| African agriculture: The critical choices |
|8. Tanzania: Imperialism, the state and the peasantry|
In 1973-74, the government, after experimenting with a variety of 'rural development' policies, launched a 'villagization' programme for the entire mainland countryside. Basically, the programme consisted of replacing the traditional system of rural settlements, in which households are located in small isolated pockets, with the creation of large villages. This entailed moving millions of people into new areas in a relatively short time.
There has been considerable debate on the merits and demerits of the programme, and particularly on the way it was implemented. The programme's stated purpose was to facilitate the provision by government of essential social infrastructure to the rural areas -particularly water, medical services, and primary education. Whether large settlements are a necessary prerequisite for the provision of these facilities, and whether Tanzania had the resources to provide them are debatable questions.
But there has been little disagreement on the performance of rural production since 'villagization'. Agricultural output has declined in many cases and only in a few has output shown some minor increase. This poor performance may be due to many causes: climate, world commodity prices, for example. Coulson, however, has indicated that food shortages for instance cannot be ascribed to drought conditions as rainfall figures for the decade do not bear this out. Furthermore, Tanzania is a vast territory with diverse ecological zones capable of complementing each other in terms of variety of output.
Virtually every crop known to agriculturalists will grow in one or more of these [ecological] areas. Wheat, coffee, tea, potatoes, and pyrethrum in the cool mountains. On the island plateau grow maize, rice, sorghum, varieties of millet, cotton, and tobacco, as well as sisal... Coconuts, cashew-nuts, rubber, cocoa, cloves, and a wide variety of spices grow on the coastal strip or on Zanzibar and Pemba. Each ecological unit produces its own fruits and vegetables.
Nevertheless, not only have food imports risen but production for export (on which the government puts strong emphasis) has also declined. In 1972-80 overall growth of food crops was 5% per annum, that of exports crops 3% per annum.
I would argue that the root causes for this poor performance lie not in natural conditions but rather in the state's social economic policies; the strategies intended to raise agricultural production have rather proved to be the fetters. Most independent African countries have elaborated policies for change in the rural areas, but Tanzania has laid particular emphasis on this aspect of development and the many policy statements regarding rural changes have stimulated considerable debate both within and outside the country.
It is, however, my contention that in substance these policies have hardly differed either from policies elsewhere in Africa or from earlier attempts by the British in colonial Tanganyika, and elsewhere.