Cultural shift in East Africa: developments, biographies, (im)materialities

Dublin Core

Tytuł

Cultural shift in East Africa: developments, biographies, (im)materialities

Temat

Afryka Wschodnia - rozwój

Opis

Develpoment in East Africa 3, 373 s., il.

Twórca

Cichocki, Piotr (ed.)
Ząbek, Maciej (ed.)

Wydawca

Mkwawa University College of Education, a Constituent College of the University Dar es Salaam
Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology University of Warsaw

Data

2018

Prawa

Licenacja PIA

Relacja

oai:cyfrowaetnografia.pl:publication:6645

Format

application/pdf

Język

ang.

Typ

książka

Identyfikator

oai:cyfrowaetnografia.pl:6213

PDF Text

Text

DEV ELO P M E N T
IN EA S T AFR I CA

3

Cultural Shift: Developments,
Biographies, (Im) materialities
edited by Piotr Cichocki, Maciej Ząbek

Development in East Africa

Development in East Africa
Cultural Shift in East Africa:
Developments, Biographies,
(Im)materialities

edited by
Piotr Cichocki, Maciej Ząbek

Mkwawa University College of Education (MUCE), a Constituent College
of the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
&
Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
University of Warsaw (Poland)
Iringa – Warsaw 2018

© Copyright by Piotr Cichocki, Maciej Ząbek 2018

Reviewers:
Prof. Hayder Ibrahim Ali
Prof. Jacek Pawlik

Proofreading by
Iwona Handzelewicz

Cover design by
Grzegorz Sztandera

ISBN 978-83-7401-639-1

Printed in Poland
WDR, Włocławek

CONTENTS
Introduction – Piotr Cichocki & Maciej Ząbek . ...............................     7
Part I

DEVELOPMENTS
Chapter 1

KAWONGA GERVAS AND WAKATI MALIVA
East African Development: Language as a Forgotten Factor .....    31
Chapter 2

MAXMILLIAN J. CHUHILA
Commerce or Food? Development Narratives of Maize Farming
in Ismani, 1940s to the Present ................................................    57
Chapter 3

MLOWE N.P. AND JUSTIN K. URASSA
Formalization of Customary Land Rights on Rural Household’s
Livelihood Outcomes: A Case of Handeni District, Tanzania ......    91
Chapter 4

MACIEJ ZĄBEK
Ujamma. Contemporary Discourse about Julius Nyerere
Socialism . ................................................................................ 143
Chapter 5

AMBILIASIA PENIEL MOSHA AND STEVEN KAUZENI
Social Cultural Habits and Climate Change: The Untold
Stories of Climate Preservation From Kilimanjaro .................... 167
Part II

BIOGRAPHIES
Chapter 6

ANNA CICHECKA
Gender agenda and development in Tanzania ......................... 207

6

Contents

Chapter 7

ANNA WIECZORKIEWICZ
“Black women” as a rhetorical tool of persuasion ...................... 223
Part III

(IM)MATERIALITIES
Chapter 8

ASHURA JACKSON
African Independent Churches as a Threat to the Survival
of Historical Churches in Mbeya .............................................. 245
Chapter 9

MUSSA KASSIMU
Foreign Religions and Wanyamwezi Traditional Religious
Rituals; Influences and Absorption of African traditionalists’
Mind in the Third Millennium . ................................................. 271
Chapter 10

PIOTR CICHOCKI
African electronic music in church and beyond.
Dialectic relation of religion and development . ....................... 303
Chapter 11

ANTONIO ALLEGRETTI
The religious (and political) materiality of development
among Christian Maasai in contemporary Tanzania . ............... 325
Part IV

VARIA
Chapter 12

KLAUDIA WILK MHAGAMA
Efficiency and utility of Polish Aid projects in Tanzania:
Socio-cultural aspects of cooperation between local partners
and external donors and its impact on development . .............. 359

INTRODUCTION
This collection of articles aims to bring closer the problem of
current dynamic changes taking place in East Africa, something we
may call cultural shifts, that actually incorporates transformations
in every sphere of life from social, economic, through religious
and linguistic to the rapid changes in environment and climate.
A quick look at the table of contents proves that the collection is
in the strict sense interdisciplinary, but the common ground for
this meeting is founded by anthropological theory.
By starting to investigate the problem of a cultural shift, it is
adequate to trace the constellation of academic theories referring
to that question. Among concepts that are most frequently used
in academic debate and outside academia are development, globalization and modernization. In the course of the book we refer
to them ambiguously: at the same time we use them as analytic
tools and polemicize with them, criticize them and ask them uncomfortable questions.
The good example is the concept of the development, very often used in relation to African context, but not only by Africanists
or anthropologists. The development is a paradigm for thinking
and acting about and through an African state, a society or even
a personal life of Africans. Moreover, the concept is not only an
analytical tool used to describe processes but rather it became
a persuasive political tool used to redefine and reshape social
and economic life of individuals, communities and regions. The
example of how this concept manifests on the level of individual

8

Introduction

biographies comes from ethnographic fieldwork. Number of Tanzanians and Malawians with whom we had opportunity to talk
during our independent research projects planned or fantasized
about their further lives similarly as they would write a developmental plan. Furthermore, similar observations from the fieldwork
illustrate how communities or local institutions address to and
organize according to the notions of development. Most of orations of traditional authorities in public or semi-public occasions
were related to a development as more or less hypothetical but
always desirable future. But developmental is not only, or even
not mostly, discursive. It is rather an element of effective, embodied, shared imagination of powers, hierarchies and prosperities.
As above mentioned examples suggest, we propose the perspective on the cultural shifts that reflects their local diversifications
and negotiations. We argue that specifically ethnographic methods,
with their focus on unmediated experience play a crucial role in
understanding the phenomenon as multilayered rather than universal and homogenous.
Due to ethnographic methodology, we – and most of the
authors from this volume – had an opportunity to observe and
understand contradictions, multifariousness and spottiness of
shifts and changes, that are often seen as monolithic and leading
one universal way of life in the spacious and diverse continent
and region.
This book has been organized into three sections, each of which
contains the set of interrelated articles. The division reflects some
theoretical orientations in modern African studies, but even more,
the categories of institutions and experience of everyday life in
East Africa. We have proposed three points of view: throughout
the already discussed concept of the development, through the
perspective of biographies and narrations on the body, then through
the scope of (im)materiality.

Introduction

9

The first part presents papers that focus on what is usually
discussed, within the public debate on the issues of development
of states and economies. Their configuration, however, addresses
the intersection of economic, political and environmental issues.
We have no doubts that dynamics of these relations is essential to
regional and state politics in the region, putting the environmental
problems as central actor in the composition of the social1.
The second point of view – connected with eponymous biographies and narrations – is driven from methodological orientation on the individually embodied experience. By these we
want to stress the importance of cultural shifts as seen from the
perspective of the embodiment on individuals. One of the leading
attempts of the problematization of the embodiment in today’s
anthropology is the gender theory. It is arguable through reading
of current African studies2, that the gender theory applies to both
the reinterpretation of what was and is African society from one
side, and a deep change, that eventually may bring the cultural
shift from postcolonial structures from the other. The perspective
of the biography, especially in relation to women experience and
their struggles in colonial and post-colonial social settings, questions the official historical discourse and suggests that cultural
shifts we focus on, might be multidirectional. The example of this
multi-directionality comes from modern history of independent
Tanzania. As literature informs3, the ideological and economic
reforms – establishment of Ujamaa, suahilization and generally
development of African socialism – was parallel to puritanism in
1
B. Latour, Politics of nature: how to bring the sciences into democracy, Cambridge 2004.
2
African gender studies: theoretical questions and conceptual issues,
ed. O. Oyěwùmí, Houndmills – Basingstoke – New York 2005.
3
A.M. I v a s k a, Cultured states: youth, gender, and modern style in 1960s Dar
es Salaam, Durham 2011.

10

Introduction

spheres of attirement and behaviour of Tanzanian women. The
state ideological control over women’s bodies was implemented
under the ideology of Africanness freed from western corrupted
influences. The more present struggles of women, who aim to
broaden the space of political and personal agency, prove that
the previous reform supported only part of Tanzanians in their
de-colonial aspirations.
The last part of the book concerns phenomena of the religious
realm, understood, however, not only from the perspective of
beliefs and systems, but also as networks set by people, material
and immaterial elements. We decided to define it by the concept
of (im)materiality, referring to the anthropological literature on
religion, that highlights the importance of a material component
and an embodied experience of a ritual, a faith or a morality4. To
be exact, the mentioned authors stressed the ‚materiality’ of the
religion (and the art). By adding ‚im’ to the ‚materiality’, we like to
highlight the importance of mediated and technologic5 elements
in network established by religious rituals and communities. The
other reason for implementation of the prefix refers to an active
role of imagination and spiritual phenomena that are essential in
the religious realm as defined by church attendants and ritual goers. The notion of (im)materiality ties also “human experience and
technical of (im)material objects”6, which refers to wider spheres of
culture outside the religious. Therefore, we aim to address religion
by defining it through used elements and also through links that
4
A. Gell, Art and agency: an anthropological theory, Oxford – New York 1998;
B. Meyer, Materializing religion, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2, pp. 227–228;
Idem, Media and the senses in the making of religious experience: an introduction,
„Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2, pp. 124–134, 2008.
5
Cargo/(nie)materialność. Katalog. CARGO/(im)materiality. The Catalogue/
CARGO/(非)物质图录, ed. P. Cichocki and W. Plińska, Warszawa 2016.
6
Ibidem, p. 44.

Introduction

11

it is creating with seemingly other spheres of social life: economy,
technology, politics or art.

Shift or shifts?
Before we elaborate on the content of particular chapters, it is
required to define more precisely the concept of ‚change’ – or ‚shift’. In
the context of colonized regions and southern Africa more precisely,
these concepts were fundamental for scholars from the so called
Manchester school, in fact centered around Rhodes – Livingstone
Institute in today’s Zambia. Scholars who worked in Rhodes – Livingstone Institute, led by Max Gluckman were interested mostly in
the cultural shift7 manifested on both material and symbolic aspects
of newly formed urban communities. The example of the thematic
scope was the relation between political units of „tribes” and working class. Another distinctive novelty from Max Gluckman’s group
was a method of the research and the description, based mostly
on case studies that are ideal lenses to observe the process of shift.
However, it is worth noting that deep dynamic and instability were a constant feature of African social landscape. At the
same time, which is not contrary, the current processes create
unprecedented situation of cultural, demographic, ecologic and
technologic shift.
Researchers8 proved by certain case studies that Africans in
precolonial and colonial times manifested a great deal of attach7
E. Colson, Tonga religious life in the twentieth century, Lusaka 2006; M. Gluckman, Order and rebellion in tribal Africa: collected essays with an autobiographical
introduction, London 2004 (1963); J.C. Mitchell, The Kalela Dance, Manchester
1956; R.P. Werbner, The Manchester school in south-central Africa, „Annual review
of anthropology”, 13(1984), no. 1, pp. 157–185.
8
R. Natvig, Oromos, Slaves, and the Zar Spirits: A Contribution to the History of
the Zar Cult, „The International Journal of African Historical Studies”, 20(1987),

12

Introduction

ment to cultural and spatial mobility. Phenomena like migrations,
(sometimes very dynamic and creating new communities like
mfecane), crossover of groups, religious pluralism or culture creativity were a remarkable feature of people throughout the whole
continent. By far, Africans do have their own antiquity, but they
also do have magnitude of history.
Another question that attracts attention of scholars9 is a comparison of modern African cultural shifts to economic, political and
cultural transformations from other continents. The remarkable
discussions on the African working class and its similarity – or
distinction – to European or American labour, again was a deal of
the discussion of Manchester School. As Max Gluckman insisted ‘An
African townsman is a townsman; an African miner is a miner”10,
stressing the universality (or rather the process of universalization) of the capitalism.
We do not deny, however, that the changes are not a transnational phenomenon. As James Ferguson argues, Africa is a part of
world order11, call it neoliberal or, if we decide to call it with the
newer denotation, any global network of power, defining its certain
elements by its own logic. The interesting approach that compares
the African (post)modernity and (neo)liberation/liberalism comes
no. 4, p. 669; T. Ranger, The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa, in: The
Invention of Tradition, eds. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1983, pp. 211–262; T. Ranger, Religious Pluralism in Zimbabwe.
A Report on the Britain-Zimbabwe Society Research Day, St Antony’s College, Oxford,
23 April 1994, „Journal of Religion in Africa”, 25(1995), no. 3, p. 226.
9
The objects of life in Central Africa: the history of consumption and social
change, 1840–1980, eds. R. Ross, M. Hinfelaar and I. Peša, Leiden 2013; L. Vail,
The Creation of tribalism in Southern Africa, London – Berkeley 1989.
10
M. Gluckman, Anthropological problems arising from the African industrial
revolution, in: Social change in modern Africa, ed. A. Southall, London 1961.
11
J. Ferguson, Global shadows: Africa in the neoliberal world order, Durham
2006.

Introduction

13

from theoretical writings of Immanuel Wallerstein12. Wallerstein
argues that the modern interconnected world – the world system
in his nomenclature – is indeed universal and overwhealming (or
at least widely and aggresively expanding), but its terrain is heterogenous and hierarchically systematized into core, semi-peripheries
and peripheries, the latter two equated to post-colonial states13.
The connection and the hierarchy are strengthened by the global
division of labor, where the peripheral areas are sentenced to less
paid, less specialized and more strenuous labour. National states
are in fact subordinary in this process, only administrating the
division and in case of peripheral areas weakly structured and
marginally autonomous.
As far as we draw a lot from two mentioned perspectives we
would like to propose a slightly different perspective that compares
the global perspective and the local social and ecological environment. As most of presented papers can be described as case studies
based on particular localities, we cannot underestimate the locality,
the difference, the uniqueness. On the field of social studies the
defiance of the local and the singular is at best a methodological
limitation, and ignorance at worse. At the same time the lack of the
perspective on the global processes is a lapse as well. The example
from Tanzania refers to the twilight of the African socialism, when
Julius Nyerere declared the end of the politics started by Arusha
Agreement. It is widely known that the change of politics was an
effect of pressures from International Monetary Fund and other
global institutions. This decision though affected in many ways
numerous localities in Tanzania. After the national change, the
particular territories of Tanzanian state evolve economically in
I.M. Wallerstein, Africa and the modern world, Trenton 1986; Idem, Africa:
the politics of independence and unity, Lincoln 2005.
13
Idem, World-systems analysis: an introduction, Durham 2004.
12

14

Introduction

different directions. A good example of the analysis of Tanzanian
transformations diversified among different localities comes from
ethnography of Pat Caplan, who described variously how communities of Mafia Island changed separately underway of historical
changes of the state14.
Another perspective that necessitates scholars to link global and
local perspective and to diversify cultural change into a bundle of
transformations comes from the study of environment and climate
change. As far as we understand the source of the problem – and
some of its solutions – we know that particular realizations and
effects of the climate change are always local.
This collection of texts, as the variety of fieldworks, themes and
approaches, aims to represent a certain epistemological value. This
juxtaposion, however, corresponds with the theoretical approach
toward social shift, elsewhere reffered to as the development
or the modernisation. We understand this shift as a non-linear,
non-homogenic, stratified, multi-dimensional phenomenon. It is
clearly a too much distanced perspective to talk about an “African
development”. Even if financial politics or technical innovations
concern wider areas (or rather construct global areas e.g. ‚global
south’ or ‚third world’ by the political, economic distinctions and
hierarchies), they are each time shaped by local social environment,
which differentiates their role, meaning and outcome. Hence, we
tend to describe ‚developments’ instead of a single ‚development’,
‚modernisations’ as a contrast to the vision of homogenised modern
Africa and even more broadly: ‚Africas’ instead of homogenous
‚Africa’. Moreover, we argue that not only national policies and
institutions differentiate the ‚developments’. As proved by a numP. Caplan, African voices, African lives personal narratives from a Swahili village, London – New York 2003; Idem, Between Socialism & Neo-Liberalism: Mafia
Island, Tanzania, 1965–2004, „Review of African Political Economy”, 34(2007),
no. 114, pp. 679–694.
14

Introduction

15

ber of theoreticians and researchers15, the remarkable feature of
African states lies in their internal incoherency and juxtaposition.
Observing countries like Tanzania and Malawi, we might see
that there are numbers of factors that affect the differentiation
between regions, social groups or social identities. If we take the
example of relations between Northern and Southern Regions in
Malawi, we consider different ethnic composition, geographical
environments and landscapes, economic traditions and projects,
historical backgrounds, languages used and many others factors
that apart from the general condition of economy of shortage and
higher administrative belonging, brings to mind more an image
of contrast than a homogeneity.

Developments
As it was mentioned, the first part of the book directs us to
problems of the development, understood in the context of dynamic configurations of social and natural phenomena. We argue
that to address these phenomena, the interdisciplinary approach
is needed, and the chapter reflects this confidence.
The first chapter by Wakati Maliva and Gervas Kavonga concerns
the link between what is understood as development, the power and
the language. Authors argue that “a foreign language is not a proper
tool for development”. The thesis is based on the observation, how
the education of certain languages differs the faces and dynamics
of African states and current developments of the region. Good
enough example comes from the comparison of two neighboring
countries: post-socialist Tanzania, where Kiswahili promoted – or
A.I. Asiwaju, Partitioned Africans: ethnic relations across Africa’s international
boundaries, 1884–1984, London 1984; A. Mbembe, On the postcolony, Berkeley
2001; A. Mbembe and S. Nuttall, Public Culture, „Public Culture”, 15(2003),
no. 1, pp. 11–40.
15

16

Introduction

enforced as critics may say – the cultural homogeneity despite the
extreme linguistic and ethnic differentiation; and post-authoritatian
Malawi, where the domination of Chewa group had not translated
onto domination of Chichewa language and often English still is
a lingua franca, at least among educated population. It is unauthorized to foretell political and economic future to both countries, but it
clearly depends on the level of social integration of certain regions,
the development of which is highly differentiated.
Authors make a clear statement, that “a foreign language is not
a proper tool for development” and “imperative education [should]
be delivered in the language that everyone is conversant with to
enable educated people in the society to translate theories into
practice”. It is remarkable, though, that the relationship between
colonization, decolonization and language used by state institutions
became precisely proven. Moreover, authors connect the possible
wider spread of Kiswahili as the language of higher education16 as
the factor that contributes to the development of the region, the
African Union and the EAC. By this, we can see how the language
becomes somehow institutionalized and materialized as an actor
in the process of the cultural shift.
The author of the next chapter, Maximilian Chuhila presents an
in-depth historical analysis of rural transformations in Tanzania,
more precisely maize farming in Ismani, part of the present day
Iringa District. By the precise perspective of the Ismani locality,
the author presents contradictions of development in the sphere of
agriculture: simultaneous large size of faring as an informal sector
of employment in Tanzania and its relative and limited technological means involved in it and vast land resource in rural areas
contrasted with inability to adequately utilise the land. Chuhila
shows the slow process of development of accessibility to market
16

For now English is still the language of higher education in Tanzania.

Introduction

17

outlets, improving of seeds and accessibility to farm-loans parallel
to political and economical changes in Tanzania.
Factors that play the most crucial role in this entanglement are
the physical environment and the government interventions. Due
to climate change, the agriculture finds worsening conditions and
the shifting stability is secured only through the administrative
support (or remittances from relatives). Through the article it is
clearly visible how the local versions and practices of development
varied from a number of independent factors.
The land ownership, right to use it and knowledge on it – is
the subject of the paper by Napoleon Saulos Mlove and Justin
K. Urassa. The specific location of the study is Handeni District
in northeastern Tanzania. Authors study the legal aspect of land
ownership and estimate its demographic, economic and quotidian
effects. The important aspect of the control over the land in the
district are Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO),
which is the legal model of formalization of customary land rights.
The customary rights, however, are playing a certain role within
the neo-liberal economy, for example they may enable owners of
the land to access bank credits and loans. The context of Mlowe
and Urassa research also relates to the growing demographic and
social mobility, both affecting the notions of land as a commodity
or a passive capital. The authors prove, however, that Certificates
of Customary Right of Occupancy enhance tenure security, reduce
border conflicts and support ownership of land by vulnerable groups.
At the same time formalised customary land rights do not affect
positively household incomes and capital accumulation. The study,
though, brings an interesting and based on precise data perspective
on the entanglement of three systems: the so-called ‚traditional’,
legal based on the state and neo-liberal. By these the article brings
a question of how the growth of social and economic mobility interferes with earlier social structures of rural communities.

18

Introduction

Maciej Ząbek’s article also refers to the Tanzanian socialism,
more specifically to rural Ujamma communities. The author is
especially interested in the role of Ujamaa in forming Tanzanian
social relations and identity. The analysis of the historical context,
carefully studied by the author, reveals the ideological, political and
economic environment in which Ujamaa project emerged, along
with reforms concerning the gender roles (regulation on the attire
of women) and the educational reform supporting the spread of
Kiswahili as the national language. Ujamaa was part of the wide
front of reforms, which, purposely thank to Julius Nyerere’s political
project, had to establish the new ideological, economic structure
of decolonizing state. Though, the ujamaa undoubtedly had the
most tremendous effect on unevenly inhabited rural areas of Tanzania. The realization of ujamaa policy brought the relocations of
whole village populations, technologization of agricultural work,
but what is most interesting for Ząbek, also effects on the cultural
practices, discourses and a sense of individual identity.
The paper concerns the today’s look at the ujamaa past. Not
surprisingly the memories about ujamaa are ambiguous and differentiated depending on which class comes from and what age
group he or she represents. The vision of the past is also reshaped
by today’s experiences of new economic order and unequal development deepening inner diversification of Tanzanian society.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why ujamaa still takes a central
role in debates on political identity of Tanzanians in media, hiphop music or academic conferences.
Certainly the ujamaa and general Nyerere’s policy shaped the
modern notions of Tanzanianess, altogether with later economic
reforms, which led to (neo-)liberalisation of the market. As Ząbek
mentions, it is interesting to compare eastern European memories
about the socialism, despite the contrasting differences between
their historical contexts, realisations and effects. Perhaps among

Introduction

19

few similarities is the fact that both of the systems were replaced
by the realm of capitalism.
The next chapter written by Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha and Steven Kauzeni concerns seemingly different phenomenon, namely
the issue of climate change, but observed from the local point of
view. Mshiri village population, as authors argue, has the set of
procedures to preserve the climate of their environment on the
slopes of the Kilimanjaro elevation.
This perspective, however, concerns wide spectrum of modern
life in a postcolony. The status of local, indigenous knowledge
reflects the relations of power and hierarchies of certain practices
toward the environment. Moreover, the shape of social cultural
deeply rooted interventions that helped to preserve the climate is
interrelated with moral and religious beliefs and practices. In the
context of colonial and postcolonial Tanzania we can understand
how the local knowledge was first neglected, administrative attitudes toward the environment modernized and only recently
some projects make an effort to restitute and re-appreciate what
is now called ‘traditional knowledge’.
Without a doubt Mosha and Kauzeni fit into the engaged approach. They urge to re-conctruct (or construct) that environmental
conversation should be “faith-based, collectively held, and engraved
in peoples’ hearts in the adoration of the creation which takes us
back to the theories of moral realism”. By this, the paper is an
interesting proposition of project between African philiosophicaly
grounded social work and modern science and it brings an economic and political vision of what the development can be.

Biographies
The second part of the book regards the relations between narrations, the role of body and gender in eponymous cultural shifts.

20

Introduction

The body and gender, as authors prove, are the effect of social
and historical processes. It would be a lapse, however, to easily
identify gender roles for example in rural Tanzania as only effect
of the so called ‚traditional African culture’. Although we do not
underestimate the historicity of African indigenous social roles, we
must be suspicious for a crucial part of colonizing institutions in
creating the dominant gender ideology, that justifies the masculine
hegemony among most of the communities in East African states.
We would rather propose to trace how gender roles were and are
constructed by many different actors in the historical process.
Anna Cichecka traces the social and political entanglement of
gender equality and women’s empowerment as from the perspective of representatives of the NGO sector and political circles in
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The author compares and juxtaposes the
gender equality understood both as global, political project and
as the social and existential struggles of local women for better
and equal opportunities in their everyday life (or very often an
alternative to injustice or even violent social environment they are
been born into). In Cichecka’s view the non-governmental sector
reflects this suspension and contradictions determining roles of
Tanzanian women in current rural and urban communities around
the country17. From European perspective, women’s movements
ability to act autonomically and to control social, political and
economic resources faces certain contradictions in Tanzania. One
of the tendencies here is a ‚neopatrimoniality’ ideologically driven
from ‚African traditions’ but at the same time its current ideology
is constructed by colonial and postcolonial policies.
Describing the realization of the gender equality policy, Cichecka
addresses indirectly the cultural shift, that contains also the quesIt is worth mentioning that the promotion of gender equality becomes an
agenda in most developing countries as a key strategy for balanced development.
17

Introduction

21

tion of gender roles and gender stereotypes. Gender equality as seen
through the policy makers and from bottom-up perspective may
influence the dominant ideology of development in many different
ways, for example support it when it comes to the strengthening
of the agency, or contest it, when it tends to concentrate social
and economic capital in hands of (mostly masculine) proprietors.
Anna Wieczorkiewicz asks a question about a body and a gender from a different perspective. In her paper ‚„Black women” as
a rhetorical tool of persuasion’ she is interested mostly in relation
that binds various cultural subjects and social theories. By these the
article links the view of researchers with the embodied perspective
of certain human actors, namely two women signified within the
colonial and postocolonial realm as ‘black’: Saartije Baartman and
Waris Dirie. Baartman, known also under an objectifying name
‘Hottentot Venus’ in XIX had performed or rather was exhibited
for white audiences in Britain and France, as phenomenon of
natural world, one can interpret. Waris Dirie, on the other hand,
is a Somali-born model, who escaped an arranged marriage to
a much older man, moved to London and by chance was discovered by a professional photographer who started her stunning
career, during which she became an activist for women’s rights,
especially regarding campaigns against female genital mutilation.
Wieczorkiewicz compares biographies of these two ‘black women’
and analyses how they were narrated in several juxtaposed ways
by varied subjects and constructed, shaped by social and political
factors. In effect these two biographies became persuasive tools
for negotiating and contesting different ideologies and hierarchies.
The thematic scope of Wieczorkiewicz’s chapter crosses the
boundaries of the East African region, media and discourses transmitting biographies of Baartman and Dirie as global but locally
reinterpreted. These two cases give an example of a cultural shift
that is processing parallel in many localities. Within this shift the

22

Introduction

narratives deterritorialize and their meanings become multilayered.
It is another premise to understand the analyzed cultural shift as
ambiguous, multidimensional and juxtaposed.

(Im)materialities
The third part of the book gathers four articles related to African religious life in the process of a historical shift. However, as
it was noted earlier, the approach to the religion is extended by
the sphere of materiality – and also immaterial objects that are
conceptualized not as a sphere of belief, but as actors affecting
the network of elements they belong to.
We also want to emphasize the role of the religion in the processes of cultural shifts in East Africa and beyond. It is addressed
by authors within this section: Ashura Jackson and Mussa Kassimu
write about the political and social consequences of Christian missions establishment, these two chapters approach religion from the
historical perspective; Piotr Cichocki and Antonio Allegretti refer to
the technical development and changing material infrastructures
in context of a shift in the religious life.
To be more precise, Ashura Jackson compares African
����������������
Independent Churches (AICs) to what she calls historical churches, initiated
outside Africa. The comparison refers to the area known today as
Mbeya region. Author shows skilfully how the administrative region
was constructed by the establishment and the activity of missions,
setting the first colonial structures of power. Moreover, the African
Independent Churches, which were emerging relatively early in this
area (from 1920s), were seen as not only religious communities but
also as a political threat to colonial administrative hegemony. In fact
the religious practices were not completely separated from political
realm, by the way how they address issues of the subjectivity, the
race, the power, the competence of human and non-human actors.

Introduction

23

The rivalry between African Independent Churches and historical
(colonial) churches were clearly seen in the spheres of everyday
life of Mbeya inhabitants and issues like family life (monogamy
or polygamy), individualism, secularism and consumerism. The
conflict had not finished with the colonial period, but remains
vivid in post-colonial Tanganyika (and furthermore Tanzania).
As Jackson writes: “Post-colonial threats were on the economy,
different doctrine, followers, and teachings, things they provide
to people, freedom of praising and worshipping and the way they
considered faith with culture”.
Mussa Kassimu in his paper refers to a particular group from
Central-Western Tanzania, namely Wanyamwezi. The analysis also
concerns the colonisation and transformation of religious life and
beliefs. Same as Arusha Jackson Kassimu writes about the conflict
between “African beliefs” and incoming religious systems. In case
of Wanyamwezi both Christianity from white missionaries and Arab
traders played a role. Kassimu generally defines their role as somehow negative in relation to identity crisis that started to undermine
the consistency of community (the oneness of the group – Unyamwezi18). The precolonial group was divided into Wanyamwezi Christians and Wanyamwezi Muslims, which led to conflict and therefore
weakened political meaning of the group. The social split was also
the result of the forsake of “important traditional ritual practices”
which were dissolved in religious practices of new denominations.
By this, the paper brings an interesting comparison of religion,
politics and political identity. Kassimu argues that the change of
religious life, especially when the shift undermines the homogeneity of community, may cause the political destabilisation in
case of pre-colonial communities. In fact, the analysis is a model
of thinking about the role of monotheisms in the process of
18

R.G. Abrahams, The Political Organization of Unyamwezi, Cambridge 1967.

24

Introduction

colonisation. The case of Wanyamwezi can be compared to the
process of colonisation of what is now Central African Republic,
where the influences of Christianity and Islam dominated over
the traditional beliefs. From this perspective it seems to be justified to evaluate the religious systems and practices as politically
effective.
The effectiveness is also the subject of the next chapter, whose
author is Piotr Cichocki. This time the main fieldwork concerns
Northern Region of Malawi where a Christian mission in Livingstonia was established as far as in 1894. From that time on, the
influence of Christianity has an indisputable influence on every
sphere of life of local Tumbuka and Ngoni people. Cichocki is
interested mostly in the connection between Christianity and
the technological development, and traces these bonds through
religious and ritual practices connected with music. He makes
a comparison between pentecostal and presbyterian Christianity
and local cults of spirits named vimbuza. The comparison reveals
close phenomenological relationship between Christianity and
electricity along with other modern technological facilities and
connection between local ritual life with handcraft, and what is
called in case of music – acoustic sound.
The case of two types of religious practices (Christianity and
Vimbuza) reflects the relation between religion and development
which is in both academic and colloquial discourse somehow
oversimplified. Instead of contrasting the developed technology
and the religion, it is more accurate to observe and interpret ways
in which they are entangled. The juxtaposed attitudes toward the
technology and its relationship with religious rituals complicate
and diversify the allegedly homogenised image of global development. Moreover, the analysis of the technological aspects of rituals
emphasises the material and dynamic aspects of religion in lieu of
static approach focused on systems of beliefs.

Introduction

25

The next chapter by Antonio Allegretti brings a similar perspective on the relations between religion and the development. The
author comments on the very distinct group of Tanzanian society
– Maasai, and questions the role of Christianity in the transformation of the social, cultural and material landscape of Maasailand.
The analysis is concerned mostly with the material aspect, which
again binds the issues of technological and material shift with the
overall aspects of changing culture. Allegretti, as Cichocki in previous chapter, argues that there is a need to change anthropological
perspective on religion from a set of internal or immaterial beliefs
to practices involving networks of social relations and materialities19. Using this approach the author shows the development of
Christianity among Maasai, which is a relatively current phenomenon, comparing to the role of Christianity among other groups
in former Tanganika. This phenomenon however should not be
discussed as external to what can be called Maasai traditional
culture. Rather the religious sphere is understood as a space in
which relations of power between individuals, communities and
spheres of society compete. To the general idea of the book the
chapter contributes also by theorising cultural shift not as much as
a generational change, but rather as a construction of new spaces
(both material and imaginary) like religion, which become “sites
of negotiations” for hierarchies, access and generally development.

Methods
The method shared by authors, whose papers build this volume,is
worth mentioning. As it was underlined we have been tracing the
T.G. Kirsch, Restaging the Will to Believe: Religious Pluralism, Anti-Syncretism, and the Problem of Belief, „American Anthropologist”, 106(2004), no. 4,
pp. 699–709; B. Meyer, Mediation and the Genesis of presence: towards a material
approach to religion, Utrecht 2012.
19

26

Introduction

local and embodied ways of changing the social realm of current
East Africa. Obviously, the perspective of analysis does not stand
apart from the character of the knowledge. The source is obviously
based on everyday life of social actors and the local knowledge.
Most of research projects presented in papers are based on the ethnographic fieldwork including the participant observation of fluctuating dailiness in certain localities and ethnographic interviews.
By conducting semi-structured ethnographic interviews authors
aimed to understand local conceptualizations and emic classifications.
The method of the participant observation addresses problems
of the embodiment, the materiality, the cultural practice and the
imponderabilia of dailiness. Moreover, it also helps to understand
ways in which technologies and media take part in mundane everyday life and the human experience.
Some authors, however, decided to research the developmental
and cultural shifts through the historical archives or official documents (chapters by Maximilan Chuhila and Arusha Jackson) or
through the narratives on historical past as seen and experienced
by individual social actors (chapter by Maciej Ząbek and to some
extent – Anna Wieczorkiewicz). Others interspersed also the quantitative methods used especially to present the economic aspect
of research problems.
As final remarks we invite readers to explore these multi-accentual, multilayered perspectives and reverberations of shifting
Africas. We hope that tracing the way how this mosaic or polyphonic
symphony fuses into a wider composition will be epistemically
and practically enriching.
Piotr Cichocki & Maciej Ząbek
REFERENCES

Abrahams R.G., The Political Organization of Unyamwezi, Cambridge 1967.

Introduction

27

African gender studies: theoretical questions and conceptual issues,
ed. O. Oyěwùmí, Houndmills – Basingstoke – New York 2005.
Asiwaju A.I., Partitioned Africans: ethnic relations across Africa’s international boundaries, 1884–1984, London 1984.
Caplan P., Between Socialism & Neo-Liberalism: Mafia Island, Tanzania,
1965–2004, „Review of African Political Economy”, 34(2007), no.
114, pp. 679–694.
Caplan P., African voices, African lives personal narratives from a Swahili
village, London – New York 2003.
CARGO/(nie)materialność. Katalog; CARGO/(im)materiality. The Catalogue/ CARGO/(非)物质图录, ed. P. Cichocki and W. Plińska, Warszawa 2016.
Colson E., Tonga Religious Life in the Twentieth Century, Lusaka 2006.
Ferguson J., Global shadows: Africa in the neoliberal world order, Durham
2006.
Gell A., Art and agency: an anthropological theory, Oxford – New York 1998.
Gluckman M., Anthropological problems arising from the African industrial revolution, in: Social change in modern Africa, ed. A. Southall,
London – Oxford, 1961.
Gluckman M., Order and rebellion in tribal Africa: collected essays with an
autobiographical introduction, London 2004.
Ivaska A.M., Cultured states: youth, gender, and modern style in 1960s
Dar es Salaam, Durham 2011.
Kirsch T.G., Restaging the Will to Believe: Religious Pluralism, Anti-Syncretism, and the Problem of Belief, „American Anthropologist”, 106(2004),
no. 4, pp. 699–709.
Latour B., Politiques de la nature: comment faire entrer les sciences en
démocratie, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2004.
Mbembe A., On the postcolony, Berkeley 2001.

28

Introduction

Mbembe A. and Nuttall S., Public Culture, „Public Culture”, 15(2003),
no. 1, pp. 11–40.
Meyer B., Materializing religion, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2,
pp. 227–227.
Meyer B., Media and the senses in the making of religious experience: an
introduction, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2, pp. 124–134.
Meyer B., Mediation and the Genesis of presence: towards a material approach to religion, Utrecht 2012.
Mitchell J.C., The kalela dance: aspects of social relationships among urban
Africans in Northern Rhodesia, Manchester 1956.
Natvig R., Oromos, Slaves, and the Zar Spirits: A Contribution to the History of the Zar Cult, „The International Journal of African Historical
Studies”, 20(1987), no. 4, p. 669.
Ranger T., The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa, in: The Invention
of Tradition, eds. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, Cambridge 1983,
pp. 211–262.
Ranger T., Religious Pluralism in Zimbabwe. A Report on the BritainZimbabwe Society Research Day, St Antony’s College, Oxford, 23 April
1994, „Journal of Religion in Africa”, 25(1995), no. 3, p. 226.
Ross R., M. Hinfelaar, and I. Pesa, Introduction: Material culture and
consumption patterns – A Southern African revolution, in: The Objects of Life in Central Africa: The History of Consumption and Social
Change, 1840–1980, eds. R. Ross, M. Hinfelaar and I. Peša, Leiden
2013, pp. 1–13.
Vail L., The creation of tribalism in Southern Africa, London – Berkley 1989.
Wallerstein I.M., World-systems analysis: an introduction, Durham 2004.
Wallerstein I.M., Africa: the politics of independence and unity, Lincoln
2005.

PART I

DEVELOPMENTS

Chapter 1.

KAWONGA GERVAS, WAKATI MALIVA

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT:
LANGUAGE AS A FORGOTTEN FACTOR
No country has developed on the basis
of a foreign language, a language mastered
by only a few elite.
Brock-Utne, 2014
ABSTRACT

Development is a process which is anticipated to involve the whole
society. In order for every individual to participate fully, it is imperative
that the language used in accessing education be understood by all
stakeholders involved in the development process. The argument of this
paper is that appropriate language for communication and language of
education is the uppermost requisite for development to be achieved. The
skills of saving, investing and taking risks cannot be accessed by majority if they are provided through an education system whose language
of instruction serves the interest of the few elites. The conclusion given
is rooted from critical literature review and the authors experience in
learning and teaching in higher education through foreign language and
Kiswahili, an African language of the majority in EACs countries. This
paper intended to show the extent to which a foreign language is not
a proper tool for development; not only in East Africa but to any society.
Language of instruction has a great role in development since the kind of
education provided by the nation determines her path of development,
KAWONGA GERVAS – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
WAKATI MALIVA – Faculty of Education, Mkwawa University College
of Education.

32

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

the emphasis of this paper is that it is imperative education be delivered
in the language that everyone is conversant with to enable educated
people in the society to translate theories into practice for the development of East African region. The suggestion which is put forward is to
replace a foreign language as a language of instructions with indigenous
languages of wider communications such as Kiswahili. Kiswahili is being advocated for because it has two main characteristics. First is the
advantage of being nobody’s language throughout East Africa despite its
widespread use in the region. Second, Kiswahili is linguistically related
to the most indigenous languages creating necessary condition for easy
acquisition. Furthermore, the language has also gained a status of an
official language in the African Union and the EAC.

