REVIEWS

Edited by John Cooper-Poole (UK) and Marion Doro (USA)

SACRED TREES, BITTER HARVESTS – GLOBALIZING COFFEE IN N.W. TANZANIA. Brad Weiss. Greenwood Publishing Group, June 2003. ISBN p/b 0 325 070970 £15.99. h/b 0 325 070954 £36.99. pp216.

Brad Weiss explores the ethnography of coffee in Northwest Tanzania, weaving the story of its historical significance with the changing social political and economic processes taking place at the beginning of the twentieth century. While this book is surely an ethnography of coffee and coffee growing – its cultural, political as well as material significance – it also belongs in a whole line of literature exploring colonial encounters. In this case, the analysis is of local encounters between Haya communities and powerful outsiders – the White Fathers, coffee traders and others who act as supporters of change at the turn of the century. This is an anthropological monograph, a book as much about the Haya people themselves, about the relational elements of product practices frequently interpreted as simply ‘technical’ – the cultural, political as well as the material significance of coffee and coffee growing – as well as a study of political, social and economic processes – of power and how it is sustained and maintained.

In the world that most of us live in, coffee is a commodity whose value is determined by the international market of supply and demand. With good management of the coffee enterprise, producers in any particular location might be expected to derive an income that provides sufficient incentive for them to stay in production. As with all good ethnographies, this book takes us well beyond this understanding and provides us with a rich picture of relations between the material – coffee in all is aspects – and the social, against an historical backcloth that includes colonisation, globalisation and the making of modernity. In this analysis, we are shown clearly that the Buhara are not simply producers of commodities for consumption elsewhere among whom agricultural practice is just a reflex of production. Rather the Buhara are presented as an example of how people are able to themselves creatively act on their world and in their own interests – expressing their agency – even when facing intense and sustained socio-historical pressures. In this case, these pressures include what Weiss refers to as the ‘plethora of colonial projects’ – the introduction of rupees as the currency of German administration and enforced taxes along with an associated royal edict that made coffee planting compulsory.

In making this analysis, Weiss is addressing some of the pressing theoretical questions that are at the heart of current debates about poverty, empowerment and development of what are frequently referred to as ‘marginalised groups’. The book provides some answers to the question of how is it possible to locate and acknowledge the ‘meaningful agency’ of all social actors even in the face of systemic oppressions and inequalities.

Weiss begins with a detailed picture of coffee in Buhaya at the outset of the twentieth century – how robusta coffee was grown in the Haya Region, became Haya coffee; the way coffee was used as an expression of royal control enforced through local witnesses and techniques of propagation that together limited widespread planting and privatisation of a crop with considerable cultural and social value. In Chapter 2, we are rapidly introduced to the chewable coffee cherry product. It is through the coffee cherry that the cultural and social values of coffee are expressed on a day-to-day basis, in social transactions. In subsequent chapters we follow in great detail the transformation of coffee through its articulation with other valued currencies. Weiss argues that money coinage introduced at the turn of the century transformed coffee and as a consequence, through its articulation with these, redefined the nature and meaning of wealth.

Beyond the initial chapters therefore, the book moves rapidly into a detailed analysis of how coffee is valued – as an expression of local power, and then, as currency. Weiss describes the mix of cowries and corvee labour that coexisted with rupees as forms of payment and compensation, well after the introduction of colonial money, and records the efforts by officials and the ‘White Fathers’ or priests to establish clear and stable prices for cattle, land and bridewealth – as he argues – redefining the nature and meaning of wealth. As Weiss points out, these changes were not simply about encouraging the use of a new official currency but also about the introduction of distinct cultural processes of valuation.

This issue of changing values is one of the most significant in current development thinking where the expected success of development frequently presumes shared values, of things and relationships. Using his historical analysis, Weiss details the complex social and cultural processes that surrounded the introduction of standardised currencies in this region, and linked with this, the development of the coffee trade characterised by concrete techniques of measurement and enumeration. Readers who have themselves grappled with measurement in settings where measurement and quantification are regarded as ‘intensively suspicious acts – drawing unnecessary attention to ones good fortune’ or more simply poor etiquette, will be fascinated by the detailed description of the different measures or containers used at this time. They will no doubt revisit their own attempts to transform these containers into some standardised measure (a kilo) following what are viewed as scientific procedures. Having done so, they may agree with Weiss that the process results in the loss of the full significance of the measure itself and makes one reflect on our own appreciation of meanings of value. Many of us will agree that ‘putatively objective measures often conceal the social projects through which they are implemented’ and which are hidden by the apparent simplicity of the procedure of counting and enumeration.

