General of UNESCO at its 16th General Conference, ‘does not seek to be exhaustive and is a work of synthesis avoiding dogmatism’ according to the International Scientific Committee set up in 1970 to organise its production. Two thirds of the thirty nine members of the committee are African. ‘The aim is to show the historic relationships between the various parts of the continent’. The fact that the history seems to achieve this aim means that those interested primarily in Tanzania may be disappointed.
Volume I which covers Prehistory might well prove the most satisfying to a Tanzanian readership. Much prominence, with illustrations, is given to the 1.8 million-year-old fossils of hominid form found in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge. It is useful to have them placed in the context of all the other fossil forms discovered around the world including even older ones in South Africa. At Olduvai, and also in Kenya, Indonesia and China, excavators have discovered what is now known as Homo erectus which were more advanced on the evolutionary scale than any of their forerunners. As this history, in which there is a refreshing absence of the ‘triumphalism’ of which the Leakeys have been accused, puts it, ‘whether Homo erectus was the final stage of development leading to Homo sapiens remains uncertain’.
Tanzania is mentioned as one of the homes of the earliest known humanly fashioned tools – 3 to 1 million years ago – small quartz fragments showing signs of cutting and wear. Tanzania’s well known rock paintings of the Late Stone Age also get a mention as well as do tools of the Acheulian industrial complex 190.000 years B.C.
Volume II – The Ancient Civilisations of Africa – is less informative on Tanzania – if the index is complete! The small separate groups of Sandawe and Hadza peoples of North Central Tanzania are described under the heading ‘The Southern Savannah Hunting Tradition’. There is also extensive coverage of the Kushitic pastoral tradition of Lake Victoria and the crater highlands of Northern Tanzania and what is described as the ‘now rejected Hamitic Myth’ is briefly debated. ‘The point is that, while the more illogical and romantic aspects of the various and vaguely stated Hamitic hypotheses do derive from prejudiced European scholarship and grotesque attitudes towards Africa, the factual bases of these views were not entirely fictitious. Some of the observations were acute and certain of the historical interpretations very judicious’
Readers of the Bulletin are likely to be more familiar with the history of the period covered in Volume VII – Africa Under Colonial Domination 1880- 1935. To them therefore this volume will be less satisfactory. There are however numerous scattered references to ‘Tanganyika’. ‘The methods of European advance varied from place to place … on the whole they were characterised by the use of force combined, where possible, with diplomatic alliances … The response of Tanganyikans also varied. The coastal people clashed with the Germans in 1888, the Hehe in 1891. But the Marealle and the Kibanga near the mountains of Kilimanjaro and Usambara, allied with the Germans in order to defeat their enemies’.
This volume treats issues of interest to Tanzanians with extreme brevity. The ‘Missionary Factor’ in Southern Africa is covered in half a page and the Tanganyika African Association, which was founded as long ago as 1929, gets a paragraph. The whole area of ‘Politics and Nationalism in East Africa 1919-35’ is covered in nine pages and most of these concentrate on the situation in Kenya. There are scattered items here and there which may be debatable such as that ‘the Africans in several highland areas of Tanganyika won against the colonial authorities (in the planting of coffee) faster than the administration could destroy the trees’.
To sum up, these volumes are highly readable and contain a vast amount (1,106 pages) of interest to historians, professional and amateur alike. The volumes are also quite remarkably good value for money – DRB.
FAMINE IN EAST AFRICA: FOOD PRODUCTION AND FOOD POLICIES. Ronald E Seavoy. Greenwood Press, New York. 1989. £ 38.70.
(This review appeared first in the International Journal of African Historical Studies’ – Editor)
The intention of this book is to provide new insights into the centuries old problem of famine in East Africa. The reader is informed in the Preface that the author has already established the ‘revolutionary distinction between subsistence and commercial social values’ in a previous book. Bracing oneself for further mind-expanding revelations, one is not left in suspense for very long. In Chapter 1 the differences between peasants and the rest of the world are outlined. According to the author, the view that peasants are poor, lack income and employment, and are dominated by non-peasant classes, is thoroughly false. This view overlooks the essential truth, namely, that peasants are ‘indolent’. The rest of the book is primarily an exercise in citing literature to illustrate this point. Dr Seavoy has a fairly large bibliography and there are many authors who would cringe to see their work interpreted in this way. Because the boundaries of East Africa are never clearly established, the reader is bombarded with citations from all directions. Looking at the maps, however, one assumes that the book’s focus is Tanzania. Indeed the argument centers on Tanzania.
One important qualification to the argument relates to gender. Dr Seavoy equates ‘peasants’ with male peasants. Wives and children of ‘peasants’ are extremely hard working. High fertility is a clever strategy on the part of the peasants to avoid more work. It is never explained why wives and children are not gripped by a commercial weltanschauung despite their successful triumph over indolence.