Introduction
The sociolinguistic situation in East Africa is characterized
by the widespread use of Kiswahili as a lingua franca, ethnic
languages at local scale and foreign languages, particularly English and French among the few elites. Since the 1960s Kiswahili
became an official and national language in Tanzania and Kenya1
while a number of other indigenous languages are left aside.
Uganda has 40 indigenous languages and English, making a total of 41 languages but only English has been given a status of
both official and national language. Selection of any indigenous
language to become a national and official language in Uganda
would mean that other tribes are sidelined. Unfortunately, national and official language, English, is estimated to be spoken
by only 21% of Uganda’s population. Given that situation, only
Kiswahili belongs to none of the ethnic groups. The choice of
Kiswahili, being ethnically neutral and widely spoken in the
country, as a national language and subsequently LoI would
V. Pawliková-Vilhanová, Swahili and the dilemma of Ugandan language policy,
„Asian and African Studies”, 5(1996), no. 2, pp. 158–170.
1

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

33

improve the quality of education and eventually sustainable
development in the country.
In Kenya the state of Kiswahili is better. Kiswahili enjoys the
constitutional status of both an official and a national language.
By 1996, 70% of Kenyans were estimated to speak Kiswahili
along with other ethnic languages2. Although a number of ethnic
languages in Kenya is not well established, they are estimated to
range between 40 and 603. Despite the variations, the fact is that
the country’s language which can serve as LoI and that is widely
used in the East African region apart from English is Kiswahili.
Provided that Kenya has accorded Kiswahili a national language
status, making it LoI, may not be as difficult.
Tanzania has a unique experience with Kiswahili. Despite
having 120–155 ethnic languages4, Kiswahili is spoken all over
the country. The language is a LoI in primary education, certificate in teacher education and is taught as a compulsory subject
in Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE). Kiswahili is also
learned at university level as a discipline. However, Kiswahili is
not used as LoI in secondary and higher education in Tanzania.
Kiswahili was to start to be used as LoI at all levels of education
in Tanzania by 1990’s as recommended by the Makweta commission of 1984 but for no apparent reason it was delayed to date.
It is estimated that only less than 5% of Tanzanians are fluent
in English language. Although English is mastered by that small
population in the country, it is used as a LoI in post primary
education.
Ibidem.
L. Muaka, Language Perceptions and Identity among Kenyan Speakers, in:
Selected Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, ed.
G.E. Bokamba [et al.], Somerville 2011.
4
H.R.T. Muzale & J.M. Rugemalira, Researching and Documenting the Languages of Tanzania, „Language Documentation & conservation”, 2(2008), no. 1.
2

3

34

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

Rwanda has Kinyarwanda as the only ethnic language where
more than 90% speak it and this has made it easier for the nation
to make the language both national and official. It is also the LoI
in primary school education. Rwanda had three official languages
until 2008 when French was officially dropped from being an official
language. This change was caused partly by the political disagreements between Rwanda and France. Prior to that change, both
English and French were used as LoI in secondary education and
used as a criterion for selection into university. Since Rwanda joined
the East African Community in 2009, it has made Kiswahili, which
is an official language of the community, its official language, too.
Burundi is as linguistically homogeneous as Rwanda where it
is estimated that 98% of its population speak Kirundi, a national
language. French is an official language and is used in secondary
and higher education. Kiswahili is a trade language but has not
been given any status by the state. Kiswahili and English are now
taught in schools as subjects from as early as the first year of their
primary education.
Given the sociolinguistic situation in this section, it is apparent
that two issues are noted. First, languages used in post primary
education in East African region are foreign and ill mastered by
both teachers and students. Second, Kiswahili has received a special
attention across EAC countries. With this trend of Kiswahili, communication challenges among people of the EAC can be eliminated.
Moreover,, LoI issue in the region can be appropriately addressed.
The solution to communication and LoI will pave the way to the
majority to engage in the discussion and implementation of development plans in the region. There is a close and indispensable
relationship between language and development. Arguing in line
with this view Laitin and Ramachadran had the following to say:
“... we assume that increasing distance and lower exposure [to
LoI] results in increasing learning costs and consequently reduces the

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

35

level of human capital in society. We see in Africa a combination of
elite access to the official language and widespread popular ignorance
of that language. We can infer from this combination that the failure
of newly independent African states to choose local languages as official increases manifold times the costs of effective participation in
political and professional roles [both factors affect development] for
much of the local populations. Similarly the use of a distant language
increases the cost of acquiring and processing pertinent health information, [development information in this case], and acts as a barrier
to fostering desirable health behavior, as well in affecting access and
quality of health care provided. These differences in physical and
mental human capital in turn translate into differences in productivity
and wealth”. [Squared brackets and emphasis is ours]5.

As can be noted from the quotation above, the concept of official
languages does not solely exclude the LoI especially when it is associated with development. The reason behind is that education has
a vital role for human development. Before any further discussion,
the concept of development is introduced here with argument on
the importance of appropriate LoI for development to be achieved.
The term development is oftentimes used to denote physical infrastructure such as better roads, railway lines, electricity, better houses
and of course, better education. Okonkwo observes that if a nation in
present age does not have education as its prime project, there must
be an agenda of underdevelopment as its alternative6. Every nation
tries to educate its citizens to the best of their capacities. A massive
amount of money is being spent by nations on education. New curricula are being crafted to keep pace with the global development
in science and technology. Despite all investment and concerns in
5
D.D. Laitin, R. Ramachandran and S.L. Walter, Language of instruction and
student learning: Evidence from an experimental program in Cameroon, in: 15th
SAET Conference on Trends in Economics, Cambridge, UK, 2015, p. 3.
6
J.I. Okonkwo, Appropriate Language in Education, in: Giving Space to African
Voices: Rights in Local Languages and Local Curriculum, Z. Babaci-Wilhite, Rotterdam 2014, pp. 131–146.

36

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

education, less discussion is devoted to language of instruction (LoI)
in our education. The LoI is so crucial in fostering development in
all areas of human wellbeing. Development in all sectors cannot be
disassociated from the language that is used by the people to acquire
knowledge and skills. The importance of language, particularly LoI
in our schools holds a key role to development because decision
about development requires right information on concepts, theories
and practices through quality education.
We all agree that our children must get a good education.
But what is a good education? Through which medium should
our children be educated? For whose benefit are they educated?
The answer to the first question is difficult even to the developed
world to date. Lessow-Hurley puts it clearly how difficult it is for
Americans to decide what good education is:
Everyone agrees that children are our most precious resource,
that they should all have access to a good education that they should
achieve. But in a multiethnic, multidenominational, multilingual society with broad geographic, socioeconomic, and value spectra, what
constitutes a good education, what children should achieve, and how
they should achieve it, isn’t at all clear7.

East African region has a great diversity when it comes to languages as many African nations do. The diversity naturally came in
place since language is made of arbitrary symbols. Colonial powers
divided Africa on their own criteria, not based on the languages
spoken by people of the particular area. Those who inherited the
political leadership from colonialists took over diverse population
groups with distinct languages and cultures alongside alien and haphazard territorial boundaries8. Since the colonial masters educated
J. Lessow-Hurley, Meeting the needs of second language learners: an educator’s
guide, Alexandria 2003, p. 61.
8
S.Y. Hameso, The language of education in Africa: The key issues, „Language,
culture and curriculum”, 10(1997), no. 1, pp. 1–13.
7

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

37

few Africans through the medium of their language, new governments inherited and continued to educate their citizens through
the same. During colonialism, using colonial languages to educate
Africans was aimed at obtaining few colonial assistants to facilitate
their administration. Any attempt to remove this great language and
cultural diversity into a single, foreign language and culture is too
great undertaking. In the midst of this language diversity, there is
Kiswahili, a language that is spoken by majority of East Africans.
Genetically Kiswahili shares all main linguistic features with most
languages found in EAC. This is to say that most languages including
Kiswahili belong to the Bantu Family languages. That being the case,
a child with a Bantu mother tongue will learn Kiswahili as a second
language more easily than learning English which belongs to the
Germanic Language Family. This assumption is consistent with Laitin
and Ramachandran argument that a foreign language to be used
for instruction, must be in proximity to the indigenous language9.
They further insisted that there are more economic gains for using
local languages as opposed to using a foreign language. According
to Rubanza, most children in Tanzania acquire their mother tongue
plus Kiswahili simultaneously to the extent that no clear line can be
drawn when a child finishes learning mother tongue and starts to
learn Kiswahili10. Astonishingly, our citizens are educated, not even
through the second language (L2) but through the foreign languages
(FL). The difference between the two is given by Kecskâes & Papp
when he explains:
In the second language environment (SLE), language learners have
full exposure to the target language (not only to the language system, but
to its frame as well) because it is the dominant or the only language of
the community. This is not the case in the foreign language environment
D.D. Laitin, R. Ramachandran, and S.L. Walter, Language of instruction..., op. cit.
Y.I. Rubanza, Can a three-tier language policy model work in Tanzania? A new
perspective, „Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies”, 24(1996), no. 1.
9

10

38

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

(FLE) where students’ experience and activities in the target language
are almost always restricted to the time spent in the classroom11.

And the way English is used in East African states, Tanzania, Kenya
and Uganda secondary schools is exactly what Kecskâes and Papp
refer to as FLE. The situation is also similar to the French speaking
countries in EAC such as Burundi and Rwanda. Students do not use
a foreign language beyond the four walls of their classrooms. This
situation makes the LoI new throughout their schooling years. As
a result, this deficiency in LoI is carried over to university. This is
evidenced by Komba who studied communication skills among Third
Year university students at the Sokoine University of Agriculture
and found that most students had little skills for essay writing12. He
measured several aspects and concluded that 89.1%, 88.6% and
85.1% were unable to use appropriate tenses, conclude essays and
use examples or illustrate ideas respectively. This deficiency in communication skills among Third Year university students suggests that
despite English being used for six years of secondary education in
Tanzania as LoI, its mastery is poor. If these are university students,
what about those who could not make to this level? It can be implied from the study that the LoI is not understood among students
and instructors even at university level. There are many more who
could not make it to the university because of a language barrier.
This could also mean that those who have lower language abilities
are left without education. It should be remembered that the more
the people get educated, the more the development the country
or region achieves. Therefore, if many citizens in East Africa are
dropped from education due to the language barrier, development
I. Kecskés and T. Papp, Foreign language and mother tongue, New Jersey
2014, p. 2.
12
S. Komba, The Predictive Validity of the Communication Skills Examination on Students’ Overall Academic Performance at the Sokoine University of
Agriculture (unpublished PhD Thesis), University of Dar es Salaam 2012.
11

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

39

becomes a daydream to the region. Technological advancements in
agriculture, manufacturing and other sectors cannot be developed
if fewer people in the region become educated. When East Africa
insists on educating its citizens through foreign languages, it is
insisting on underdevelopment.

Language and development defined
Scholarly works have put forward very clearly to explain why
some countries have developed and others have not. Putting
forward factors which facilitate or constrain development, Moyo
classifies them as geographical factors, historical factors, psychological factors and cultural factors13. While these general factors
hold water, the role of a language has not been given a desired
attention which this paper has devoted to address in the context of
EAC countries. The vital role of a language for development falls in
the wider concept of communication. As it can simply be defined,
communication is a process of sending and receiving information.
The emphasis in this context is on effective communication which
helps to create social networking for socio-economic development.
People need to make informed decisions on issues regarding development. When zonal economic communities like EAC lack effective
means of communication, development cannot be attained. For
example, among the EAC countries, Kenya is regarded to be at the
top in English fluency. However, the number of English speakers
in Kenya is less than 30% of the total population14. It means that
the majority are marginalized in the development agenda. Within
the Community the relationship created among its people is that
D. Moyo and N. Ferguson, Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there
is a better way for Africa, Vancouver 2010.
14
V. Pawliková-Vilhanová, Swahili and the dilemma..., op. cit.
13

40

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

of superior and inferior just because of a language and not on the
bases of genuine contribution on how to eradicate social-economic
challenges. According to Wanyama, the dialect of Kiswahili known
as Sheng’ emerged in Nairobi in 1960s and 1970s among the youth
in their efforts to find an effective means of communication15. The
language employs vocabulary from African languages and English
while using Kiswahili syntax. There are several sociolinguistic
reasons for the emergence of that dialect but in the context of
this paper, the youth sought for their communication freedom to
push forward their development agenda and define their destiny
in their own environment. The weak language policy of Kenya
failed to address the language problem among the Kenyans not
unknowingly but deliberately to exclude majority in the development agenda for the benefit of the few elites, “elites of English
Language”. Based on the communication setbacks among the
citizens of the same nation or across the region, development is
far from achievement. Indigenous knowledge which is important
for socioeconomic development of the society cannot be harvested
using a language not familiar to the society. The similar observation is given by Laitin and Ramachandran that:
One institutional factor distinguishing “developed” from many
“developing” nations today is their official language. The official
language in developed nations is typically one which is spoken and
used widely by a majority of the population. Even in developed states,
when official languages/ Loi were selected, they were not universally
accepted. On the other hand, in most developing states today, the
official language is often one that is neither indigenous nor spoken
by citizens outside of an elite minority16.
L.L. Wanyama, Language Communication And Marketing: Contextualising
the Rise of Sheng’Language in Advertising Platforms in Kenya, „New Media and
Mass Communication”, 32(2014).
16
D.D. Laitin, R. Ramachandran, and S.L. Walter, Language of instruction...,
op. cit., p. 5.
15

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

41

Based on that argument there is a great correlation between the
nature of the language employed in seeking development and the
level of development attained by a nation or a region.

Language of Instruction conceptualized
This refers to the language used to implement a formal curriculum
in or outside the classroom. This is the language used as an instrument of passing over knowledge, norms and beliefs of the society
to its new generation17. According to UNESCO mother tongue or
language of the wider communication is the most recommended
as LoI18. The research by UNESCO insists that a language which is
familiar to the children is wealthy for teaching and learning. Mkude
has a view that it is a burden to make people struggle for their life
using a foreign language because they are required to restructure
their thoughts about the reality19. Several research20 findings agree
that teaching and learning through unfamiliar language result into
poor performance and low quality in education. East African countries are still in the chain of colonial languages particularly English
and French as LoI. Warning has over time been provided that there
17
A. Masudi, The need for an appropriate medium of instruction in secondary
education and institutions of higher learning in Tanzania, „Papers in Education
and Development”, 2006, no. 26, pp. 32–41.
18
UNESCO, Education Position Paper, Paris 2003.
19
D.J. Mkude, Ujenzi wa Demokrasia na Sera ya Lugha Nchini Tanzania:
Kiswahili/Kiingereza Dhidi ya Lugha za Jumuiya Ndogondogo, in: Kiswahili katika
Elimu, Dar es Salaam 2007, p. 14–30.
20
B. Brock-Utne, Language of instruction and student performance: New insights
from research in Tanzania and South Africa, „International Review of Education”,
53(2007), no. 5–6, pp. 509–530; M.A.K. Halliday, Explorations in the functions of
language, London 1977; Z.S.M. Mochiwa, Utotoni hadi Ungumbaru: Matatizo ya
Elimu Tanzania. Ktk. Tumbo Massabo na Chiduo, in: Kiswahili katika Elimu, Dar es
Salaam 2007, p. 40–53; Z. Babaci-Wilhite, Language, Development Aid and Human
Rights in Education: Curriculum Policies in Africa and Asia, Basingstoke 2015.

42

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

is a little possibility of maintaining the objectives of education in
a specific society while the language used is not familiar to the
majority. In other words, at a moment you change the language
of instruction to unfamiliar one, it is the time you change the objectives of education. In order to attain this aim, communication
between teacher and pupil must be smooth. Most pupils in schools
in East African Countries are passive participants almost in all levels
of education including universities. Academic Audit report of the
University of Dar es Salaam of 2008 revealed an acute language
problem among the university students. The report suggested to
the university management to switch to Kiswahili as a medium of
instruction in order to improve the quality of education. On the
contrary, the same report suggested the university to continue using
English based on the international demands and trends in science
and technology. The fact here is that Tanzanians learn poorly in
English as their fellows do across the EAC member states. This is
what is observed by Babaci-Wilhite that some African languages are
well established in both scientific and technological terminologies
yet they are not used as LoI in secondary education21. The similar
views are put forward by Laitin and Ramachandran that “Secondary
education, the key to joining the modern sector in Africa, is almost
entirely conducted through the media of non indigenous languages
throughout Africa, with possible exceptions of Somalia (before state
collapse) and Mauritania”22. Kiswahili is the most pointed language
in Africa which can afford the responsibility of being a LoI. Kiswahili
being a lingua franca in East Africa could be adopted in all member
states as LoI. Kiswahili is the right LoI we ought to use as EAC in
education and based on what is argued by Babaci-Wilhite23 on the
Ibidem.
D.D. Laitin, R. Ramachandran, and S.L. Walter, Language of instruction...,
op. cit., p. 5–6.
23
Ibidem.
21
22

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

43

importance of localizing instruction and curricular. Kiswahili can
accommodate the linguistic diversity in East Africa because of having
common linguistic features with most ethnic languages and its being
sociolinguistically neutral as it is argued elsewhere in this paper.

Historical perspective of LoI (imperial legacy)
Much is said in favour of foreign LoI in Africa. Many argue that
global languages such as English are inevitable if Africa and the
developing world throughout the world want to achieve development. The thesis is that science and technology is better accessed
through the medium of English. This idea is strongly opposed by
Language-Power-Pedagogy which argues that no language is inherently and permanently designed for science and technology24.
And if science and technology was inherent to certain language or
languages, it would not spread to other nations that speak a different language and therefore nuclear technology that began with
western nations would not be present in North Korea where the
West opposes their possession.
We witness many nationalities from around the globe such as
the Chinese, undertaking great projects in road construction, industrialization and mining in Africa. Do they construct the roads in
English? Do they manufacture industrial goods that are scattered
all over Africa in English? It is time for East Africans to realize that
it is the skills that matter and not language. When that is realized,
education in this region will aid the development we aspire to
achieve as opposed to the current practice where education acts
as barrier to development due to FL being its vehicle of delivery.
There is another claim by parents on the use of English as LoI in
primary school in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. They educate their
24

J.I. O k o n k w o, Appropriate Language in Education, op. cit., pp. 131–146.

44

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

children in the medium of English because secondary education
is provided in English and therefore primary education in English
paves the way for smooth education at secondary level. However,
there is no evidence to support this claim because even the children
who learn through their L1 need to learn more grammar and new
ways to communicate in academic arena. What makes a foreign
language even worse to be a LoI is its limited use outside classroom
walls where more free communication and language learning takes
place among students. Also a foreign language cannot mold the
psychological part of the human being.

Language and mind / thought
The term mind is synonymously related to brain. The WebsterDictionary defines a term mind in three different ways: (a) the
element or complexity of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons. (b) the conscious mental
events and capabilities in an organism (c) the organized conscious
and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism. All these
definitions are in line with the fact that language has a direct link
to the brain for production, processing and comprehension. According to Caplan, brain consists of a large number of regions each of
which contributes to motor function, thought, emotion and other
functions in special ways25. However, mind operates from actual
experiences which an individual acquires from her/his environment. Mind absorbs information through various senses of organs
to build a base for thoughts. Aspects of culture, norms, beliefs and
traditions impose significant effects on thoughts produced by an
individual. The uppermost strong mechanism which brings cultural
D. C a p l a n, Neurolinguistics and linguistic aphasiology: An introduction,
Cambridge 1987.
25

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

45

aspects in the mind is language. Language is both the most effective means of communication among the human species and the
means of inheriting values to the new generation. This is to suggest
that a thought is produced after its conception through overtime
experiences acquired from specific context through language. The
proper language is the one which has arbitrarily emanated from the
specific context in which individuals found themselves.
However, we are aware of the controversial debate raised by
Whorf26 about what is to start between language and thought.
Despite the debate taking egg and chicken model, the possibility
suggested in Whorfian hypothesis of linguistic relativity cannot be
ignored. According to Whorfian hypothesis of linguistic relativity,
language is not simply a reporting device for our experience, but
a defining framework of it. This assumption suggests that people
of different linguistic background think and understand concepts
differently. In the context of this paper, the concept of development has different conception among different races of various
backgrounds in linguistics, their conception must be respected.
People understand concepts in their right way as they are shaped
through their languages. Krashen in the theory of social interaction insisted on the importance of resources available in the speech
community for language development27. Interpretations of meaning
to most language expressions are culturally constructed. Taking
example of idiomatic expressions, the meaning interpreted is not
a result of the total words available in the expressions but rather
culturally constructed, produced, interpreted and defined. Studies
in second language learning have suggested that a learner cannot
attain a native speaker’s competence. All these suggest that conB.L. Whorf and J.B. Carroll, Language, thought, and reality: selected writings
of Benjamin Lee Whorf, Mansfield 2011.
27
S. Krashen, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning,
Oxford 1981.
26

46

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

cepts like development must be rooted in the specific culture to be
well understood and accepted. The superimposed definition and
practices of poverty alleviation programmes in Africa and among
EAC countries in particular, will never become sustainable and
multiply to the grassroots. This is because thoughts and concepts
are culturally constructed and understood. Arguing in line with
Social semiotic theory, Kress (2007:18) had the following to say:
The sign is a social semiotic entity because the process of realization and making meaning is based on choices that are contingent
action by the speakers in a social environment. Shifting modes of
representation results to profound changes in our stance towards how
we make sense of the world28.

Based on that view, the emphasis is that people should discuss
their challenges using the signs of communication they are competent in. Using a foreign language is to change the mission of
the society for the benefit of the few. This view is consistent with
Ellis (2016) who argues thatlanguage and social context play an
important role in conceptual processing29. This means that the
context cannot fully be shared or transferred to the new context
expecting to yield the same results. Using a foreign language to address poverty alleviation in EAC and elsewhere is to shift the mode
of representation of reality and constrain the development process. This is because representation and communication is always
a social matter which responds to social change30. Development
must be conceived and addressed through language and culture
of those who want development. Foreign languages especially
28
G. Kress, Meaning, Learning and Representation in a Social Semiotic Approach to Multimodal Communication, in: Advances in Language and Education,
eds. A. McCabe, M. O’ Donnel and R. Whittaker, London 2007, p. 18.
29
C.A. Ellis, How Language Culture and Emotions Shape the Mind, Phd Thesis
(unpublished), Bangor University 2016.
30
D. Caplan, Neurolinguistics and linguistic aphasiology, op. cit.

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

47

English and French have caused communication difficulties over
African countries including EAC. The result of such a situation,
development agenda are only understood by the few elites. Borrowing from the dependency theory, discussion on development in
developing countries involves the centre of the core and the centre
of the peripheral while the majorities are marginalized through
language31. Since discussion about development is inevitable, our
concern is that in which language and for whose benefit the discussion is held. How many people are aware of several conferences
being held within EAC on development every year? To what extent
are the resolutions being disseminated to common people who are
important for development? In whose language are the resolutions
disseminated? These are questions that need to be addressed while
discussing development in the EAC and elsewhere. This section has
addressed the relationship between language and mind/thoughts.
We have emphasized the importance of specific cultures for concept
creation and understanding at a significant degree to yield the desired
impact. This is to say, foreign languages cannot bring development
in the foreign context. Taking example of EAC, the lingua franca is
Kiswahili which is not used in education to familiarize the development theories. This is contrary to the principles of psychology,
education and sociology in language and education32.

Language and Education
Education is related to language because it is through language
that education is provided. For education to be meaningful, the
D. Moyo and N. Ferguson, Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there
is a better way for Africa, op. cit.
32
K.K. Prah, Going native: Language of instruction for education, development
and African emancipation, in: Language of instruction in Tanzania and South Africa
(LOITASA), Dar es Saalam 2003, pp. 14–34.
31

48

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

language that is used to deliver it has to be familiar to both the
teacher and the learners. Corson shows how language is related
to education:
A school curriculum is a selection of knowledge from the culture:
all those things in the culture (or from other cultures) considered
worth passing on through schooling. Since all forms of knowledge
are „filtered” through language, the chief item of knowledge in any
culture is its language. The chief object of the school is to encourage
the complete mastery of the language of the culture, since without
this mastery children are denied power and influence over their own
affairs and an opportunity for success in education33.

It is difficult to educate people of one language using other
people’s language. Language performs both positive and negative
roles. It can be used to unite people, strengthen relationships and
the like. However, language can be used to discriminate, dominate
and block people’s access to political and economic progress34.
East African region needs to rethink the way languages in education are used in their respective nations; whether they are used
for domination or emancipation. For if language of education is
used in the same way the colonial masters used against us, the
possibility of development is narrowed by the fact that very few
citizens will get meaningful education necessary for development.
Learning is a demanding activity, it becomes more demanding
when the learner has to learn the language and the content at the
same time and hence be faced with double tasks35. This is because
every language divides its world differently. This means that the
current practice in East African region, where the languages of
D. Corson, Language policy across the curriculum, Clevedon 1990, p. 3.
S.Y. Hameso, The language of education in Africa..., op. cit., pp. 1–13.
35
W. Maliva, Challenges encountered by teachers in implementing the advanced level competence based English language curriculum in Iringa municipality-Tanzania (unpublished M.A. Education dissertation), University of Dar
es Salaam 2013.
33
34

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

49

education are foreign, creates a drawback to educational development which in turn leads to underdevelopment in other areas as
well. The problem is that we view education only through western
lens and so believe that it can only be provided in English36.
In West Africa the situation is the same and Okonkwo further
notes that since education is provided in the language alien to
learners37, the education attained is just surface level compartmental education and it results into poor national development.
Despite English being used for 200 years and now LoI in Nigeria,
less than 20% of Nigerians are able to speak and write it38.

Research on local LoI
A significant number of researches have revealed that local
languages are most appropriate for teaching and learning in
schools. According to UNESCO there are three main factors which
make local languages more appropriate as LoI39. These factors are
psychological, sociological and educational.
Psychologically, local language like other languages is a system
of signs which can be comprehended more easily and accurately in
the brain of a learner. This means that a learner having acquired
native competence of his/her language uses a little energy to follow what is being taught compared to using a second or a foreign
language. Sociologically local languages are devices to establish
relations and friendship in the society which is important for
experience sharing. People in EAC are not free to interact due to
J.I. O k o n k w o, Appropriate Language in Education, op. cit., pp. 131–146.
Ibidem.
38
E.M. Emenanjo, Languages and the national policy on education policy on
education: Implications and Prospects, Retrieved June 18, 2011, from http://fafunwafoundation.tripod.com/ fafunwafoundation/id9.html [Accessed: 02-Jan-2018].
39
Education Position Paper, op. cit.
36
37

50

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

communication barrier. Kenyans, for example, are regarded to
have high level of competence in English language. Ugandans can
be regarded the second. In both countries English is the second
language based on sociolinguistic analysis. Tanzania and the rest,
English and French are foreign languages. These differences create
unnecessary inferiority among member states just because of less
or more mastering foreign language. The attitude is that knowing
English or French means possessing knowledge. Using a foreign
language for education alienates the elites from their society and
makes them belong to the foreign culture and nation. That being
the case development can be difficult to attain in the region.
Educational wise, local languages simplify learning and teaching. Reaserchers have suggested that a teacher and a student must
use a language they well master40.
On the one hand, it suggested that the university switches to
Kiswahili as a LoI. On the other hand, it suggested continuing
using English due to global trends in Science and Technology. In
our opinion the first suggestion is valid because it is absurd to
think of global solutions to local challenges. Thinking in that way
violates the hierarchy of needs as suggested by Maslow. According
to him, a human being strives most for the basic needs towards
the less basic needs. Development must adhere to that hierarchy.
A critical community cannot think of external world while its own
people are starving.
Language serves as a vehicle for transmission of knowledge
and skills among members of the community. This function is best
performed when the language is familiar to both parties involved
in communication. Any deficiency in either party hampers the
communication process, and worse in the education provision.
B. Brock-Utne, Language of instruction and student performance: New insights
from research in Tanzania and South Africa, op. cit., pp. 509–530.
40

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

51

When education is provided through the language both the
teacher and the learners master, the result is greater than when
it is only the teacher who masters the language. The situation is
worse when it is not only the students who do not master the LoI,
but teachers as well. What is expected from students even when
the teacher does not master the LoI?
There are several constraints of using a foreign language as
LoI. One of them is exclusion of learners in teaching and learning
process. Those who do not master the foreign language especially
English and French for the case of EAC countries are regarded as
fools, slow learners and hopeless children. The second impediment is incomprehension of content even to those few who seem
to master the language. Over years researches have suggested that
most language of education in Africa is a curse to the intellectual
development of the young people. According to Senkoro, using
a foreign language results into the intellectual “genocide” of African
children41. That being the case, education provided does not help
people to master their environment and thus development cannot
be attained. Innovations and discoveries in foreign language have
rarely been reported on earth.

Conclusions and recommendations
The society’s language is one of its most treasured possessions.
When that language is used in education, the results are great.
Those who defend English for education in Africa say that the language carries with it science and technology42, and if that was the
F. Senkoro, Mauaji ya Halaiki ya Watoto wa Tanzania Kupitia Lugha ya
Kufundishia Sekondari na Vyuoni, Dar es Salaam 2008.
42
R.A. Foyewa, Language attitudes in Nigeria: Implication on General English
in Higher Institutions, „Journal of Language and Applied Linguistic”, 3(2012),
no. 2, pp. 28–36.
41

52

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

case, the Chinese would not have achieved their vast technological
development just from 1949 using their own language.
Since language is used by examination agencies to determine
children’s educational fate43, it is important to ensure that the
language that is used to assess what these learners use to display
what they know is familiar to them. Our students may be unable
to understand what they are taught not because it is difficult, but
because the language used in the process of teaching and learning
is not familiar to them. We must be able to discern when learners
cannot understand what is taught because of their aptitude or that
the language is the barrier.
The LoI has to change if we want East Africa to develop and
it is the people who belong to the elite group that are to lead this
movement. The elite has to lead the movement because it is this
group that perpetuates the use of foreign languages, not because
of the benefit of their country they live in, but because of their
own children44. Speaking of LoI shift from foreign to native, BrockUtne further argues that most African academics know that the
majority of Africans cannot learn well if the learning is going to
take place in the language they do not master.
Although the fight against the belief that the use of foreign
languages in higher education is hard, we have to be bold enough
and start it. Okonkwo argues that language is power and an explosive that can explode in many directions and can affect people
positively or negatively45. He further sees that knowledge and
education are also powers that are totally inherent and interpretable through the forms and concatenations of language. By that
D. Corson, Language policy across the curriculum, op. cit.
B. Brock-Utne, Language of instruction and student performance: New insights
from research in Tanzania and South Africa, op. cit.
45
J.I. Okonkwo, Appropriate Language in Education..., op. cit.
43
44

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

53

observation, nations have to be careful in selecting LoI in order to
avoid negative impact on the learners and the nations.
The reason we should select our local languages such as Kiswahili to be used as LoI is well said by Okonkwo:
Since all languages have the natural endowment to construct and
deliver knowledge, the knowledge so far delivered becomes a ‘Form
of Life’ for the producers. The fact here is that as long as you use
a language that is by nature not yours, you have imported a ‘Form of
Life’ that is not yours either. Language is the determiner of the kind
of life people lead46.

It should be clear that the argument here is not a total rejection
of other languages. Learning a second and even a third and fourth
language is an asset. What is being advocated here is that other
languages are worth learning and we should learn them to the
best proficiency possible. In order for these foreign languages to be
learnt well, deliberate efforts to train competent teachers in these
languages is needed and the students can learn these foreign languages and become more competent than the current students are.
What is suggested here is that foreign languages should not
be used as LoI. Their use implies inability of students to master
these languages and thus becomes a barrier to access education.
Tanzania has an education policy of 2014 that assigns more
roles to Kiswahili in education. If that move continues, a leap
in education and subsequently in development can be achieved.
Makweta commission of 1980s recommended the use of Kiswahili
as LoI from primary school to university. It was suggested to be
implemented in phases such that secondary education was to begin
using Kiswahili from Form One, and therefore English medium
would phase out in the same order. This recommendation was not
implemented and no clear explanations were given for its rejec46

Ibidem, p. 137.

54

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

tion. However, logical analysis brings the conclusion that linguistic
imperialism has succeeded to dominate the cultures of the world.
The starting point has to be primary education where all primary schools should educate children in the language that is better
known to them than foreign languages such as English, and for
East Africa, Kiswahili can serve that purpose.
East Africa and Africa have to understand that it takes knowledge and skills to develop, not language. Clinging to languages
the learners and perhaps the teachers cannot master is detrimental
to development.
REFERENCES

Babaci-Wilhite Z., Language, Development Aid and Human Rights in
Education: Curriculum Policies in Africa and Asia, Basingstoke 2015.
Brock-Utne B., Language of instruction and student performance: New
insights from research in Tanzania and South Africa, „International
Review of Education”, 53(2007), no. 5–6, pp. 509–530.
Caplan D., Neurolinguistics and linguistic aphasiology: An introduction,
Cambridge 1987.
Corson D., Language policy across the curriculum, Clevedon 1990.
Ellis C.A., How Language Culture and Emotions Shape the Mind, Phd
Thesis (unpublished), Bangor University 2016.
Emenanjo E.N. Languages and the national policy on education policy on
education: Implications and Prospects, Retrieved June 18, 2011, from
http://fafunwafoundation.tripod.com/ fafunwafoundation/id9.html
[Accessed: 02-Jan-2018].
Foyewa R.A., Language attitudes in Nigeria: Implication on General English
in Higher Institutions, „Journal of Language and Applied Linguistic”,
3(2012), no. 2, pp. 28–36.
Halliday M.A.K., Exproration in Function of Language, London 1973.

EAST AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT: LANGUAGE...

55

Hameso S.Y., The language of education in Africa: The key issues, „Language,
Culture and Curriculum”, 10(2001), no. 1, pp. 1–13.
Kecskâes I. & Papp T., Foreign Language and Mother tongue, New Jersey 2000.
Komba S., The Predictive Validity of the Communication Skills Examination on Students’ Overall Academic Performance at the Sokoine
University of Agriculture (unpublished PhD Thesis), University of
Dar es Salaam 2012.
Krashen S., Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning,
Oxford 1981.
Kress G., Meaning, Learning and Representation in a Social Semiotic Approach to Multimodal Communication, in: Advances in Language and
Education, eds. A. McCabe, M. O’ Donnel and R. Whittaker, London
2007, pp. 15–39.
Laitin D.D., Ramachandran R. and Walter S.L., Language of instruction and
student learning: Evidence from an experimental program in Cameroon,
in: 15th SAET Conference on Trends in Economics, Cambridge, UK, 2015.
Lessow-Hurley J., Meeting the needs of second language learners: An educator’s guide, Alexandria 2003.
Maliva W., Challenges encountered by teachers in implementing the
advanced level competence based English language curriculum in
Iringa municipality-Tanzania (unpublished M.A. Education dissertation), University of Dar es Salaam 2013.
Masudi A., The Need for Appropriate Medium of Instruction in Secondary
Education and Institutions of Higher Learning in Tanzania, „Papers in
Education and Development”, 2006, no. 26, pp. 32–41.
Mkude D.J., Ujenzi wa Demokrasia na Sera ya Lugha Nchini Tanzania:
Kiswahili/Kiingereza Dhidi ya Lugha za Jumuiya Ndogondogo, in:
Kiswahili katika Elimu, Dar es Salaam 2007, p. 14–30.
Mochiwa Z.S.M., Utotoni hadi Ungumbaru: Matatizo ya Elimu Tanzania.
Ktk. Tumbo Massabo na Chiduo, in: Kiswahili katika Elimu, Dar es
Salaam 2007, pp. 40–53.

56

Kawonga Gervas, Wakati Maliva

Moyo D. and Ferguson N., Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there
is a better way for Africa, Vancouver 2010.
Muaka L., Language Perceptions and Identity among Kenyan Speakers, in:
Selected Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference on African Linguistics,
ed. G.E. Bokamba [et al.], Somerville 2011, pp. 217–230.
Muzale H.R.T. & Rugemalira J.M., Researching and Documenting the
Languages of Tanzania, „Language Documentation & conservation”,
2(2008), no. 1, pp. 68–108.
Okonkwo J.I., Appropriate Language in Education, in: Giving Space to
African Voices: Rights in Local Languages and Local Curriculum, ed.
Z. Babaci-Wilhite, Rotterdam 2014, pp. 131–146.
Pawliková-Vilhanová V., Swahili and the dilemma of Ugandan language
policy, „Asian and African Studies”, 5(1996), no 2, pp. 158–170.
Prah K.K., Going native: Language of Instruction for Education, Development
and African Emancipation, in: Language of instruction in Tanzania and
South Africa” (LOITASA), Dar es Saalam 2003, pp. 14–34.
Rubanza Y.I., Can a Three – Tier Language Policy Model Work in Tanzania?
A New Perspective, „Ufahamu: A journal of African Studies”, 24(1996),
no. 1, pp. 82–97.
Senkoro F.E.M.K., Mauaji ya Halaiki ya Watoto wa Tanzania Kupitia Lugha
ya Kufundishia Sekondari na Vyuoni, Dar es Salaam 2008.
UNESCO, Education Position Paper, Paris 2003.
Wanyama L.L., Language Communication and Marketing: Contextulising
the Rise of Sheng’ in Advertising Platform in Kenya, „New Media and
Mass Communication”, 32(2014), pp. 66–69.
Whorf B.L. and Carroll J.B. , Language, thought, and reality: selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, Mansfield 2011.

Chapter 2.

MAXMILLIAN J. CHUHILA

COMMERCE OR FOOD?
DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES OF MAIZE FARMING
IN ISMANI, CA. 1940S TO THE PRESENT
About 60% of gross domestic product is earned
in the agricultural sector, and so we find 80%
of total employment and 80%
of total export earnings originating there.
G.K. Helleiner, 1979:188.
ABSTRACT

Farming is a major informal sector employer of more than 80 per
cent of the active labour force in Tanzania. This has been the case since
independence and will slightly change in a course of a long time. Rural
transformations in Tanzania will depend on modernisation of agricultural
development, improvement of accessibility to market outlets, guarantees
on improved seeds and access to farm-loans. Amidst the existence of vast
land resource in rural areas, the land is inadequately utilised for farming because of various challenges facing the rural sector. Most of such
land is either less fertile or receives less rainfall with no possibilities for
irrigation. This paper provides an overview of the development of maize
farming in Ismani, part of the present day Iringa District. It argues that
the development of maize farming in Ismani depended on government
interventions on the one side and on the other the physical environment.
When the government encouraged production, maize farming was for
both food and commerce but when the physical environment hindered
MAXMILLIAN J. CHUHILA (Ph.D.) – Lecturer Department of History
University of Dar es Salaam – Mwalimu Nyerere Main Campus.

58

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

production, even that small supply for food fell short. In recent years
especially from the year 2000 to the present Ismani remains unpredictable in as far as food security is concerned. Once a prosperous zone for
maize farming that used to feed a large part of Tanzania, today, an area
with recurrent food insecurity that depends on government relief food
or remittances from relatives outside Ismani. The paper explores the
dynamics of maize farming in the area to provide a detailed historical
understanding of the present day situation in the area. This paper uses
archival sources, fieldwork interviews and secondary sources collected
between 2012 and 2013 and 2017.
Key words: rural modernisation, agriculture, Ismani, development,
maize farming, environmental history, Ujamaa.