Early in chapter 3 the author grapples with the moral quandaries of materialism during the colonial encounter. This new materialism is presented as part of the socioeconomic transformations generally associated with global capitalism. Overall, it is this constant shift from the Haya case to wider ongoing changes that binds the chapters together and makes this a valuable contribution to the list of ethnographies. Weiss argues for a comparative perspective that explores differences between pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial understandings of such entities as exchange, property and wealth in relation to one another, in order to avoid the pitfalls of normative and linear models. In the face of the insight offered here by using such an approach, the reader engaged in the development project must reflect on the constant search for macro indicators of change that are used to represent the reality of peoples’ lives – the Millennium Development Goals and even the GEM.

Weiss’s book will satisfy the interests of a wide range of readers beyond academic scholars. It is not an easy read, but it is one that is endlessly rewarding whether the reader is seeking a new look at a tropical crop, or a new interpretation of events. Those readers concerned with the loss of culture in the face of modernity will be left with the overall understanding that local cultures neither embrace nor reject new meanings in a straightforward fashion.
Christine Okali

THE CROSS VERSUS THE CRESCENT: RELIGION AND POLITICS IN TANZANIA FROM THE 1880’s to the 1990’s. Lawrence E.Y. Mbogoni, 2005, Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 2005. ISBN 9987686621. pp242. £20.95. Available through African Book Collective, Unit 13 Kings Meadow, Ferry Hinksey Road, Oxford, OX2 0DP. Tel +(0)1865 726686. e-mail orders@africanbookscollective.com

This book was written by Mbogoni as an attempt to understand Christian-Muslim relations in Tanzania since the 19th Century. It provides an historical perspective on more recent, high profile conflicts in Tanzania, notably the riots at Mwembechai mosque in February 1998 which left two people dead and considerable damage to property. Mbogoni challenges the thesis of Dr. Hamza Njozi who in his book Mwembechai Killings, published in 2000, claims that this conflict was the result of a conspiracy between Church and State in Tanzania to marginalise and oppress Muslims. By contrast, Mbogoni argues instead that there has been a much longer history of Christian-Muslim conflict in Tanzania which reflects fundamental theological and cultural differences.

This book provides much interesting historical material notably on missionary attitudes towards Islam, colonial government policies on education, on the representations of Christianity in Swahili poetry, and on the ambivalent relationship between the Catholic Church and Nyerere’s ujamaa ideology. It illustrates the complexity of the inter-relationships between Christianity and Islam since the mid nineteenth century. What is absent from the book is to relate changes in the relationships between Muslims and Christians to the broader process of social and economic transformation in Tanzania in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods. A broader level of analysis is needed.

For example, one surprising omission in Mbogoni’s analysis is the role of Nyerere and CCM as unifying forces in Tanzanian society. Having lived in a mixed Christian-Muslim village in Newala District in the 1980s, I witnessed first hand the strong sense of identity that people had as Tanzanians. The breakdown of the ujamaa model and increasing inequalities within Tanzania society in the late 1980s and 1990s weakened the sense of national identity. The decline of political ideology as unifying factor has arguably meant religious identities have now been able to take on a more prominent position.

One of the frustrations with the book is the long digressions into areas that do not help the overall argument. While highlighting differences between Muslims and Christians, such as on scriptural interpretation, dress codes and dietary laws, Mbogoni does not show how these differences became catalysts for conflicts at particular points in time. Why is it that Christian and Muslim communities can live peacefully together for long periods and then conflicts flare up? Usually one needs to look at underlying social, economic and political factors rather than looking for explanations only at the level of religious differences.