The author seems unaware that he 1s not the first to rail against ‘lazy natives’. The theory of backward sloping labour supply curves and target workers is portrayed as a reality of the present day. The author bemoans the fact that development economists, marxist social scientists and senior political leaders of East African nations have all overlooked the essential truth. Both Nyerere (p. 178) and McNamara (p. 225) lack understanding of the fundamental indolence of peasants. As far as the author is concerned, Nyerere’s villagisation programe did not go far enough and the World Bank is completely wrong to suggest that peasants should receive higher producer prices since they are, after all, target earners. It seems that the only way that peasants are going to experience a ‘commercial revenue’ is through more forceful coercion. In the author’s words: ‘A policy of creating and rewarding commercial cultivators thus requires large investments In full-time police, paramilitary units, and an army …. Contrary to what most development economists believe, investment in armed force (sic) is one of the most productive investments that can be made by the governments of peasant nations …. All armed forces must be prepared to enforce commercial policies on peasants with maximum amounts of violence if necessary (p. 26).
One has visions of Dr Seavoy in a tank mowing down all those misguided development economists and Marxist social scientists who are ‘devotees of the cult of the peasant’ (p. 221), clearing the way for his single-handed conquest of peasantdom.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
TANZANIA: AN AFRICAN EXPERIMENT. Rodger Yeager. Second edition, revised and updated. Dartmouth publishing Co. Aldershot. 1989.
The first edition of this book, published in 1982, received warm praise; this present second edition is no less meritorious. Dr Yeager’s ability to write clearly and with the minimum of technical jargon will recommend this text to the general reader, while the African specialist will find a great deal of well-researched and -referenced material for study.
As the author points out in his preface, much has happened since the first edition went to press. He singles out two events in particular, the ‘near collapse’ of the Tanzanian economy find the retirement of Mwalimu Nyerere from the Presidency. ‘These turning points have caused me to re-examine the Tanzanian experiment and to record the result in this new edition’ he explains (p. xi).
The substantial part of the revised text deals with the economic crisis resulting from Tanzania’s balance of payments difficulties in 1979 which led to the country’s approach to the IMF the following year. Dr Yeager reviews the debate that opened up in the ‘party government’ between the pragmatists and the idealists, between those prepared to accept elements of the IMF’s free market/private enterprise medicine, and t hose who remained committed to the principles of Ujamaa socialism even when they involved considerable material sacrifice.
While the author has presented both sides of the debate with a measure of objectivity, his own preference for a pragmatic solution, ‘without sacrificing the larger goal of an equitable and democratically integrated social order’ (p. 150), emerges strongly in the concluding chapter, where he rejects ideologically-motivated social engineering projects such as the villagisation scheme of the mid- 1970’s and ‘resource draining benefits’ such as the subsidisation of urban food prices (pp 150-51).
However, Dr Yeager does not show how the politics of pragmatism will make Tanzania less dependent on developed countries, and in on earlier chapter devoted to its international position, sets out the goal of ‘interdependence (between Tanzania and its trade/aid partners) under acceptable terms’ (p 141) without indicating how this can be achieved. As his book demonstrates, Tanzania has become more dependent on outside aid and investment throughout the 1980’s, with loans from the international agencies like the IMF, further aid from donor nations, the return of transnationals like Lonrho and a series of currency devaluations to assist exports. Events since this text went to press, such as the December 1989 $1.3 billion international aid package, provide further evidence of this trend.
Of course, one must appreciate the fact that Tanzania’s options are severely circumscribed, as event s before the 1980’s crisis – dealt with fully in this revised edition – indicate.
The Tanzanian experiment, launched by the Arusha Declaration (1967), had won the sympathy of many doctrinaire leftists (and moderates too) in the West, who hoped that ‘self reliance’ would enable Tanzania to lessen, possibly end, its dependence on the developed world. Its highly publicised shortcomings have been explained in terms of (inter alia) climatic and environmental problems, policy and planning mistakes and an excess of zeal by party activists associated with villagisation. All of these factors are discussed in some detail by Dr Yeager.
His book is less successful when it comes to the macroeconomic factors responsible for the country’s poor performance in the 1970’s and 80’s: the ‘scissors effect’, the steady deterioration in its terms of trade with the ‘North’ – expressed in Mwalimu Nyerere’s reference to the increasing quantity of sisal the nation had to sell to keep up with the rising prices of Western tractors; the widening economic gap between North and South highlighted in the Brandt Report; a continuing crisis in the global financial system following the breakdown of fixed exchange rate mechanisms in the early 70’s; and the international debt crisis of the 1960′ s.
It is true that these global factors – mentioned for the most part only cursorily in this book – cast a different light on the mistakes made in the past by the Tanzanian Government. But it is also true that resolution of these structural problems in the world economy is beyond the ability of anyone government (whether in the North or South).
In the meantime, immediate and pressing economic problems demand immediate solutions. Whether or not President Mwinyi and his colleagues will discard the Tanzanian experiment along the way only time will tell, but few readers will dissent from Dr Yeager’s conclusion that so long as advances continue to be made in health, education and other social services, roads and marketing facilities, agricultural credit and cooperat1ves, and local government institutions, the nation and community-building core of the Tanzanian experiment will remain intact.