Introduction
The above extract shows the importance of the rural sector in
most of the third world countries. Although the statistics were
specific for the year 1979 nothing substantial has reversed the
situation completely up to the last decade. The contribution of the
rural sector to the economy of less developed remains significant.
The quotation indicates that for a successful economic planning
and development to occur effort should be made to liberate the
rural sector from unnecessary strings limiting its progress1. This
will help to modernise the rural sector and contribute intensively
to the national gross income through export of cash crops and
assurance of food supplies. In Tanzania, according to the 2013
agricultural policy, the average annual growth rate of agricultural productions was 4.4% compared to population growth that
was 2.6%. This trend of agricultural and population growth is
G.K. Helleiner, Agricultural Export Pricing Strategy for Tanzania, in: Papers on
the Political Economy of Tanzania, eds. K.S. Kim, R. Mabele and M.J. Schultheis,
Nairobi 1979, p. 188.
1

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

59

not enough to reduce poverty and solve the challenges of food
security in Tanzania. An average agricultural annual growth of
at least six to eight per cent would sustain a healthy and more
progressive rural sector. The other challenge in the statistics
of the agricultural policy is the combination of food and commercial crops in the estimations of annual agricultural growth2.
Commercial crops like coffee, cotton and sisal are entirely for
the market while crops like maize, groundnuts, rice, beans and
many others are divided between the market and the kitchens.
This implies while cash crops are entirely for the market, food
crops are at a risk of going to the market especially in areas
without alternative cash crops. In the period between the 1980s
and 1990s, there was a primary school textbook3 used all over
Tanzania for school children. In this book there were case studies
on different crops how they were grown and the required climatic
and weather conditions for optimal growth. These were sampled
from different areas of rural Tanzania. One of its chapters was on
maize farming in Iringa District that used Ismani as an example
of the areas where modern and prosperous agriculture existed. It
was during the heyday of maize farming in Ismani. Unfortunately,
the conditions that brought fame to maize farming in Ismani are
no longer in place. The historic maize farming in Ismani has now
remained in the minds of the people of Ismani as well as the
minds of many Tanzanians. Some of them still consider the pride
of maize in Ismani still continues while some understand that
it was a nostalgic past. Media reports have repeatedly reported
what currently happens in Ismani as opposed to what was the
case in the 1970s and 1980s.
Refer National Agricultural Policy, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security
and Cooperatives, 2013, p. 2.
3
Taasisi ya Elimu, Wafanyakazi wa Tanzania: Jiografia kwa Darasa la Nne,
Kitabu cha Wanafunzi, Wizara ya Elimu ya Taifa, Dar Es Salaam 1983, pp. 26–28.
2

60

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

Background
Classified agro-ecologically, Ismani falls in the Lowland and
Midland climatic zones of Iringa District. Most villages of Ismani
division fall in the lowland zone. The Lowland zone lies between
900m to 1200m above the sea level. It always receives low amount
of rainfall between 500mm to 600mm per annum with a mean
temperature of between 20°C and 30°C. It was endowed with fertile
soils that had a high potential for agriculture from 1900s to 1980s,
however, farming was hindered by unreliable rainfall and the fact
that other areas of Iringa District were used for farming. Out of the
four wards of Ismani Division, only two fall in the Midland zone.
The Midland zone is comparatively more suitable for cultivation
than the other zones. The zone lies within an attitude of 1200m
and 1600m above the sea level. The landscape of the midland zone
is characterised by scattered mountain hills, plateaus with swamps
and ponds. This zone receives an annual rainfall between 600mm
and 1, 000mm per annum and a mean temperature between 15°C
to 20°C. The two wards of Ismani division that fall in the midland
zone are Kising’a and Kihorogota4.
In Tanganyika agricultural activities that might have culminated
in rapid production and environmental change were observed in
the 1930s. Farming became particularly noticeable during this
time when the British colonial government intensified production
of crops by launching the ‘grow more crops campaign’. Through
this campaign, peasants were encouraged to open new fields to
take advantage of price incentives provided by the colonial government5. Enough food crops were required for labourers who
were in various estate and settler farms such as sisal plantations
Iringa District Profile, 2011.
B.D. Bowles, The Political Economy of Colonial Tanganyika 1939–1961, in:
Tanzania Under Colonial Rule, ed. M.H. Kaniki, London 1980, p. 168.
4
5

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

61

in Morogoro and Tanga. Also during the same time there were
several British soldiers who camped in Kenya for the Second World
War6. The intensity of production increased remarkably soon after
the Second World War as a result of the modernisation campaigns
of the colonial government. After the war Ismani became under
intensive considerations for maize farming and more settlements
were opened in the area during this period. The modernisation
campaigns in Ismani resulted into major success in maize farming. Specifically after the Second World War and the two decades
of independence, during the heydays of maize farming, the area
was regarded as a national grain basket. Despite all this historic
significance of area, in the recent decades, Ismani has been characterised by recurrent shortage of food and difficulties in farming
as will be discussed later in this paper.

Farming during the 1940s to 1961
Intensive farming did not start in Ismani until the 1940s. Before
the 1940s Ismani was not heavily settled as peasants occupied
land elsewhere in the region. Also before this period the area
experienced some challenges that hindered settlement and farming in the area. The challenges included the absence of perennial
crops, the introduction of Lupa Goldfields in Mbeya which attracted labourers from Iringa District to work in European firms,
the predominance of livestock keeping over subsistence farming,
the poor knowledge on the potentiality of the soil and fear of wild
animals7. The post-Second World War period and especially the
1950s witnessed what some historians have called the period of
Ibidem.
A. Awiti, Ismani and the Rise of Capitalism, in: Rural Cooperation in Tanzania,
ed. Lionel Cliffe, Dar es Salaam 1975, p.52.
6
7

62

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

‘new colonialism’8, ‘second colonial occupation’9, or ‘the beginning of the end of the great colonial epoch’10. Generally, it was
a period of struggle against environmental, political and economic
constraints to realise greater hopes for recovery from the depredations of the war. It was characterised by all these names because
of the new strategies and campaigns implemented in the colonies
to improve the livelihood of the colonised people and compensate
the loss of the war.
The post World War II period was also partly characterised by
shortage of food and edible oil. This prompted the British colonial
government to encourage establishment of large scale farming in the
territory so as to cater for the demands of food and cash crops. This
culminated into the opening up of large areas of land in different
parts of the colony for production. For instance, tobacco farms were
established in Urambo, cattle ranches were opened up in Dodoma,
and a groundnut scheme was established in Nachingwea11. Most of
these schemes failed due to poor conceptions and failure to consider
environmental specifications and the availability of labour. They
were conceived in 1940s and were abandoned in 195012. During
the same period new settlements were established in Ismani and
heavy investment in maize farming continued. Awit, Goran Hyden
and Finn Kjærby acknowledge this period as an important interlude for colonial agricultural developments in the colony. Strategic
J. Illife, A Modern History of Tanganyika, Cambridge 1979, pp. 436–484.
D.A. Low and J.M. Lonsdale, 1976, as Cited in Illife 1979, p. 436.
10
N.R. Fughes-Couchman, Agricultural Change in Tanganyika: 1945–1960,
Stanford 1964, p. 5.
11
G. Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and Uncaptured
Peasantry, Nairobi 1980, p. 63; J.S. Hogendorn and K.M. Scott, Very Large
Scale Agricultural Projects: The lessons of the East African Groundnut Scheme, in:
Imperialism, Colonialism and Hunger: East and Central Africa, ed. R.I. Rotberg,
Massachusetts – Toronto, pp. 167–192.
12
J. Illiffe, Modern History, op. cit., pp. 436–484.
8
9

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

63

cash crops such as sisal and rubber were encouraged on large-scale
farming. At the same time more emphasis was on the production
of food crops to reduce dependence on imported food supplies13.
Food grains were produced on large-scale farms in two zones; that
is, wheat in the Northern highlands, notably West Kilimanjaro and
Mbulu, and maize chiefly in Ismani14. Some scholars have seen this
period as experiencing the ‘peasant mode of production’ where large
and small-scale farmers engaged in farming activities15. Tanganyika
peasants were at advantage as compared with peasants in other
British colonies like Kenya and Zimbabwe. Peasants in Tanganyika
were allowed to produce cash crops while they were prohibited in
settler-dominated colonies like Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Most European colonial governments left economic development
to private enterprise and the governments contributed indirectly
through establishment of infrastructure, legal provisions and taxation systems16. The British colonial government in Tanganyika did
not commit itself to too much economic intervention until after
the enactment of the Colonial Development Act of 1929. After the
Act the British government started to show interests in overseas
development and development approach in the colonies received
a new dimension17. Government intervention started with the
A. Coulson, Tanzania: A Political Economy, Oxford 2013, pp. 78–79.
H. Ruthenberg, Agricultural Development in Tanganyika (Afrika-Studies,
no. 2), Cited in G. Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, op. cit., p. 63; F. Kjærby, The Development of Agricultural Mechanisation in Tanzania, in: Tanzania Crisis and Struggle
for Survival, eds. J. Boesen [et al.], Uppsala 1986, pp. 175–178.
15
G. Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa, op. cit., pp. 12–18.
16
J. Tosh, The Cash Crop Revolution in Tropical Africa: An Agricultural Reappraisal, „African Affairs”, 79(1980), no. 314, pp. 79–94; J. Illiffe, Africans: The
History of a Continent, Cambridge 1995, pp. 202–208.
17
M. Jennings, ‘A Very Real War’: Popular Participation in Development in
Tanzania the 1940, „The International Journal of African Historical Studies”,
40(2007), no.1, p. 74.
13

14

64

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

improvement of transport and communication infrastructure.
Later during the 1930s the efforts were extended to cover social
welfare18. The role of the government in supervising the economy
continued to be significant throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The
establishment of Colonial Development and Welfare Act (CDWA)
in the post World War II period had a considerable impact on
the role of the state in stimulating development. It was after the
Second World War that the government assumed a major role in
economic planning and implementation through the creation of
marketing boards, institution of price controls and use of by-laws
to enforce agricultural practices19.
Like many other parts of colonial Tanganyika, Ismani did not fall
into an immediate target of colonial production in the early days
of colonial occupation because of the dynamics and the challenges
already examined. During this period other areas of Iringa District
were under colonial production and they produced cash crops like
tobacco. Before the introduction and the extension of colonial production, Ismani was characterised by small-scale subsistence farming.
They used broadsheet-planting technique, later hand hoes, then
ox ploughing20. Despite the use of these unsophisticated methods
of farming, they were able to harvest 8 to 15 sacks of maize per
hectare21. The transition from small scale subsistence farming based
on low level technologies into large scale commercial farming of
maize in Ismani was marked by increased demand for maize during
and soon after the Second World War. Also the establishment of the
18
Ibidem. E.F. Twinning (Lord Twinning), The Last Nine Years in Tanganyika,
„African Affairs”, 58(1959), no. 230, p. 15.
19
Ibidem.
20
Broadsheet planting technique included spreading the maize seeds randomly
without tilling the land. Interview with, Aloyce Mpagama, Nyang’oro, 17.11.2011.
21
See TANU, Siasa ni Kilimo, Dar es Salaam 1972, Interviews with, Aloyce
Mpagama (Nyang’oro) and Daniel Musa Kavindi, Ismani Tarafani, 18.11.2011.

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

65

Revenue Ordinance in 1943, which amended the War Revenue Act,
encouraged peasants to produce more maize for the market in order
to get money for payment of taxes22. This was the first initiative that
stimulated commercial maize production by peasant producers.
There were no alternatives to get cash for tax than producing maize
or seeking wage labour outside Iringa District. To meet the wartime
and post war demands the colonial government instituted measures
that led to the production of sufficient food. One of those measures
was the provision of subsidies in terms of free grants of shillings
7.5 to farmers who produced maize on land of over 25 hectares23.
Peasants in Ismani were encouraged to open more arable land to
benefit from free grants.
The second measure was the use of guaranteed return for farmers who would get loss as a result of intensive capital investment
in food crop production. They were to be refunded by the colonial
government24. This encouraged intensive investments in food crop
production in one way or another as farmers were insured against
any loss. Peasants with capital expanded farming activities to the
limit of their capital. This increased both the acreage under maize
farming and maize produces. In addition to guaranteed return
upon loss in agricultural investment, the government provided
acreage grants that were different from free grants. Through
acreage grants, the government issued a list of names of farmers
who first applied for them in each District. Selected farmers were
given planting orders and conditions to sell their maize to the
colonial Grain Storage Department25. After selling their produce,
22
Tanganyika Territory, Ordinances Enacted During the Year 1943, Dar es
Salaam 1944.
23
„The Tanganyika Standard”, Saturday, February 12, 1944.
24
„The Tanganyika Standard”, Thursday, August 30, 1951.
25
TNA, EC B. 833/III/313: Department of Grain Stores, 1949. Guaranteed
Prices of Maize Acreage Grants and Reduced Prices (1949).

66

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

the farmers were paid dues in the manner outlined here by the
director of Grain Stores:
It is emphasized that the Director of Agriculture will only consider
payment of acreage grant to planters who can produce either Grain
Storage Department purchase receipts in respect of delivery to Government or Agents Stores or written permission by Provincial Produces
Officers or District Commissioners’ in respect of direct sales26.

In Ismani, only few farmers qualified for the grants in the
period between 1947 and 1950. They included few big farmers
in Nduli who were eligible beneficiaries for acreage bonus in the
1948/1949 growing season27. Under the acreage grants scheme,
the maize that was to be used by producers either individually or
as a producing company or institution or even a group of corporate
producers, had first to be sold to Unga Limited, the only buying
agent by the time and then bought back by producers. This was
a condition for all farmers who received grants from the government. After harvest, producers declared the quantity of maize they
harvested plus the amount that was enough for their food and
the surplus to be sold to Unga Limited28. The condition to declare
the amount of food enough for the producer and the surplus for
sale had little significance to the producer. As regardless of the
amount they required for food they had to sell all the maize to
Unga Limited before they could buy them back. Interestingly,
during this time producers were even allowed to sell their crops
on the farm. Therefore, the incentives given to maize producers,
price guarantee, guaranteed return and acreage grants stimulated
maize farming for the market. Progressive farmers, as we have
seen, did this, while small-scale peasant producers continued to
produce for subsistence.
Ibidem.
Ibidem.
28
TNA, 24/A3/21: African Staples, Permits to Retain.
26
27

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

67

The establishment of the Land Bank in 1947 had a significant
contribution to large-scale maize farming in Ismani. On inception
the Bank provided loans to large-scale cash crop farmers such as
tobacco farmers in Nduli. Later, the loans were extended to maize
farmers, although most of them were non-African farmers29. It
was not until the 1950s when African farmers started to access
the loans. African peasants obtained loans from two sources of
funds that were established at the end of the 1940s. These sources
included the Local Development Loan Fund (LDLF) and the African Productivity Loan Fund (APLF). These loan schemes accelerated differentiation in the rural areas. Some peasants expanded
production by use of modern agricultural inputs, such as tractors
obtained through loan money30. The Bank provided loans only to
farmers whose farmlands were 50 acres and above. Those whose
farmlands were below 50 acres were encouraged to expand their
farms in order to qualify for the loans31.
Government intervention in supervising and encouraging maize
production especially in the 1950s was a catalyst towards expanded
commercial production of maize. The provision of acreage grants,
loans, guaranteed returns and the introduction of a new taxation
system accelerated extensive rather than intensive cultivation.
Colonial intervention in the production process also contributed
towards the replacement of the traditional food crops, such as millet
and finger millet, by extensive production of maize. Prior to this
period maize was produced in small scale. Therefore, by the 1950s
Ismani had become one of the most important places for maize
production in Iringa District. There was sufficient rainfall and the
L.A Msambichaka and R. Mabele, Agricultural Credit and the Development
of Ujamaa Villages in Tanzania, „ERB, Paper”, no. 74.10, 1974, p. 2.
30
Ibidem, pp. 4–7.
31
TNA, 24/52/3/13: Monthly Report for May 1956.
29

68

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

fertility of the soil was suitable. These facts were acknowledged
in a monthly report of the agricultural field officer who noted;
From reports and personal observation it is noticed that the most
advanced area in the District is Ismani where rains broke early and
cultivation have taken every opportunity to push forward with cultivation and planting. Their zeal and enterprise is providing itself worthwhile as excellent germination can be seen in almost every shamba32.

Ismani was a potential maize production area by this time and
there were no signs of crop failure33. In the 1950s, Ismani had no
alternative cash crop to depend on apart from maize. Therefore,
maize served dual purposes, as a staple crop and cash crop.
Another effort by the colonial government to transform Ismani
into a colonial food granary was the establishment of demonstration farms in 1956 in the area. Under this new programme farmers were given land and money. By this time there were already
indications that farmers from other places of Iringa District were
moving to Ismani to benefit from the advantages of demonstration
farms. As a result it was stated that for one to be given a demonstration farm was to be a resident in Ismani. Many people did
not meet this condition but were still given the farms because of
the need to produce as much maize as possible34. Demonstration
farms acted as units for teaching farmers the best practices for
maize cultivation35. They were expected to have a trickle-down
effect to the rural sector at large and boost productivity in the
main. As a consequence of all those efforts, Ismani came to be
32
TNA, D3/4: Development: Ismani Development, Report for the Month
Ending 31st December, 1951-114/IV/29/552, Report for the Month Ending June
1951-114/IV/20.
33
Ibidem.
34
TNA, D3/4: Folio: Letter-P/SCH/ISM, Demonstration Farm, Ismani,
21.12.1956.
35
Ibidem.

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

69

under intensive colonial production in the last decade of colonial
rule in Tanganyika.
It is notable that during this period the colonial approach to
peasant production changed significantly. Previously, the government concentrated on peasantry production as whole that changed
into a new ‘focal point approach’. This change was partly a colonial response to the 1950s nationalist movements and the need
to reduce production costs in the after war period. It was thought
that promoting African peasantry entirely would create wealthy
Africans who, in turn, would increase political consciousness and
stability in rural areas36. In practice this would disadvantage the
smooth functioning of the colonial enterprises. The new approach
focused on the promotion of progressive farmers at the expense of
the larger peasantry sector37. Through this method, the colonial
government was able to get sufficient maize from few progressive
farmers.
The change of approach to rural development resulted into
narrowing down all colonial projects. They became small in scale,
sometimes based on a clan or a village, or a group of few enterprising individuals38. Small-scale projects would benefit from the
few extension services provided by a small number of extension
personnel. Extension personnel were reduced to match with the
budgetary constraints that faced the peasantry sector at the time39.
Farmers on individual bases did not get assistance from the central
government but were instead supervised by the Native Authorities40.
36
J. Illife, Agricultural Change in Modern Tanganyika: An Outline, Nairobi
1971, p. 37.
37
Ibidem. Lord Twinning, Nine Years in Tanganyika, op. cit. p. 15.
38
‘Memorandum No.10 for Provincial Commissioners’, Conference, January
1957: Focal Point Approach in Agricultural Extension Work, LG 9/36/011. p. 1.
39
Ibidem.
40
Ibidem, p. 2.

70

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

In the post World War II period, especially in the 1950s, there
came what John Illife calls the ‘cash crop boom’. The boom promoted production of not only the crops earlier considered marginal cash crops but also food crops such as maize. The colonial
government declared, ‘the United Kingdom will require increased
quantities of maize and will be able to absorb any increases in
export in this Territory’41. To get assured with high output of maize
the government started to supply maize seeds for free or at much
lesser subsidised prices. Also, the government continued with campaigns for increased maize production and made advertisements
on newspapers, steamers, buses and railway stations42.
The boom years were characterised by the emergence of new
commercial growers. These included the Maize Growers of Ismani,
Wheat Growers of Mbulu, Pyrethrum Growers of the Southern
Highlands and Cashew nut Growers of the southern part of Tanganyika. Also there was mushrooming of farmers associations such
as the Ismani African Maize Growers Association43, which later
changed into Ismani African Maize Growers Cooperative Society44.
The associations later became instrumental in negotiating prices
for their produced crops. Most prosperous progressive farmers
benefited more from the associations as they had more to sell than
ordinary peasants.
The production of maize in Ismani was very profitable in the
last decade of colonial rule in Tanzania. It made producers own
tractors after farming for few seasons. This profitability continued
to attract more and more farmers to the area. After only six years
41
B. Bode and D. Wu, The Legacy of Underdevelopment in Tanzania: A Case
Study from Morogoro, Research Paper, Report for Care International Tanzania,
2011, p. 16.
42
Illife, Agricultural Change, op. cit., pp. 39–40.
43
Ibidem.
44
Illife, Modern History, op. cit., p. 465.

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

71

(1959 to 1965), more than 16, 000 hectares were under maize
cultivation in Ismani45. The number of producers reached 367 and
each owned more than four hectares, and 29 farmers who each
owned more than 40 hectares46. These acreages per individual
producer kept on increasing as the indigenous people allocated
plots to foreigners only by measuring the width of the plots and
did not bother about limiting the length. This tendency led to rapid
expansion of arable land in Ismani47.

Farming During 1961–1971
The rural sector in Tanzania at independence experienced
continuation of the implementation of colonial development
policies for a long time. The implementation of colonial plans,
as were suggested by the International Bank for Reconstruction
and Development (IRBD), manifested in the entire period covering the 1960s to the 1980s. The first Five-Year Development Plan
articulated clearly the need to improve and transform the rural
sector48. The First Five Year Development Plan was ambitious and
wished that the development of the country could be realised
as soon as possible to satisfy people’s expectations of independence. Through the First Five Year Plan, Tanzania encouraged, and
anticipated a massive flow of foreign investments in agricultural
and industrial sectors49. In the mid 1960s it became apparent that
the anticipations were not materialising. As a consequence of this
Ibidem, p. 457.
Ibidem.
47
Interview with, Benitho Masangula, Nyang’oro, 17.11.2011.
48
The United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Tanganyika Five-year Plan
for Economic and Social Development, 1st July, 1964 – 30th June, 1969, vol. 1,
General Analysis 1964, pp. ix–x.
49
Ibidem, p. viii.
45
46

72

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

frustrating situation, the government was inclined in 1967 to resort to a new path towards development. This shift was officially
enunciated in the Arusha Declaration of February 1967. The Arusha Declaration, unlike the First Five Year Development Plan, did
not put much emphasis on foreign grants, loans and investments
but emphasis went on using internally available resources for
development. Political slogans such as ‘Uhuru na Kazi: Freedom
and Work’ and ‘Uhuru na Maendeleo: Freedom and Development’
served as catalysts towards popular participation in development.
The implementation of those slogans concentrated much on selfhelp projects that included construction of roads, bridges, schools,
dispensaries and initiation of agricultural activities. Participation
in community or self-help projects was a credit to responsible
citizens50. It was held that improvement or development at the
local level was a contribution to the entire national development51.
Popular participation was highly encouraged during the period.
The adoption of the Arusha Declaration in 1967 symbolized
two major things for the newly independent Tanzania. In the first
place it implied a change in economic planning from reliance on
what Michael Jennings called the colonial development paradigm
to a nationalist rural oriented development paradigm. Also the Arusha Declaration signalled the transition of the economy from one
that was highly dependent upon foreign assistance to an economy
based mostly on the utilization of internal resources. However, the
declaration did not reject outright gifts and loans, but emphasised
that these would be accepted if and only if they were being made
in the interest of national development. To show the contrasts between the pre-Arusha Declaration situation in economic planning
and the newly anticipated system, the declaration pointed out that;
50
51

M. Jennings, Very Real War, op. cit., pp. 86–87.
Ibidem.

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

73

Our government and different groups of our leaders, never stop
thinking about methods of getting finance from abroad. And if we get
some money or even if we just get a promise of it, our newspapers,
our radio, and our leaders, all advertise the fact in order that every
person shall know that salvation is [was] coming or is on the way. If
we receive a gift we announce it, if we receive a loan we announce it,
if we get a new factory we announce it-and always loudly. In the same
way, when we get a promise of a gift, a loan, or a new industry, we
make an announcement of the promise. Even when we have merely
started discussions with a foreign government or institution for a gift,
a loan or a new industry we make an announcement-even though we
do not know the outcomes of the discussions52.

This shows dissatisfaction with externally oriented economic
thinking. The Arusha Declaration provided principles by which
the system would be changed towards self-reliance.
By this time Ismani was still under commercial farming of maize.
The adoption of the Arusha Declaration in one way promoted
the large-scale production of maize as it encouraged progressive
farmers. On the other hand however, it gave way to restrictions on
continued intensive capital investment in agriculture by individuals in favour of communal development approach. This follows
from the fact that the gap between rich progressive farmers, small
peasants and labourers was increasing fast. During this period rich
farmers enjoyed expansion to areas formerly owned by small farmers through purchase of land. In implication, the few rich farmers
owned and controlled the economy at the expense of the impoverishment of the majority of peasants; something that was not the
priority of the declaration. Small peasants continued to be landless
and poor while the number of labourers working for progressive
farmers continued to increase. Small producers also started to be
labourers as the only way available for their subsistence.
TANU, The Arusha Declaration, in: J.K. Nyerere, Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, Oxford 1968, p. 22.
52

74

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

Villagization and maize farming, 1971 to 1985
State-led and externally controlled economic policies and development have in most counts resulted in several impacts in the
communities and the environments where they are implemented.
Such impacts originate from the failure to recognise local environmental conditions and the reality on the ground that does not necessary reflect the expectations of state bureaucrats53. State control
of rural development in Tanzania is historically rooted. It started
during the colonial period and went on through the postcolonial
period. State control on the economy was challenged after the
collapse of the East African community in 1977 a period that went
together with several other economic and political problems. There
was the 1978 Tanzania – Uganda war, the global oil crisis, disturbance in the balance of trade in Tanzania and the poor weather
of the 1980s that brought general crop failure. These led into an
impoverished economy and poor livelihood of a majority of the
population. The government failed to provide the necessary supplies
such as medicine, food and other consumables54. During the same
period of the 1970s political and economic crisis, the government
overcommitted itself into the very expensive villagization projects
that were implemented in the rural – centred development model.
As a result, the government’s defiance to liberal policies and the
conditions of the Breton wood institutions (IMF, World Bank and
WTO) was challenged. The unexpected retirement of Julius Nyerere
from presidency on one side resulted from his failure to contain
the pressure of change enforced by the Breton wood institutions
See the analysis of how several state controlled projects failed to modernize
the rural sector in J.C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve
the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven – London 2008, pp. 1–8.
54
K. J. Havenevik, Tanzania: The Limits to Development from Above, Dar es
Salaam 1993, pp. 29–62.
53

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

75

and on the other side he was not ready to accept them. The only
option remaining was stepping down. In 1982 the government softened its hand on its control of the rural sector. A new agricultural
policy was launched in 1982, the same year with the launching
of the Structural Adjustment Programmes. The agricultural policy
aimed at improving the rural sector mainly by allowing private
investment in agriculture and private ownership of land. When
this was happening countrywide, its impact varied from one area
to another55. Commercial farmers benefited from liberal policies.
Large-scale capital owners and producers in Ismani moved their
capital from the area to other areas of Tanzania.
State control of the rural sector through Ujamaa in Tanzania
took both courses, that is, direct and indirect coercion on one side
and voluntary on the other. Compulsory resettlement included
total planning and movement of people’s settlement into closer
proximities to each other to facilitate service delivery. Under this
category, poor ecological knowledge of the environments affected
the new residents. On the second count, indirect coerced resettlement included joining Ujamaa villages to receive relief food from
the government especially in areas with food insecurity. When villagers faced famine they had no option than joining into an Ujamaa
village56. In areas where peasants voluntarily moved, they were
able to find suitable areas for agricultural activities and agriculture
continued without many problems. The areas like Songea under the
famous Ruvuma Development Association and Handeni – Tanga
experienced both coerced and voluntary movement at the same
time. In the areas with voluntary associations with Ujamaa villages,
the Ujamaa projects succeeded and failed in the areas where force
Ibidem, pp. 56–62.
Suleman Sumra, Problems of Agricultural Production in Ujamaa Villages
in Handeni District, in: Papers on the Political Economy of Tanzania, op. cit., pp.
202–206.
55

56

76

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

was used57. In Urambo, in western Tanzania, tobacco farming was
both boosted on one side in terms of extensive farming – increase
of acreage but on the other side it faced challenges. Large – scale
tobacco farmers were confiscated of their land and machinery in
favour of communal farming that resulted into extensive farming
but reduced productivity58. In Ismani where forced resettlement
took place and large progressive farmers ran away, Ujamaa projects did not achieve much59. In the Iraqwland, where ecological
considerations were not given priority, the programmes under
Ujamaa were not successful60. In general the villagization policy
in Tanzania had varied impacts depending on the area where it
was implemented.
We have explored the production side of the impact in various
areas of Tanzania. On the environmental side, villagization had far
reaching implications because there was no feasibility study done
to assess the environmental impact of the programme. Yusufu Lawi,
Helge Kjekshus, Esbern Friis-Hansen and Idris Kikula provided
a general evaluation of the environmental impact of villagization
and resettlement schemes of the 1970s61. They argued that the
57
Refer to Havenevik, Tanzania, and H. Ndomba, The Ruvuma Development
Association and Ujamaa in Songea District, 1960s–1990s, Unpublished MA Dissertation: University of Dar es Salaam, 2014, pp. 54–88.
58
S. Ayo, Tobacco Farming and its Influence on the Social Cultural Transformation in Urambo District, Western Tanzania, 1950s to 2010, forthcoming MA
Dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam.
59
Details in M.J. Chuhila, Maize Farming and Environmental Change in
Iringa District: The case of Ismani, 1940–2010, Unpublished MA Dissertation:
University of Dar es Salaam 2013, pp. 64–79.
60
Yusufu Q. Lawi, Tanzania’s Operation Vijiji and Local Ecological Consciousness: The Case of Eastern Iraqwland, 1974–1976, „Journal of African History”,
48(2007), pp. 75–83.
61
Idem, May the Spider Web Blind Witches and Wild Animals: Local Knowledge
and the Political Ecology of Natural Resources Use in the Iraqwland, Tanzania,
1900–1985, Unpublished PhD Thesis: Boston University 2000, p. 319; Idem,

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

77

impact resulted from the concentration of people in small areas
due to clearing of new areas for settlement and farming. Lawi
adds that it destroyed the social ecological considerations which
people regarded when choosing settlement areas in Iraqwland. On
the whole, as a result, the failure to control ecological conditions
of the new areas affected the communities that were relocated
into other areas62.
Although the period from the 1970s experienced several socioeconomic and political challenges throughout the country, the
villagization programme created a new history in Ismani and it
is highly remembered in the area. It is remembered not only because of the environmental impact but also the influence on the
production of maize. It changed the history of maize farming in
Ismani at large. The villagization programme was preceded by
the implementation of the Iringa Resolution that was another big
step towards improving the rural sector. To reflect its emphasis on
agriculture, the Iringa Resolution of 1972 was commonly referred
to as Siasa ni Kilimo (Agriculture is Politics). The Iringa Resolution came up with four principles to promote agriculture. Siasa
ni Kilimo enabled the organisation of agricultural production in
a way which ensured food self-sufficiency to peasants, improved
quality of food through production of nutritious food, production
of exportable crops and production of sufficient raw materials for
industrial development63. At almost the same time, the Ismani
Tanzania’s Operation Vijiji, op. cit.; H. Kjekshus, The Tanzanian Villagisation Policy:
Implementation and Ecological Dimensions, „Canadian Journal of African Studies”,
11(1977), no. 2, pp. 270–272; E. Friis-Hansen, Changes in Land Tenure Use Since
Villagisation and their Impact on Peasant Agricultural Production in Tanzania: The
Case of Southern Highlands, Copenhagen 1987, pp. 9–20; Idris Kikula Lessons
From Twenty-Five Years of Conservation and Seven Years of Research Initiatives in
the Kondoa Highlands of Central Tanzania, „Ambio”, 28(1999), no. 5, p. 445.
62
Yusufu Q. Lawi, Tanzania’s Operation Vijiji, op. cit.
63
TANU, Siasa ni Kilimo.

78

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

Maize Credit Programme was introduced to boost maize productivity. The credit scheme had three main objectives. The first was to
replace large-scale capitalist oriented (market – oriented) farmers
by cooperative communal based farmers. Although the objectives
for this were not articulated, communal farming involved the production of both food and commercial maize64. However, production
for the market was hindered when large-scale farmers decided to
reallocate from Ismani. As a result neither food nor market based
maize was produced sufficiently. What followed in the 1980s,
1990s and 2000s was a struggle for survival that was a transition
from proud producers of maize in Tanzania.
The second objective of the Ismani maize credit was to increase
productivity of maize produce in the area. This was done through
the application of better crop husbandry, fertilisers and improved
seeds. Unfortunately, all these attempts to increase productivity failed because the people who were forced to join in Ujamaa
villages sabotaged Ujamaa production. This was done through
stealing seeds and produces and at the same time working with
obvious laxity in Ujamaa farms65. All these led to the decline of
production in Ismani instead of encouraging and promoting its
production. Also, as pointed out earlier, maize farming in Ismani
depended on large-scale capital-intensive farmers who at the time
of these modernisations had decided to move from Ismani. Modernisation involved the distribution of hybrid seeds and chemical
fertilizers where the seeds were distributed for free in one growing
season and in the subsequent seasons producers prepared their
own improved seeds66. Some farmers in the 1970s did not opt for
chemical fertilizers; instead they used Farm Yard Manure (FYM)
A.T. Mohele, The Ismani Maize Credit Programme, in: Papers on the Political
Economy of Tanzania, op. cit., pp. 217–218.
65
Interview with, Andephice Mahali, Mikong’wi, 14.11.2011.
66
Interview with, Aloyce Mpagama, Nyang’oro.
64

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

79

that was also a new experience for farming in Ismani67. They
could not adopt chemical fertilisers while they had not even used
FYM – from their livestock on farms because the soil was fertile
enough to allow cultivation. The reorganization of settlements and
production in Ismani during the villagisation programme was not
supported by the will of the majority. The traditional land tenure
was abolished through the implementation of the villagisation
policy. Villagers wondered to find and occupy new land in the
new areas. As a result, it went on to happen that peasants lived in
Ujamaa villages but went out to work on their previous farms. This
lost a considerable amount of their time walking to and from and
hence reducing the working time on the farms. The Villages and
Ujamaa Villages Act of 1975 formalised the abolition of traditional
land rights that implied a new struggle for land ownership68. On
the whole, ujamaa farming in Ismani is remembered to have been
a problem rather than a solution to peasant’s problems. Working
in ujamaa farms was not as productive as working on individual
farms. The big farmers who owned tractors were forced to work
on ujamaa farms before they could start working on their plots.
This decision was unpopular among large-scale maize farmers.
The last objective of the Ismani maize credit scheme was to improve the incomes of the wajamaa through guaranteed crop prices
that were regulated by cooperative societies. This was unrealistic
because not all villages were given credit and even those given credit
did not manage to improve the livelihood of the people because
the repayment rates of the loans were high. In the early days of the
scheme 1971/72 and 1972/73 growing seasons some successes were
registered by maize farming. However, the sustainability of both
Ibidem.
E. Friis-Hansen, Changes in Land Tenure Use Since Villagisation and their
Impact on Peasant Agricultural Production in Tanzania..., op. cit., pp. 23–28.
67
68

80

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

food and commercial maize farming was threatened. There emerged
loan-serving farming, sabotage of Ujamaa projects and continued
decline in the acreages cultivated because of lack of capital and machinery equipment after the withdrawal of large-scale producers69.
In the end, the villages given the credit produced a loan – serving
maize while those that did not receive loan produced both maize for
food and market70. To indicate the inefficiency of operation Ismani,
in 1971/72 it was revealed that an average of 595 kilograms per
hectare was produced on Ujamaa fields while at the same time and
in the same environment, individually owned farms produced an
average of 869 kilograms per hectare71. This example demonstrates
that the success in maize farming in Ismani did not depend on the
investment of industrial inputs. It rather depended on the knowledge
of the environment, soil, locally determined growing seasons and
market incentives. All these conditions existed during the colonial
period and were discarded during Ujamaa period in favour of state
directed agriculture. Closely related to the decline in productivity,
another challenge was on how to distribute the produces amongst
the members of a particular Ujamaa village. A number of villages
failed to distribute produces to members or the income coming
from selling Ujamaa produces. This situation resulted from the low
harvests that were also sold to repay the loans in Ujamaa villages.
In turn, this discouraged members from committing themselves in
Ujamaa projects. Due to this challenge and of course, the national
commitment towards agriculture, the National maize Programme
was introduced in 1973. The programme aimed to increase maize
acreage and reduce the import of food72.
Interview with, Innocent Mtakidunga Wilomo, Mangawe, 19.11.2011.
A.T. Mohele, The Ismani Maize Credit Programme, op.cit.
71
B.Ch. Nindi, Agricultural Change and Rural Class Formation in Iringa
District, Tanzania, Unpublished PhD Thesis: University of Hull 1978, p. 267.
72
Ibidem, pp. 274–280.
69
70

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

81

Apart from the Ismani maize credit scheme the government
also established agricultural credit schemes, which were given to
middlemen to enable them to buy crops from producers, while
the producers received production credits73. This was generally
applied countrywide and started in 1962 through the Agricultural Credit Agency (ACA). The ACA provided loans to individual
farmers, to groups of farmers or to government institutions that
embarked on agriculture. The second loan scheme was through
the National Development Credit Agency (NDCA) that came into
being in 1964. NDCA did not register achievements, as up to its
dissolution it had only reached one ujamaa village. The establishment of the Tanzania Rural Development Bank (TRDB) in 1971
was the most comprehensive programme to finance agriculture
in the rural areas. It covered many sectors of the rural economy
by supporting ujamaa villages especially those engaged with the
production of food crops, such as maize and wheat74. TRDB was
therefore committed to modernising the rural sector. TRDB reiterated that; ‘the Tanzania Rural Development Bank was therefore
instituted as a means of providing a comprehensive credit system
for transforming the subsistence living into a modern cash economy
with its attendant increased employment opportunities and income
distribution’75.
The villagisation campaign of 1974 was the first transformative
wave for Ismani. It propelled the area’s change from a prosperous
place to an impoverished one. The 1974 Villagisation campaign
discouraged progressive farmers in favour of communally owned
73
L.A Msambichaka and R. Mabele, Agricultural Credit and the Development...,
op. cit., p. 1.
74
Ibidem, p. 12.
75
Tanzania Rural Development Bank, Annual Report and Accounts for the
Year Ended 30th June 1971 – 30th June 1972, Quoted in L.A Msambichaka and
R. Mabele, Agricultural Credit and the Development..., op. cit., p. 11.