In general, the book does successfully refute Njozi’s theory of Church-State conspiracy against Muslims. It is rich in historical material but lacks a clear focus and does not really provide a comprehensive analysis of why there has been an upsurge in religious tensions in Tanzania in the 1990s.
Andrew Clayton

FROM THE ABYSINNIAN EXPEDITION TO THE MAU MAU INSURRECTION. Catalogue 1343 published by Maggs Brothers,50 Berkeley square, London WC1J 5BR. military@maggs.com. 2003. £15 incl p & p.
Maggs, “Purveyors of Rare Books & Manuscripts” to H.M. The Queen, are selling over 1000 items from the Winterton collection relating to military operations in East and North-east Africa from1860 to 1960. Some 300 items relate specifically to the WWI campaign in East Africa. These include a detailed first-hand account by Daniel Greenshields, Chief Yeoman of Signals on H.M.S. Severn, of the sinking of the German cruiser Konigsberg, and a letter dated November 1916 from the British commander, (General Smuts) to his opposite number Colonel von Lettow Vorbeck congratulating him on the “well deserved” award of the Order of Merit by the Kaiser.

One of the most expensive items, (at £2,750) is a set of four reports by Major Meinertzhagen, who despite his German name was the Chief British Intelligence Officer under general Smuts. He compiled a complete list of the German officers in East Africa by use of D.P.M. (dirty paper method) – he found that the “contents of German officers’ latrines were a constant source of filthy but accurate information.” Less expensive (at £200) is a souvenir banner produced by the Germans to commemorate their victory at Tanga in November 1914, with the words “Vivat! Tanga” and a picture of St Michael slaying the British lion. Von Lettow Vorbeck’s own account of the campaign, in German and entitled Heia Safari is priced at £85.

Another interesting item (and a bargain at £25?) is a pamphlet written in 1917 by Rev. Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzibar, entitled The Black Slaves of Prussia. Angered by reports that the Territory might be returned to the Germans after the war, Weston gave a graphic account of German ill-treatment of Africans and argued that the British could not betray them by handing them back to German rule.

The catalogue itself, with a splendid photograph of Lettow Vorbeck on its cover, has much pithy comment and background information on the items listed is of considerable bibliographical and historical interest.
John Sankey
(As at August 2005 many of the items have been sold, but as Maggs point out, a lot of them are books and therefore may be repeatable. Ed.)


THE NGORONGORO STORY
by Tom Lithgow & Hugo van Lawick, Camerapix, Nairobi, 2004. ISBN 1-904722-04-0, 144 pages (28 cm x 21.4 cm). US$45.00 (cover price) or £19.95-£24.76 (Internet).
Lithgow (author and erstwhile Oldeani farmer) and the late van Lawick (leading photographer) complement one another in this book. As the cover notes say: “The battle for the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most gripping conservation stories of the [twentieth] century” – the story is illustrated with useful facts, lively anecdotes and striking photos.
After background chapters on palaeontology (thanking Mary Leakey) and the Maasai culture (thanking the late Solomon ole Saibul), the book traces the first European to reach the collapsed volcano in 1892 and the German brothers who farmed there a decade later. Despite their “war” with Maasai, Wanderobo and lions, the settlers valued the environment, free from tsetse flies and 1700-2300 m above sea level. The book illustrates bush life with darkly humorous engravings and old photos. In 1907 one of the brothers – Adolph Siedentopf (a burly many-rôled recluse) – was granted a 25-year lease for about a quarter of the crater. With 2000 cattle he would have appreciated the Game Preservation Ordinance, which allowed the shooting of game “in defence of life and property”. Within six years the German government started to press for a National Park. They regretted the lease, but had up their sleeve an impractical clause for the lessee to fence the perimeter.
World War I saw Siedentopf (and later his wife) removed from the crater as an alien, but by 1922 the British allowed the trigger-happy Captain Sir Charles Ross to take over the original lease. The government did not enforce fencing (or “improvements” in lieu at £5 an acre) until 1940, after Ross refused to invest. Meanwhile in 1927 GH Swynnerton, Chief Game Warden, proposed that Ngorongoro become a Game Reserve, implemented one year later (outside the Ross lease). In 1940 the Tanganyika Game Ordinance (based on the international Fauna and Flora Convention) established the Serengeti National Park, which now included all of Ngorongoro.
The book has its share of weaknesses. The dedication to Adolf Siedentopf seems ironic, and UNESCO’s inscription of Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a World Heritage Site in 1979 received no mention. The high-quality photos were unnecessarily shrunk to 60% of the page area, and the semi-matte paper surface robs dark colours of contrast. High-key subjects such as cloudscapes and lions reveal how sumptuous all the images would look if published on gloss paper! Some details were skimped, for example there was no legible modern map. The bibliography contained just 11 publications and omitted Henry Fosbrooke’s historic The Eighth Wonder.
The book ends by outlining the progress of legislation covering Ngorongoro, highlighting the needs of the Maasai and other pastoralists. Ngorongoro has a world-leading rôle in the development of participatory conservation, research and tourism. The book’s final thought: Ngorongoro’s survival would be meaningless without conserving the annual wildlife migration in the region as a whole.
Tony Goodchild