SUPPORT OR SUBVERSION: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND TANZANIA’S RURAL DEVELOPMENT POLICY OBJECTIVES. Larry S. Lev and Ann L Shriver. Journal of Rural Studies. Vol 6. No 1. 1990. 12 pages.
This paper states that its aim is to facilitate improved communication between Farming Systems Research personnel and national policy makers; it points out that the long-term success of any farming systems approach is dependent upon effective cooperation with government. The paper then compares and contrasts the two different approaches in a Tanzanian context during recent years.
It writes that since independence Tanzania has embarked upon a wide variety of rural development initiatives including the introduction of communal production systems, the massive resettlement programmes, price controls and the establishment of parastatal marketing agencies. These policies were formulated to achieve specific societal goals such as greater equity, the provision of social services and the feeding of the urban population. In contrast, the Farming Systems Approach focuses on understanding the problems and opportunities of individual family units and on setting in motion a process of technology generation that will increase the productivity of these families.
In the early years these approaches were far apart. Recently, however, although Tanzania has been adopting a variety of new more liberal agricultural policies it is still not clear whether the state’s involvement in the country’s economic life will change since no clear commitment to a change in the overall ideology of state control has yet been articulated. The current phase may represent an attempt to maintain donor financing by acceding to external demands for reform rather than through a fundamental reduction of the role of government.
Because the current era is more friendly to the farming systems approach, policy makers are displaying a growing acceptance of the wisdom and rationality of farmers and hence an interest in the collection of data that can assist in determining farmer reactions to infrastructure investments and policy actions. The government’s decision to rely increasingly on the carrot rather than the stick meshes closely With the farming systems approach philosophy.
WAGON OF SMOKE. AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE EAST AFRICAN RAILWAYS AND HARBOURS ADMINISTRATION. Arthur F. Beckenham. Cadogan Books Ltd. 1989. £16.00.
According to a review in the ‘Overseas Pensioner’ this 200,OOO-word 400-page book covers the period between 1948, when the largest public transport under taking in the whole of the British colonial administration was inaugurated, through the merger of the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours and the Tanganyika Railways and Port Services into a single organisation, and 1961 when the inter-territorial East African High Commission underwent its metamorphosis into the East African Common Services Organisation. For the rail way buff the book is said (in the review) to represent a veritable encyclopaedia of professional details, technical data and the minutiae of institutional history. There are three dozen illustrations and numerous maps, diagrams, tables and the names of over 150 locomotives – Editor.
TANZANIA: SURVIVING AGAINST THE ODDS. A CAFOD Report by Seamus Cleary. 1990. £1. 0
This is a 36-page booklet of seven chapters in which the author writes concisely about the geography, the history and the people of Tanzania as well as its relations with Southern Africa and the current state of its economy.
HERE BE DRAGONS. A TV Channel 4 ‘Survival’ Film June 6 1990.
A young piano pupil played a gentle pastoral piece with brisk determination until her interpretation became tender at the thought of eating lemon ice cream in the bath. I wonder if a Grumeti crocodile has tender thoughts. He probably thinks of his last banquet which may have been months ago. He and his companions seem too large and too many for the meagre reserves of fish, frogs, nestlings or small mammals that they can catch, scavenge or steal.
The first part of this film concentrated on these crocodiles. The tiny Grumeti river flows westward through the Serengeti to Lake Victoria. By the end of the dry season it has shrunk to 8 series of pools. Before that an army of wildebeest thunder towards it during their migration. They stop to drink. The nearly submerged predators are waiting. All is quiet until a thrashing crocodile leaps up and drags a wildebeest into the water. Other crocodiles join in and the carcass is torn to pieces. Of the thousands of wildebeest, the crocodiles kill a few dozen. The rest continue their journey. The crocodiles are satiated and live off this banquet until the same time the following year.
The next part of the film takes us across Lake Victoria, over the tumultuous Murchison Falls to the waters of the Nile below. Beyond the torrents crocodile mothers come to land to lay their eggs. In so doing they not only provide for the future of their race but for the future of many other creatures. They are unwilling providers of food. Predators wait until the dangerous mothers are away to steal and eat some of the eggs. When the mothers are present they have no chance. In fact the monitor lizard lives dangerously and is so nervous that he can be scared by the aggressive display of a dikkup. The dikkop chooses the crocodile beach because of the unwitting protection the crocodile can give, and she can deceive her by feigning injury and luring her away from her nest if the crocodile shows interest in it. Weaver birds live overhead protected from snakes by the presence of the crocodiles. The mother crocodile digs to free her babies when she hears them chirping and, as soon as they are hatched, carries mouthfuls of them down to the river. Equal numbers are snapped up at the nest by eagles, monitor lizards, the marsh mongoose and others. When the mother crocodile has rescued all she can she stays with them in the river. They often rest on her back and are utterly charming, but, in spite of all her efforts, only one or two will survive into adulthood.
The team of Alan Root, Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone and the officers and scientists of the National Parks of Tanzania and Uganda deserve our thanks.