82

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

farms and cultivation that were small in scale and faced several
challenges to operate the farms. Ownership of large farms was
shifted to villages while some were distributed to former labourers at the rate of three hectares per head. The evidence at hand
shows that it was difficult to incorporate the former progressive
farmers into ujamaa cooperative work as we have pointed earlier76.
The most remembered incidence of ujamaa farming in Ismani
was the murder of Dr. Wilbert Kleruu, then Regional Commissioner for Iringa. Dr. Kleruu is claimed to have been a committed
socialist who wanted everybody to live on socialist principles. On
Christmas day 1971, Dr. Kleruu went to Ismani to see how production was going on. Unfortunately, he found one of the large-scale
farmers of maize in Ismani called Said Mwamwindi cultivating his
privately owned farm. Mwamwindi had worked for most of his
time on ujamaa plots but during the holiday he wanted to cultivate
his private shamba. Nevertheless, Dr. Kleruu ordered him to stop.
This action is believed to have made Mwamwindi angry, hence
his decision to gun down the Regional Commissioner at Mkungugu village77. The death of the Regional Commissioner created
tensions amongst all big producers of maize in Ismani and the
implementation of villagization in the area78. Mwamwindi started
farming in Ismani together with other progressive farmers in the
Interview with, Aloyce Mpagama.
The main reasons that resulted into his death are varied in local articulations. Some point out that he was insulted in front of his wives others; claim
that Mwamwindi became angry when he was told to stop working on a privately
owned farm. Generally, the death of a regional Commissioner indicated the
extent to which progressive farmers in Ismani were committed to realise profit
out of maize farming. The regional Commissioner was seen as a threat to many
of the progressive farmers. Interviews with, Henry Mkayula Likoko, Kising’a,
15.11.2011, Speditho Magidanga, Uhominyi, 14.11.2011, Omary Chunga and
Bayati Mkwama at Mkungugu, 20.11.2011.
78
Interview with, Omary Chunga, Mkungugu.
76
77

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

83

1950s. During this period he owned only three acres of land and
worked as a lorry driver. He continued to buy land and expand
his cultivated plots that by the 1970s he had over 160 acres79.
This indicates that he was one of the most progressive farmers in
the area that operation Ismani targeted. It also shows the type of
anger that a person could have when his assets and wealth were
threatened with being confiscated or nationalised. Bad enough
the aftermath of the death of the Regional Commissioner brought
more mess than progress in the area. It became increasingly difficult to convince people to work in Ujamaa villages. Local leaders and state technocrats feared that what happened to Kleruu
could happen to them. As a result production in Ujamaa villages
continued to decline.

Maize farming and the challenge
of Environmental Change, 1985 to Present
Environmental change in Ismani has been a gradual process
and was generally unnoticed until the second half of the last
century. This was partly contributed by the presence of extensive and fertile arable land, which made it easy for peasants to
abandon exhausted areas in favour of new ones80. Environmental
change in Ismani manifested itself in various forms, including
changes in vegetation cover, soil exhaustion, unreliability of
rainfall, drought and decline of crop yields. It has been argued
in the preceding discussion that commercial production of maize
was responsible for the change of the socio-economic relations
in Ismani from the 1950s. Through commercial production of
maize, Ismani gained fame and became a conceited feeder based
79
80

B.Ch. Nindi, Agricultural Change, op. cit., pp. 259–264.
A. Awiti, Ismani and the Rise of Capitalism, p. 53.

84

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

on the agricultural output by large producers. Smallholders were
also not left behind, as they were assured of food from the small
areas they cultivated.
The fame of Ismani changed in the recent years. While in the
1950s up to the 1980s it had famous names because of its capacity to feed a large part of the country with maize, from the last
decade onwards things have turned upside down. The production
of maize is no longer tenable and villagers live on food insecurity
and abject economic poverty. This situation is evidenced by both
media reports and oral articulations81. For example, the high
productivity of maize in the 1970s called for the Iringa Resolution, famously known as Siasa ni Kilimo (Agriculture is Politics)
to boost productivity82. The resolution recognised the declining
trend of productivity of maize in the area from 20 to 25 sacks
of maize grains per hectare in the 1950s to only 7 sacks in the
1970s83. However, the trend of production continued to decline
throughout the 1970s to 1980s despite the modernization of the
methods of production.
The situation worsened much starting from the 2000s. During
this period peasants were unable to produce either for sale or
for their food sufficiency. This can partly be evidenced by Lukelo
Kihogota, a smallholder producer in Ismani, who recalled the
practices of Siasa ni Kilimo and then added that ‘we have no
alternative than to depend on relief food’84. Mr. Kihogota used to
be a good producer over the years, sold surplus maize to those
81
Tumaini Msowoya, Ukame wa Miaka Minne Wageuka Balaa Kuu la Njaa,
Mawazo Malembeka, ‘Njaa: Malengamakali, Wananchi Wanaishi Kwa Mboga za
Majani’, Radio Report, htt://radiofreeafricatz.com/2011/njaa_malengamakali_wananchi_waishi_kwa_mboga_za_majani- Accessed on 21.10.2011, at 1300hrs.
82
TANU, Siasa ni Kilimo.
83
Ibidem, pp. 11–12.
84
Tumaini Msowoya, Ukame wa Miaka Minne.

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

85

who were in need, but now fails even to produce enough for
his family. This is not a unique situation for him alone as it cuts
across the majority of the families in Ismani. All this indicates the
degree to which Ismani in recent years starting from the 2000s
has become the home of food shortage. The government takes
initiatives by providing regular relief food to starving villagers
nearly every year. Starvation in Ismani resulted from regular
crop failure as an outcome of unpredictable weather conditions,
shifting in farming preferences from maize to commercial crops
like sunflower and tomatoes. Tomatoes and sunflower have no
ban when it comes to exporting them to foreign markets. But if
surplus maize is produced, the government limits its export in
favour of domestic market.
Most families in Ismani in recent years face hunger and in some
cases they depend on green vegetables as their food especially during the rain season where food shortage is at its peak. The most
affected areas are Malengamakali Ward and Ikengeza village in
Nyang’oro Ward. Food insecurity in Ismani was at some point given
emphasis in the parliament when a Member of Parliament, Ms.
Pindi Chana commented, ‘the District Council agricultural projects
should target to increase productivity especially in those areas with
hunger such as Ismani where every year there is a need to send
relief food’85. Such statements demonstrate the extent to which what
was formerly a national grain basket is now a place with acute food
shortages. Other news headlines in recent days include: ‘Four Years
Drought turns A Great Hunger in Iringa’86, ‘Hunger: Malengamakali,
85
Bunge la Tanzania, Majadiriano ya Bunge, Mkutano wa Ishirini, Kikao cha
Kumi na Tatu Tr. 22 Juni 2010. The MP, Pindi Chana said ‘Eneo la Mufindi katika
mashamba ya chai, zao la Biashara, wameomba wapewe vocha katika zao hilo la
Biashara. Miradi ya Halmashauri ya Kilimo ilenge kuongeza uzalishaji hususani
maeneo ya Njaa kama Ismani ambako kila mwaka hupelekwa Chakula’, p. 162.
86
Tumaini Msowoya.

86

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

People Live on Green Vegetable’87, ‘9,000 People Face Hunger in
Iringa’,88 and ‘Ikengeza to Face Severe Food Shortage’89.

Conclusion
There is no way we can generalise the impact of state interventions in rural sector development in Tanzania. The impacts
varied depending on several factors based on the production side
and the environment. On the production side, it depended on the
incentives that peasants received out of what they produced that
in turn intrinsically motivated them to produce more. Environmentally wisely, it depended on the specific environmental conditions
for a specific crop. The case presented by Ismani is an example
of both positive and negative outcomes of state interventions in
rural development. Colonial interventions boosted productivity as
production based on individuals unlike the communal production
relations advocated by the postcolonial government. However, we
should not take for granted that the colonial government was keen
enough to boost productivity, we must also understand the fact
that Ismani was opened for intensive farming in the 1940s, thus it
was still fertile enough to allow high productivity in the entire colonial period. In the postcolonial period especially from the 1970s,
1980s and 1990s soil fertility deteriorated and when coupled with
other problems resulting from the political economy of the time
Mawazo Malembeka, Njaa: Malengamakali, Wananchi Wanaishi Kwa Mboga
za Majani, Radio Report, htt://radiofreeafricatz.com/2011/njaa_malengamakali_
wananchi_waishi_kwa_mboga_za_majani- Accessed on 21.10.2011, at 1300hrs.
88
http://www.ippmedia.com/fronted/?!=29291, ‘Watu 9, 000 Wamekumbwa
na Balaa la Njaa Iringa’, Accessed on 21.10.2011, at 1330hrs.
89
Irene Mwakalinga, Wakazi wa Ikengeza-Iringa Kukumbwa na Uhaba wa
Chakula, http://www.tbc.go.tz-tbc_local_general/1501_wakazi_wa_Iikengeza_iringa_kukumbwa_na__uhaba_wa_wa-_chakula.html. Accessed on 22.10.2011
at 0953hrs.
87

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

87

and environmental change, it limited the progress of maize farming. The future of peasant farming in Ismani will depend on the
control of population growth and control of the rapidly changing
environment through rampant charcoal burning and opening of
more fields for agriculture and settlement.
REFERENCES

Archival sources
TNA, EC B. 833/III/313: Department of Grain Stores, 1949. Guaranteed
Prices of Maize Acreage Grants and Reduced Prices (1949).
TNA, 24/A3/21: African Staples, Permits to Retain.
TNA, 24/52/3/13: Monthly Report for May 1956.
TNA, D3/4: Development: Ismani Development, Report for the Month
Ending 31st December, 1951-114/IV/29/552, Report for the Month
Ending June 1951-114/IV/20.
TNA, D3/4: Folio: Letter-P/SCH/ISM, Demonstration Farm, Ismani,
21.12.1956.
‘Memorandum No.10 for Provincial Commissioners’, Conference, January 1957: Focal Point Approach in Agricultural Extension Work, LG
9/36/011.
Secondary sources
Awiti A., Ismani and the Rise of Capitalism, in: Rural Cooperation in Tanzania, ed. Lionel Cliffe, Dar es Salaam 1975.
Ayo, S., Tobacco Farming and its Influence on the Social Cultural Transformation in Urambo District, Western Tanzania, 1950s to 2010,
forthcoming MA Dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam.
Bode B. and Wu D., The Legacy of Underdevelopment in Tanzania: A Case
Study from Morogoro, Research Paper, Report for Care International
Tanzania, 2011.

88

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

Bowles B.D., The Political Economy of Colonial Tanganyika 1939–1961,
in: Tanzania Under Colonial Rule, ed. M.H. Kaniki, London 1980.
Coulson A., Tanzania: A Political Economy, Oxford 2013.
Chuhila M.J., Maize Farming and Environmental Change in Iringa District: The case of Ismani, 1940–2010, Unpublished MA Dissertation:
University of Dar es Salaam, 2013.
Friis-Hansen E., Changes in Land Tenure Use Since Villagisation and their
Impact on Peasant Agricultural Production in Tanzania: The Case of
Southern Highlands, Copenhagen 1987.
Fughes-Couchman N.R., Agricultural Change in Tanganyika: 1945–1960,
Stanford 1964.
Havenevik K.J. and Ndomba H., The Ruvuma Development Association
and Ujamaa in Songea District, 1960s–1990s, Unpublished MA Dissertation: University of Dar es Salaam, 2014.
Havenevik K.J., Tanzania: The Limits to Development from Above, Dar es
Salaam 1993.
Helleiner G.K., Agricultural Export Pricing Strategy for Tanzania, in: Papers
on the Political Economy of Tanzania, eds. K.S. Kim, R. Mabele and
M.J. Schultheis, Nairobi 1979.
Hogendorn J.S. and Scott K.M., Very Large Scale Agricultural Projects:
The lessons of the East African Groundnut Scheme, in: Imperialism,
Colonialism and Hunger: East and Central Africa, ed. R.I. Rotberg,
Massachusetts – Toronto 1983.
Hyden G., Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and Uncaptured
Peasantry, Nairobi 1980.
Kjærby F., The Development of Agricultural Mechanisation in Tanzania,
in: Tanzania Crisis and Struggle for Survival, eds. J. Boesen [et al.],
Uppsala 1986.
Idris Kikula, Lessons From Twenty-Five Years of Conservation and Seven Years
of Research Initiatives in the Kondoa Highlands of Central Tanzania,
„Ambio”, 28(1999), no. 5, pp. 444–449.

COMMERCE OR FOOD? DEVELOPMENT NARRATIVES...

89

Illife J., A Modern History of Tanganyika, Cambridge 1979.
Illife J., Agricultural Change in Modern Tanganyika: An Outline, Nairobi 1971.
Illife J., Africans: The History of a Continent, Cambridge 1995.
Iringa District Profile, 2011.
Jennings M., ‘A Very Real War’: Popular Participation in Development in
Tanzania the 1940, „The International Journal of African Historical
Studies”, 40(2007), no.1, pp. 71–95.
Kjekshus H., The Tanzanian Villagisation Policy: Implementation and Ecological Dimensions, „Canadian Journal of African Studies”, 11(1977),
no. 2, pp. 269–282.
Lord Twining [E.F. Twining], The Last Nine Years in Tanganyika, „African
Affairs”, 58(1959), no. 230, pp. 15–24.
Mohele A.T., The Ismani Maize Credit Programme, in: Papers on the Political
Economy of Tanzania, eds. K.S. Kim, R. Mabele and M.J. Schultheis,
Nairobi 1979.
Msambichaka L.A and Mabele R., Agricultural Credit and the Development of Ujamaa Villages in Tanzania, „ERB, Paper”, no. 74.10, 1974.
Nindi B.Ch., Agricultural Change and Rural Class Formation in Iringa
District, Tanzania, Unpublished PhD Thesis: University of Hull, 1978.
Scott J.C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human
Condition Have Failed, New Haven – London 2008.
Suleman Sumra, Problems of Agricultural Production in Ujamaa Villages
in Handeni District, in: Papers on the Political Economy of Tanzania,
eds. K.S. Kim, R. Mabele and M.J. Schultheis, Nairobi 1979.
Taasisi ya Elimu, Wafanyakazi wa Tanzania: Jiografia kwa Darasa la Nne,
Kitabu cha Wanafunzi, Wizara ya Elimu ya Taifa, Dar Es Salaam 1983.
TANU, The Arusha Declaration, in: J.K. Nyerere, Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism, Oxford 1968.
TANU, Siasa ni Kilimo, Dar es Salaam 1972.

90

Maxmillian J. Chuhila

Tanganyika Territory, Ordinances Enacted During the Year 1943, Dar es
Salaam 1944.
The United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Tanganyika Five-year
Plan for Economic and Social Development, 1st July, 1964–30th June,
1969, vol. 1, General Analysis, 1964.
Tosh J., The Cash Crop Revolution in Tropical Africa: An Agricultural Reappraisal, „African Affairs”, 79(1980), no. 314, pp. 79–94,
Yusufu Q. Lawi, Tanzania’s Operation Vijiji and Local Ecological Consciousness: The Case of Eastern Iraqwland, 1974–1976, „Journal of African
History”, 48(2007), pp. 75–83.
Yusufu Q. Lawi, May the Spider Web Blind Witches and Wild Animals:
Local Knowledge and the Political Ecology of Natural Resources Use
in the Iraqwland, Tanzania, 1900–1985, Unpublished PhD Thesis:
Boston University, 2000.

Chapter 3.

NAPOLEON SAULOS MLOWE
JUSTIN K. URASSA

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND
RIGHTS ON RURAL HOUSEHOLD’S LIVELIHOOD
OUTCOMES IN HANDENI DISTRICT, TANZANIA
ABSTRACT

Access to land is central to the livelihoods of many Tanzanians. The
study specifically aimed at assessing people’s perception on formalization of customary land rights; determining the contribution of CCRO1
in enabling owners of land to access credit and ownership of CCRO,
and a household’s income and asset accumulation. And to identify challenges faced by CCRO holders in accessing credit. The study adopted
a cross-sectional research design whereby data were collected from
four villages in Handeni District. Multi stage sampling was employed
to select 184 household with and without CCRO. Findings show that,
having a CCRO has enhanced tenure security, reduced border conflicts
and has enhanced ownership of land by vulnerable groups. However,
CCRO ownership has not significantly contributed to a household’s
livelihood outcomes in terms of income and asset accumulation. Major
challenges facing formalization of customary land rights in the study
area include existence of land conflicts, lack of capital to investing in
agriculture and male dominance on land ownership. The paper recommends more research on better land ownership schemes for improvement of rural livelihoods.
NAPOLEON SAULOS MLOWE, JUSTIN K. URASSA – Corresponding
Authors Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania.
1

Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO).

92

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

Introduction
Land is of utmost importance for socio-economic development in both developed and developing countries. Land includes
resources such as arable land, and surface and sub-surface resources. According to Poteete2 “everyone has a relationship to
land”. Literature3 shows that the entire life of an average African
revolves around land” and that “realistic discussions of poverty
alleviation in Africa need to be addressed in the context of land”.
The Tanzania National Land Policy and Tanzania’s Development
Vision 2025 recognize the critical importance of land for poverty
reduction. According to URT4, 70% of land in Tanzania is under
customary land ownership and 80% of the population living in
rural areas depends on land for their livelihoods. Property rights
to land and dwellings in developing nations are, according to de
Soto5, notoriously insecure, a fact that has led to impoverishment
of the citizens in those nations.
Land laws in Tanzania recognize customary rights as having
equal legal force and effect as rights acquired through grant or
purchase from the state. In practice, customary rights are stronger
because they are held and registered in perpetuity whereas statuA.R. Poteete, Analyzing the politics of natural resources: from theories of
property rights to institutional analysis and beyond, in: Environmental Social Sciences: Methods and Research Design, eds. I. Vaccaro, E.A. Smith, and S. Aswani,
Cambridge 2010, pp. 57–79.
3
J.C. Franco, Making land rights accessible: Social movements and politicallegal innovation in the rural Philippines, „The Journal of Development Studies”,
44(2008), no. 7, pp. 991–1022; S. Razavi, Engendering the political economy of
agrarian change, „The Journal of Peasant Studies”, 36(2009), no. 1, pp. 197–226;
R.V. Murthy, Political economy of agrarian crisis and subsistence under neoliberalism in India, „The Nehu Journal”, 11(2013), no. 1.
4
URT (United Republic of Tanzania), National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty: Poverty and Human Development Report, URT 2011.
5
H. de Soto, The mystery of capital, New York 2010.
2

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

93

tory rights have a limited term. Nearly 70% of the land area is
“village land” and to which the Village Land Act applies. Each
village as a legal entity has rights to define its village land area,
and the village government is the lawful controller and manager of
those lands6 (URT, 1999). This includes the right to set up its own
Village Land Register, register collectively owned areas, and issue
titles of Customary Rights of Occupancy over house and farm plots.
In Tanzania when it comes to village land registration, the
government recognizes both formalized customary land rights and
informal indigenous land ownership rights7. In 2006, Tanzania initiated a program called Property and Business Formalization Program
(PBFP), popularly known in Kiswahili as MKURABITA (Mkakati wa
Kurasimisha Rasilimali na Biashara za Wanyonge Tanzania). PBFP
Programme carried out a pilot customary land right titling project
in Handeni District in 2006 by providing certificates of customary
right of occupancy (CCRO) through implementation of the Village
Land Act No 5 of 1999. One of the objectives of introducing land
reforms in Tanzania was to improve customary tenure system for
the rural poor communities.
The existing customary system basically operates more effectively when land is relatively abundant and population is low such
that people involved in the transactions have regular and direct
contact8. High population growth in Sub Saharan Africa, land
markets expand and transactions increase between individuals who
are not closely related therefore, certainty over the entitlement of
6
URT, National Land Policy (1997). 2nd (ed.). The Ministry of Lands and
Human Settlements Development (MLHSD), 1999.
7
URT, National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty: Poverty and
Human Development Report 2011.
8
C.B. Kerekes and C.R. Williamson, Propertyless in Peru, even with a government land title, „American Journal of Economics and Sociology”, 69(2010),
no. 3, pp. 1011–1033.

94

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

the owner to transfer land rights becomes increasingly relevant9.
The government relies on the expectation that documentation of
land rights will increase tenure security, access to formal financial
institutions for credit, and finally promote investment. Since the
introduction of rural land registration under the Village Land Act
(VLA) of 1999, there has been a vast mobilization on land registration taking place at a promising rate (for instance in Handeni
from 500 CCROs in 2006 to 1 007 CCROs in 2016), land holders together with other land users are expecting to use CCRO as
collateral to access credit. Therefore, the current study aimed at
exploring the influence of formalizing customary land rights on
rural household livelihood outcomes.
Rural households generally face a number of hindrances when
it comes to accessing credit from formal financial institutions,
the major one being the lack secure property rights. Therefore,
formalizing land rights has been promoted as a way to enhance
credit access, encourage investment, stimulate land markets, and
improve livelihoods10. However, there has been little improvement
in those aspects; for example, Handeni District council has reported
that access to credit through formal financial institutions in rural
settings is still low at about 3%11.
Formalization of customary land rights (CCRO) and access
to credit do not give consistent outcomes; researches carried
out in Tanzania, Kenya Ghana and Rwanda showed that, CCRO
ownership had no clear impact in improving livelihoods12; On
9
E.C. Fairley, Upholding Customary Land Rights through Formalization? Evidence from Tanzania’s Program of Land Reform, Minneapolis 2013.
10
F.N. Lugoe, Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration and Land Policy,
„The Guardian Series”, 2007.
11
URT, Handeni District Profile, 2013.
12
E.C. Fairley, Upholding Customary Land Rights through Formalization?...,
op. cit.; F. Place and S.E. Migot-Adholla, The economic effects of land registration

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

95

the contrary, a study conducted in Latin America, Honduras,
Paraguay, and Brazil showed positive impacts on access to credit
and improvement of household’s livelihoods13. So it is debatable
as to whether formalization of customary land rights can really
lead to improved rural livelihood outcomes, through access to
credit from the formal financial institutions available in the
study area. Hernando de Soto hypothesizes that, government
land titling establishes secure property rights and leads to the
associated positive benefits. However, literature14 on the effects
of land titling finds mixed results. Moreover, the Tanzanian government piloted the PBFP program in the District in 2006, but
since then, no study has been done in the area to empirically
determine the impact of the CCRO’s on livelihood outcomes of
the rural households in the District.
The study on which the manuscript is based aimed at gathering some empirical evidence on the impact of CCRO on rural
household’s livelihood outcomes in Handeni District. Previous
researches15 in the District have dealt with issues of land and
rural livelihoods in isolation. Hence, there is so much emphasis
on smallholder farms in Kenya: evidence from Nyeri and Kakamega districts, „Land
Economics”, 74(1998), no. 3, pp. 360–373; M. Lyons, Pro-poor business law?
On MKURABITA and the legal empowerment of Tanzania’s street vendors, „Hague
Journal on the Rule of Law”, 5(2013), no. 1, pp. 74–95.
13
C.B. Kerekes and C.R. Williamson, Propertyless in Peru, even with a government land title, „American Journal of Economics and Sociology”, 69(2010),
no. 3, pp. 1011–1033.
14
F.N. Lugoe, Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration..., op. cit.; Baseline survey of female entrepreneurs in Temeke, Kinondoni and Ilala districts of Dar
es Salaam, Tanzania, Dar es Salaam 2009; M. Lyons, Pro-poor business law?...,
op. cit., pp. 74–95.
15
PBFP And The implementation of The Village Land Law – Act No 5 Of 1999,
A participation Report of The MKURABITA Pilot Project in Handeni District, TAPHGO
(Tanzania Pastoralists, Hunters and Gatherers Organization), 2007; F.N. Lugoe,
Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration and Land Policy, op. cit..

96

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

of some issues at the expense of others or overlooking of some
topics (e.g. more weight on land at the expense of livelihoods).
Generally, findings from such kind of works might mislead policy
makers leading to erroneous policies and programs. Therefore,
the need for a more specific study on formalized customary land
rights and rural livelihood outcomes, which needs to be analysed
simultaneously. The importance of the study was also based on
the fact that land and livelihoods issues remain major concerns
of development policy both at the national and international
levels. Thus, the manuscript represents a crucial body of reference which will assist the decision makers on appropriate steps
to be taken in Handeni District in poverty reduction and land
administration and management. Moreover, the study is in line
with the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty
(NSGRP) and the former Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
goal number one which was to eradicate extreme poverty and
hunger with a target linked to reduce poverty and reduce income
inequality16 and also the study is linked to the current Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) especially 1–3 which emphasize poverty eradication17. Results from the study could therefore benefit
rural communities, policy makers, development practitioners,
researchers, and planners in their endeavor to alleviate rural
poverty. Generally, the study aimed at exploring the influence
of formalizing customary land rights on rural household livelihood outcomes. Specifically, it determined people’s perception
on formalization of customary land rights; assessed the influence
of CCRO in enabling owners of land to access credit in formal
URT, National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty: Poverty and
Human Development Report, 2011.
17
URT, Press release; The United Nations in conjunction with the Government
of Tanzania officially launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also
known as Global Goals, 2015.
16

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

97

financial institutions; determined how ownership of CCRO has
influenced household income and asset accumulation and identified challenges facing land owners in using land as a tool to
improve rural livelihood outcomes.

Conceptualization of Key Terms
What is land?
There are controversial statements about the definition of land,
as some people confine the term only to the soil, thus separating
other components attached to it. This has led to misconceptions
about the term. However, Sumberg18 argues that land includes
much more than just the physical soil or substance. Studies by Sumberg, Njogu and Dietz19 have pointed out that land encompasses
a range of resources the scope and influence of which transcends
private property. These lines of thinking correspond to that by UNHABITAT20 which states that ‘land involves a wide range of rights
and responsibilities’. Hence, unlike other resources, land consists
of a diversity of resources such that to entrust all land rights exclusively to a single individual is difficult. This is particularly true
in Africa where different people tend to have different rights over
the same piece of land and over different land resources21. In the
J. Sumberg [et al.], Young people, agriculture, and employment in rural
Africa, 2014.
19
J.G. Njogu and T. Dietz, Land use and tenure: entitlement rights for community-based wildlife and forest conservation in Taita Taveta, Nairobi 2006.
20
D. Antonio, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Eds., Handling land: innovative tools for
land governance and secure tenure. Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlements
Programme (UN-Habitat), 2012.
21
A.R. Poteete, Analyzing the politics of natural resources: from theories of
property rights to institutional analysis and beyond, in: Environmental Social Sci18

98

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

current study the term ‘land’ is defined as: “a physical resource
that consists of many attributes of the biosphere that support life,
ranging from arable land, landforms, surface and sub-surface
hydrology, forest, minerals, pasture, and both human and animal
populations”.
Land tenure system
Like the land concept, also the term land tenure is perceived differently by different authors. According to Maxwell and Wiebe22, land
tenure is defined as a system of rights and institutions that govern
access to and use of land and other resources. On the other hand,
FAO23 defines land tenure on legal grounds, to refer to the bundle
of both rights and obligations – the right to own, hold, manage,
transfer, or exploit resources and land, but also the obligation not
to use these in a way that harms others. Moreover, Münkner24 has
argued that, the term land tenure has a very broad meaning and
cautions that one should be careful to avoid misconception. To him
it includes the social, economic, legal and technical relationships of
persons (individuals or groups) to land and to other individuals or
groups. It also covers relations concerning family, kinship, labour
and access to resources, and is influenced by natural/physical factors as well as man-made rules regarding the man/land relationship. Perhaps, these are kinds of arguments that make Poteete25 and
ences: Methods and Research Design, eds. I. Vaccaro, E.A. Smith, and S. Aswani,
Cambridge 2010, pp. 57–79.
22
D. Maxwell and K. Wiebe, Land tenure and food security: Exploring dynamic
linkages, „Development and Change”, 30(1999), no. 4, pp. 825–849.
23
FAO, Land tenure and rural development, Rome: Food and Agricultural
Organization, 2002.
24
H.H. Münkner, Synthesis of Current State and Trends in Land Tenure, Land
Policy and Land Law in Africa, Eschborn 1995.
25
A.R. Poteete, Analyzing the politics of natural resources..., op. cit.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

99

FAO26 consider land tenure as an institution. As it includes roles
invented by the society to regulate behaviours on how to utilize
land resources.
Based on the above definitions, land tenure can generally
be defined to include terms and conditions under which land
resources are governed and regulated. It constitutes legal or customarily defined bundles of rights and the obligations entrusted
to an individual or groups as a whole regarding access to and use
of land and other resources. These bundles of rights are defined
based on existing social, legal, economic and environmental conditions. Hence, it should be clear from the outset that the rights
on land resourcesmay be derived through customary or statutory
laws, marriage and inheritance and through power and control.
The land tenure system can therefore be classified into three main
categories as detailed below.
Statutory or formal tenure system
Statutory land tenure system is a system whereby the rights to
ownership or occupancy of land are defined according to formalized national legal or constitutional process. They are most effective when land values are high and transactions among strangers
are frequent27.
Informal land tenure
This type of land holding is where means of access is vested
through unsanctioned occupation, allocation by local leaders,
inheritance and purchase from those who own the land28. Here
people own land without having acquired it through the customFAO, Land tenure and rural development..., op. cit.
F.N. Lugoe, ‘Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration..., op.cit.
28
Ibidem.
26
27

100

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

ary or statutory channels; a common situation in developing
countries.
Customary land tenure
Customary land tenure is the mode of holding land rights which
exists through historical agreement among people within the community without written laws. These unwritten laws are often based on
the experience of the elders and are aimed at defending the interest
of the group/clan/tribe/family29. In this system land belongs to the
whole community or clan and not to an individual. The clan head
is the custodian of the land rights on behalf of the community. Once
the rights are granted to an individual they are held in perpetuity
as long as the grantee conducts are in a manner satisfactory to the
grantor30. Community leaders play a major role when determining
allocation, use, transfer and other activities related to land and they
do this on behalf of the entire community, the determinant being the
need rather through payment for acquisition of land. The distinction
often made between statutory and customary land rights is now becoming blurred in a number of countries, particularly in Africa where
provision of formal legal customary land right (CCRO) is practised31.
Rural livelihood
The term livelihood comprises people, their capabilities and
means of living, including food, income and assets32. Thus, rural
M. Wanyama, L.O. Mose, M. Odendo, J.O. Okuro, G. Owuor, and L. Mohammed, Determinants of income diversification strategies amongst rural households
in maize based farming systems of Kenya, „African Journal of Food Science”,
4(2010), no. 12, pp. 754–763.
30
D.A. Atwood, Land registration in Africa: The impact on agricultural production, „World development”, 18(1990), no. 5, pp. 659–671.
31
FAO, Land tenure and rural development..., op. cit.
32
R. Chambers and G. Conway, Sustainable rural livelihoods: practical concepts
for the 21st century, Institute of Development Studies (UK), 1992.
29

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

101

livelihoods include different means of gaining a living in rural
areas which to a large extent are connected to their capabilities,
assets (including both material and social resources) and activities
required for a means of living.
Livelihood outcomes
Livelihood outcomes are the results or outcomes of livelihood
strategies. Livelihood outcomes include: increased household food
security through improved and productive livestock and crop production, increased household income, increased employment opportunities, enhanced social and human capital, reduced livelihood
vulnerability, ensured social inclusion, ensured good governance,
increased equal access to information, communication, education
and all forms of empowerment in general. Batterbury33 defines
livelihood outcomes as the achievement or outputs of livelihood
strategies, such as more income, increased well-being, reduced
vulnerability, improved food security, and more sustainable use of
natural resources. Therefore, the study’s operational definition of
livelihood outcomes focuses on household income improvement
and accumulation of assets through the use of land as natural
resources available under the new scheme of land ownership in
the customary land rights.
The study’s Conceptual Framework
The study’s conceptual framework is a modification of Batterbury34 diagnosis on sustainable livelihood framework (SLF)
which assumes that the livelihood of any community comprises
capabilities, assets, and activities required for a means of living35.
S. Batterbury, Sustainable livelihoods: still being sought, ten years on, 2007.
Ibidem.
35
R. Chambers and G. Conway, Sustainable rural livelihoods..., op. cit.
33

34

102

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

The Sustainable livelihoods framework therefore examines the
different elements that contribute to people’s livelihood strategies.
It analyses how forces outside the household or community in ‘the
external environment’ affect them. The framework looks at the
interaction between individuals, their capabilities and the different
types of assets or resources they have access to the activities through
which they gain their livelihoods36. This study has borrowed some
ideas from the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF) to uncover
the influence of CCRO on rural livelihood outcomes. Therefore,
customary land rights (CCRO) are considered as one of the assets
in natural assets of the DFID model. Elements of the DFID were
adopted under the following assumptions.
Household vulnerability context; households with CCRO as a legal and formal customary land rights document are less vulnerable
than households without a CCRO. This is because it is expected
that such households are likely to have better livelihood outcomes
reflected from their income compared to the households without
CCRO. Households with CCRO are expected to access credit in the
formal financial institutions, engage more into livelihood activities
and ultimately improve their incomes.
Improved social, financial and natural capital; households with
a CCRO are likely to have more assets as compared to the households
without a CCRO. This implies that households with a CCRO have received training on various issues concerning land benefits (improved
human capital) including access to credit in financial institutions
(financial capital), Land tenure security enhanced through CCRO
(improved natural capital) as compared to household without CCRO.
The role of PBFP project to issue CCRO is assumed to be the
transforming structures and processes. This is because the general
R. Smyth, Exploring the usefulness of a conceptual framework as a research tool:
a researcher’s reflections, „Issues in educational research”, 14(2004), no. 2, p. 167.
36

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

103

objective of PBFP pilot project is to secure rural land as a livelihood
resource to improve the concerned household livelihood activities
and ultimately improve their livelihood outcomes.

METHODOLOGY
Description of the Study Area
Description of Handeni District
The study was conducted in Handeni District where the customary land titling pilot programme was implemented in 2006.
Seven (7) villages of Mzeri, Sindeni, Kweisasu, Bongi, Nkale,
Mbuyuni, and Kwamkono were involved with a total population of 19 73737. Handeni District Council covers an area of
7,080 km2 and occupies the south-western part of Tanga Region.
The district is administratively divided into 7 divisions, 19 ward
and 112 registered villages and it lies between 4.9° – 6.0°S and
36.8° – 38.5°E and an altitude of between 600 and 1000 metres above sea level, the district has an average temperature of
28.8°C. The district experiences two rainy seasons per year (bi
– modal). Short rains fall between October – December and the
long rains between March and May. Average annual rainfall is
between 500–1000mm38.
The reason for selecting Handeni Districts for the study rests
on the fact that it was among the two pioneer districts (Mbozi
and Handeni) to be involved in the pilot project of the National
Property and Business Formalization Programme (populary known
as MKURABITA (Mkakati wa Kurasimisha Rasimali na Biashara za
PBFP And The implementation of The Village Land Law – Act No 5 Of 1999,
A participation Report of The MKURABITA Pilot Project in Handeni District, TAPHGO
(Tanzania Pastoralists, Hunters and Gatherers Organization), 2007.
38
URT, Handeni District Profile, 2013.
37

104

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

wanyonge Tanzania) in Swahili. The above is not true for the other
districts of Tanzania, though some districts have started to practice
formalization of customary land rights by providing Certificate of
Customary Right of Occupancy. Likewise, even other districts that
are endowed with land in customary land tenure system do not have
such a great number of CCRO as those provided in Handeni District
1 007, Mbozi has about 300, Mbarali 250 CCROs and the rest of
districts has less than 100 CCROs issued so far39. These conditions
motivated a study which looks at the interdependence of formalization of customary land rights and rural livelihoods outcomes.
Research Design
The study adopted a cross-sectional research design whereby
data were collected at one point in time. According to Onwuegbuzie and Leech40, the cross-sectional research design is also cost
effective. Therefore, the choice of this design was based on the
ability to allow data collection that meets the study’s objectives
within the duration of the study and available financial resources.
In addition, a mixed-methods approach was chosen for gathering,
analysing, interpreting and validating results. A mixed method
research refers to a type of research, which combines elements
of quantitative and qualitative research approaches for the broad
purposes of breadth and depth of understanding and triangulation of information. Thus, instead of relying on just one method
such as quantitative or qualitative methods, both approaches were
employed to gather, cross-check, analyse and interpret data. By
39
A. Hart [et al.], Participatory Land Use Planning to Support Tanzanian Farmer
and Pastoralist Investment: Experiences from Mbarali District, Mbeya Region, Dar
es Salaam 2014.
40
A.J. Onwuegbuzie and N.L. Leech, On becoming a pragmatic researcher: The
importance of combining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, „International journal of social research methodology”, 8(2005), no. 5, pp. 375–387.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

105

combining the strength of each method the research and its subsequent results are generally improved.
Study Population
The target population of this study was all households with
CCRO granted through the PBFP pilot project in Handeni District
and individuals without CCRO in the study villages. The strategy
of having respondents with and without CCRO was adopted to
capture the impact of CCRO on rural livelihood outcomes. Sindeni
WEO, VEOs in the four villages, District land Officer, village land
committee members (8; 2 from each village) and Extension Officers
(8:2 from each village) were included in the study as key informants
during In-depth Interviews to enrich information collected through
household survey questionnaires. Moreover, representatives from
formal financial institutions (FINCA, BRAC, Vision Fund, CRDB,
PSPF and NMB) were also included as key informants in the study
population, making a total of 32 key informants interviewed in the
study area. The study’s unit of analysis is the household.
Sample Size and Sampling Technique
The sampling unit was a household since the benefits and ownership of CCRO are shared within the household. The study employed a multi-stage sampling technique. From the main sampling
frame of 19 737 households the sample size of 188 households
has been obtained (details in Appendix 4). Then sampling fraction was computed and sub-samples compiled per village. Among
seven villages involved in the project, four villages were randomly
selected as the community is relatively homogeneous, followed
by stratified proportional random sampling across household with
and without CCRO sub-samples.
Based on the formula as pointed above 188 respondents were
to be surveyed and interviewed for the study but only 184 re-

106

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

spondents were interviewed because it was difficult to meet all
the respondents as it was farming time for most of the household
members. According to Baker41, the sample size should range
from 30 to 60 respondents with 30 respondents being the minimum number of respondents. Nevertheless, the sample size of
184 respondents is satisfactory to run rigorous statistical analysis.
Stratified random sampling was used to select participants for the
focus group discussions (FGDs) across socio-demographic groups.
Then participants were organized in groups of eight to twelve
participants, however these respondents were not included in the
individual interviews; and a sum total of four (4) FGDs one from
each village were conducted.