SOME CURRENT JOURNAL ARTICLES OF INTEREST

Articles relating to Youth

Thomas Burgess. Introduction to Youth and Citizenship in East Africa. Africa Today. 51. 3. (2005) vii-xxiv. Notes recent attention to “youth and citizenship” in various venues, especially its thematic emphasis at the 2003 African Studies Association meetings. Surveys the extensive literature on this subject, noting changing generational behavior, colonial and post-colony activities, urbanization, and economic factors, especially poverty. Perhaps the most compelling pattern of behavior turns on the transition from tradition to modernization, particularly the stress between community responsibility and individual rights.

Thomas Burgess. The Young Pioneers and the Rituals of Citizenship in Revolutionary Zanzibar. Africa Today. 51. 3 (2005) 3-29. Traces efforts to promote habits of good citizenship during the colonial era but with emphasis on later socialist oriented Young Pioneers. Their activities were parallel with other structured activities such as sports. Designed to promote socialist modes of citizenship such as discipline and nation building, it gradually lost ground to socio-economic forces as government lost its solvency and capacity to provide financial support.

Andrew M. Ivaska, Of Student “Nizers” and a Struggle over Youth: Tanzania’s 1966 National Service Crisis. Africa Today. 51. 3 (2005) 83-107. Describing the 1966 student strike “as a radical shift in the character of the university and its students” the author analyzes UDSM’s 1961 initial elitist status and the generational tensions between the early political leaders who had benefited from independence and the “Nizers” {wealthy elites} who resisted national service as “unsuitable for the most highly educated.” President Nyerere vigorously rejected their claims of entitlement. The crisis marked a crucial turning of generational relations and a challenge by youth to early nationalist leaders, not unlike the challenge that nationalists represented to traditional authority as they sought independence.

Edward Miguel. Tribe or Nation? Nation Building and Public Goods in Kenya versus Tanzania. World Politics. 56. 3 (2004) 327-362. Illustrates generational evolution of ethnicity that promotes cooperation and minimizes ethnic differences; greater success in Tanzania than in Kenya, primarily because of Tanzania’s nation-building efforts that imposed a “single national identity” while retaining indigenous cultures.

Eileen Moyer. Street-Corner Justice in the Name of Jah: Imperatives for Peace among Dar es Salaam Street Youth. Africa Today. 51. 3 (2005) 31-58. Examines the influence of the Rastafari philosophy on poor, disenfranchised male youth living and working in Dar es Salaam’s streets, with special reference to the influence of the Jamaican singer Bob Marley. Located opposite the Sheraton Hotel in Dar and conducting socio-economic activities according to an unwritten code of behavior these young men have utilized Marley’s Rastafarian life style as a stabilizing influence.

Mwansa A. Nkowane, Lee Rocha-Silva, and Shekhar Saxena. Psychoactive Substance use Among Young People: findings of a multi-center study in three African countries. Contemporary Drug Problems. 31. 2 (Summer 2004) 329-356. Focus is on South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia, indicating increased usage especially in locations where these substances – alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis – are sold as a means for survival. Authors note that resources for preventing use are minimal and urge establishing programs designed to improve living standards to minimize substance abuse.

Alex Perullo, Hooligans and Heroes: Youth Identity and Hip Hop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Africa Today. 51. 4 (2005) 75-101. An exploration of rap as a form of communication among young people coping with unemployment and socio-economic pressures. Noting that the lyrics carry ujumbe makali (‘strong messages’) they serve various purposes such as social commentary about class distinctions, venting political anger, and discussing gender inequalities. On the whole Hip Hop is a non-violent method of dealing with poverty and social discontent.

Some other articles of interest

Martha Ainsworth, The Impact of Adult Mortality and Parental Deaths on Primary Schooling in North-Western Tanzania. Journal of Development Studies. 41, 3 ( April 2005) 412-439.

