|African Agriculture: The Critical Choices (UNU, 1990, 227 pages)|
|8. Tanzania: Imperialism, the state and the peasantry|
Despite considerable enthusiasm for this policy, after some five years there were few convincing signs of a rapid breakthrough in the rural areas as a result of the ujamaa villages. Some showed signs of economic growth and expansion, but others, completely mismanaged, would clearly collapse. Furthermore, the ujamaa sector constituted only a small proportion of total rural economy, and there was little indication that in time this would change, since, although more new villages were started, a considerable number of the old ones died. The organization, leadership and degree of communality in the villages varied a great deal; and in some cases they were merely front organizations for kulak operations.
In themselves, co-operatives cannot guarantee rapid socio-economic development in the rural areas. Unless they are part of a larger strategy of both rural transformation and industrialization, producer co-operatives in undeveloped countries simply become another instrument for continued imperialist domination of the country. Thus by 1972-73 interest in the ujamaa programme began to waver, not only among the people but in official circles too. The earlier policy of 'improvement' and 'transformation' was officially withdrawn in 1966, but the ujamaa villages policy is still officially operative. Yet, since 1973, emphasis has radically changed from communal production to village settlement. In 1973 the Tanzania government launched the largest and most ambitious programme for rural mobilization ever undertaken in the country, and its impact has been greater and more far-reaching than any other previous programme.
The villagization programme was aimed at resettling the entire rural population into large, planned centres by replacing the traditional peasant households (frequently shifting cultivation from area to area to balance resources and requirements) with fairly large settlements each comprising at least some 250 families. Between 1973 and 1975 as many as nine million rural inhabitants were shifted and by 1976 it was declared that practically all rural Tanzanians were living in these new 'development' villages.
In 1970, 531,000 Tanzanians, less than 5 per cent of the mainland population, were living in 1956 villages. These communities had an average occupancy of 271 people. By 1974, following the persuasion and inducement campaigns and after several local operations, the villagised population had grown to about 2.028,000 - 14 per cent of the population - living in 5,628 settlements with an average membership of about 360. After the first full year of compulsion, approximately 9,150.000 people' or about 60 per cent of the mainland population' were living in 6.384 villages with an average occupancy of about I.433. At the conclusion of Operation Tanzania in 1977 an estimated 79 percent of the 1978 mainland population and 90 percent of all rural dwellers - more than 13 million people- were living in 7.300 villages with an approximate average membership of 1,849.
The government explained that the villagization programme's main objective was to enable the rural population to be provided with essential social services: arguing that only by gathering the people into large settlements would it be possible to provide schools, dispensaries and water facilities for all.
The way the programme was implemented left a lot to be desired. In some cases, violence was used, in others the settlement sites chosen were unsuitable, or the planning process was deficient, or too many people were settled in one village. Above all, the whole exercise was carried out too hastily. In 1973 there were 5.628 villages with a total population of 2.028.164, by 1976 the number of villages totalled 7,684 with a total population of 13,087,220.
All these factors brought about widespread resentment among the rural population, and sometimes open opposition to the party and government. Millions of people had been resettled old homes were destroyed and new ones built, people accustomed to living in isolated homesteads now found themselves in mini-towns with, in many cases, closely built houses in straight lines. Overall, tremendous changes had occurred in the rural areas: whether these changes were for the better is questionable.
The significant factor in this programme, however, is its class character. Villagization marked the apex of the bourgeoisie's efforts to put rural production under its control. If the 'commanding heights' of the economy had been 'won' by the end of the 1960s, clearly smallholder production, in which almost 90% of the population participated, had to be tackled. But this could not be done effectively through nationalization measures. Resettlement in chosen localities with government officials to oversee production processes was the logical strategy to be adopted. Villagization can therefore be seen as the culmination of the colonialist efforts to restructure rural economic life in order to facilitate exploitation and domination of the rural masses by international capitalism. The nature of petty commodity production renders it resistant to domination, and thus resistant to exploitation of the producers; only the existence of centralized institutions that directly control the peasants can achieve those objectives. Attempts to create settlement schemes during the colonial era and the early days of independence aimed to create such institutional structures, because those participating in the schemes would be controlled directly by government agencies and yet still remain outside wage employment. In this way, capitalism, in this particular context of under-development, exerts its domination over petty commodity production.
The 'tobacco schemes', perhaps an extreme form of state control over the peasantry, exemplify the general trends. Because numerous technicalities are involved in the proper husbandry of tobacco, officials both of government and the tobacco industry make all, even the most minor decisions; the villagers' role strikingly resembles that of a worker. Officialdom decides how much land should be under tobacco, when and how to plant, weed, harvest and cure the leaf; supplies seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides, grades and, of course, markets the tobacco. The villagers provide only the labour power. Finally, officialdom decides what proportion of the turnover should be paid back to the peasant. Obviously, the largest proportions go to those who supplied the technical inputs, the administrative services, and those who marketed the crop. The villager, with virtually no control over the production process or the product of his labour, is inevitably the loser.