Data Collection Methods and Tools
Nature and type of data
Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. The
Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF) by DFID (1999) was
useful in determining the nature and types of data to be collected.
Different livelihood resources which are found in rural settings
together with livelihood strategies were identified. These are
natural resources, physical capital, economic capital and social
capital. However, more weight was given to livelihood strategies
that mostly depend on land as many people (66%) still rely on
agriculture42. Thus, data on crop cultivation and livestock keeping activities were gathered. Attention was also given to finan41
S.E. Baker, R. Edwards and M. Doidge, How many qualitative interviews
is enough?: Expert voices and early career reflections on sampling and cases in
qualitative research, 2012.
42
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census: Population Distribution by
Administrative Areas. National Bureau of Statistics, Office of Chief Government
Statistician, 2012.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

107

cial capital, physical capital and human capital components of
livelihood resources. In respect to financial capital, data related
to income, savings and credit cooperation societies, village community banks, financial institutions, remittance and pensions
were gathered. Data on household annual income and asset
value were collected as estimated figures from the respondents.
However, social capital information was not collected due to
limited time. Likewise, off-farm income generating activities such
as petty trading, handcraft activities and the like were included.
Regarding natural capital, weight was given to land ownership
and its associated tenure security.
Data collection methods
Primary data were collected using a household survey questionnaire (Appendix I) with open and close-ended questions in
order to collect a wide range of information. The primary data
focused on households’ ownership of land with or without CCRO
and rural community livelihood outcomes. In addition, FGDs and
In-depth Interviews with key Informants were used to compliment
information on rural livelihood outcomes in terms of challenges
facing CCRO owners in improving their livelihood. The FGDs and
In-depth Interviews were guided by an FGD guide (Appendix II)
and In-depth interview guide Appendix III. Four FGDs were conducted, one for each village in the study area.
Data Analysis
Data analysis was mainly done using the Statistical Package
for Social Sciences (SPSS) Program. After data cleaning the data
was analysed. Multiple linear regression analysis model and Independent sample t-test were employed to capture information on
objective three of the study about the influence of CCRO on livelihood outcomes (household income) against the selected predictor

108

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

variables between household with and without CCRO (Table 1).
Multiple linear regression was used in the study because the dependent variable household income is a continuous variable and
it was regressed against eight independent variables. Therefore,
based on the R2 of 0.410, this means that the independent variables entered in the model explained 41% of the variance in the
dependent variable. Descriptive statistical analysis was employed to
determine means, frequencies, and percentages on selected household’s characteristics. Reliability of the results obtained from the
qualitative data was checked by triangulation methods; whereby,
the same issue is checked or supplemented through different ways
to ensure authenticity. In addition to the above model, Independentsample t-test was used to compare estimated value of assets based
on the current prices owned between the two groups (household
with and without CCRO) independently. For objective one data
were analysed using Likert Scale while objective (ii) data were
analysed using descriptive statistics by establishing percentages
and frequencies.
Ethical Considerations
Respondents were entitled to privacy and confidentiality both
on ethical consideration and protection of their personal data. In
addition, respondent’s participation in the study was voluntary.
The research details were properly and clearly communicated to
each respondent before the interviews. Participants were informed
of their rights, assured of confidentiality and that their identity
would be kept anonymous throughout the interview and study
results unless well communicated and agreed upon between the
researcher and the respondent. Researcher entry to the District
followed administrative procedure set forth by the government
and by Sokoine University of Agriculture. Pre-arrangement was
made through the District Administrative Secretary’s (DAS) office,

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

109

District Executive Director, Ward Executive Officer (WEOs), Village
Executive Offices (VEOs) in the respective study areas. Hence,
the risk associated with improper entry and safety matters to the
researcher and respondents were adhered to.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Socio-demographic Characteristics
of Respondents and Land Ownership
Household head’s age and land ownership
Study findings as presented in Table 1 show that the majority
(86%) and (84%) of the household heads with and without CCRO
group belong to the age group of 18–60 years respectively and
a few (14%) and (16%) in both groups were above 60 years of
age and the overall mean age of 44.6. The results suggest that the
majority of the household heads were in the active and productive
age group. According to URT43, about half (49%) of the Tanzania
population in the economically productive age range (15–64),
a substantial burden is placed on these people to support older
and younger members of the population.
Cross tabulation results of household head’s age groups with
average land size show that more than a half (51%) and (62%) of
land belongs to those above 60 years for both household heads with
and without CCRO respectively. This is because customary land
acquisition is mainly based on inheritance and therefore the active
age inherits land from their parents who are fewer generally but
yet they still own big chunks of land as compared to the younger
ones (i.e. those below 60 years). Moreover, results suggest that
since the aged own big chunks of land, this could be among the
43

Ibidem.

110

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

other reasons why most of the land in the rural areas of Handeni
are not developed or are underutilized resulting into poor improvement of the rural livelihood outcomes. Similar observations
were reported by ILC44 in Mbozi Tanzania that the majority of land
owned by those aged 60 years and above were underdeveloped.
This observation was supported during the FGDs whereby a concern was raised about elders owning large pieces of land which is
also not fully utilized as quoted below;
“These elders own big chunks of land; however, they don’t use it
as whole and they don’t allow us to use their land for crop production
instead they want to sell it to people outside the village or from town”
(A 32 years old male FGDs participant Kweisasu village, 08/03/2016).
Table 1: Household head’s socio-demographic characteristics and land ownership
Households heads owning land with CCRO (n=92)
Characteristic

Categories Frequency

Average
land size
owned (acres)

Frequency Average
land size
owned(acres)

Household
head’s
age (years)

18–35
36–60
>60

12(13)
67(73)
13(14)

14.9
10.4
69.5

9(10)
68(74)
15(16)

12.4
11.2
60.3

Household
head’s sex

Male
Female

74 (80)
18(20)

18
18

71(77)
21(23)

23
3.7

Married
Divorced
Single
Widow

57(62)
8(8.6)
12(13)
15(16.4)

21.8
5.2
33.4
6.1

68(74)
4(4.3)
12(13)
8(8.7)

22
4.6
20.1
3.5

Household size

1–4
5–8
>8

22(23.9)
44(47.8)
26(28.3)

19.1
13.9
28.4

22(23.9)
49(53.3)
21(22.8)

25.5
14
25.6

Household
head’s
education level

No formal
Primary
Secondary
College

18(19.6)
70(76.1)
3(3.3)
1(1.1)

26.8
18.3
3.5
4

20(21.7)
58(63)
14(15.3)


18.8
21.4
8.5


Household
head’s
marital status

NB: Numbers in the brackets indicate percentage

A. Hart [et al.], Participatory Land Use Planning to Support Tanzanian Farmer
and Pastoralist Investment: Experiences from Mbarali District, Mbeya Region, op. cit.
44

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

111

Household head’s sex and land ownership status
The study findings show that male headed households (MHH)
were the majority (87%) and (77%) with and without CCRO
respectively as compared to females headed households (FHH)
(20%) and (23%) as shown in Table 1. According to URT45, in the
year 2011/12 FHH in Tanzania represented 22% of all households.
Generally, women who head households tend to be widowed, divorced or separated. A similar observation was made by Songoro46
in a study on west Usambara about land, forests and livelihood
in Tanzania whereby a total 254 household heads were randomly
sampled for investigation whereby about 80 % households were
headed by men, and 20% by women. In addition, Paaga47 in the
study about customary land rights in Ghana observed that more
than two third (68%) of the household heads owning land were
males.
Results from cross tabulation of a household head’s sex and
land ownership status in terms of CCRO ownership show that most
(96%) and (78%) of land in households with and without CCRO
respectively was owned by MHHs as compared to FHHs (14%) and
(22%) respectively. Results further show that generally over three
quarters (80%) of land was owned by MHHs while only 20% of
land is owned by FHHs. Similar results were observed by EFG48
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census: Population Distribution by
Administrative Areas. National Bureau of Statistics, Office of Chief Government
Statistician, 2012.
46
A.E. Songoro, Land scarcity, rural livelihoods and forest management in
West Usambara, Dissertation: Giessen University 2014.
47
D.T. Paaga and G. Dandeebo, Customary land tenure and its implications
for land disputes in Ghana: Cases from Wa, Wechau and Lambussie, „International
Journal of Humanities and Social Science”, 3(2014), no. 18, pp. 263–270.
48
Baseline survey of female entrepreneurs in Temeke, Kinondoni and Ilala districts
of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, 2009.
45

112

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

that land ownership by women in households was a problem,
of all female respondents only 9.2% of respondents owned land
individually and 10% owned land jointly with their spouses and
or other household members. It was clear that ownership of land
by women, either individually or jointly, was low49. The above
results suggest that FHHs were adversely affected in terms of
control to land, hence, most of them continue to remain in the
poverty vicious cycle trap with poor livelihood outcomes. On the
other hand, women in the households headed by males may not
necessarily be poor but their face a similar challenge with FHHs
when it comes to control over land50.
Results from the study suggest that although formalization of
customary land rights promotes land ownership to vulnerable
groups, the challenge of control over land still holds. Generally,
males inherit land from their parents based on the patriarchal system practiced in most African countries, including Tanzania. Land
is simply divided between male heirs who enjoy full rights on such
lands and who may then dispose of it to any one at any time. Land
in most of the households is said to be owned by members of the
household or jointly owned by married couples based on verbal
terms and in case of marriage break up or divorce most women
lose access and control over the land, this observation coincides
with what had been observed by Navrotzki51 in the a study about
rural livelihood and access to natural capital in Madagascar. During the FGDs a concern was raised about male dominance in land
ownership as shown below;
Ibidem.
D.T. Paaga and G. Dandeebo, Customary land tenure and its implications...,
op. cit.
51
R.J. Nawrotzki, L.M. Hunter, and T.W. Dickinson, Rural livelihoods and access
to natural capital: Differences between migrants and non-migrants in Madagascar,
„Demographic research”, 26(2012).
49
50

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

113

“Generally land is owned and shared between husband and wife
when love is sweet, but when love turns bitter and the woman gets
divorced, land remains in the hands of the greedy men. I am now
happy after my name was included on the land certificate (referring
to the CCRO). I hope that whatever happens I will still own the land
together with my ex-husband”.
(A 54 years old female FGDs participant at Mbuyuni village
05/03/2016).

CCRO provides a formal and legal binding agreement between
household members in terms of land ownership. The PBFP pilot
project through CCRO has promoted gender mainstreaming on
matters pertaining to land ownership across gender categories
in the study villages. Table 2 shows a picture of participatory
mapping of gendered rural livelihood resources ownership and
decision making regarding use of such resources at Kweisasu
village only in Handeni District52. Table 2 analysis for one village only (Kweisasu) shows that men own and decide on the
use of houses, farms, radio, bicycle, cattle and the farm harvest
while women own only chickens. Again, men decide on the use
of all such livelihood assets they own, only labour seems to be
shared equally across gender categories53. Land ownership under CCRO scheme provides an avenue for women to formally
own land and ultimately own what is upon that land; house,
crops and animal grazing areas. This implies that most of the
household socio-economic resources are controlled by males.
Therefore, use of such resources depends on males priorities of
which in most cases marginalize the needs of the women and
other vulnerable groups in the household thus adversely affecting women’s well-being.
URT, Handeni District Profile, 2013.
URT, National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty: Poverty and
Human Development Report, 2011.
52
53

114

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

Table 2: A gendered analysis of livelihood assets ownership and power for decision
making to use such assets
Livelihood asset

Who Owns

Male

Female

Male

House

V

V

V

V

Land

V

V

V

V

Farm

V

V

V

V

Cows

V

V

V

V

Goats

V

V

V

V

V

V

V

Chicken

Female

Male

Who decides on use

V

Female

V

Bicycle

V

V

V

V

Radio

V

V

V

V

8(88)

8(50)

8(50)

Total scores

1(12.5)

7(87.5)

1(12)

NB: Numbers in the brackets indicate percent

Source: Data from village file (Opportunities and Obstacles to development Programme (O&OD)
at Kweisasu village, 2012.

Household head’s marital status and land ownership
The study findings in Table 1 show that more than a half (62%)
and (74%) households’ heads with and without CCRO respectively
were married couples while only (38%) and (26%) were not married (divorced, single, widows, widower). According to URT54, in
Tanzania Mainland, the percentage of adults who are married or
living together has declined from about 60% in 2007 to about 57%
in 2011/12. Results of the study indicate a low number of separations which suggest that the majority of families are intact across all
the four villages in the study area. Findings on the comparison of
land ownership reveal that married couples own the largest part of
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census: Population Distribution by
Administrative Areas. National Bureau of Statistics, Office of Chief Government
Statistician, 2012.
54

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

115

the land (70%) and (84%) of households with and without CCRO.
These findings suggest that the majority of the respondents were
married couples and they are at the productive age, hence the need
to inherit land from the grandparents. Since all the households had
an equal chance in the pilot project to acquire CCRO then, study
results suggest that the majority of the village population consists
of married couples as compared to other marital status groups.
Similar results were observed by Foukona55 in the legal aspects
of customary land Administration in Solomon Islands, whereby
71% of respondents were married couples among which 64% and
45% of the households had CCRO and without CCRO respectively.
Again literature56 found that during marriage separation or death of
a husband, land that is jointly owned by both married couples using CCRO provides legal opportunity for women to have access and
control over the land for their well-being. The results of this study
together with other authors observation emphasize the importance
of CCRO towards women and other vulnerable groups well-being
with regard to access and control over land.
Household head’s education level and land ownership
Results in Table 1 show that majority (80.4%) and (78.3%) of
all household heads with and without a CCRO had formal education (primary, secondary and college) while a few (19.6%) and
(21.7%) respectively had no formal education. Moreover, results
show that a large part of land (72%) and (63%) was owned by
the household’s heads with primary education for both categories. This result suggests that literacy level in the study area is
higher as compared to the National literacy level of 65.9 in rural
J.D. Foukona, Legal aspects of customary land administration in Solomon
Islands, „Journal of South Pacific Law”, 11(2007), no. 1, pp. 64–72.
56
Ibidem; F.N. Lugoe, Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration..., op. cit.;
D.T. Paaga and G. Dandeebo, Customary land tenure and its implications..., op. cit.
55

116

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

areas in 201057. Generally, literacy is believed to be an important
aspect in livelihood strategies, activities and its associated outcomes. Knowledge associated with primary education level has
been observed to promote wise use of natural resources and its
associated property rights of which land is of utmost importance
livelihood resource.
The results further suggest that the majority of the population
in the study area have accessed formal education. The slight difference in ownership of CCRO among formal education household
heads is due to PBFP pilot project procedure in provision of CCRO
which provided an equal chance to all household’s heads to acquire CCRO. According to Jeannette et al.58, a household head’s
education level is one of the important demographic characteristics
which influences the choice and good performance of a livelihood
activity. Literate households are expected to easily access financial
capital in the form of rural credit. Again literate households are
expected to easily adopt new innovations and therefore, increasing
probability of improving their livelihood outcomes as compared
to their non-formal educated household heads.
Household size and land ownership
Results presented in Table 1 show that about half (48.8%)
and (53.3%) of all the household heads with and without CCRO
interviewed had 5-8 household members (medium household
size) while the rest 52.2% and 46.7% had 1 to 4 and more than
8 household members. The results also revealed that population
in the study area had an average household size of 6 members per
URT, National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty: Poverty and
Human Development Report, 2011.
58
V. Jeannette, A. Notenbaert, S. Moyo, and M. Herrero, Household livelihood
strategies and livestock benefits dependence in Gaza province of Mozambique, „African Journal of Agricultural Research”, 6(2011), no. 3, pp. 560–572.
57

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

117

household. Similar results have been observed by Songoro59 in
a study about Usambara forest and livelihood outcomes whereby
out of 254 study respondents (67%) had average household
size of 6 and above with average household size being 7. The
study results suggest that households in the study area had
higher household size as compared to average household size
of 5 members of the Tanga Region and 5.3 household members
of the rural Tanzania60. These results imply land ownership is
not directly related to household size but household size is an
important household economic characteristic. This is based on
the fact that the larger the household size the higher the need
for more resources especially land and possibly improved technologies to allow intensification of agriculture production as an
important livelihood resource.
In addition to the above, results show that there is a slight
difference in the number of respondents owning land with CCRO
across household size categories; low (1-4), medium (5-8) and
high (9 and above) own land around one third to each category,
i.e.24%, 34%, 42% with CCRO respectively. A sSimilar observation was revealed in the household heads without CCRO that
household size categories: low (1-4), medium (5-8), high (9 and
above) own land about one third to each category (31%), (39%)
and (30%) respectively. The study result suggests that household
size has little influence on land ownership but it is an important
demographic characteristic for assessment of household livelihood
strategies, activities and outcomes61.
59
A.E. Songoro, Land scarcity, rural livelihoods and forest management in
West Usambara, op. cit.
60
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census: Population Distribution by
Administrative Areas. National Bureau of Statistics, Office of Chief Government
Statistician, 2012.
61
S. Batterbury, Sustainable livelihoods..., op. cit.

118

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

Household Socio-economic Characteristics
and Land Ownership
Household occupation and land ownership
In the study villages main occupations observed were crop production, livestock keeping, businesses, government employment,
bodaboda operators as shown in the Table 3. The majority (73% and
67.9%) of the household heads with and without CCRO respectively
engaged in crop production. Considering livestock keeping and crop
production together as agriculture, this made the majority’s main occupation to be agriculture in the households with and without CCRO.
The rest of the respondents engage in business and other types of
occupation such as formal employment and petty businesses as their
source of income. According to URT62, more than two thirds (66%)
of the rural Tanzanians depend on agriculture as the main employer
and source of income. The study result indicates that agriculture is
the main rural employer for the majority of the population in the
study area and source of income for their livelihood. Moreover, the
relationship between household head’s occupation and land ownership are as shown in Table 4, the majority of household heads with
(70.1%) and without (65.5%) CCRO respectively own land under
crop production and livestock keeping.
The results suggest that a large part of land is owned by
households engaging in agricultural related activities. In addition, the PBFP pilot project mainly aimed at providing CCRO
to farms rather than land for other uses such as settlement.
A similar observation was made by Mwangi63 in the study about
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census: Population Distribution by
Administrative Areas. National Bureau of Statistics, Office of Chief Government
Statistician, 2012.
63
L.H. Mwangi, Processes of Large-Scale Land Acquisition by Investors: Case
Studies from sub-Saharan Africa, Sussex 2011.
62

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

119

process of land acquisition by large scale farmers in Sub-Saharan
Africa, whereby it was revealed that over three quarter (76%)
of land in Sub-Saharan Africa is owned by households engaging
in agricultural activities.
Table 3: CCRO ownership and socio-economic characteristics of respondents
(n=184)
Characteristic
Occupations Business and other
occupations
of HH

Without CCRO
With CCRO

5(5.4)
2(2.2)

2 (2.2)
0 (0)

7(3.9)
2(1.2)

Without CCRO
With CCRO

3(3.2)
3(3.2)




3(2)
3(2)

Crop production and Without CCRO
livestock keeping
With CCRO

16(17.4)
16(17.4)

4 (4.4)
3 (3.2)

20(10.9)
19(10.9)

Crop production

Without CCRO
With CCRO

60(65.2)
65(70.7)

2(2.2)
3 (3.2)

62(67.9)
68(73)

Female

Without CCRO
With CCRO

18(19.5)
12(13)

3(3.2)


21(22.8)
12(13)

Male

With CCRO
Without CCRO

84(91.3)
56(60.8)

3(3.2)
8 (8.6)

87(94)
64(69)

Livestock keeping

Sex of HH

Access to credit
Land ownership No (n=92) Yes (n=92)

NB: Numbers in the brackets indicate percentage

Respondent’s Perception on CCRO
and Community Livelihood Outcomes
Respondent’s perception on land ownership and CCRO issues
were determined by computing mean and percentages of respondent’s perception on selected characteristics shown in Table 4 using
a five summative Likert scale analysis. Overall results show that
both groups (household heads with and without CCRO) recognize
the importance of CCRO in their livelihood. Specifically, more
than a half (61%) had a positive perception on the role of CCRO
in improving tenure security, decreasing land conflicts, enhancing vulnerable groups, land ownership, promoting awareness on

120

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

land administration and enhancing community’s participation in
decision making regarding land. A minority (15%) had a negative
perception on CCRO; they thought that CCRO could enable them
to access credit, an aspect which was not realized since inception
of CCRO in the study area.
In addition, the other 24% of the respondents had a neutral
perception on CCRO which suggests that other community members
with and without CCRO lack awareness on the potential values
of CCRO on their livelihood. These results suggest that formalization of customary land rights does not always result into positive
economic benefits in the modern market as postulated by de Soto
but it depends on the environment and the actors involved. Again,
literature64 studies done in Tanzania, Peru, Kenya and Ghana respectively show mixed results on the de Soto argumentation. These
imply that environment and actors involved differ and ultimately
outcomes of such land formalization differ and therefore the need
for creating enabling environment for de Soto’s argumentation to
work in the study area.
Households’ perception on CCRO
and access to financial services
The majority (93.5%) and (83%) of household heads with and
without CCRO respectively, strongly disagree that CCRO promote
economic investment through more access to financial services. In
addition, the existing land conflicts deter financial institutions to
offer loans in rural areas using land as collateral. The slight dif64
O.M.L. Kosyando, Mkurabita and the Implementation of the Village Land
Law-Act No 5 of 1999, TAPHGO, Arusha, Tanzania, http://www. tnrf. org/files/e
info_taphgo_report_on_mkurabita_Handeni_land_registration_0. Pdf, 2007;
C.B. Kerekes and C.R. Williamson, Propertyless in Peru, even with a government
land title, op. cit., pp. 1011–1033, 2010; D.T. Paaga and G. Dandeebo, Customary
land tenure and its implications for land disputes in Ghana..., op. cit., pp. 263–270.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

121

ference between the two groups was based on the fact that both
groups had not accessed financial services using land as collateral
despite other households having CCRO.
On the other hand, a minority (6.5%) and (17.4%) of those
with and without a CCRO agreed thatownership of CCRO promoted economic investment since they accessed credit from the
formal financial institutions. This observation is contrary to what
was expected from the PBFP program which believed that formalization of customary land rights could enable land owners
to access credit and promote economic investment. According to
a study done in Ghana by Paaga65, it was shown that ownership
of a CCRO promoted access to credit whereby more than a third
(38%) of the households with a CCRO accessed credit in formal
financial institutions.
Table 4: Surveyed household’s perception on CCRO impact to rural livelihood
outcomes (n=92)
Statement

HH owning
land
with a CCRO

SD

CCRO promoted access
to financial services

Yes
No

76(83)
86(93.5)

CCRO decreased land
conflicts

Yes
No

0(0)
3(3)

CCRO maintained
traditional land tenure

Yes
No

CCRO ownership promoted Yes
land tenure security
No

D

4(4)
0(0)

13(14) 15(16) 56 (61)
6(6.5) 10(10.9) 70(76.6)

8(9)
3(3)

10(11)
11(22)

Yes
No

6(6.5)
0(0)

4(4)
0(0)

CCRO enhanced community Yes
awareness on land
No

0(0)
0(0)

5(5.4)
26(28.3

9(10)
12(13)
2(2)
0(0)

Ibidem.

2(2)
0(0)
4(4.3) 1(1.2)
76 (83)
81 (88)

4(4)
0(0)

8(9) 62(67.5) 12(13)
12(13) 80 (87)
0(0)
0(0) 66(71.7)
6(6.5) 81 (88)

NB: Number in brackets indicate percent.
SD-strongly disagree, D-disagree, N-neutral, A-agree, SA-strongly agree.
65

SA

0(0)
0(0)

5(5.4) 76(82.6)
0(0) 75(81.5)

0(0)
6(6.5)

A

12(13)
0(0)

0(0)
0(0)

CCRO enabled vulnerable
groups to own land

N

0(0)
0(0)

122

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

Community perception on CCRO and land conflicts
Results of this study as indicated in Table 6. show that the majority (76.6%) and (61%) of respondents with and without CCRO
thought issuing of CCRO could decrease land conflicts in the study
area. However, a few (14%) and (6.5%) from the above groups
respectively argued that land conflicts still exist in the study area
despite issuing of the same. The study result suggests that in general
terms CCRO has positively contributed to minimizing land conflicts but not their eradication. The low percentage of respondents
reporting existence of land conflicts despite introduction of CCRO
pinpointed that among other reasons which cause land conflicts in
the villages is the government’s failure to properly administer land
laws and bylaws. This was emphasized by one of the male pastoralist
participant during one of the FGDs as pointed in the quote below;
“Village Land Use Plan (VLUP) and CCRO are good for our livelihoods. However, effectiveness will depend on whether VLUP bylaws
and CCRO will be respected by all stakeholders; village leaders, district
leaders, regional, national and all village dwellers; both farmers and
livestock keepers”.
A male FGDs participant at Bongi village, 10/03/2016).

The observation from the study suggests that land conflicts
exist in Handeni and Tanzania in particular. Conflicts over land
in many parts of Tanzania are to a large extent not related to
land scarcity or even ethnicity and political pressures as commonly reported in other countries such as Kenya, Somalia and
Rwanda66. Instead, land conflicts in Tanzania arise from what is
66
J.K. Nyerere, Freedom and a new world economic order, op. cit.; R.R. Simiyu,
Militianisation of resource conflicts: the case of land-based conflict in the Mount
Elgon region of western Kenya, Pretoria 2008, p. 80 (Institute for Security Studies
Monographs, no. 152); C. Médard, ‘Indigenous’ land claims in Kenya: A case-study
of Chebyuk, Mount Elgon district, Kenya 2010; M. Mghanga, Usipoziba ufa utajenga ukuta: land, elections, and conflicts in Kenya’s Coast Province, Nairobi 2010.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

123

called by FAO67 overriding interest; failure by government and
developing investors to take into account the needs of local people
(i.e. ignoring collective and customary rights over land of local
people); lack of adhering to procedures as stipulated in land laws;
corruptive behaviours and mismanagement by the government.
These factors are compounded by ineffective land use planning
that fails to accommodate different land users, inefficiency in
land administration as manifested in inadequate capacity to
plan, compensate, map and issuance of land to different users.
Also increase in human activities due to population increase
that outstrip the government’s capacity to render land services
a situation contributing into land conflicts. Similar challenges are
facing the community in the study area with regard to land conflicts, a situation which adversely affects rural livelihood outcomes,
since households will incur costs in terms of time and finances in
conflict resolutions. PBFP was formulated to curb this problem in
rural community to empower them with CCRO as a tool to minimize such problems.
Households’ perception on CCRO
and traditional land tenure
The study findings (Table 4) show that the majority (88%) and
(83%) of respondents with and without CCRO thought that CCRO
land tenure system does not maintain traditional land tenure system. The respondents pinpointed one main reason for the above
argument that traditional land tenure maintains land to the clan
lineage but CCRO promotes individualization on land ownership.
On the other side, a few (11%) and (22%) of the above respondents
respectively thought that CCRO could maintain traditional land
tenure system by protecting land ownership under clanship rather
67

FAO, Land tenure and rural development, Rome 2002.

124

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

than individualization. These results suggest that formalization of
customary land rights promotes individualized ownership of land
rather than by the clan as in the case of traditional land system.
The same perception was observed by other scholars and experts
in Tanzania who challenge formalization of customary land rights
for example68.
The above have challenged the government’s formalization of
customary land rights, despite the argument that such changes
are in favour of the interests of rural poor Tanzanians. The duo
maintain that amendments in the land laws will compromise
the welfare of many citizens in the near future by leaving many
landless69. Similarly, although the formalization program (PBFP)
sounds good in terms of poverty reduction, a close examination
leaves a lot of doubt as to whether it would bear benefits to
the poor. Some scholars70 have also argued that “amendments,
especially those made in the land acts, were largely backed by
the World Bank which to a large extent favours liberalization
policies on land and a class of commercial farmers”71. The IMF/
World Bank’s agenda on land since 1980s has been to replace
customary systems with private land tenure system72. According
68
W. Olenasha, Reforming land tenure in Tanzania: for whose benefit, A study
prepared for Hakiardhi, Dar es Salaam, www. hakiardhi. or. Tz, 2005; P.K. Olengurumwa, 1990’s Tanzania Land Laws Reforms and its Impact on the Pastoral Land
Tenure, presented at the Pastoral Week, Arusha, 2010.
69
W. Olenasha, Reforming land tenure in Tanzania..., op. cit.
70
R.R. Simiyu, Militianisation of resource conflicts: the case of land-based conflict
in the Mount Elgon region of western Kenya, op. cit., p. 80; M. Mghanga, Usipoziba
ufa utajenga ukuta: land, elections, and conflicts in Kenya’s Coast Province, op. cit.;
L.H. Mwangi, Processes of Large-Scale Land Acquisition by Investors..., op. cit.
71
Ibidem.
72
P.K. Olengurumwa, 1990’s Tanzania Land Laws Reforms and its Impact on
the Pastoral Land Tenure’, presented at the Pastoral Week, op. cit.; P. Peters, Challenges in land tenure and land reform in Africa: An anthropological perspective,
Cambridge: Harvard University 2007.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

125

to the study results, people’s perception on the CCRO land tenure
system is that it destroys traditional land tenure. This concern
was also raised during key informant interviews as shown in the
quote below that;
“Formalization of customary land rights promotes more individualization of land rights and makes it easier to sell land rights to other
individuals as compared to the former traditional land tenure system.
CCRO has now promoted many individuals from outside the villages
and even districts to acquire large tracts of village land. This may
lead into some poor rural households to lose their land and remain
poor of the poorest landless people” (a female Key informant (land
officer) Handeni District Office, 16/03/2016).

Surveyed households’ perception towards
the socio-economic role of CCRO
Apart from understanding the general perception of people
on land issues it was also necessary to understand their perception towards the role of CCRO economically in terms of impact
on their livelihood. In this regard, mixed results (Table 5) were
observed. A considerable number of respondents (85.3%) saw
the indirect role of CCRO economically through enhancement of
tenure security which supports investment in agricultural activities. Study findings in Table 6 show that the majority (71.7%)
and (88%) of households who own land with and without CCRO
respectively agree that CCRO promotes land tenure security. On
the other hand, a few respondents (5.4%) and (28.3%) with and
without CCRO respectively do not see the importance of CCRO
in tenure security.
The above findings suggest that the CCRO tenure security is
important, however, it is not enough to convince everyone to see
the importance of CCRO on rural livelihood outcomes. Hence,
both tenure security benefits and the direct CCRO use value
should go hand-in-hand. Similar observation has been made by

126

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

other authors’73 studies done in Tanzania; and Migot-Adhola74,
2012 in Kenya have revealed that households with CCRO who
accessed financial services using land as collateral have positively
influenced others to inquire CCRO for their land. This indicates
that households owning land without CCRO have been positively
motivated to obtain CCRO because of its use value.
Table 5: Likert scale analysis summary on overall surveyed household’s perception
on CCRO and rural livelihood outcomes (n=184)
Range

Percentage

Positive

Perception

21–30

61

Neutral

11–20

24

Negative

0–10

15

Contribution of CCRO to the Surveyed
Households’ Livelihood Outcomes
This section examines in detail the surveyed households’ livelihood outcomes using a multiple regression model and independent
sample t-test. The models are based on the hypothesis that some
household characteristics such as: sex, age, marital status, occupation, land size owned, ownership of CCRO, household size and
household head’s education level may have influenced household
livelihood outcomes. A sum total of eight independent variables
were used which are: sex, age, marital status, occupation, farm
size owned, ownership of a CCRO, household size and household
head’s education. All the above mentioned independent variables
were included in the models to determine their contribution to
F.N. Lugoe, Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration..., op. cit; W. Olenasha, Reforming land tenure in Tanzania..., op. cit.
74
F. Place and S.E. Migot-Adholla, The economic effects of land registration on
smallholder farms..., op. cit.
73

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

127

the household livelihood outcomes especially household income
and accumulation of assets.
In addressing the above, a multiple linear regression model
was used. Before running the model, the dependent variable
(household income) and independent variables recorded at the
ratio level (farm size cultivated, household size, and age of the
household head in years) were checked for normality by computing
their distribution curves and checking the curves visually to find
whether they were skewed or not. The variables: household income,
farm size cultivated were found to be skewed; hence they were
transformed using base-10 Logarithm to normal distributions. The
transformed variables were used in the regression model together
with the other variables which were not transformed because they
already had normal distributions. Multi-collinearity was checked
by computing variance inflation factors (VIFs) and tolerances of
the explanatory variables. Multi-collinearity is an undesirable
situation which exists when some pairs of variables are so closely
related that if both such variables are included in the regression
equation, the resultant regression coefficients will be unstable75.
Tolerances below 0.1 imply multicollinearity and VIFs values that
are greater than 10 denote the presence of multicollinearity76.
Multiple linear regression results for average household income
are shown in Table 6. Therefore, based on the R2 of 0.410, this
means that the independent variables entered in the model explained 41% of the variance in the dependent variable. Among the
eight independent variables (household head’s sex, age, marital
status, education level, household size, land ownership status,
farm size and occupation) regressed against household income
A. Bryman, Social research methods. Place of publication not identified:
Oxford Univ Pr Canada, 2013.
76
S. Landau and B.S. Everitt, A Handbook of Statistical Analyses using SPSS,
2004.
75

128

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

only three variables; household head’s age, marital status and
farm size for both household heads’ with and without CCRO were
positively significantat P≤0.05 and p≤0.1.
Generally, the above observation seems to suggest that households
with CCRO and those without CCRO had no significant differences
in terms of average annual household income, since having a CCRO
had no significant contribution on the household income. This is
because most of the household as indicated in the earlier sections
had not accessed credit and still financial literacy is very low in rural
areas. These findings are similar to what was observed by Lugoe77
in a study conducted in Uganda, Kenya and Zambia; whereby it
was reported that formalization of customary land rights had no
significant contribution on the rural livelihood outcomes where the
conditions for effective use of CCRO face a number of bottlenecks.
Table 6: Multiple linear regression analysis results for predictor variable influence
on household income
Unstandardized
coefficients
Predictor variable

(B)

S.E

Standardized
coefficients
(B)

T

Sig.

Tolerance

VIF

Sex of household head

2.98

2.213 0.836 0.665

2.151

0.736 1.532

Age of household head

0.004

0.012 0.001 0.657

0.075*

0.686 1.847

Education of household head

-0.978

1.078 0.867 0.443

0.851

0.363 1.568

Marital status of household
head

0.664

1.335 0.231 0.354 0.004**

0.791 1.345

Household size

0.155

0.075 0.352 0.664 0.008**

0.868 1.349

Household occupation

-0.425

0.342 0.256 0.376

0.257

0.686 1.954

Land ownership status
with or without CCRO

-0.161

0.154 3.234 0.762

0.531

0.774 1.232

0.222 2.111 0.123 0.001**

0.989 1.168

Farm size owned

0.586

NB: B=Coefficient, S.E=Standard Error, Sig.=degree of significance (p value), *=significance at
p=0.1, **= significance at p=0.05. R2=386, Adjusted R2=0.410, Standard Error of estimates=0.3405.
77

F. N. Lugoe, Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration...,op. cit.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

129

According to the multiple linear regression results (Table 6),
a household head’s age was positively associated with an increase
in household income. An additional increase in one’s age meant
also more income. The main reasons could be the fact that 18 to
60 years of age comprises youth and mature productive adults.
Similar observations were made by Jayne et al78. These scholars narrated that ‘poverty reduction in countries where 70–80%
of the rural population draws their income from agriculture will
depend on the distribution of assets ‘in particular land’ across
age categories since households income are associated with the
age of the household head’s age. This observation was made
after conducting a study on smallholder income and land distribution in Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia.
The study revealed existence of strong correlations between
landholding size, household head’s age, education levels and
household income.
Further to the above, study results show that farm size has
a positive and significant contribution to household income and
that households with small farm size in acres had lower incomes
as compared to households with larger farm size. The same kind of
argument is given by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
that certainly most households who own small size farms have
limited potential to break out of poverty and that ‘an attempt to
address poverty in Africa should be centred on reinforcing the
rights of the poor people on land’79.
Marital status was also considered as an important household
head’s characteristic that influences household livelihood outcomes.
T.S. Jayne [et al.], Smallholder income and land distribution in Africa:
implications for poverty reduction strategies, „Food Policy”, 28(2003), no. 3,
pp. 253–275.
79
Land Tenure Systems and their Impacts on Food Security and Sustainable Development in Africa, Addis Ababa, 2004.
78

130

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

Results as shown in Table 8 show that marital status was positively
and significantly (0.05) associated with a household’s income for
both household with and without CCRO. Similar observation has
been reported by URT80 in 2011/12 Household Budget Surveys (HBS)
that income poverty rate was higher for those who were separated
or divorced than in other categories of marital status; in 2007 HBS
a similar picture was seen for widows. Moreover, a study conducted
in Ethiopia by the African Union81 reported similar results that married couples had better household incomes as compared to other
marital status categories because of stable families and networking
among married couples as they complement each other.
Ownership of a CCRO and Household Assets
Estimated value of assets owned by households with and without
CCRO was compared. From the results of Levene’s test for equality
of the variance as shown in the Table 9 below the first line was
selected because the probability shown in Levene’s test was 0.140
which was not statistically significant and therefore obeyed the assumption of equal variance. Moreover, the results from the second
line (t-test equality of means) show that the probability at t-value
0.578 with 182 degrees of freedom and probability (p=0.578)
which was also not statistically significant. These results suggest
that there was no statistical difference between estimated values
of assets owned by household head’s with and without CCRO in
the study area. The population in the study area mostly depend
on agriculture for their livelihood and they have never accessed
credit which could probably improve agricultural productivity
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census: Population Distribution by
Administrative Areas. National Bureau of Statistics, Office of Chief Government
Statistician, 2012.
81
Land policy in Africa: a framework to strengthen land rights, enhance productivity and secure livelihoods, Addis Ababa, 2009.
80

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

131

and ultimately asset accumulation. This could possibly explain
why both households with and without CCRO had no significant
difference in terms of asset accumulation.
Table 7: Independent sample t-test for the surveyed households assets values
based on ownership of a CCRO (n=184)
Asset
value

Levene’s Test
for equality
of variance
F

Sig.

t-test for equality of means

T

df

Sig.
Mean
Std Error
(2tad) Difference difference

Lower

Upper

Equal
2.199 0.140 -0.578 182
variances
assumed

0.564

-279663

483945 -1234528 675202

Equal
variances
not
assumed

0.564

-279663

483945 -1234682 675356

-0.578 177

Household head’s assets owned were again cross tabulated
between households with and without CCRO as shown in Table 8.
It was revealed that there were no significant differences between
the household head’s with and without a CCRO in all assets listed.
More than half (59%) and (52%) of the household head’s with
and without CCRO respectively had houses roofed with grasses.
Again, Table 10 shows that the majority (90%) and (88%) of the
household heads with and without CCRO respectively own furniture. While less than a quarter (12%) and (8%) household heads
with and without CCRO own a motorbike respectively. Moreover,
more than half (78% and 82%) of the household heads had a bicycle for transport respectively.
Further to the above, the study findings also show that only
a few, 10% and 11% of the household heads with and without
CCRO respectively, had solar system for electricity at least for
household lights and phone charging. In addition, only (2%) and

132

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

(3%) of the household with and without CCRO respectively owned
a television set. These results (Table 8) show that there is no statistical significant difference between assets owned by household heads
with and without CCRO and therefore, ownership of a CCRO did
not make a significant difference in terms of household livelihood
outcomes, especially asset accumulation. These results suggest
that both households mentioned above face similar opportunities
and challenges with regard to accumulation of assets types despite
existence of CCRO. Households having a CCRO were expected to
use a CCRO to fetch some socio-economic benefits to enable them
to have better assets as compared to their counterparts, a reality
not realized.
Table 8: Surveyed household’s list of assets owned (n=184)
Asset

Household
heads with CCRO (%)

Household
heads without CCRO (%)

Bicycle

78

82

House with grass roof

59

52

Furniture

90

88

Cattle

33

45

Poultry

67

54

Radio

98

95

Motorcycle

12

8

Solar system

10

11

Television set

2

3

Factors Hindering the Surveyed Household’s
Use of Land for Improving Livelihood
Outcomes
The respondents to the study, both those with and without
a CCRO, identified six (6) factors hindering land owners in using

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

133

land as a tool for improving livelihood outcomes as presented
in the Table 9. Factors identified are: existence of land conflicts,
household male dominance on land ownership, lack of awareness
on micro-credit facilities available, poor knowledge on credit use
and management, lack of capital for better investment and poor
performance of the agricultural activities, in particular crop production. The majority (75%) and (68%) of households with and
without CCRO respectively, claimed lack of capital to initiate or
invest in agriculture as the main factor hindering improvement of
the livelihood outcomes. Study findings further show that more
than half (71%) of the respondents in the households without
CCRO claimed the existence of land conflicts as the second major
factor that affects their livelihood as compared to only a few (22%)
of respondents in the household with CCRO.
Findings from the current study are similar to a study conducted
in Namibia by Paaga82 where it was reported that land owners
who are also smallholder farmers in rural areas of Namibia are
mostly affected by lack of capital to invest and access credit in
formal financial institutions despite such lands being formalized
or not. According to URT83 (2012), about 36.2% of businesses’
main source of start-up capital were obtained from own savings.
One percent (1%) of the household members involved in business
in Tanzania Mainland secured loans from financial institutions for
starting their business.
In addition to the above, results in Table 9 show that about a half
(48%) of the respondents in households without CCRO argued that
male dominance on land ownership is a stumbling block to households break out of poverty, as compared to under a third (28%) of
D.T. Paaga and G. Dandeebo, Customary land tenure and its implications...,
op. cit.
83
URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census..., op. cit.
82

134

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

the respondents in the households with CCRO who pointed out
that male dominance in land ownership is still a problem towards
households livelihood improvement. This result implies that in both
groups male dominance hinders household economic activities and
hence blocks efforts to achieve better household livelihood outcomes. Widows and orphans are being dispossessed of their lands
after the death of the male head of household. Under customary
practice, a widow rarely inherits land upon her husband’s death,
as the land (and oftentimes the family’s livestock, furniture, and
all productive assets) is reclaimed by her husband’s family, goes
directly to her adult sons, or is held in trusteeship by the widow
or by uncles and other male relatives until her sons are of age. In
the past, widows were usually allowed to continue to live on the
land of their husband’s family for the rest of their lives, or until
they remarried. This also emerged during key informant interviews
as shown in the quote below;
“I own land together with my husband about 20 acres. Last year
I wanted to use CCRO to access credit from NMB to start poultry
project for our household, but my husband refused without giving
any reason and he said he doesn’t want to hear about it again. Or else
he is going to remove my name from our CCRO”.
(A 40 years female participant, Sindeni village, 16/03/2016).

