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close this bookAfrican Agriculture: The Critical Choices (UNU, 1990, 227 pages)
close this folder8. Tanzania: Imperialism, the state and the peasantry
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentImperialism and rural development
View the documentRural development policies in Tanzania: Post-independence
View the documentSocial consequences of rural policies
View the documentFailure of villagization projects
View the documentConclusion

Rural development policies in Tanzania: Post-independence

Shortly after independence in 1961, government stressed the importance of rural areas in its development efforts. Emphasis was to be placed on increasing production and on the living standards in the countryside where more than 95% of the population lived. As a result of World Bank recommendations' two approaches were adopted: 1) improvement and, 2) transformation. The former basically consisted of efforts to gradually raise output within existing rural households through extension services: the latter sought to radically transform agriculture through the resettlement in special schemes of pre-selected villagers who would then engage in 'modern' farming under the supervision and direction of officials. By the end of 1965 there were 23 such schemes with some 15,000 acres of crops and about 3,400 farming families.

These early policies demonstrate an obvious bias toward export crops. In the improvement approach concentration was almost entirely on those cash crops that had become traditional - cotton coffee, and so on. In the settlement schemes' emphasis was on those crops that needed greater technical supervision, especially tobacco, with greater official control of what was to be cultivated totally planned by government agencies appointed for the purpose. With hindsight, it can be seen that as a result of both approaches' this was the beginning of a de-emphasis on the production of foodstuffs, and the increasing attention devoted to export crops leading to Tanzania becoming a food importing country. Grain imports have been increasing over the years currently and stand at about half-a-million tons per year.

Furthermore, the basic orientation of 'development' was resettlement of the peasants into new, larger villages, as it was considered that only 'villagization' could, in the long rum result achieve progress. I would argue, however, that the substance of 'villagization' is control, Tanzania's population density is relatively low. According to the 1978 census, there are 2.82 hectares per capita in the country - and for the rural economically capable population alone there is an average of 7.27 hectares per capita of 16.97 hectares per household. Density from region to region varies, but the vast majority of people live in areas with relatively low density: 30% with less than 15 persons per square kilometre, and half the entire population in areas with less than 20 persons per square kilometre. This is not to say that there is no pressure on the land as, despite the relatively vast landmass only a small proportion is habitable, with, at present, the entire smallholder cultivation occupying only 5% (495,0332 kilometres, out of a total of 883.987).

This means that the peasantry is concentrated in small pockets but has considerable leeway for manoeuvre - they can and do move a great deal, opening up uninhabited areas for cultivation. During the colonial period many rural areas continued to use the shifting method of cultivation despite attempts to stamp it out. Both colonial and post-colonial governments have emphasized containing the peasantry in official settlements in order to enforce agricultural policies.

Thus, the first phase in the formulation of rural development policies in Tanzania was a logical continuation of the colonial rural policies. By assembling the peasantry into sufficiently large settlements to facilitate government supervision and control, by greater involvement in the cash economy and greater dependence on the foreign market, for their products and for their inputs. Tanzanian rural dwellers became part and parcel of the worldwide economic system.