In the 1970s, apart from the villagization drive itself. Tanzania introduced a number of other fundamental changes to existing rural institutions. Almost all the local institutions with grass-root level participation were overhauled and new bureaucratic institutions, with direct central control, established in their place. In 1972, in accordance with an American consultancy firm's recommendations, district and town councils were abolished and central administration was devolved into the regions and districts to assume all the roles formerly played by the local government bodies. Until then these councils were directly elective with a degree of autonomy from central government. With the 'centralization' measures all powers were transferred to the central government bureaucracy, which was grossly expanded for the purpose.
In 1975, the marketing co-operative movement - then one of the most advanced in Africa - was demolished. Peasants had marketed their crops to co-operative organizations which were answerable to their members - the peasants themselves. The crops were then marketed to the appropriate government agencies which had monopoly in the export of agricultural produce. With the abolition of co-operative societies, government agencies were empowered to buy produce directly from the peasant, but the peasant is in no way involved in the activities of these agencies. Consequently the peasants have begun to suffer from yet another form of exploitation: non-payment for crops collected. For various reasons almost all government agencies are today unable to pay cash for peasant produce and instead offer promissory notes. Actual payment is very much delayed and in some cases, due to mismanagement, the peasant is either not paid at all or paid only in part.
The process of integration and control of the peasantry has finally been accomplished. In the final analysis this control and domination is most advantageous to the international division of labour characteristic of world capitalism: it ensures that peasants cannot resort to their traditional tactic of withdrawing from market forces to pursue subsistence agriculture.
These changes have not only firmly integrated the peasantry into the world market but have intensified its exploitation. Prices of primary products from underdeveloped countries bear no relation to their values: the socially necessary labour time spent on their production. Multinational companies continue to amass huge profits from the trade of raw materials from underdeveloped countries. Within the country, however, a greater and greater proportion of the peasant produce is appropriated by the state bourgeoisie. Indeed, the abolition of local government and co-operative institutions was objectively a means for ensuring this exploitation.
For example, the state has throughout paid the peasant only about 40% of its receipts from the sale of cotton, and despite occasional improvements in cotton prices on the world market, the proportion finally reaching the cotton cultivator has tended to decline.
In Tanzania, maize (the staple food) and other grains are purchased from the producers by the National Milling Corporation (NMC) - a state institution. It stores and processes the grain and sells the flour to consumers via wholesalers and retailers. The state, acting as middleman, siphons off most of what is produced and the producer is paid only about one-third of the ultimate consumer price.
The relation between the state bourgeoisie and the peasantry is one of exploitation facilitated by the existence of institutional structures that regulate the activities of the peasantry and its production: villagization has created such structures. It would, of course, be misleading to imply that in these developments the state has always had the upper hand: there has been intense opposition on the part of the peasantry. We noted earlier that peasants constantly resorted to simply leaving establishment settlements, to sabotaging official regulations and so on, and what took place during the colonial period has undoubtedly continued although in ever changing forms. It is well-known that, for example, in coffee growing regions peasants have uprooted coffee trees to plant food crops, have stopped weeding cashew-nut growing areas and instead have burnt the trees, and in most areas have been selling food crops on the black market.
A clear indication of peasant resistance is that the rural economy has been steadily declining over the years. Production of both export and food crops has at best stagnated and at worst declined absolutely. There was a small but gradual increase in the early 1970s, but production of the major export crops (cotton, coffee, sisal, tea, cashew-nuts, pyrethrum, and tobacco) has been on the decline since the villagization measures of the mid 1970s. Sisal and pyrethrum have shown the sharpest decline but even crops such as coffee and cotton have generally tended to decline. As a result of this downward trend institutional changes have had to be made, and in 1984 both local government and co-operative organizations were to be reintroduced.
Food crops have fared no better- particularly those marketed through the official system. Purchases of the main food crops have been on the decline ever since 'villagization': for example. 223,000 tons of maize for 1978-79 decreased to 105,000 tons in 1980-81; rice from 52,000 to 5.000 tons: and millet and sorghum from 40,000 and 58.000 tons respectively to nil in both cases for the same years. The result has, of course, been the now annual food crises in the urban as well as in some rural areas. In turn food imports have become essential every year.
There may be many reasons for this general decline of agricultural output, but in my opinion a kind of go-slow among the peasants is probably the key factor. Professor Mascarenhas, who praised the villagization programme as one of 'the most outstanding indigenous rural development policies in African cannot but agree that 'the present agricultural picture is one of a peaceful revolt, an unwillingness to produce, or to become part of the wider system. There has been a turning back to the small farm/small plot for survival-level farming'.
At the social and political levels, institutional changes in the rural areas together with economic malaise have contributed significantly to instability in those areas. In many regions social unrest is a permanent feature, replacing the stability and social cohesion based for so long on traditional relations.