In addition, some literature, a study on “Rural livelihoods and
access to natural capital in Madagascar and the Poverty Institute84,
have reported that male dominance over resources especially land
is currently declining due to increase in literacy level and women
involvement in socio-economic activities. This has enabled women
to acquire assets or resources of their own and in case of joint ownership, they inquire a formal and legal ownership as exemplified
by land rights ownership through a CCRO.
R.J. Nawrotzki, L.M. Hunter and T.W. Dickinson, Rural livelihoods and access to natural capital, op. cit.
84

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

135

Table 9: Factors affecting land owners in Handeni District (n=184)
Factor

Household
Household
head’s with CCRO (%) head’s without CCRO (%)

Lack of capital to invest

75

68

Existence of land conflicts

22

71

Male dominance on land ownership

28

48

Low financial management education

86

88

Lack of awareness on micro-credit
available

23

25

Poor performance of agriculture

69

58

Table 9. in addition shows that more than three quarter (86%)
and (88%) of the respondents in the households with and without
CCRO respectively correspond with the claim that low access to
financial services in rural areas hinders household improvement of
livelihood outcomes. The increasing microfinance services provided
by SACCOS, micro-credit organizations (VICOBA, SEDA, BRAC)
and mobile phone banking provide a window for rural communities to access financial services but yet not enough to access higher
loans for bigger investment especially in the agricultural sector.
For example, according to URT85 SACCOS provided about 0.5%
of loans in rural areas. A similar observation made by Songoro86
shows that the number of credit facilities operating in Handeni
is low and many villagers are not aware of their existence. For
instance, only (23%) and (25%) of households with and without
CCRO respectively were aware of the existence of local credit facilities such as Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOS)
and the Village Community Bank (VICOBA). Also, the financial
capacities of these facilities in terms of providing loans are thin.
Thus, they have not managed to assist a large section of the com85
86

URT, 2012 Population and Housing Census..., op. cit.
A.E. Songoro, Land scarcity, rural livelihoods..., op. cit.

136

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

munity. The situation is compounded by lack of bank facilities in
this area, currently the whole Handeni District is served by one
bank – the National Microfinance Bank (NMB) which has a branch
operating in Handeni town.
The current study also aimed at understanding the willingness
of the community to borrow from credit facilities if such opportunities are introduced. More than three quarters (86%) and (88%)
respondents in households with and without CCRO respectively
showed interest to borrow money. However, they were suggesting
proper education to be given to them first before being given such
credit. These results suggest that lack of financial management education is a major factor that hinders household’s access to financial
services using land as collateral. A similar observation was made by
Sumberg87, whereby it was reported that majority 68% respondents
did not only have low financial literacy, lack of entrepreneurial spirit
but also the fear to lose their possessions were found to be among
other factors that hinder youth from accessing credit in formal financial institutions. On the other hand, CLKnet88 in the study about
“Access to finance by majority of Tanzanians: a dream or reality?”
whereby it was reported that there was an increase in women access to financial services in the VICOBA schemes. The findings from
the study show thatwomen revive their entrepreneurial spirit when
they are together in a group and the training received before given
credit equips them with financial literacy.
Finally, study findings in Table 9 show that over half (69%) and
(58%) of the respondents for both households with and without
CCRO respectively claimed that the low agricultural productivity
was among the major factors that result into poor livelihood outJ. Sumberg [et al.], Young people..., op. cit.
Access to Finance by Majority of Tanzanians: A Dream or a Reality?, CLK.
net, Audience Forum Report Number 8.
87
88

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

137

comes. The low productivity and unreliability of agricultural activities (90% of rural agriculture is rain fed and rainfall is unreliable)
were claimed to be among the many factors deterring financial
institutions to offer credit in agricultural investments. According
to CLKnet89, other factors that hinder financial institutions to offer
credit for agricultural investment include: challenges of market
for agricultural produce, low prices of agricultural produce, poor
infrastructures for transport and communication networks from the
farms to the market and poor technologies on agricultural produce
processing and storage. On the other hand, Sumberg90 reported that
higher interest rates provided by the financial institutions deter
farmers to access credit for agricultural investment. These studies
above suggest that there is a gap between farmers, government,
other development partners and financial institutions that needs
to be filled for rural livelihood improvement.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Conclusions
The general objective of the study was to explore formalization
of customary land rights and rural livelihood outcomes in Handeni
District. Based on the findings of the study it is concluded that
people’s perception on formalization of customary land rights has
been proved to improve land security of tenure as land rights are
being formally registered, decrease land conflicts, enable vulnerable
groups to some extent own and access land as a livelihood resource,
and enhanced community awareness on matters pertaining to land
administration and management. On the other hand, it is further
89
90

Ibidem.
J. Sumberg [et al.], Young people..., op. cit.

138

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

concluded that formalization of land rights did not promote economic
investment, access to financial services and traditional land tenure
system. It can also be concluded that males (men) still dominate
land ownership in the study area. Women and other vulnerable
groups face a chronic problem of deprivation from access to land
which is a major livelihood resource. This is because in customary
land system land ownership is through inheritance and it is the male
children who inherit land from their parents. Therefore, formalization of customary land rights simply formalizes male dominance on
land ownership and women continue to suffer from gender specific
poverty and remain in the poverty viscous cycle trap due to lack of
control of the most important means of production (land).
The study further concludes that formalization of customary
land rights had no statistically significant influence on household’s
income and asset accumulation. Despite ownership of CCRO the
majority of the household heads had low access to financial services
and hence low economic investment and ultimately poor livelihood
outcomes. Lastly, it is concluded that despite its benefits mentioned
in the earlier chapters, formalization of customary land rights and
rural livelihood outcomes in the study area faces a number of challenges which include: existence of land conflicts among land users,
lack of capital for investing in agriculture, male dominance on land
ownership, low financial management education, lack of awareness
on microcredit available and poor productivity of agriculture.

Recommendations
Based on the study’s findings and discussions, the following are
recommended in order to improve the influence of formalization
of customary land rights on rural livelihoods in Handeni District.
1) As observed from the current study, lack of capital for agricultural investment was identified as the most serious constraint to

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

139

land owners in both households with and those without CCRO
in achieving livelihood outcomes. Therefore, it is recommended
that the government and other development partners need to
conduct research and come up with suitable and affordable
capital support schemes in Handeni District such as VICOBA
and other related schemes.
2) The study results revealed that existence of land conflicts
hinder improvement of rural livelihood outcomes since households incur costs in terms of time and finances in land conflicts
resolutions. Moreover, land conflicts hinder intensive and
extensive agricultural investments. Therefore, it is recommended that the village government, district authorities, central government, other land stakeholders and the community
at large, work together to minimize land conflicts in Handeni
District.
3) Observation from the current study shows that male dominance
on land ownership and access is among the stumbling block
towards household livelihood outcomes improvement. To ensure that the government at all levels will advance individual
interests and promote equal opportunity for all members of
society, vulnerable groups should be encouraged to be granted
the right of occupancy on land in separate certificates (CCRO)
from other household/clan members.
4) Lastly, it is further recommended that formalisation of customary land rights should be encouraged as it pointed out earlier
that CCRO promotes land tenure security and still holds the
potential for accessing the modern market capital.

REFERENCES

Antonio D., United Nations Human Settlements Programme, and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Eds., Handling land: innovative

140

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

tools for land governance and secure tenure. Nairobi: United Nations
Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), 2012.
Atwood D.A., Land registration in Africa: The impact on agricultural production, „World development”, 18(1990), no. 5, pp. 659–671.
Fairley E.C., Upholding Customary Land Rights through Formalization?
Evidence from Tanzania’s Program of Land Reform, Minneapolis 2013.
Foukona J.D., Legal aspects of customary land administration in Solomon
Islands, „Journal of South Pacific Law”, 11(2007), no. 1, pp. 64–72.
Franco J.C., Making land rights accessible: Social movements and politicallegal innovation in the rural Philippines, „The Journal of Development
Studies”, 44(2008), no. 7, pp. 991–1022.
Jayne T.S. [et al.], Smallholder income and land distribution in Africa:
implications for poverty reduction strategies, „Food Policy”, 28(2003),
no. 3, pp. 253–275.
Jeannette V., Notenbaert A., Moyo, S. and Herrero M., Household livelihood strategies and livestock benefits dependence in Gaza province of
Mozambique, „African Journal of Agricultural Research”, 6(2011),
no. 3, pp. 560–572.
Kerekes C.B. and Williamson C.R., Propertyless in Peru, even with a government land title, „American Journal of Economics and Sociology”,
69(2010), no. 3, pp. 1011–1033.
Lugoe F.N., Tanzania’s Experience in Land Administration and Land Policy,
„The Guardian Series”, 2007.
Lyons M., Pro-poor business law? On MKURABITA and the legal empowerment of Tanzania’s street vendors, „Hague Journal on the Rule of Law”,
5(2013), no. 1, pp. 74–95.
Maxwell D. and Wiebe K., Land tenure and food security: Exploring dynamic
linkages, „Development and Change”, 30(1999), no. 4, pp. 825–849.
Médard C., ‘Indigenous’ land claims in Kenya: A case-study of Chebyuk,
Mount Elgon district, Nairobi 2010.

FORMALIZATION OF CUSTOMARY LAND RIGHTS ON RURAL...

141

Mghanga M., Usipoziba ufa utajenga ukuta: land, elections, and conflicts
in Kenya’s Coast Province, Nairobi 2010.
Mwangi L.H., Processes of Large-Scale Land Acquisition by Investors: Case
Studies from sub-Saharan Africa, Sussex 2011.
Murthy R.V., Political economy of agrarian crisis and subsistence under
neoliberalism in India, „The Nehu Journal”, 11(2013), no. 1, pp. 19–33.
Nawrotzki R.J., Hunter L.M., and Dickinson T.W., Rural livelihoods and
access to natural capital: Differences between migrants and non-migrants
in Madagascar, „Demographic research”, 26(2012).
Njogu J.G. and Dietz T., Land use and tenure: entitlement rights for
community-based wildlife and forest conservation in Taita Taveta,
Nairobi 2006.
Nyerere J.K., Freedom and a new world economic order: a selection from
speeches, 1974–1999, Dar es Salaam 2011.
Onwuegbuzie A.J. and Leech N.L., On becoming a pragmatic researcher:
The importance of combining quantitative and qualitative research
methodologies, „International Journal of Social Research Methodology”, 8(2005), no. 5, pp. 375–387.
Paaga D.T. and Dandeebo G., Customary land tenure and its implications
for land disputes in Ghana: Cases from Wa, Wechau and Lambussie,
„International Journal of Humanities and Social Science”, 3(2014),
no. 18, pp. 263–270.
Place F. and Migot-Adholla S.E., The economic effects of land registration
on smallholder farms in Kenya: evidence from Nyeri and Kakamega
districts, „Land Economics”, 74(1998), no. 3, pp. 360–373.
Poteete A.R., Analyzing the politics of natural resources: from theories
of property rights to institutional analysis and beyond, in: Environmental Social Sciences: Methods and Research Design, eds. I. Vaccaro,
E.A. Smith, and S. Aswani, Cambridge 2010, pp. 57–79.
Razavi S., Engendering the political economy of agrarian change, „The
Journal of Peasant Studies”, 36(2009), no. 1, pp. 197–226.

142

Napoleon Saulos Mlowe, Justin K. Urassa

Simiyu R.R., Militianisation of resource conflicts: the case of land-based
conflict in the Mount Elgon region of western Kenya, Pretoria 2008
(Institute for Security Studies Monographs, no. 152).
Smyth R., Exploring the usefulness of a conceptual framework as a research tool: a researcher’s reflections, „Issues in educational research”,
14(2004), no. 2.
Wanyama M., Mose L.O., Odendo M., Okuro J.O., Owuor G., and Mohammed L., Determinants of income diversification strategies amongst rural
households in maize based farming systems of Kenya, „African Journal
of Food Science”, 4(2010), no. 12, pp. 754–763.

Chapter 4.

MACIEJ ZĄBEK

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE
ABOUT JULIUS NYERERE SOCIALISM
ABSTRACT

This article is devoted to the history and specific character of Tanzanian socialism and the opinions of the contemporary Tanzanians on
the rural Ujamma communities which were to constitute the basis for
the future development of their society. The paper was written based on
short ethnographic research of the selected group from among Iringa
University students and inhabitants of the neighbouring villages. The
cited accounts from the interviews illustrate ambiguous opinions of
the interlocutors on the topic in question. Despite the consensus on the
negative economic impact of the very project, the interlocutors defend
its social advantages. The main reason of such a standpoint seems to be
the dissatisfaction with the current socio-political situation, unemployment, extremely high prices and primarily the increasing social anomie,
family dissolution and decay of traditional values.

Introduction
The word ujamaa stemming from the Swahili1 language is a term
defining the Tanzanian model of socialism formed in the 1960s by
MACIEJ ZĄBEK – Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
University of Warsaw.
Ujamaa, from Swahili u- ‚condition, quality’; jamaa ‚family’, from Arabic.;
the term introduced by the President Julius K. Nyerere in his book Uhuru na
Ujamaa ‚Freedom and socialism’, Nairobi, 1968.
1

144

Maciej Ząbek

the former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere2 and based mainly
on agricultural cooperatives. During my last visit to Tanzania in
20153 I had the opportunity to convince myself that memory about
that regime called „the system of social justice” was still alive both
among the older and younger generations of Tanzanians and was
the core subject of their discussions. The system, which was to
lead to modernisation and guarantee justice, safety and political independence of the country, despite common awareness of
its shortcomings, still evokes a great deal of genuine sentiment
among people regardless of their education, age and ethnic identity.
Thus, I would like to dedicate this paper to recollecting the history
and the specific character of Tanzanian socialism by referring to
relevant accounts of contemporary inhabitants of this country in
this regard. Their accounts may be also interesting for the Polish
readers who have their own recollections from the socialist period.
How is it possible that people still miss and recollect with sentiment the times of socialism or communism which have always
meant the systems of Economics of Shortage4 while for many years
2
Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1922-1999), the founder of the Tanzanian
country and its president between 1964–1985, an ideologist of the concept of
the African socialism, a Servant of God in the Catholic Church.
3
In February, 2015 I participated in the Polish-Tanzanian conference devoted
to the idea of sustainable development at the University of Iringa. The conference
was accompanied by research on the socialist project executed in the Tanzanian
villages during the Nyerere’s rule and the contemporary capitalistic transformations. There were two stages. In the first stage the Iringa University students
were asked to write essays on villagization and collectivisation of the Tanzanian
villages in the 60s and 70s of the previous century. The second stage embraced
quality research in the form of group discussions conducted in two selected villages (one of them underwent collectivisation) in the district of Kilolo. Apart
from the guests from Poland, the Iringa University employees also participated
in the research as the translators of the Swahili and commentators.
4
The term “Economics of shortage” was coined by the Hungarian economist
János Kornai in 1980 as the centrally controlled communist economics. He stated

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

145

now contemporary Tanzania has been considered a quite stable
and relatively fast developing country? By answering this question it should be stated that the model of the so called free-market
capitalism which has brought relative material well-being to some
people is unfortunately at the same time the system which causes
growing cultural changes the effects of which are not generally
positively perceived. The negative consequences include among
others the dissolution of African strong and conservative extended
families, further stratification of egalitarian societies and emergence
of unknown until then ecological problems affecting the natural
environment. Repercussions embrace the Tanzanians’ sense of
lack of security which is the primary need for majority of people,
sometimes even more important than their personal freedom.
Unfavourable situation is further hindered by worries about the
increasing control of the Western powers over domestic natural
resources and internal economy as well as a growing penetration
of politics, economy and ideology.

Juliusa Nyerere’s model of socialism
In the post-colonial Tanzania, contrary to the Marxist theoreticians, socialism did not have socio-economic background,
neither did it gain social support from young elites of the country.
In Eastern Africa there were no prominent groups of proletariat
or even rebellious peasants. Social classes5, so characteristic of
Asia and Europe, have not been developed there except Ethiopia
and Great Lakes Region. Moreover, Marxist philosophy, strongly
based on materialism, was to a great extent incomprehensible
that shortage is its inherent feature. See.: J. Kornai: Niedobór w gospodarce,
Warszawa 1985.
5
P. Osafo-Kwaako, Long-run Effects of Villagization in Tanzania, Draft 2011,
www.econ.yale.edu/conference [Accessed: June 2015].

146

Maciej Ząbek

even to the well-educated and deeply religious Africans. Moreover, according to the British historian Martin Meredith, people
in Tanzania did not share common expectations towards such
radical changes and there were no organisations or influential
groups (it also regarded the very governing party) in favour of
that idea6. If it had not been for one man – Julius Kambarage
Nyerere – a future Tanzanian President7, who was very determined
in following his dreams, socialism in Tanzania might have not
developed at all.
Nyerere, compared with other African leaders known for their
extravagance or even cruelty, seemed to be exceptionally righteous,
modest and religious8. Leading a one-party state he did not possess authoritarian manners and his speeches resembled sermons
of a priest rather than political speeches of a country’s head. Defending himself against allegations of violating human rights he
kept on saying: „Until we win our battle against poverty, ignorance
and diseases, we will not allow any foreign powers to destroy our
unity!”. Both Margery Freda Perham, a historian of, and writer
on, African affairs, and Ryszard Kapuściński, a Polish reporter
6
M. Meredith, The State of Africa. A History of Fifty Years of Independence,
London 2005, pp. 228–237.
7
Theoretical (according to the assumptions of Marxism) lack of favourable
conditions for the development of socialism in Sub-Saharan Africa did not hinder
its development on this continent, especially after the conference of the newly
independent countries in 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia. Nyerere was one of its
first theorists and pioneers along with Kwame Nkrumaha from Ghana and Ahmed
Sekou Toure from Guinea; see: W.H. Friedland, C.G. Rosberg, African Socialism,
Redwood City 1964.
8
Nyerere was baptised only at the age of 20 in the Roman Catholic Church
after graduating from Makerere College in Uganda. First, he became a teacher in
the missionary school and then he went to study history and economics in Great
Britain. Since the beginning of his adult life he actively participated in social life
forming the future ruling party TANU (Tanganyika African National Union); see:
J. i K. Chałasińscy, Bliżej Afryki, Warszawa 1965, pp. 271–273.

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

147

and writer, regarded Nyerere as a role model and an example to
follow, and described him as a perfectly balanced and warm man,
the most reliable of all African leaders9. In fact, he pacified the
political opposition but he managed to achieve this by bloodless
methods10. Fascinated by Maoist revolution and Israeli kibbutz
he decided to combine those ideas with the African tradition of
community11. He held the firm conviction that power should result
from the achieved consensus like in traditional Africa where the
elders discussed current affairs „in the shade of a big tree” trying
to reach unanimity12, rather than from confrontation and outvoting
minority. He pursued his objective with an admirable missionary
passion persuading his „nation” to his idea for five years before
finally implementing it. It should be noted, however, that in his
understanding „socialism” meant a universal idea of brotherhood
among people and in Africa, where the concept of private ownership was unknown, socialism existed long before Marx in the
institution of a tribe. According to Nyerere, socialism was a natural
African system which had only been affected by colonialism but
after gaining independence it should be reinstated there not by
adopting strange to Africans Marxist philosophy, but by reviving
the tribal institution as a socialist unit of a society. He associated
socialism mainly with the countryside where collective settlements
(familyhood) in the form of ujamaa villages were created to conM. Meredith, The State of Africa, op. cit., p. 229; see also: M. Perham, The
Colonial Reckoning: The End of Imperial Rule in Africa in The Light of British Experience, New York 1962; R. Kapuściński, Gdyby cała Afryka..., Warszawa: Agora, 1969.
10
Nyerere, after dissolving the army which made an attempt to overthrow him
in 1964, formed a “party army”, the so called Tanzania People’s Defence Force
from among members of Tanu League of Youth on which he based his power;
P. Johnson, History of the world – from 1917 to 1990s, London 1991, p. 704.
11
See: A. Leszczyński, Skok w nowoczesność. Polityka wzrostu w krajach
peryferyjnych 1943–1980, Warszawa 2013.
12
R. Oliver, A. Atmore, Dzieje Afryki po roku 1800, Warszawa 2007, p. 347.
9

148

Maciej Ząbek

stitute the basis for the future development of a country and thus
they were also called „development villages”:
Development villages are villages to which people moved so as to
work together for their own sake and for the good of the community.
Ujamaa settlements were created for people to enable the agricultural
progress and infrastructure growth thanks to the support of the state.
In contrast to other villages, they differentiated themselves by the
communal character of management....
Villages formed the modern network of settlements and gave new
possibilities providing the individual unit growth.
Development villages aimed at the strategic advancement of the
country and particularly the agricultural economy. Thanks to the
communal work supported by the state communities were formed on
the basis of which locals could develop themselves without external
aid.... This led to the unification of both the citizens and the nation
[based on the interviews with students from the University of Iringa].

In his famous book „Freedom and Unity” (Uhuru na Umoja),
Nyerere wrote: „Ujamaa, in other words Familyhood, constitutes the
basis of our socialism and the objection to capitalism, constructing
a happy society free from the exploitation of man by man. However, it also means the opposition to dogmatic socialism based on
the philosophy of constant fight of man against man”13. Besides,
the choice of this political system was for Nyerere equivalent to
opting for national autonomy and independence from foreign
development assistance and the status of a customer of Western
powers14. Nyerere himself, because of his popularity (sometimes
13
J.K. Nyerere, Freedom and Unity – Uhuru na Umoja, Nairobi – Lusaka –
Addis Ababa 1996, p. 170. The essence of the “African socialism”, in contrast
to the “classical socialism” was the rejection of class struggle and ideological
materialism, and concentration on the development of public sector, preventing
the creation of social classes and promoting a traditional African identity; see:
W.H. Friedland, C.G. Rosberg, African Socialism , op. cit.
14
He spread the idea of self-reliance relating it with the principle of „freedom and work (Uhuru na Kazi) and the policy of non-involvement pursued by

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

149

even called tanzaphilia) was the favourite of many Western providers of development aid (especially from the European left-wing
circles), gaining from them much more aid measures per capita
than any other African countries had ever received. However,
he was perfectly aware that it meant subordination and limited
possibilities to undertake independent decisions and actions. He
claimed, fully justified, that: „Independence means reliance upon
oneself. Independence is not complete when it is dependent upon
donations and loans from other nations on its development path”15.
Ujamaa meant working together. The government ordered people to
collectively join ujamaa. All the villagers were asked to work together
for the good of all. In practice, some plots of land were designated
for communal farming. The concept of ujamaa assumed that there
should be an equal division between families. Every family had its
share and altogether all the people formed a community and shared
everything equally supporting each other. Once it had finished, a lot
of problems occurred. Nowadays, it is a great challenge to restore the
same community spirit, which is our greatest loss. I want to pinpoint,
however, that from the economic point of view it was pointless [based
on the interview with members of the non-governmental organisation in Kilolo].

Nyerere published his development blueprint in the so called
Arusha Declaration on 7 February, 1967 in which he called for the
national independence stressing that external assistance would not
suffice to develop economy. He underlined the need of fundamental
work from basis, i.e. the development of village communities and
the right of a given country to control all major means of production
and exchange. By this last statement, without plans, discussions
and preparations, he implemented a large-scale process of nationalisation of banks, insurance companies, food handling industries,
Tanzania. In practice, he could not, however, do without external aid; H. Zins,
Historia Afryki Wschodniej, Wrocław – Warszawa 1986, p. 339.
15
Cit.: M. Meredith, The State of Africa, op. cit., p. 230.

150

Maciej Ząbek

export companies, cement plants, tobacco plants, footwear plants,
breweries and other types of real estate including valuable houses,
rental houses and apartments.
However, the basis of the village development was to be formed
by the above mentioned ujamma – self-sufficient, developmental
socialist collective villages. By supporting the concept of ujamaa
he listed the following arguments: „Our agricultural organisation
will be mainly based upon communal life and work to the benefit
of all the people concerned. [People] will live together in villages;
will collectively cultivate land; will collectively trade in the marketplace and satisfy minor, essential needs...”16. Ujamaa villages were
to have access to water and road connections, be provided with
schools, health centres and basic services whereas people were to
be accommodated in spacious, modern, brick houses.
In order to understand the meaning of the changes put forward
by Nyerere it should be explained that settlement in East Africa
was highly dispersed and basically there were no big villages
with service infrastructure and facilities such as schools or health
centres17. Small-sized, self-sufficient family communities did not
maintain any contacts either with towns or with the country’s
authorities18. Thus, since the very beginning the political goal was
as important as economy. By „villagization” of the country, which
meant the concentration of dispersed people from various ethnic
groups in big villages being local centres of agricultural production and various services, Nyerere expected not only an increase
in agricultural output and improvement of farmers’ conditions,
Ibidem, p. 232.
It was the result of the centuries-long domination of Maasai pastoral tribes
in Eastern Africa.
18
J. Herbst, States and Power in Africa: Comparative lessons in authority and
control, Princeton 2000; A.V. Chayanov, The Theory of the Peasant Economy,
Homewood 1966.
16
17

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

151

but also „creation of the Tanzanian nation”, high above ethnic and
tribal divisions, which was and still is the ambitious objective of
numerous African politicians. He wanted to achieve his goal by
unifying the patriotic state education, implementing Swahili as the
obligatory national language and developing tight bonds between
the province inhabitants and the central authorities. „Nationalisation” also entailed an obligation of physical work and a two-year
stay of secondary schools graduates in para-military labour corps
known as National Service with an aim to teach the youth the
socialist attitude to work19.

Failure of socialist villagization
Ujamaa villages, contrary to the compulsory collectivisation in
the USSR and other countries of Eastern Europe, basically were to
be formed on a voluntary basis. Nyerere believed that people would
trust him and attracted by modern facilities would settle new villages
in large numbers. Socialism should stem from the villagers’ willingness to accept it. Moreover, socialism was against forcing people to
establish such communities. In reality, much to his astonishment,
people did not respond the way he had expected. Neither farmers
nor peasants listened to him and supported him. Until the end of
1968 no more than 180 villages were formed under that project.
First ujamaa was established in 1968. Our leader was a woman.
Her name was Lamuna Niemba. She had a daughter, Joisi, and thus
she was called Mama Joisi. She persuaded people to, in line with the
government’s will, start collectively cultivate land. So, we started
to grow wheat. In the beginning, we collected seven sacks per one
acre. Everything was initiated by women who nagged people and
only later they were supported as a community by the government.
That women’s movement was called „Nation’s call for ujamaa”.
19

H. Zins, Historia..., op. cit., p. 339.

152

Maciej Ząbek

When we started to work together the government started to assist
us. First, we were given a tractor. Only then men joined us although
they were initially against that concept. It may be said that ujamaa
was created by women who triggered the whole process. Firstly, they
won one acre of communal farmland and after receiving a tractor
they could take eight acres [based on the interview with the community from Luanzi].
It meant a great change for people although the crops were not
as high as expected. Nevertheless, it was certain that ujamma would
sell part of its output. If the yields were satisfactory, part of the crops
were sold and everybody got the equivalent of the number of days
he had worked. Afterwards they built houses and lived happily. Trade
took place between ujamma villages. One ujamma produced rice
whereas another ujamaa grew grain and they exchanged the crops.
They received a machine park from the government.
The state delivered aid in the form of machines or land. The assistance was dependent upon the amount sold abroad. The amount was
conditional upon the volume of production in a given ujamaa. If we
were given a tractor we had to pay it back through the sale of grain.
Then, cows and chickens were brought to villages, which enabled us
to become less dependent upon other ujamaa villages.
There were five hundred families and we had to acquire five thousand sacks of rice, not individually but from another ujamaa or directly
from the government. There was a list of people registered in a given
ujamaa. Those, who were not registered, did not receive anything.

Service infrastructure in ujamaa villages was further developed,
to the detriment of individual producers. Many farmers who could
not sell their crops on the market and buy necessary goods agreed
to join ujamaa in the hope to gain access to water, new schools
and houses.
The government encouraged people to build brick houses. Yet, to
erect them you had to have bricks. Authorities gave instructions how
to produce bricks and ujamaa villages were to create them from local
clay. Engineering works including constructing roofs were provided
by the government. All the houses were built in the same way. We
treated those buildings as some kind of presents. We would never
have built them if it had not been for ujamaa.

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

153

Until mid-1973 the number of villages which underwent collectivisation in Tanzania rose to five thousand embracing 15% of
the country’s population20. Majority of those villagers still preferred, however, to administer ujamaa in a traditional way. Thus,
in November 1973, Nyerere disappointed with the situation made
a decision about the compulsory resettlement into the development
villages. He realised that it was impossible to forcefully transform
people into socialists but his government could make everyone
live in a village. “To live in a village is a command”, he declared21.
At first people were encouraged but later on they were forced to
move there. It was especially difficult to persuade men to join ujamaa.
In order to reduce their reluctance they were given new houses and
flats. Then, all the people together sang Ujamaa...
Joining ujamaa was not voluntary in 100%. Some people were
seduced with brick houses because they had only small huts but it was
not sufficient to persuade everybody so the government had to take
further steps to force them. Finally, people had a choice either to move
into ujamaa or end up in a prison. Thus, people started to pretend that
they were really working together. It was organised in such a way that
people were given something to start from and then they could work
on their own to sell grain and develop themselves but it was necessary
for the government that all the houses were exactly the same. All of us
had to work in the same way and the houses were to be identical. You
could join that system or you had to face the consequences...
Coercion to live together was closely linked to the possibility to
attend schools. Nobody was allowed to stay alone in a field as all the
people had to be together in ujamaa in order to collectivise. If people
continued to work on their own they stood no chance of assistance.
The government supported ujamaa but never individual farmers. If
you wanted to have a new house or a flat you had to join ujamaa and
eventually people acquiesced to it.
Those staying outside the system were not supported by the government. You were allowed to live wherever you wanted but you needed
20
21

M. Meredith, The State of Africa, op. cit., p. 233.
Ibidem, p. 234.

154

Maciej Ząbek

the permit to build your house and if you did not belong to ujamaa
you were not granted the permission. And in ujamaa you could get
a new house [based on interviews with the community from Luanzi].

That way, within three years until 1976 the governing party
managed to collectivise almost half of the village population,
sometimes resorting to the use of force. It facilitated the construction of new schools and health centres but on the other hand,
the collectively cultivated fields occurred to be a failure as they
yielded much less crops than they had before the collectivisation
process. At the same time transport continued to decline, inflation advanced and the strategy based on villagization paradoxically led to enormous waves of villagers fleeing to urban areas.
The country which was to base its economy mainly on the village
development policy, paradoxically became an example of one of
the fastest growing urbanisation phenomenon in the whole world
(above 10% annually)22.
It was not taken into consideration that goods in deficit such as
land, sources of water and forests are always usurped as otherwise
they become exhausted or dilapidated. Secondly, whenever a man
does some work he becomes individually responsible for it which
means he acquires a type of ownership. In fact, in Eastern Africa,
unlike in Europe, there was no individual land ownership with
succession rights but it obviously did not mean that land or water
could belong to anybody. First of all, it was owned by ancestors of
a particular tribe, a particular community so it could be used only
by their descendants whom a given community represented by local heads gave for temporary use designated plots of land which
could be farmed individually. Even „strangers” could sometimes
enjoy that form of”lease” but there was a clear distinction between
primary and secondary users, the latter being given less rights to
22

J. IIife, Africans: the history of a continent, Cambridge 1995, p. 317.

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

155

joint ownership. People often benefited from their neighbours’ help
but such help was always to be compensated for in various ways.
In reality, there was no communal work under joint ownership with
identical gains. In ujamma those general rules were not respected
so eventually ujamaa villages were doomed to failure, followed by
state shops, industrial plants or banks, etc. Ujamma concept was
likely to fail in all spheres administered by state service officials
devoid of individual responsibility for the entrusted assets. The
situation was exacerbated by other factors such as lack of managerial skills or improper use of entrusted modern farm machinery.
We could not effectively use the equipment, which was a great
problem. Although we continually enlarged the cultivated area we
only managed to harvest 25 sacks per 8 acres against 56 sacks predicted, like today when we gathered 3 bags per acre. When we had
only one acre we were able to cultivate it better than when we had
more acres. Moreover, the land efficiency declined but nobody cared.
The main problem was that nobody monitored that area. Nobody took
responsibility for it and nobody took care of it.
Reduced agricultural productivity resulted in the intervention of
authorities but eventually blame was put on the local management
represented by Mama Joisi. She was called to appear before the District Council and she had to explain herself. I remember her say she
was an average person... Her position of a leader was assumed by
her brother who seized power from her [based on the interview with
the community from Luanzi].

Nyerere bitterly complained about laziness, total ineptitude
and indifference of his fellow-citizens, but to no avail. His threats,
requests and calls for greater discipline occurred to be ineffective. State economy, despite immeasurable international support,
estimated in the 70s at three billion, still generated losses. For
instance, the Chrysanthemums cultivation cost more than the
value of flowers sold to Europe.
At the end of the 70s, with the increase in oil prices and decline
in the value of coffee and istle, income from export in Tanzania

156

Maciej Ząbek

covered only 40% of its import whereas its external debt rose astronomically and the average living standard dropped by almost
50%. Nyerere was compelled to admit: „Now we are poorer than
in 1972”. Yet, he still rejected all the suggestions implying that
the choice of his favourite system might have been a mistake. He
defended the system even at the beginning of the 80s comparing
it to the vaccination immunising against inequality and excesses
of capitalism23. In reality, Tanzania increasingly needed assistance.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund agreed to help
Tanzania but in return they required painful structural reforms.
Finally, in 1985 Nyerere voluntarily retired and apologised the nation for his final failure to implement his ideas. International community was totally surprised, not being used to peaceful transfer
of power on this continent or to the leader admitting his mistakes.
Nyerere died in 1990 and was declared, without objection, as „The
Father of the Nation” and the Servant of God’s Catholic Church24.
The party that he formed is still in power although it has already
abandoned the concept of ujamaa in favour of the so called neoliberal solutions which are to bring that country to modernity. No
sooner had Tanzania embarked on a path of Americanisation and
global capitalism than Tanzanians started to miss socialism.

Contemporary discourse on ujamaa communities
Memory about ujamaa in Tanzania, as I could personally notice,
is still alive being the centre of numerous discussions especially
in the context of contemporary politics and morality. Moreover,
it became the source of inspiration for young reporters and hipM. Meredith, The State of Africa, op. cit., p. 235–237.
Definition used to the deceased person the Beatification process of whom
has already started.
23
24

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

157

hop artists in the streets of Tanzanian cities25. To a certain extent
it was a reaction to the disappointment people experienced in
Tanzania after Nyerere’s death. Memory about ujamaa became
a form of opposition to rapidly increasing prices and growing
unemployment rate also affecting the well-educated citizens. It
was a manifestation of a great shock at scandals, nepotism and
corruption of an old and the same a new political class trying to
enfranchise the state assets. Hip hop, which came to Tanzania
along with globalisation, became an artistic form of opposition to
those changes and recollection of Nyerere’s Times during which,
according to many interviewed people, honesty, modesty, equality
and family values were in force. Lyrics written by hip-hop artists
are inspired by Afro-American celebration of Kwanzaa26 and promote the cooperative movement, family business, fair trade and
sustainable development. They adopted its seven core principles:
1. Unity (umoja) of family, nation and race; 2. Self-determination
(kujikhagulia); 3. Collective work and responsibility (ujima) in
the process of building our community; 4. Cooperative economics
(ujamaa) in building and maintaining our own shops and companies; 5. Creativity (kuumba); 6. Purpose: (nia) restoration of our
race; 7. Faith (imani) in our people, our parents and teachers, our
leaders, in justice and victory of our struggle.
General perception of socialism in Tanzania seems to be completely different from that in Poland mainly because it was a native
and anti-colonial project. As a matter of fact, interlocutors generally confirm that in economic terms the great project of Mwalim
25
L. Sidney, Ni Wapi Tunakwenda (Kultura Hip Hopu i dzieci Arushy), in: The
Vinyl Ain’t Final. Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, eds.
D. Basu, S.J. Lemelle, London 2006, pp. 230–254.
26
A week-long holiday and movement of the African diaspora in the USA
formed in the 60s by a black nationalist Maulane Karenge (born as Ronald McKinley Everett).

158

Maciej Ząbek

(i.e. their teacher, as they commonly called Nyerere) failed but
it does not mean that it was bad. They admit that currently their
standard of living is a bit higher and that they may enjoy greater
freedom in many areas, especially in business. When asked to
compare their present situation with that from the 70s they claim:
In economic terms, it must be stated that nowadays we lead better
lives. Everybody can work on their own, can act in a group or individually. Productivity is higher now. Smaller groups are more effective than
ujamaa villages [the interlocutor refers to work within non-governmental
organisation]. Now you do not have to do what they ask you to do but
you can choose what is profitable and in line with your business. We
like the idea that greater responsibility lies with us and that everybody
can fully exploit their own opportunities. Thanks to it you can see
the results of your activities. You realise that you did something and
succeeded in earning some money. In ujamma you could not see that.
Nobody knew who was responsible for what and anyway greatest profits
were acquired by the government. Work in ujamma was certainly of
collective nature but I did not like the fact that I did not know what
I had done and what my neighbour had. People stood no chance of
self-development and could do nothing about that. Nowadays, it is up
to me to choose whether to take up carpentry or start growing fruit and
vegetables or keeping pigs and I can see that I am responsible for my
activities, my final success or failure. I also feel better when I do not
have to be subordinate to somebody and listen to their orders [based
on the interview with people from Kilolo].