John Baffes. Tanzania’s Coffee Sector: constraints and challenges. Journal of International Development. 17, 1. 21-43,

Kathleen Beegle. Labor Effects of Adult Mortality in Tanzanian Households. Economic Development and Cultural Change. 53, 3 (April 2005) 655-83.

Frances Cleaver. The Inequality of Social Capital and the Reproduction of Chronic Poverty. World Development. 33, 6 (June 2005) 893-906. [Ethnographic research in Tanzania]

Christopher Delgado. Evidence and Implications of Non-Tradability of Food Staples in Tanzania 1983-98. Journal of Development Studies. 41, 3, (April 2005) 376-393.

N. Desmond, et. al. A Typology of Groups at Risk of HIV/STI in a Gold Mining Town in North-Western Tanzania. Social Science & Medicine. 60, 8 (April 2005) 1739-49.

Kari A. Hartwig. AIDS and “shared sovereignty” in Tanzania from 1987 to 2000: a case study. Social Science and Medicine. .60, 7 (April 2005) 1613-1624.

A.B. Johannesen. Wildlife Conservation Policies and Incentives to Hunt: an empirical analysis of illegal hunting in western Serengeti, Tanzania. Environment and Development Economics. 10, 3 (June 2005). 271-92l.

Jowett Matthew and Nigel J. Miller. The Financial Burden of Malaria in Tanzania: Implications for future Government Policy. International Journal of Health Planning and Management. 20, 1.(January/March 2005) 67-84.

Ann May and J. Terrence McCabe. City Work in a Time of AIDS: Maasai Labor Migration in Tanzania. Africa Today. 51, 2 (2004) 3-35.

M. Kaseva and S.E. Mbuligwe. Appraisal of Solid Waste Collection Following Private Sector Involvement in Dar es Salaam city, Tanzania. Habitat International. 29, 2 (June 2005) 353-366.

N. Kikumbih, et. al. The Economics of Social Marketing: the case of mosquito nets in Tanzania. Social Science and Medicine. 60, 2 (January 2005) 369-81.

Edwin G. Nelson and Erik J. DeBruijn. The Voluntary Formalization of Enterprises in a Developing Economy – the Case of Tanzania. Journal of International Development. 17, 4 (May 2005) 575-593.

Honest Prosper Ngowi. Private Sector Delivery of Urban Services: Benefits, Obstacles and Ways Forward for Public Transport Service in Dar Es Salaam City, Tanzania. Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review. 21, 1( January 2005) 97-117.

W. Rosenau. Al Qaida Recruitment Trends in Kenya and Tanzania. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. v. 28 no 1. January/February 2005. 1-10.

Amy Stambach. Rallying the Armies or Bridging the Gulf: Questioning the Significance of Faith-Based Educational Initiatives in a Global Age. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies. 12, 1 (Winter 2005) 205-226. [Focus on Tanzania. For relevant website, see:
http://church-of-christ.org/churches/Tanzania,_United_Republic_of/Tanzania_S.htm ]

Simon Turner. Under the Gaze of the “big nations”: Refugees, Rumours and the International Community in Tanzania. Africa Affairs. 411 ( April 2004) 227-247.

Marion Doro

And for pleasant holiday reading we recommend

LAST ORDERS AT HARRODS by Michael Holman. Polygon, 2005. ISBN 1 904598 32 3. p/b £9.99

An enjoyable story set in Kwisha, which is an East African coastal state sharing a boundary with Tanzania and near Uganda, but not otherwise identified. To quote the blurb, “Charity Mupanga has a problem. The widowed owner of Harrods International Bar (And Night Spot), the most popular meeting place in the shanty town of Kireba can handle most of life’s challenges, but threatening letters from those powerful London lawyers are beginning to fluster her. How dare a London store, no matter how big and famous, claim exclusive use of the first name of her late father Harrods Tangwena, gardener to successive British High Commissioners for nearly twenty years? Well meant but inept efforts to foil the big city lawyers bring Harrods to the brink of disaster and Charity close to despair. But a fortuitous riot, coupled with the quick thinking of Titus Ntoto, the fourteen year old leader of the slum’s toughest street gang, leaves both lawyers and locals happy with the outcome”. A nice story with much wry comment on the social and political state of Africa, not to mention the “aid community”, and the resident foreign press corps.

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