Nowadays, people are also satisfied, contrary to the times of
Nyerere, that they can buy in shops whatever they want. There is
a greater variety of goods than in the past and they are no longer
limited. That is one of the most noticeable changes positively rated
in contrast to the past:
In the past all the services were centralised in ujamaa. Sale of goods
could be held only there. For example, Ujamma decided to purchase
sugar and the day it arrived a shop was opened in a village so that
everybody could buy sugar. Yet, there was a list of people entitled
to buy that sugar. People who did not belong to ujamaa or did not

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

159

work in ujamaa could not buy anything [based on the interview with
community people from Luanzi].

Some students from Iringa regret nowadays that:
as a result of this programme... respect for private ownership was
violated,... poverty spread over Tanzanian province and the spirit of
private entrepreneurship, which was banned then, was eradicated,
although [they add after a while] the unity was strengthened which
positively influenced the process of creating our nation [based on
interviews with students from Iringa].

All in all, contemporary interlocutors do not deny obvious
shortcomings of the programme forming development villages, yet
they do not condemn socialism as they can notice its numerous
advantages when compared with the current system. It should be
added that the number of people with whom we conducted the
interviews on that topic and who positively evaluated ujamaa was
significantly higher than those who focused on negative aspects.
A surprising fact for us, Poles, may be that Africans from Tanzania
distinctly stressed the non-economic aspects of life they suffer
from. Their basic problems were not salaries, still much lower
in comparison with the developed countries (like in the case of
Poles), but the fact that they experienced the imbalance or even
decline of traditional system of social control, binding in every
African village for centuries. Additionally, they noticed a growing
and expanding social anomy which let people live for their own
and realised that capitalistic system further encouraged people to
lead such lives, incur loans in banks and have as few children as
possible. That is the most radical change which Africans do not
eagerly accept though they themselves let capitalism seduce them.
From our perspective, the greatest tragedy was the violation of
natural social balance. We lacked that balance which could help us
face ujamaa and could give us hope to fight that challenge together.
Your child was part of ujamaa. That challenge starts with small things.
If your child misbehaved and I could see that then everybody from

160

Maciej Ząbek

ujamma could come to a child and reproach them as that child belonged to ujamaa and all the people formed ujamaa and the nation.
Ujamaa meant creating the nation.
Look at us. We were raised in ujamaa and we know how to respect the elders. If we go to other ujamaa villages we can see that
they also show respect to old people as these are natural rules of
upbringing. Nowadays, nobody pays attention to what an old man
says. Everyone wants to follow their own paths and you are not
allowed to reproach their children because parents will say that
these children are theirs and you should not interfere in their affairs.
The worst of all is the fact that everybody goes their own way and
children choose their own way of life and do not care what is good
for the community.
The truth is that it was more difficult to earn money but people
respected it more. When you earned some money you had to share it
with your relatives, grandfathers and ujamaa. You had one thousand
shillings to live on and buy clothes. It was to suffice. Today, you can
even earn ten thousand but it means nothing as the time spent on
earning that money is priceless.
At present there are hundreds of various schools and everybody
goes to a different one so it is not possible to compare the knowledge
gained. The same applies to the question of safety. In the past we
were together and ujamaa monitored the area. Now, in case of an
accident the police may come but a lot of time will pass and we do
not even know that policeman as he does not belong to ujamaa. He
is an anonymous representative of unknown authorities.
Look at how divided we are nowadays. Everybody represents
different values and follows their own paths. But after all, if it had
not been for ujamaa we would be still living in small huts. Thanks to
our communal work and power all of that development took place.
Nowadays, nobody stands a chance to buy a big house because they
will not be able to earn for that on their own. Thus, because of the
community breakdown we think that the times of ujamaa were despite
everything better.
Sentiment towards ujamaa is so great among old people because
they knew that everybody had the same salaries and they followed the
same rules. A drift away from ujamaa broke social ties and young people migrate to cities as they do not feel attached to their villages...

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

161

Earlier ujamaa meant a family but youth today do not like their
families and do not want to be limited by their families...
The young do not perceive agriculture as a source of business.
They think that the only business they can do is in the cities [based
on the interview with the community from Luanzi].

Opinions on the causes of the failure of the ujamaa programme
and the general breakdown of socialism in Tanzania may also attract our attention. It occurs that Tanzanians, mainly young and
quite well-educated last year students, do not think that the idea
was bad. In their opinion the failure was caused by weak planning
and poor execution. They can easily list its numerous advantages
and achievements:
People were more interested in one another than today. The state
provided social services, which strengthened unity of the nation.
Tribalism declined. People living in ujamaa showed more solidarity
and were more sensitive to others’ needs. The programme could not
achieve success as it was badly planned.

They often underline that the reason of failure existed not only
inside the system, but also outside it. The ujamaa experiment was
finished in 1982 because the villages, on one hand, were formed
on the inappropriate legal basis and on the other hand the International Monetary Fund demanded structural liberalisation in
return for assistance: Ujamaa ceased to exist as a result of growth
of the global capitalism which came to power... Additionally, activities of the World Bank and United Nations added to its collapse.
Domestic economy had to undergo changes and become compatible
with the global economic system.
Some of the statements resemble the then existing propaganda:
Ujamaa ceased to exist because Tanzania was attacked by Western
capitalism and individualism. Those ideologies spread all over the
world by the imperialists took control of the Tanzanian authorities
and forced them to complete the ujamaa project. Foreigners compelled the state to transform its system, which was facilitated by

162

Maciej Ząbek

lack of national unity, selfishness and egoism of some state members
who wanted to grow rich to the detriment of others. The idea of
capitalism was spread in Tanzania [based on the interviews with
Iringa University students].

Only those pragmatic ones admit that:
the system could not defend itself because of its low economic
efficiency along with continuous population growth and conflicts
between the developing global market and inefficient economic
system of Tanzania.

Yet, almost everybody regrets the collapse of the system claiming
that the moment it collapsed they lost a considerable lot:
We achieved the economic unity, we enjoyed equal access to education and medical care as well as other social services. We gained
national identity. And now people have stopped working together and
living in communities. The government does not care about people,
which affects social inequality [based on the interviews with Iringa
University students].

Many representatives of intellectual and political elites are
sceptical about their prior criticism of the villagization programme.
In their opinion, although the programme collapsed it greatly
contributed to the process of establishing ties of villagers with the
state. They think that the programme should be considered not
only in economic terms but also from social and cultural point of
view as in these areas it evoked significantly greater changes than
in economy.
Thanks to the ujamma programme a dense network of local
administrative offices was established, health care and effective
tax systems were implemented and new modern law became
applicable. In villages where ujamaa programme was implemented the level of trust grew and the cooperation between
authorities and citizens who know their local leaders better and
are more attached to their region and country strengthened. It is
also noticeable that in the villagized areas people more eagerly

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

163

participate in parliamentary elections and greatly support the
governing party (currently CCM previously TANU27) with only
slight support for the anti-government opposition. People living
in development villages remember that they owe access to health
centres and possibility to educate their children to socialism. In
their opinion, the general level of development grew due to the
increase in per capita income and cereal production, with a visible
decrease in illiteracy. As a result of dissemination of education
(100% of 13-year-old teenagers and 95% of 17-year olds learn
at schools) average age of people getting married has become
on average higher (20 years for women and 25 for men), with
a slight fertility decline. Most importantly, however, a country,
which was previously devoid of villages, gave rise to the development of huge rural settlements equipped with basic service
infrastructure28. Experience from the 70s and 80s connected with
the name of Nyerere and the ujamaa programme transformed
Tanzanian villages. According to the socialism enthusiasts, despite
the failure of the programme it led to the considerable changes
in a country with long-lasting effects vital for that country’s
development.

Conclusions
Tanzania (known as Tanganyika before it unified with Zanzibar) has been a formally independent country since 1961 29.
27
TANU, Tanganyika African National Union, the main political party in
Tanzania formed by Julius Nyerere in 1954, at present Revolutionary State Party
(Chama Cha Mapinduzi – CCM).
28
P. Osafo-Kwaako, Long-run Effects, op. cit.
29
The United Republic of Tanzania was formed only in 1964 as a result of
union of Tanganyika and People’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba (earlier the
Sultanate of Zanzibar).

164

Maciej Ząbek

Nyerere was in power for 24 years. The historical experiment
of combining African traditional community values with socialism in the form of the ujamaa project of villages reorganisation
lasted just 10 years as it developed on a full scale in 1973 and
ended in 1982. The changes brought about by the project are
still visible not only in the architecture and landscape of today’s
Tanzanian villages but most of all it left a long-lasting mark upon
mentality and culture of the country’s inhabitants. The experiment’s consequences are highly inconclusive and opinions about
it are indeed ambiguous. Tanzanians share the same opinion
only on one point stating that in economic terms the project
was completely unsuccessful. It remains an open question to
the majority of Tanzanians whether the project stood no chance
of success because it did not focus on human nature or due to
its poor planning and having been deliberately led to collapse
by hostile external forces. Distinctive weakness of the current
political system alternative along with the futile social effects
caused by neoliberal globalisation make many people defend
the previous regime and search for its positive sides. Objectively
speaking, it is hard to achieve as the common knowledge has it
that all positive changes introduced in Tanzania under Nyerere‘s
rule in infrastructure, education and building construction cannot
be attributed to Tanzanians only but mainly to the international
aid. However, the fact remains that today’s Tanzanians are much
better educated, united and prone to solidarity with their country
than the ethnically diversified tribal societies in the neighbouring countries. Tanzania has been up till now a peaceful, safe and
relatively well-organised country. Up to the present day it has not
been affected by civil wars and ethnic or religious tensions being
a real nuisance for most of the African countries. In Tanzania they
do not constitute a problem. Can it be, therefore, concluded that
Tanzanian national identity may be attributed to ujamaa at least

UJAMMA. CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSE ABOUT...

165

to a certain extent? I leave this question to the potential readers
and researchers of this problem. Similarly, the question remains
why for majority of people safety (socialism) is more important
than freedom (liberal capitalism)? Maybe because there is no
real freedom without safety?
REFERENCES

Chałasińscy J. i K., Bliżej Afryki, Warszawa 1965.
Chayanov A.V., The Theory of the Peasant Economy, Homewood 1966.
Friedland W.H., Rosberg C.G., African Socialism, Redwood City 1964.
Herbst J., States and Power in Africa: Comparative lessons in authority
and control, Princenton 2000.
Iiffe J., Africans: the history of a continent, Cambridge 1995
Johnson P., History of the world – from 1917 to 1990s, London 1991
Kapuściński R., Gdyby cała Afryka..., Warszawa 1969.
Kornai J., Niedobór w gospodarce, Warszawa 1985.
Leszczyński A., Skok w nowoczesność. Polityka wzrostu w krajach peryferyjnych 1943–1980, Warszawa 2013.
Meredith M., The State of Africa. A History of Fifty Years of Independence,
London 2005.
Nyerere J.K., Freedom and Unity – Uhuru na Umoja, Nairobi – Lusaka –
Addis Ababa 1996.
Oliver R., Atmore A., Africa Since 1800, Cambridge 1967.
Osafo-Kwaako P., Long-run Effects of Viligization in Tanzania, Draft 2011,
www.econ.yale.edu/conference [Accessed: Jun 2015].
Perham M., The Colonial Reckoning: The End of Imperial Rule in Africa in
The Light of British Experience, New York 1962.

166

Maciej Ząbek

Sidney L., Ni Wapi Tunakwenda (Kultura Hip Hopu i dzieci Arushy), in:
The Vinyl Ain’t Final. Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular
Culture, eds. D. Basu, S.J. Lemelle, London 2006.
Ząbek M., Wsie wspólnotowe w Tanzanii – wspomnienia po afrykańskim
socjalizmie, „Zeszyty Wiejskie”, 21(2005), s. 43–58.
Zins H., Historia Afryki Wschodniej, Wrocław – Warszawa 1986.

Chapter 5.

AMBILIASIA PENIEL MOSHA
STEVEN KAUZENI

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE:
THE UNTOLD STORIES OF CLIMATE
PRESERVATION FROM KILIMANJARO
ABSTRACT

Climate change has been one of the indispensable topics to international conferences and local ones, academics and streets, old and young,
male and female and the stratification may go on, simply because its
effects engulf all facets of man’s life regardless of heterogeneity. Most
academic endeavors so far focused on the scientific preservation measures of climate change forgetting the other untapped and invisible side
of traditional knowledge that helped to preserve the climate that recent
generation wasn’t lucky to find. This paper goes deeper and explores the
traditional untold measures used for environmental conservation and
poses it as a challenge to modern generation. Using Qualitative approach
the researchers conduct an in-depth interview to the purposeful selected
elders of Mshiri Village and bring out the worked truths on how the villagers once imbibed interesting environmental conservation mechanisms
which preserved the world they lived in. The key findings reveal that the
question of environmental conservation and climate change is or should
be faith-based, collectively held, and engraved in peoples’ hearts in the
adoration of the creation which takes us back to the theories of moral
realism. Having observed that most academic endeavors so far focused
on the scientific measures to control climate change while neglecting the
AMBILIASIA PENIEL MOSHA, STEVEN KAUZENI – Assistant Lecturer,
The Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy.

168

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

other untapped and invisible side of social cultural deeply rooted interventions that helped preserve the climate; this paper focuses attention on
Traditional Knowledge as was used previously by Mshiri village natives
and suggest how this can be used complementarily with modern scientific
measures to conserve the environment and boost economic development
as a result. The paper recommends that there should be deliberate efforts
to inculcate ethical obligation to Tanzanians which will bring back the
once felt connection between man and nature which as a consequence
will arouse conscious environment conservation spirit that will be backed
up by the fusion of belief and reality of what is societal good.

Introduction
Once upon a time climate change was a foreign topic in academia and students struggled hard to understand concepts like
weather, temperature, draught, floods and many others. Nowadays,
these concepts are easily understood as what was only to be known
theoretically is now practical and easily observed. Environmental
degradation is vivid and harnessed by man. Population growth
resulting in overconsumption and technological advancements,
resulted in degradation of biophysical environment and ultimately
change in climate with vivid global effects like melting glaciers
and rising sea levels resulting in floods, extreme weather, shifting
rainfall patterns, extreme draught, human health defects, wildlife
catastrophes and costs for society and economy. According to
WWF1 for instance, the average temperature in arctic region has
increased by 5 degrees C over the last 100 years and they suggest
the disappearance of ice cover in few decades to come. This has
disastrous effects on polar species and the world climate in general.
In Tanzania consequences of climate change are also vivid.
As reported by Patric Lameck (n.d.), climate change has several
1

WWF, Soil Erosion and Degradation, 2016.

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

169

impacts like invasion of salt water to freshwater bodies in Bagamoyo, submergence of Maziwe Island in Pangani and Tanga, land
slidding in Same District and loss of soil fertility. Yussuf I.2 further
reports effects like water salinity and scarcity, increase in rainfall
intensity in different places, declining fish stock, beach erosion,
rising temperature and changing wind.
Governments all over the world are trying hard to control the
rapid pace of climate change and dealing with resultant consequence. Several counteracting measures provided include scientific
approaches like beach nourishment, agro forest, climate proofing
of critical infrastructure, desalination and developing sustainable
ground water management policies.
However, it is evident that traditional African societies had own
unique ways of conserving the environment and hence built conducive ecosystem that enabled them to survive for many years, having
enough to eat and store, and have consistent weather patterns which
were predictable and beneficial for their daily lives. Despite presence of this treasure, its documentation is scarce3. This paper uses
qualitative approach and conducts a purposeful in-depth interview
to Mshiri natives and brings out the worked – truths on how the
Kilimanjaro traditional societies imbibed interesting environmental
conservation mechanisms which preserved the world they lived in.
Statement of the Problem
Despite the fact that traditional knowledge played a great role in
conserving the environment, it is currently minimally utilized. This
is the knowledge that was revealed in social cultural practices interconnected with people’s belief in supernatural God and gods who
I. Yussuf, Tanzania: Assessing Impact of Climate Change On Environment,
Human Health, Food Security, 2016.
3
L. Sati, Traditional Practices Key to Environmental Conservation, Available
at www.av.at.nwsofthesouth.com. Accessed on 21st July, 2017.
2

170

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

were the providers and enforcers of the rules of nurturing nature. It
was voluntary, cheap and collective hence simplified enforcement of
mutually agreed measures and created belongingness and ownership of efforts. Its documentation is also scarcely available and its
practice is about to disappear in the long run. Presence of extreme
climate change indicators in rural Tanzania which was once well
conserved raises questions as to what might have gone wrong.
This has escalated to urban areas as well. For instance, the
2005/2006 draughts reduced economic growth by 1% GDP and
affected livelihood enormously; change in crop yields and labor
productivity is estimated to affect the economy causing losses to
annual global GDP in 2060 by 0.8% and by 0.9% to more vulnerable regions according to OECD (2010); deterioration of aquatic
systems; land degradation; lack of accessible, good quality water
for rural and urban inhabitants, environmental pollution, food
shortage, eruption of diseases and loss of wildlife habitats and
biodiversity are all indicators that modern scientific environmental
conservation knowledge is not sufficient to control climate change
(Tanzania environmental policy).
So far lots of money has been invested in scientific interventions
to conserve the environment and deal with climate change (UKaid).
Tanzania has joined global initiatives and signed protocols like
Kyoto protocol and various donors such as Denmark, Finland and
Sweden are also supporting the initiative. The government also
has established institutions and policies to deal with environmental
conservation, launching various campaigns like alternative energy
campaigns and others despite the piecemeal results.
However, there is the untapped traditional knowledge secreted in
social culturally deeply-rooted interventions that helped to preserve
climate in African natives. This is scarcely researched upon and documented, neither its usage is sufficiently employed. If well tapped,
the researchers believe that it can complement the modern scientific

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

171

knowledge and robust environmental conservation and control climate change and its consequences as it used to be previously. The
research investigated the significance of traditional knowledge in
conserving the environment in Mshiri village in Kilimanjaro region.
So, it is the standpoint of this paper that the use of traditional
knowledge would significantly complement the present scientific
methods of which some have been proved to accelerate further
problems to environment.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to assess the contribution of traditional knowledge in environmental conservation using a case
study of Mshiri Village at Kilimanjaro region.
Objectives of the Study
The study was based on the following objectives:
– To determine traditional knowledge practices which were used
to preserve the environment in the study area.
– To find out the significance of traditional knowledge in conserving the environment in the study area.
– To identify indicators of climate change at Mshiri Village in
Kilimanjaro.
– To analyze factors influencing climate change in the study area.
– To assess people’s awareness on day-to-day implication of climate change.
Significance of the Study
There is a need for complementary measure of conserving the
environment in Tanzania, especially on the re-adoption of social
cultural habits or practices that once worked. This information is
currently scarce on literature and neither are there formalized efforts directed to such measures in Tanzania’s conservation undertak-

172

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

ings. This knowledge will be useful three-fold. One, to the people of
Tanzania and elsewhere, it will impart them with complementary
home-made measures of conserving climate and hence appreciate its consequences; two, for environmental and climate change
activists it will provide a challenging countermeasure that they
can incorporate in their interventions and three, it offers a unique
opportunity for government to rethink and formally acknowledge
the role of traditional knowledge in conserving the climate.

Literature Review
Introduction
The need for traditional knowledge in preserving climate cannot
be overemphasized. Gleb Raygorodetsky4 emphasizes the indispensability of traditional knowledge in environmental conservation.
This traditional knowledge is embodied in traditional ways of life
which contribute little to climate change; moreover it is the base for
‘‘community based adaptation and mitigation actions that sustain
resilience of socio-ecological systems at the interconnected local,
regional and global scales’’ according to Raygorodetsky5.
Definition of Traditional Knowledge/ Indigenous
Knowledge as used in climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conceptualizes traditional knowledge/ Indigenous knowledge or local
knowledge as adaptation strategies held by indigenous people
G. Raygorodetsky, Why Traditional Knowledge Holds the Key to Climate
Change, United Nations University. Abrufbar unter: http://unu. edu/articles/
global-change-sustainable-development/why-traditional-knowledge-holds-thekey-to-climate-change (Zugriff am 19), 2011.
5
Ibidem.
4

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

173

worldwide which are cost-effective, participatory and sustainable. This is to say that indigenous societies have own ‘know how’
which is adopted, instituted and transferred from one generation
to another through the informal education mechanism such as
experiential learning and storytelling. This definition will be used
in this paper to represent traditional methods and techniques that
were used previously by the indigenous forefathers around Mount
Kilimanjaro in Mshiri village and whose traces still remain but
suffocated by contemporary adverse anthropological activities
which are hazardous to the environment and modern scientific
control measures.
Theoretical framework: Moral Realism Theory
The questions of ontology (theory of being/existence) and
epistemology (theory of knowing/ methods of knowing what exists) split when it comes to science and religion as they both have
different assumptions. Religious ontology from Realist perspective
for example confers the existence/ truth to Moral realism, i.e. truth
exists beyond what we think of it while scientific ontology ascribes
the truth to experiments and facts which lay proof for what exists.
This paper focuses on realism. Assumptions of realism as pointed
out by Ron White (n. d.) are as follows:
There are at least some timeless universal facts or timeless
universal values that serve as the foundation for our true beliefs.
1) Moral realism argues that ‘there at least some prescriptive
beliefs that are similarly true, that correspond to values that
are universally good, and independent of what individuals or
communities think about those values’ (ibid).
2) The timeless and universal moral truths, are founded on timeless and universal foundation that is rooted in a theory of Truth
‘Value based on a one-to-one correspondence between belief
and reality’.

174

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

3) True beliefs correspond to the dictates of foundational reality
and false beliefs contradict that reality.
4) The role of supernaturalism especially divine command theory
which demands that universal moral truth is based on the word
of God whose main presupposition is that all humans belong to
same God who is unstoppable, all powerful and all pervading
(i.e. omnipotent/unstoppable/all powerful, omnipresent/all
pervading/universal and omniscient).
5) The unquestioned authority of God is usually supported by the
inability to escape God’s timeless and universal vigilance to
detect non-compliance with universal rules, and the inability
to resist God’s timeless and universal enforcement of those
rules’.
The correspondence between belief and reality has been
nurtured by the African traditional societies as regard to environmental conservation6. Environmental conservation practices
were a positive externality of mixed rituals and beliefs that was
held dear to peoples’ hearts and passed from one generation to
the next. Being constructed by communities they then became
venerated as traditions (White ibid). This theoretical stance
elaborates clearly the foundation of the beliefs that existed in
Kilimanjaro and which consequently provided the ecosystem that
was favorable to the dwellers. The fact that indigenous people of
Kilimanjaro held true beliefs that was found on the reality that
the environment provided their physical needs which were connected to their religion and the fear of the supernatural God’s
punishment and gods; they automatically abode to the collecL. Sati, Traditional Practices Key to Environmental Conservation, op. cit.;
S. Asiimire, The Unwritten Law: Traditional Ways Of Conserving Environment. [Online], 2014. Available: https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/
news/1316940/unwritten-law-traditional-conserving-environment. [Accessed:
02-Jan-2018].
6

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

175

tively agreed norms which were traditionally instituted as will
be envisaged in the coming sections.
Environmental Destruction in Tanzania
The multitudinal impacts of climate change are vividly felt
worldwide and Tanzania is not exceptional. The extent of environmental destruction has escalated the qualitative and quantitative
short term and long term effects to living and non living things on
earth. Stiftung Konrad’s (2016) for instance has provided a chaineffect of prolonged draughts in Tanzania which has reduced the
mean annual temperature resulting in fall of cash crop production
which has led to lower agricultural yields resulting in a whole set
of social, political and economic difficulties to the country.
Anthropological environmental destruction activity has resulted in consequences like reduced precipitation and underground water; dried wells, reduced springs and lakes like Victoria,
Manyara and Rukwa; reduced dams like Nyumba ya Mungu in
Kilimanjaro. This has led to food insecurity resulting in famine,
desertification and the prolonged conflict between farmers and
pastoralists.
Land degrading encounters have facilitated soil erosion, desertification and salinization. This is due to activities like overgrazing,
wild fires, deforestation and inappropriate agriculture practices.
Forests and wetlands are suffering from deforestation caused
by increasing need for timber and energy. According to Tanzania
Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief (2010) as quoted,
‘The wetlands are threatened by increasing population, land clearance and deforestation of swamp forest and surrounding woodlands, poaching, pollution and eutrophication, and modification
of natural flow regimes. The ecosystem services are impaired by
infestation of alien species, declining fish populations, habitat
destruction and loss of biodiversity’.

176

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

Biodiversity which plays a great role in supporting life on earth
has been affected in numerous ways. For instance, aquatic life
has been vulnerable to manned – harmful activities like destructive fishing, unregulated costal tourism and over-exploitation of
aquatic resources.
Deforestation is said to disturb forests potentials like purification and regulation of water, climate regulation, and carbon
sequestration. It is also accused of being responsible for global
climate change mainly facilitating erosion, siltation and loss of
ecosystem services7.
Impacts of Environmental Destruction in Tanzania
Environmental destruction has a lot of impacts. Some of these
include but not limited to overheated temperature from global
warming which has led to melting icecaps like that of Mount
Kilimanjaro with long-term threatening effects of total diminishing. It is estimated that the snow at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro
will disappear in 10 years time to come. Consequent to this are
economic impacts like lack of tourists who bring foreign currency
that is directed to development interventions in the country. This
impact trickles down to enhance family poverty especially to dependants of tourist activities of Mount Kilimanjaro.
There has also been an outbreak of pests and diseases which
have affected coffee production by 20% in areas which will experience heavy rainfall and maize production has declined by 33% on
the national level leading to consequential effects of prize escalation impacting the poor who cannot afford the prize.
The Tanzania Environment and Climate Change Policy (2010)
has reported that Tanzania’s water resources’ flowing is being
J. Andersson and D. Slunge, Tanzania – Environmental Policy Brief, Gothenburg 2005.
7

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

177

reduced and hence affects lives of the users in many ways; for instance domestic usages and hydroelectric power production. Rivers
like Pangani River which supports life in Kilimanjaro and Moshi,
the Ruvu River which supports Dar es Salaam are also affected.
It is estimated that ‘‘the reduced flows of the Pangani will impact
the 17.4% of the country’s hydropower generated in that basin,
while the increased flows in the Rufiji basin may cause damage to
the Mtera and Kidatu hydropower installations, which generate
50.3% of the country’s hydropower’’8.
Different Remedies Given
In fighting environmental degradation and preserving climate
Tanzania has joined forces with global initiatives like signing the
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in
1992 and ratified it in 1996; signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2002
and established a National Adaptation Program of Action in January 2007. Deliberate efforts have also been put by institutionalizing
environmental conservation by establishing various sectors like
ministry to deal with environment in Vice President’s Office Division of Environment, Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Ministry of
Water and Irrigation, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and
Co-operatives and Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism,
National Climate Change Steering Committee (NCCSC), Tanzania
Meteorological Agency and others.
Moreover, the establishment of several policies like National
Environmental Policy (NEP, 1997), the National Environmental
Action Plan (NEAP, 1997), the National Adaptation Program of
Action (NAPA, 2007);, the Environmental Management Act (EMA,
S. Mkhandi and J. Ngana, Trends analysis and spatial variability of annual
rainfall, in: Water Resources Management in the Pangani River Basin: Challenges
and Opportunities, ed. J. Ngana, Dar es Salaam 2001, pp. 21–29.
8

178

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

2004), a legislation providing for legal and institutional framework for sustainable management of environment, prevention and
control of pollution, environmental compliance and enforcement,
etc., the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic
Environmental Assessments (SEA) have been accomplished.
Tanzania has also instituted measures like use of alternative
sources of energy like improved sources such as biodiesel charcoal
and stoves and donors likewise have been invited and they play
a great role in saving the climate. The Government of Norway for
instance has pledged US$100 million for work related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD);
Denmark through DANIDA is conducting a lot of projects in various
areas in the country, Finland supports forest and environment, and
Bioenergy, and European Union also plays a key role.

Traditional Knowledge for Environmental preservation
General Overview
Traditional social cultural habits of preserving climate and
environment have been carried and demonstrated in traditional/
indigenous or local knowledge. In 1992 the UN Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED) positioned this knowledge in the centre of attaining sustainable development though
protecting earth’s biological diversity. Moreover, many international development agencies are recommending the integration of
scientific and traditional knowledge which entails linking culture,
environment and development in management of natural resources
and conservation of biological diversity.
This knowledge is said to be community based, collectively held
and useful on complementing scientific interventions in climate
change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

179

insists on the indispensability of indigenous knowledge in developing adaptation and resource management strategies and that
it is cost-effective, participatory and sustainable. Furthermore,
the United Nations, Traditional Knowledge Initiative (UN-TKI)
in Partnership with IPCC recognizes the importance of involving indigenous people in climate change debates. Other global
organizations like UNDP, UNESCO, and CBD in recognizing the
importance of local or traditional knowledge are campaigning
to involve local people in developing local, regional and global
policies in addressing climate change. Lastly, the 2011 Mexico
City workshop has recognized the importance of local knowledge
in agro forest, traditional medicine, biodiversity conservation,
customary resource management, impact assessment and natural
disaster preparedness and response9.
It has to be noted that as mentioned in the background information and in the theoretical framework this traditional knowledge is backed up by existence of traditional beliefs that manifest
themselves through fear of supernatural God or gods/goddesses
whose abode lied in rocks, streams, trees, rivers and others and
that these gods can protect them from harm, famine, draught,
epidemics and war, and that it happens that these gods avenge
their anger on however disobey them. Moreover, these beliefs have
been merged with legal institutions of the community which in
turn make people obedient10.
G. Raygorodetsky, Why traditional knowledge..., op. cit.
R.J. Chacon, ‘Conservation or Resource Maximization? Analyzing Subsistence
Hunting Among the Achuar (Shiwiar) of Ecuador, in: The Ethics of Anthropology and
Amerindian Research: Reporting on Environmental Degradation and Warfare, eds.
R. Chacon and R. Mandoza, New York 2012, pp. 311–360; S. Krech, Reflections
on conservation, sustainability, and environmentalism in indigenous North America,
„American anthropologist”, 107(2005), no. 1, pp. 78–86; P.A. Cox, Will tribal
knowledge survive the millennium?, „Science”, 287(2000), no. 5450, pp. 44–45.
9

10

180

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

Traditional Knowledge Practice in Africa
African traditional knowledge on environmental conservation
is interconnected with religious practices as it was widely believed
that ‘everything which belongs to ecosystem and environment had
strong spiritual meaning for humans’11.
It is widely believed that African communities have incredible
knowledge on conserving climate and that Africans are excellent
observers and interpreters of change in the environment12.
African traditional knowledge has proved useful in conserving
climate and providing subsistence for the dwellers over years as
demonstrated in different ventures. Humans have relied on plants
for multipurpose aspects such as food, clothing, construction
materials, cosmetics and medicines, and this has sustained for
years because ‘traditional value systems have guided the sustainable use of wild plants in Africa over the years’ (conserveafrica.
org n. d).
Also some African rituals set forests as ‘no go’ areas as they
were regarded as Gods and gods’ residences as hence cannot be
contaminated by community members who were not religious
leaders. Moreover, unnecessary tree cut was forbidden and one
has to acquire special permit to do so. Sati (2013) for instance
posits that forests were made part of the community who had
feelings for them. This cultural practice lets forests robust and as
a result regulates climate by attracting rainfall, wind barring and
cool the areas.
In tribal communities of Urhobos in Delta Central in Ghana and
even in Nigeria for instance there exist certain taboos on killing
or eating an animal totem which has played a key practice of inS. Asiimire, The Unwritten Law..., op. cit.
G. Raygorodetsky, Why traditional knowledge..., op. cit.; L. Sati, Traditional
Practices Key..., op. cit.
11
12

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

181

digenous knowledge for conserving biodiversity. This is practiced
in the belief that there is supernatural connection between people
and environment.
In his own words Asimiire S. posits that ‘natural phenomena
were seen as possessing spiritual powers, and the natural force that
supplies food seen as superior and accorded respect and veneration;
and therefore sacred and endowed with healing powers’13. Certain
trees, for instance, could not be fell because they were considered
as (God’s trees) and this shows the strength of traditional habits
intrinsically connected with religion in environmental conservation.
Land in African societies was also seen as a goddess. On Sunday
or even when the community member has died, one could not
farm the land; this regulated man’s impact on the land and thus
secured its fertility. Land in these traditional societies belongs to
clans and not to the individuals, and because the clan consisted
of the living, the dead and even the unborn, it enhanced the idea
of sharing and caring or nature.
Generally, rivers and seas were also seen as abodes of the gods
and as divinities, certain human activities that marred their beauty
were considered abominations; therefore, pollutants and human
waste could not be discharged into these water bodies lest the
culprits were punished by gods.
Traditional Knowledge Practices outside Africa
Not only in Africa but also all over the globe traditional or local
knowledge has way back been beneficial and used by indigenous
people for survival and conserving the climate. The following
case of Philippines, as demonstrated by UNESCO (2013), shows
how traditional knowledge was used by the Philippines to enable
them survive;
13

S. Asiimire, The Unwritten Law..., op. cit.

182

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

The Philippines used traditional knowledge in building social
cohesion and cooperation networks using traditional supporting systems involving reciprocal exchanges of valuables with
stories associated with them. These took place as rituals and provided the forum for the whole community to agree and transfer
worked knowledge of resource management and environmental
conservation.
In Ranau S a b a h traditional knowledge on environmental
conservation has been manifested through agriculture and traditional healing activities. In agriculture, for instance, hilly areas
were protected from erosion by planting and avoiding cutting
down trees and mixed farming and shifting cultivation methods
were employed to retain fertility. Also, there were certain prohibitions like observing dreams and listening omens from birds. If,
for instance, one had a bad dream when he/she is about to open
a new piece of land it signaled bad luck unsuitability of place for
farming; likewise certain birds’ sounds signaled good or bad omen
and one had to strictly follow it hence limit land use.
Vitality of certain food crops used for medicinal practices allowed plenty of trees to be found around native homesteads
and hence regulated climate. Red rice water, for instance, was
a medicine for women who have just given birth and its leaves
were believed to increase blood content.
In I n d i a several practices accompanied by religious practices
have taken place whereby for instance certain forests are named as
sacred and protected by customary laws. Such forests are potential
for herbs and other medicinal plants.
All these evidences of presence of traditional knowledge prove
that it is not to be neglected. In Tanzania, however, there is scarce
literature on this knowledge despite the fact that the remnants
of its existence are still evident to indigenous societies to date.
Moreover, no research has been conducted to study its existence in

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

183

Mshiri village and pose it as complementary measure to preserve
environment to modern generation. This is the gap that this paper
has attempted to fill.

Research Methodology
Introduction
Methodology denotes a systematical way of solving Research
problems. It contained various steps that have been generally
adopted by research in studying this research problem along
with logic behind them. This paper was set to find out whether
traditional environmental conservation methods can be helpful
to complement the modern and scientific methods of which its
effectiveness is proving ineffective and adding further problem
to the planet Earth.
The process of achieving this involved investigation and exposed
various methods of traditional environmental conservation that
can be utilized to help the large mass of Tanzanian population to
conserve environment in more distressful conditions of environment destruction that is in persistence today.
Research design
The study employed Case study research design with the view
that it would provide an opportunity to study the aspect of the
problem in some depth within some limited time scale, the research
maximized qualitative approaches and quantitative approaches to
ensure quality.
Study Area
The study was based on Kilimanjaro region; the focus was to
assess the contribution of traditional knowledge in environmental
conservation using a case study of Mshiri Village which in recent

184

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

years has lost its virginal condition of coldness and instead high
level of temperature is being experienced. Study population has
focused on the elder people of Mshiri village in Kilimanjaro region
as well as some few middle aged people to air out their views
on how properly traditional knowledge can be utilized to help
and complement the current methods to achieve the promising
environmentally friendly conditions to man’s life. This population
is chosen because they have the treasure of the knowledge from
experience and they are eye witnesses to climate change in the
village and so reliable information was obtained from them.
Sample size and sampling
The study optimized purposive/judgmental sampling because
researchers believed that it would provide the necessary and rich
information relevant to the study problem. R a n d o m s a m p l i n g
was used to complement purposive sampling whereby the sample
size included 10 respondents who were the elders that in distant
time utilized traditional methods in course of environmental
preservation; 5 individuals of middle age, 2 of them being forest
specialists aimed to provide technical experience on environmental
conservation.
Data collection methods and Analysis
The study was optimally designed to use both primary and secondary data, however utilization of secondary data method found it
difficult given that sources on traditional methods of environmental
conservation were limited especially in Tanzanian context, however
documents from other African countries were utilized. However, the
study used n-depth interview method which involved face to face
conversation between interviewer and respondents with the purpose
of eliciting information from the respondents. This helped researchers to follow up ideas, probe responses and investigate motives

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

185

and feelings in relation to environmental conservation methods.
Secondary data were obtained from books, journals, institutions
statistics and reports for theoretical analysis. Data obtained from
the field were recorded, summarized, operationalized and data
from documents were subjected to content analysis. Presentation
of Data was in the form of text and elaborations and qualitative
elements were presented in the form of percentages and tables.
Data quality control (Reliability and Validity)
Reliability of data is the extent to which a test or procedures
produce similar results under constant conditions on all occasion,
on the other hand, validity tells us whether an item measures what
is supposed to measure or describe. To ensure these a careful operationalization of research instrument was employed including
employing multi methods in data collection.
Data Presentation and Findings Discussion
This section presents and discusses the findings of the study.
They are presented following the sequence of research objectives.
A number of questions were posed regarding environmental preservation and climate change in Mshiri village. Questions included
asking the respondents to mention practices and significance
of traditional knowledge used to conserve the environment, to
mention practices of climate change in their village, to point out
factors influencing climate change in their area, and to show their
awareness on the implication of climate change in their day to day
lives. Results are presented and discussed below.
Practices and Significance of Traditional Knowledge
in Environmental Conservation in Mshiri Village
In answering the question on practices and significance of traditional knowledge on conserving the environment, it was found

186

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

out that traditionally local knowledge was paramount in preserving
climate change for Mshiri village residents. This was facilitated by
their homogeneity in race, language, religion and even leadership
style whereby people were under patronage of their political and
religious leaders. The fear of gods and God (Ruwa) for enforcing
and punishing the law breakers of what was communally agreed
has been one of the strongest reason for preserving the environment
in the village. This is summarized in the table below, presented
and discussed thereafter.
Table1: Key Practices of Traditional Knowledge in Preserving the Environment
Element

Number

%

Religion

15

100

Solidarity works (Jumatatu)

13

86

Respect to Leaders and Sanctions
Traditional Healing
Homogenous Leadership
Others Practices

5

15

14

93

2

13

15

100

Source: Field Data 2017.

Religion
From the table above it was revealed that Religion was the basic
element that serves as the foundation of environmental conservation at Mshiri village supported by all 15 participants, i.e 100%.
It reflects the traditional cultural heritage where by customs were
ascribed to worship of gods and one God for Chagga people (Ruwa)
who was the enforcer of truth. This God spoke to people vividly on
the dos and dont’s in the society. He punished the law breakers by
killing them, bringing famine of diseases to their clan/ homesteads
and to this end everything was looked from religious perspective
(Mbiti ibid). God provided nature and human realized this and so

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

187

was in good relationship with it14. There were several avenues that
connected environmental conservation and religion as follows:
All 15 respondents (100%) discussed about the existed belief
that God and gods resided in specific major avenues like big trees
or mountains. For instance, some trees were not supposed to be
cut or touched. They grew in various places in the village and it
was an abomination for anybody, to approach the tree zones except
the elders. Trees like ‘Mkuu’ and ‘Mfuranje’ were considered sacred
and every homestead had them. As a result the trees grew big attracting shades, preserving ecology, and acted as wind breakers
making the area well-conserved. This traditional knowledge and
belief are synonymous with Mkenda (n.d) findings that African
society big trees like fig and baobab were a manifestation of the
powers of Supreme Being and used as shrines.
Not only in Africa but even outside Africa big trees have been
considered sacred and kept for veneration. For instance, the Bothi
tree is considered as a sacred fig tree by Buddhist, Hinduism and
Jainism. This is according to Mkenda that “indigenous people
knew that they had religious and moral responsibility towards the
environment and that if they destroy environment it would imply
destroying themselves”
Moreover, big rivers were also preserved and adored as they were
perceived to have supernatural powers. Big rives had ‘basin – like’
places traditionally known as ‘Nduwa’ which were considered to
be the gods residence and so were inaccessible to ordinary villagers except for religious leaders who were authorized by gods to
enter. These were used for rituals and intercession between people
and gods in cases where for instance there were calamities caused
C.V.O. Eneji [et al.], Traditional African Religion in Natural Resource Conservation and Management in Cross River State, Nigeria, „Environment and Natural
Resource Research”, 2(2012), no. 4, p. 45.
14

188

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

by man disobedience. These places were approached to remove
bad omen and by pleading to the ‘mizimus’ i.e. ancestral spirits.
These places were normally surrounded by big trees, grasses and
tree bushes. As the place was well conserved it was never dry and
it maintained rivers that flew to the village throughout the year.
Solidarity works (Jumatatu)
Another traditional practice which reflected people’s traditional
knowledge in environmental conservation was existence of solidarity works. This was mentioned by 13 respondents equivalent
to 86 %. Frequent meetings on how to conserve the environment
were facilitated with religious leaders and political leaders. It
was a tradition for village leaders to have a session after every
Sunday service to give announcements and allocate ‘Jumatatu’
tasks (community solidarity works) and religious leaders would
wind up by adding emphasis insisting Gods enforcements on top
of legal ones. This practice still happens but to lesser extent and
also these solidarity works are greatly affected with rural-urban
migration whereby most of youth have shifted to urban areas in
Moshi, Arusha and even Dar es Salaam leaving elderly people who
are not as energetic to tender these works.
Moreover, solidarity works were demonstrated in the act of
guarding forests in turn against the stubborn and law breakers. As it
was noticed that law breakers were always trying to enter forests for
reasons like fuel searching, felling trees, honey harvest and others,
and by noticing that these harmful activities will endanger their
environment, they agreed to guard the forests in turn. The village
leaders knew all members of the community and they were each
assigned a day to guard the forests, failure to do so would attract
sanctions like fines. For those who were caught destroying the
forests punishment included beating in public, fines or confiscating personal property like baskets, cattle and anything available.

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

189

This was associated with the belief that forests were provided by
God for caring his people, so it was collectively agreed to respect
that by preserving what He has given them.
Among the interviewees, 3 respondents (20%) mentioned
demonstration of traditional knowledge in keeping tree nurseries.
Leaders, both political and religious were champions in ensuring
that trees were planted in every homestead and open places. It
was even agreed that every Monday to be a community working
day and one of the activities was planting trees all around the
places that were identified by the leaders. This made the village
to be so full of trees and fruits that served for shades, food and
good climate.
As pointed out by moral realists that true beliefs correspond to
the dictates of foundational reality and false beliefs contradict that
reality; it was easy for community members to place their belief
in what they knew was true and this was reciprocated by having
a good climate which supplied them with everything they needed.
There was also unique knowledge on keeping water sources.
One of them included guarding seriously ways that lead to Mount
Kilimanjaro to prevent bypassers and those who would try to enter
without permission as these were main sources of bush fires that
frequently attacked the area and destroyed the natural forests for
about 41 km2 between 1952 and 198215.
It was also reported by almost 98% of the participants that all
village men would on every Monday attend all water sources like
springs, wells and rivers to make sure that they are not blocked
and are clean and anyone who missed that activity was fined.
Another activity was digging, directing and frequent cleaning of
P.Z. Yanda and E.K. Shishira, Forestry conservation and resource utilization
on southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro: trends, conflicts and resolutions, in: Water
resources management in the Pangani River Basin: challenges and opportunities,
ed. J.O. Ngana, Dar es Salaam 2001, pp. 104–117.
15

190

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

canneries (mifereji asilia) that were made from the water sources
directly to homesteads in the village for purposes of irrigation,
domestic uses like washing, cooking and bathing and for taming
harmful animals like wild rabbits (‘panya buku’) locally known
as ‘fuko’ that destroyed banana trees and other crops. It was collectively agreed and enforced that no one has to do any private
activity that dirty the water or prevent these waters from entering
other people’s homesteads. This means that it was shared by all
villagers equally. These made the water sources last for years and
there was enough water for everybody’s use.
Respect to Leaders and Sanctions
Traditional knowledge was also manifested by existing sanctions
like prohibiting animal grazing from water sources, in the forests
and in private properties. Areas which were believed to be gods
residence were no entry zones and fairy tales had it that when
animals entered these areas they vanished. Also, if any community
member, who was not even a leader, witnessed a law braking act,
he/she went to report it to the leaders and appropriate measures
were taken like public beating, fines or total confiscation of the
cattle.
Explaining keenly one old woman of about 70 years narrated
that cattle rearing, being one of the major activities for every
homestead, it was women’s major task to find fodder for cattle.
Sanctions were the same that these no go areas like water sources
and ‘Nduwas’ were no go areas and if caught same sanctions mentioned above would apply. It was very common to find women being
slashed publicly in front of everybody including their children. As
this was a humiliating and shaming activity women had to ask for
permission and followed instruction to only enter the permitted
zones. She narrated a case where she and her friend spent the
whole night in the forest just to avoid being apprehended by the

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

191

villagers who noticed them entering the forbidden zone. They had
to come out the other day afternoon and still face the humiliation
and according to the woman, they never dared to repeat the act
and it became a lesson to the rest, and this was so because leaders
were highly respected.
This practice has to be reintroduced. People have to be involved
in formulating strict rules to conserve the environment in which
they will feel ownership and hence implement as their own as it
has been proved that people must have voice on deciding their
fate, being listened, respected and empowered to implement what
they collectively agree so as to bring ownership and sustainability16.
Traditional healing
Fourteen (93%) of respondents reported traditional healing practices as an area which demonstrated high knowledge
in conserving the environment. This refers to knowledge that
existence in varieties of trees and other plantations that were
identified to have healing powers. These existed in planted trees’
seeds, leaves and roots of vegetations. It was learnt that some
trees were not fell for traditional medicinal purposes both for
humans and animals.
Homesteads were also full of human medicine plantations like:
‘mpasi’, ‘kitolo’ and ‘mareremu’ for treating coughing’, ‘mamboko’
for curing broken bones or injured nerves, ‘ratune’/aloevera for
wounds and ‘mapfuna’ for cuts. Leaves of a tree known as ‘Ringiri’
were also special for feeding domestic animals such as goats when
they give birth; and it was found in every homestead.
Other researches done elsewhere in Africa found the same kind
of belief that there were supernatural powers behind vegetations
R. Chambers, Rural development: putting the last first, London – Lagos –
New York 1983.
16

192

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

which originated from the link between religion and natural phenomena Asimiire17.
These practices still remain in some societies to a lesser extent
like Maasai Tanzania and Kenya. Researcher’s observation in
Mshiri Village witnessed people walking a long distance deep in
Kinapa forest to search for these herbs and some have disappeared
altogether. Provided that this traditional practice served the multipurpose and its benefits are indispensable, still there is a need
to recapture this knowledge and exercise it in modern generation.
Homogenous Leadership
Two, i.e. (13%) of respondents complained about presence of
multi-partism which has brought division to the villagers. Presence of one common political affiliation has facilitated discipline
and commitment to the agreed customs and traditions. This was
ascribed to the sense of belongingness between the leader and the
led whereby leaders were considered to share the same feeling
and understanding with the led. Moreover, having respected clan
heads, who were taken as God’s representatives and who gave
direction to the community, facilitated togetherness and hence
common understanding. This has been proved to be so; that division in party affiliation brings disagreements, prolonged meetings
and even creation of opposing camps opposing each other hence
delaying agreement and implementation of decisions.
Other Domestic Activities
Respondents also mentioned a number of other domestic practices where traditional knowledge was demonstrated. One of them
was fuel uses. Most rural households live on fuel from trees, and
this has been one of the major causes of deforestation and deser17

S. Asiimire, The Unwritten Law..., op. cit.

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

193

tification in Tanzania recently. It is intriguing how Mshiri, being
one of these villages in rural areas, maintained sustainable use of
trees for fuel purposes. Traditional knowledge played a great role
in ensuring this. First, this was a custom to have all trees a family will need inside its Kihamba. This included trees traditionally
known as ‘meresi’, ‘msonobari’ and ‘mtarako’. Despite the fact that
these trees were used for timber and leaves for livestock beddings,
what is interesting is the way they were used for fuel.
A tree like ‘msonobari’ for instance could be lit for a week continuously without quenching. This was because after every use at
night thick wet pieces of firewood were kept inside the fireplace
and this was found still burning the next morning. Moreover, dry
pieces of firewood were mixed with wet ones and these made the
fire consistent and slow hence minimizing the need for a more
firewood pieces.
It was also revealed that traditional knowledge was useful
in identifying signs from birds and surroundings for different
activities of the year. Respondents described association of certain bird’s sounds with events. For instance, certain birds’ sound
symbolizes planting or harvesting season, death, and drought or
rain season. It was also a common knowledge which was passed
from elders to children to read the clouds in the sky; for instance,
when the clouds were so dark and in certain location like eastern
side, western or overhead side it would rain on that day. Also,
each particular clouds pattern had interpretation like God’s/ gods’
anger or happiness.
All these indicators were of much significance to Mshiri people
as they enabled them to conserve the environment and survive
under good climatic condition of which they were responsible
to create and nurture. This is in tandem with moral realism philosophy which states that true beliefs correspond to the dictates
of foundational reality and further it was possible as all villagers

194

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

were aware that they will not escape God’s punishment for non
compliance with caring nature.
Indicators of Climate Change in Mshiri Village
When asked about the indicators of climate change in the village, all 15 participants were not hesitant to mention changes in
weather patterns. As all participants were 40 years and above, over
four decades they lived they have been eye witnesses of changes in
weather patterns from systematic weather condition of 1970s, to
present unpredictable patterns. Prolonged and unpredictable hot/
summer seasons were reported as the most troubling condition
which has twisted people lives in this once cool and wetland. All
15 respondents elaborated with deep feelings the way prolonged
hot climate has affected their lives from economic activities to
agricultural ones.
Mshiri population which once lived on banana and coffee,
which is robust in humid climate, is now unable to depend on this
because hot climate will not allow them to grow as they used to. It
was normal to have cloudy and very cold mornings accompanied
with fog to about 10:00 a.m. in the morning. This is no longer
there. According to the study conducted by the University of Witwatersrand Coffee production for instance has dropped and will
drop to 200kg per hectare by 2030 and to 145kg per hectare in
2060 because it has been established that for every 1 degree night
temperature rise, 137kgs are lost and since 1961 night temperature
has risen by 1.4 degrees18.
Glacier retreat and reduction of ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro
was also a matter of concern to all villagers as presented by the
K. Makoye, Coffee production slipping in Tanzania as temperatures rise.
[Online]. Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tanzania-coffee/coffeeproduction-slipping-in-tanzania-as-temperatures-rise-idUSKBN0NI0D520150427.
[Accessed: 02-Jan-2018].
18

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

195

respondents. One can have a direct view of the mountain when
standing on any hilly area of the village. In the company of one
respondent the researcher could see vividly Mount Kilimanjaro and
the respondent was pointing his finger showing the way he used
to see the amount of ice covering the rocks of the mountain to the
bottom of the mountain but now it is like a naked man wearing
an undersized hat.
Another indicator mentioned was presence of reduced, drying
or dried water sources and rivers like river ‘Kiruwi’ which was once
full throughout the year and now is a dried area. A lot of springs
have also dried up and this has reduced the supply of water in the
village. Reason to these is multifaceted.
Reduction of ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro is the major reason
as the ice has been drizzling and forms streams. It forms pure fresh
water which supported ecosystem around the mountain. Other
anthropological activities also have contributed like deforestation,
bush fires and others.
Also famine was mentioned as another indictor of climate
change in Mshiri Village. As pointed out earlier, changes in
weather patterns and reduction of water sources have direct
impact on agriculture. Mshiri village has previously depended on
producing their own food for 100% and this was possible due to
support of conducive climate but only 5% have food throughout
the year.
Their population increases at an estimated rate of 3 per cent
each year and the population density for the upper belt was
around 650 people per km2 in the year 2000, according to the
Moshi Rural District Council. Consequently, the land devoted
to agriculture, which the Chagga call shamba, is shrinking. Yet,
the old Chagga agro forestry system has been one of the most
productive areas of agriculture in Tanzania. Its multicultural
combination of trees, rice, vegetables, beans and groundnuts

196

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

combines well with naturally good soil to achieve sustainable
resource management19.
People described lack of ‘ghalas’ (locally made food store) and
presence of empty ‘kais’ (traditional storage space in the roof) as
an indicator of lack of food. It was learnt that years back when
climate was good it was common for homesteads to have places
they store food. For instance, extra harvested maize was processed
and kept in a ghala for a very long time for future uses. Moreover,
Mshiri houses were built with kais specially for storing surplus
crops like coffee.
Fertile black soils in shambas were also reported as indicator
of plenty food. Subsistence farming supported by climate allowed
mixed farming whereby homesteads grew their own food enough
to consume throughout the year. People would grow maize, coffee,
potatoes and various types of vegetables, yams, many fruits, sugarcanes, and many others. It was normal to have ripened bananas
rotting on shambas from lack of people to consume. Also relatives
from urban areas returned with big sacks of varieties of food when
they went to visit back home in the village. All these have changed.
Presence of empty kais, lack of ghalas, lack of coffee to harvest and
store, visible shambas with only one type of food crop and few fruits
and relatives from urban areas returning empty handed has been
an order of the day and indicator of food shortage in the area. One
of the respondents pointed out that this is happening because God
and gods are angry with the people. In her research Mwangi20 found
out that when weather was good and food was plenty it symbolized God’s and gods’ happiness towards his people and vice versa.
A. Hemp, The banana forests of Kilimanjaro: biodiversity and conservation
of the Chagga homegardens, „Biodiversity and Conservation”, 15(2006), no. 4,
pp. 1193–1217.
20
E. Mwangi, Indigenous Knowledge and Environmental Conservation in East
Africa, Bloomington 1998.
19

197

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

Factors influencing climate change in the area?
The researcher was interested to know whether villagers were
aware of factors influencing climate change in their village. The
following factors were mentioned:
Table 2: Factors influencing Climate Change at Mshiri Village
Factor
Harvest of natural forests
Toothless laws

Frequency
15

%
100

3

20

Unsustainable pastoralist’s activities

15

100

Destroying water sources

15

100

5

33

Lack of environmental conservation education
Laziness

2

13

Neglecting traditional practices of replanting trees

11

73

Lack of discipline to leaders and elders

12

80

Life hardship/ low income/ poverty

15

100

Poor leadership

4

27

Drinking habits

3

20

Population growth

9

65

Source: Field Data 2017.

The table above shows prominent factors mentioned to be destructive to environment: tremendous increases of harvesting of
natural forests for fuel, farming and housing purposes. This was
mentioned by 100% of respondents. Being a rural area where other
sources of energy like electricity were unavailable or unaffordable,
prime source remained to be firewood and charcoal which involved
tree cutting. This was escalated by lack of reforestation (73%),
population growth (65%), life hardship whereby people engaged
in firewood and timber harvesting and selling to earn income
(100%) and lack of environmental conservation education (33%).
Other factors mentioned were unsustainable pastoralist activities

198

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

(100%) like grazing in water sources such as springs and wells,
and cutting fodder for zero grazed cattle.
Other factors were: presence of toothless laws which are not
able to punish the culprits (80%), laziness 13%, lack of discipline
to leaders and elders (80%), poor leadership (27%) and drinking
habits (20%). Also destroying water sources was mentioned as
the major factor that influences climate change. This was done
through grazing in the sources, cutting trees around water sources,
leaving them unattended, performing other domestic activities in
the rivers like washing and bathing.
Global warming has also affected Mt. Kilimanjaro which is the
major source of water at Mshiri Village. Frequent bush fires, smokes
from industries in towns and vehicles have resulted in overheated
temperature leading to melting ice top of Mount Kilimanjaro with
long-term threatening effects of total diminishing. As presented in
previous sections this has an impact on economy and society at large.
People’s awareness on day to day implication of climate change
The research also intended to know whether people were aware
of the implication of climate change. This was important so as to
be able to establish the fact that people knew the consequences
of their actions. Table number 3 shows the results:
Table3: Respondent’s awareness on Day to Day Implications of Climate Change
Sex

Yes

%

No

0%

M

6 out of 6

100%

0

0%

F

9 out of 9

100%

0

0%

TOTAL

15

100%

0

0%

Source: Field Data 2017.

All respondents (100%) demonstrated awareness of the impacts
of climate change in the study area. They mentioned indicators

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

199

like disappearance of traditional food crops like ‘sowe’ (traditional
yams), banana, potatoes and yams; cash crops like coffee; and lack
of affordability of three meals per day, lack of rain, low tourism
activities, lack of timber, diminished biological diversity resulting in
drought, poor health status – eruption of diseases, poverty, deaths
from hunger, lack of pure air, diseases to humans and animals and
lack of biodiversity.

Conclusion
This section draws conclusion from the research findings and
makes a number of recommendations. The principal objective of
this study was to assess the contribution of traditional knowledge
in environmental preservation using a case study of Mshiri Village
at Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania.
Traditional knowledge has come out in this research as a complementary mechanism that can be used hand in hand with scientific methods in controlling climate change by conserving the
environment. Different traditional aspects of Kilimanjaro natives
like religion, leadership, traditional healing and lifestyle accompanied with participatory mechanisms come out as major factors
that contributed to conserving the environment in previous years.
Moreover, ownership and institutionalization of collectively agreed
methods has been the centre piece in effecting the efforts. This
knowledge has also proved to be useful in many African countries
like Zimbabwe, Mali and Nigeria21.
However, there are little remnants of evidence that show existence of traditional knowledge in conserving the environment at
A. Lalonde, African indigenous knowledge and its relevance to sustainable
development, in: Traditional ecological knowledge: concepts and cases, ed. J.T. Inglish, Ottawa 1993, pp. 55–62.
21

200

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

Mshiri village. Stories from elder people, existence of dry valleys
once filled with water, traces of once existed water canaries in front
of villagers’ households and empty and dilapidated food storage
spaces prove the vanishing of traditional knowledge in conserving
the environment. Increased famine, prolonged hot climate, water
scarcity, lack of vegetations like trees surrounding homesteads
and low tourists activities together with loss of biodiversity have
been found as consequences of neglecting traditional knowledge
in conserving the environment at Mshiri.

Recommendations
Guided by the findings of the study, the researchers recommend
the following:
There should be revival of traditional knowledge in conserving
the environment in rural Tanzania which can also be duplicated
in urban areas. This can be achieved through making deliberate
efforts to visit and conduct more research in taping the traditional
knowledge in rural areas so as to come out with context – specific
measures which will be relevant to the dwellers.
Also, the paper recommends that there should be deliberate efforts to inculcate ethical obligation to Tanzanians which will bring
back the once felt connection between man and nature which as
a consequence will arouse conscious environmental conservation
spirit that will be backed up by the fusion of belief and reality of
what is societal good.
Moreover, policy makers should incorporate indigenous knowledge in planning environmental conservation interventions countrywide and especially in rural areas because these areas play
a key role in regulating climate in cities and supplying them with
food. This should go hand in hand with empowering local people
in implementing the agreed efforts.

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

201

However, the incorporation of indigenous knowledge as a complement to scientific one has to be done keenly as it has been
observed to be of great challenge to adopt a technological mix of
indigenous knowledge and modern scientific one. Ahmed22 recognizes the power of modern science in revolutionizing life on earth,
and identifies as a challenge the ability to adopt a technological
mix of indigenous knowledge and modern science in order to meet
the social, spiritual, cultural and humanitarian goals of people to
maximize their internal well-being.
REFERENCES

Ahmed M.M.M., The Concept of Indigenous Knowledge and its Relevance
to Sustainable Development, in: Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable
Development in Sudan, ed. M. Ahmed, Chartum 1994.
Andersson J. and Slunge D., Tanzania – Environmental Policy Brief, Environmental Economics Unit, Gothenburg 2005.
Asimiire S., The Unwritten Law: Traditional Ways of Conserving the Environment, Available at www.newsvision.co.ug. Accessed on 25th July, 2017.
Chacon R., Conservation or Resource Maximization? Analyzing Subsistence Hunting Among the Achuar (Shiwiar) of Ecuador, in: The Ethics
of Anthropology and Amerindian Research: Reporting on Environmental
Degradation and Warfare, eds. R. Chacon and R. Mandoza, New York
2012, pp. 311–360.
Chambers R., Rural development: putting the last first, London – Lagos
– New York 1983.
Cox P., Will tribal knowledge survive the millennium?, „Science”, 287(2000),
no. 5450, pp. 44–45.
The Concept of Indigenous Knowledge and its Relevance to Sustainable
Development, in: Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Development in Sudan,
ed. M. Ahmed, Chartum 1994, pp. 1–41.
22

202

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

Eneji C., [et al.], Traditional African Religion in Natural Resource Conservation and Management in Cross River State, Nigeria, „Environment and
Natural Resource Research”, 2(2012), no. 4, pp. 45–53.
Hemp A., The banana forests of Kilimanjaro: biodiversity and conservation
of the Chagga homegardens, „Biodiversity and Conservation”, 15(2006),
no. 4, pp. 1193–1217.
Krech S., Reflections on conservation, sustainability, and environmentalism
in indigenous North America, „American anthropologist”, 107(2005),
no. 1, pp. 78–86.
Lalonde A., African indigenous knowledge and its relevance to sustainable
development, in: Traditional ecological knowledge: concepts and cases,
ed. J.T. Inglish, Ottawa 1993.
Lameck P., Climate Change in Tanzania, Available at www.tcd.ie. Accessed
on 19th July, 2017.
Mkhandi S. and Ngana J., Trends analysis and spatial variability of annual rainfall, in: Water Resources Management in the Pangani River
Basin: Challenges and Opportunities, ed. J. Ngana, Dar es Salaam
2001, pp. 21–29.
Mwangi E., Indigenous Knowledge and Environmental Conservation in east
Africa, Bloomington 1998.
Raygorodetsky G., Why Traditional Knowledge holds the Key to Climate
Change, Available at www.unu.edu/publications/articles. Accesed
on 23rd July, 2017.
Sati L., Traditional Practices Key to Environmental Conservation, Available at www.av.at.nwsofthesouth.com. Accessed on 21st July, 2017.
WWF, Biodiversity Loss and Soil Erosion, 2001. Available at www.panda.
org. Accessed on 21st July, 2017.
Yanda P. and Shishira E., Forestry conservation and resource utilization on
southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro: trends, conflicts and resolutions,
in: Water resources management in the Pangani River Basin: challenges
and opportunities, ed. J.O. Ngana, Dar es Salaam 2001, pp. 104–117.

SOCIAL CULTURAL HABITS AND CLIMATE CHANGE...

Diminishing River Kiruwi in Mshiri Village

203

204

Ambiliasia Peniel Mosha, Steven Kauzeni

Diminishing River Una

Diminishing Morning Fog as viewed in Mshiri Village

PART II

BIOGRAPHIES

Chapter 6.

ANNA CICHECKA

GENDER AGENDA
AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA
ABSTRACT

The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment are indicated as essential elements of development. Put simply, it is pointed out
that development without “half of the population” – what means without
women – is impossible. Following this gender agenda one may observe that
the elimination of gender disparity and the strengthening of the organizations working for women’s rights are present in most developmental strategies for developing countries. This situation is also reflected in Tanzania.
At the same time, it is assumed that neopatrimonial political culture in
Tanzania has strongly affected the activities of the non-governmental sector
and has limited women’s movements ability to act independently and with
full access to autonomy, because the state authorities react violently and
with indignation to signs of oppositional voices. On the other hand, it is
visible that the Tanzanian women’s movements have used these obstacles
to strengthen their position in society, as well as in the public sphere. Thus,
it is worth examining the role of gender agenda with regard to the issue of
development and with local NGOs in Tanzania. The paper is based on an
analysis of the subject literature as well as field research and interviews
that the author has conducted with representatives of the NGO sector and
political circles in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The field research was funded
by a grant from the National Science Centre – PRELUDIUM 9 Number:
2015/17/N/HS5/00408 while the rest of the research was funded by
a grant from the University of Wroclaw Number 0401/2467/17.
ANNA CICHECKA – PhD Candidate, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute
of International Studies, University of Wroclaw, Poland.

208

Anna Cichecka

Key words: development, women’s rights, gender agenda, Tanzania.

Introduction
Interest in official developmental strategies increased after the
Second World War. However, an intensive debate on development has started at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, becoming
one of the most dominant discussions in international relations.
This situation was related to several historic cases, such as: the
appearance of the phenomenon called “fatigue aid,” the summary
of the decolonization decade as the “Lost Decade,” and the political transformation in Central and Eastern Europe. Moreover, in
response to the growing economic and political problems in the
global South, international institutions, such as the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have presented proposals for solutions. They initiated the Structural Adjustment
Program (SAP), whose general aims were economic liberalization
and political transformation towards democracy. These countries
which implemented SAP regulations could receive various forms
of financial assistance, including debt relief1.
As a consequence, two opposite trends emerged at the turn of
1980s. and 1990s. On the one hand, the indicators of global economic growth have increased. On the other, the gap between poor
and wealthy states has grown at an alarming rate, and millions
of people in developing countries adjusted to live on the verge of
poverty. In relation to this situation the discourse on development
has been complemented by issues related to hunger and indigence
– which have been defined as major developmental problems2.
Foreign aid and development: lessons learnt and directions for the future,
eds. F. Tarp and P. Hjertholm, London – New York 2000, pp. 80–83.
2
M.S. Grindle, Good Enough Governance: Poverty Reduction and Reform in
Developing Countries, „Governance”, 17(2004), no. 4, pp. 525–548.
1

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

209

Simultaneously, it has been noted that one of the most vulnerable
groups for these problems were women. This became an impulse for
the United Nations (UN) to start a debate on the role of gender in
development and to propose varied strategies dedicated to women’s
rights and empowerment, which have started to be called the “gender
agenda”. The UN assumed that development without “half of the
population” – what means without women – is impossible3.
Following this gender agenda one may observe that the elimination of gender disparity and strengthening the organizations
working for women’s rights are present in most developmental
strategies for developing countries. This situation is also reflected
in Tanzania. At the same time, it is assumed that neopatrimonial
political culture in Tanzania has strongly affected the activities of
the non-governmental sector and has limited women’s movements’
ability to act independently and with full access to autonomy,
because the state authorities react violently and with indignation
to signs of oppositional voices4. On the other hand, it is visible
that Tanzanian women’s movements have used these obstacles to
strengthen their position in society, as well as in the public sphere.
Thus, it is worth examining the role of gender agenda with regard
to the issue of development and with local NGOs in Tanzania.

Hypothesis and research questions
Preliminary research has led to opposite assumptions. On the one
hand, it can be observed that gender agenda is extremely popular
in Tanzania due to the great influence of the UN and because of
its unquestionable value for development. On the other hand, it
Millennium Development Goals, Available: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml, [Accessed: 29-Dec-2017].
4
African Women’s Movements. Changing Political Landscapes, ed. A.M. Tripp
[et al.], Cambridge – New York 2009, pp. 81–89.
3

210

Anna Cichecka

is stated that obviously the role of gender strategies is indispensable for economic growth but their implementation could not be
so successful without the engagement of local NGOs advocating
women’s rights.
Therefore, the author proposes a balanced hypothesis that the
gender agenda in Tanzania is considered as significant and needed
not only because of the rhetoric of international institutions – such
as the UN, but also because of the powerful forms of advocacy of
local NGOs – which guaranteed success and which have created
an impact as well. The author does not examine the role of gender
agenda in terms of the economy but investigates the narratives
about how these strategies have become popular.

Methodology
The paper refers to social constructivism theory5. Therefore,
the ideational and normative structures will be defined by the actors such as: international institutions, the UN, NGOs, women’s
movements, the state, the authorities, etc. The author undertakes
a comprehensive explanation of the relationship between the actors, as well as considering and understanding this phenomenon.
The research has been conducted by qualitative methods. The
first method is the analysis of the source materials and an analysis
of the subject literature. The author has also used an in-depth interview method during the field research conducted in Tanzania,
in 2015 and 2016. The groups of respondents have included:
representatives of women’s NGOs; representatives of public administration; representatives of academics and representatives
of business circles – a total of 29 interviews. All of these groups
received a set of questions adapted to the social role they play.
5

A. Wendt, Social theory of international politics, Cambridge – New York 1999.

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

211

The way of asking the questions has allowed for free responses.
All of the respondents have been questioned about the meanings,
interests and objectives of gender agenda and the NGOs activities in general. The field research was funded by a grant from the
National Science Centre – PRELUDIUM 9 Number: 2015/17/N/
HS5/00408 while the rest of the research was funded by a grant
from the University of Wroclaw Number 0401/2467/17.
In order to test the hypothesis, the author has used the following
research methods: a critical survey of the literature and a critical
analysis. The aim of the first part of this paper is to characterize
narratives about the effectiveness and popularity of gender agenda
in developmental strategies on the basis of the literature sources,
whereas the aim of the second part is to investigate the perception
of respondents, who have been interviewed by the author, and to
present their beliefs about the omnipresence of gender strategies in
developmental programs in Tanzania. The last part includes a brief
comparison of these two attitudes and gives a summary as well.

The explanation of gender agenda popularity
in Tanzania proposed in the literature
Among the most important authors, whose publications are linked
to the issue of gender agenda and development, are: A.M. Tripp,
A. Kiondo, C. Mercer, C.G. Ishengoma, A. Ellis, M. Blackden, J. Cutura, F. MacCulloh, H. Seebens, and R. Pinkney and S. Feinstein and
N.C. D ‚errico. It is worth to note that this list is obviously much
longer, yet the analysis of the positions published by the authors
indicated above may serve as a basic point for further examination. A.M. Tripp describes the women’s movements in East Africa
and examines their impact on socio-political changes in the state6.
6

African Women’s Movements. Changing Political Landscapes, op. cit.

212

Anna Cichecka

A. Kiondo discusses varied issues linked to the NGO sector in Tanzania, paying special attention to the historical background and
the factors that have shaped this sector7 – similarly to C. Mercer8.
C.G. Ishengoma analyzes the activity of NGOs at local level, emphasizing the influence of external actors, authorities, the Church
and donors9. A. Ellis, M. Blackden, J. Cutura, F. MacCulloh and
H. Seebens analyze the relationship between the rising of women’s
movements in Tanzania and the process of economic development,
as well as social and political transformation10. R. Pinkney characterizes the NGO sector in sub-Saharan Africa in general11. S. Feinstein
and N.C. D’errico describe the socio-political situation of women in
Tanzania, taking into account historical and cultural dependencies,
as well as analyzing the basic legal provisions relating to the issue
of discrimination12.
Despite differences between the research areas favored by these
authors, all of them assume that when it comes to the establishment
of gender agenda, the UN deserves special attention. Firstly, they
emphasize the significance of four world conferences on women
organized by the UN in Mexico City, in 1975; in Copenhagen in
1980; in Nairobi; in 1985; and in Beijing, in 1995 and perceive this
A. Kiondo, F. Mtatifikolo, Developing and Sustaining NGOs in Tanzania.
Challenges and Opportunities in the New Millennium, Dar es Salaam 1999.
8
C. Mercer, Reconceptualizing state-society relations in Tanzania: are NGOs
“making a difference”?, „Area”, 31(1999), no. 3, pp. 247–258.
9
C.G. Ishengoma, Accessibility of Resources by Gender: The Case of Morogoro
Region in Tanzania, in: Gender, Economies and Entitlements in Africa, ed. E. AnnanYao [et al.], Dakar 2004.
10
Gender and economic growth in Tanzania: creating opportunities for women,
ed. A. Ellis, Washington 2007.
11
R. Pinkney, ‘NGOs, Africa and the global order’, NGOs, Africa and The Global
Order, Basingstoke 2009.
12
S. Feinstein and N.C. D’Errico, Tanzanian women in their own words: stories
of disability and illness, Lanham 2010.
7

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

213

set of events as the basic incentive for women’s movements worldwide to start the battle against discrimination13. They also agree
that when it comes to Tanzania and other sub-Saharan countries
the most important was the conference in Nairobi. Secondly, they
notice that the UN has contributed to the implementation of gender
agenda to the developmental debate, announcing that there would
be “no development without empowerment”. According to this
statement, development without gender equality is impossible as
discrimination against women has a negative influence on society
in general as women’s work and intellectual capacities (the same
as men’s) are essential factors in the process of economic growth
and strengthening development14.
A.M. Tripp, A. Kiondo, C. Mercer and C.G. Ishengoma have
emphasized that the establishment of gender agenda may be
treated as a merit of the UN but at the same time, one should be
aware of the mobilization of Tanzanian women’s movements at
that time and their influence on popularizing of gender strategies
in the state. In general, however, it may be assumed that the main
discourse in the literature seems to favor the UN part, neglecting
the role of local initiatives.
The next point is that all of the authors consider the breaking
point as the turn of 1980s and 1990s. They find that the implementation of gender agenda in developmental strategies in Tanzania
as well as its popularization in the state was possible due to the
13
A.M. Tripp, Political reform in Tanzania: The struggle for associational autonomy, „Comparative Politics”, 32(2000), no. 2, pp. 191–214.
14
One of the documents that underlined this issue is the Alternative Declaration, prepared by the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum in Copenhagen.
The Declaration mentions the necessity of revising existing development policies
and turning to greater social, political and economic participation of women.
C. Thomas, Ubóstwo, rozwój i głód, in: Globalizacja polityki światowej. Wprowadzenie do stosunków międzynarodowych, red. J. Baylis, S. Smith, Kraków 2008.

214

Anna Cichecka

transformation initiated by the World Bank and the IMF. Thus, the
accent falls again on the influence of external pressure – coming from
international institutions (such as the UN, the World Bank, the IMF,
the Commonwealth), which has mobilized regional organizations
(such as the African Union, United Nations Economic Commission
for Africa, SADC, ECOWAS) and eventually have encouraged local
initiatives to take action15. The above-mentioned institutions have
been focusing their attention on democratization, human rights,
development and developmental aid at that time16. The pressure to
implement specific strategies in these areas has been spreading and
influencing the status of gender agenda twofold. On the one hand,
developmental strategies simply included provisions dedicated to
gender equality and very often have made developmental funds
conditional on the observance of women’s rights. On the other hand,
even if developmental programs have not prioritized the gender
agenda directly they have emphasized the necessity of economic
liberalization and democratization. Subsequently, these processes
have been creating the space for women’s movements advocating the
strength of gender agenda in institutional structures in the state17.
The SAPs may serve as a good example.
Moreover, the literature sources highlighted the great influence
of international institutions on legislative changes. It is assumed
that external organizations have forced the ratification of international commitments dedicated to strengthening women’s rights. It
is also assumed that they have been encouraging regional and local
actors to fight for legal system transformation18. At the same time
African Women’s Movements. Changing Political Landscapes, op. cit., p. 62–68.
C. Thomas, Ubóstwo, rozwój i głód, op. cit.
17
P. Norris, C. Welzel, and R. Inglehart, Gender Equality and Democracy,
„Comparative Sociology”, 1(2002), no. 3, pp. 321–345.
18
C. Mercer, Reconceptualizing state-society relations in Tanzania..., op. cit.,
pp. 247–258.
15

16

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

215

one should be aware that signing of international agreements has
rarely meant the fast implementation of provisions. Nevertheless,
the acceptance of the proposed contracts is perceived as unequivocal19 with the acceptance of gender strategies20.
The last dominant narrative on gender agenda emphasized the
role of external donors. It is pointed out that the growth of the
developmental aid sector has enabled NGOs advocating gender
agenda in Tanzania to become independent from the authorities
and the ruling party’s funds21. A.M. Tripp dedicates much attention
to this issue. Although the number of grants for women’s activity
African Women’s Movements. Changing Political Landscapes, op. cit., p. 217–229.
Among the most important international agreements are indicated: the
United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination
Against Women – CEDAW, 1979; Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the
Advancement of Women, 1985; Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform
for Action; Cairo Declaration on Population and Development – ICPD, 1994;
Universal Declaration on Democracy, 1997; Millennium Declaration and Development Goals – MDGs, 2000; Resolution 1325, 2000; Protocol to the African
Charter on the Rights of Women, 2003; Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality
in Africa – SDGEA, 2004; Resolution 1820, 2006; Ouagadougou Action Plan to
Combat Trafficking In Human Beings, Especially Women and Children, 2006.
21
Among the most important sources of funds are indicated: 1. Public Foundations: ActionAid, the Foundation for International Community Assistance
(FINCA), the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries
(HIVOS), Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Oxfam;
2. Bilateral donors: Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the
Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the Japan International
Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), USAID;
3. Multilateral institutions: the European Development Fund, the United Nations
Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World
Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO); 4. Special funds for women: African Women’s Development Fund, Global Fund for Women; 5. Private funds;
6. Foundations: McKnight Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation; 7. Local government; 8. The business sector.
19

20

216

Anna Cichecka

has decreased since 2000, previous years had significantly changed
the behavior patterns of local NGOs. Firstly, external funds have
contributed to the quantitative and qualitative increase of NGOs
advocating women’s rights. Secondly, as donors have preferred
cooperation with NGOs to national governments and have been
favoring relations with NGOs, then as a consequence many NGOs
have been adapting the donor’s agendas. On the one hand, it simply
maximized the chance of receiving the funds. On the other hand,
it has strengthened the gender agenda at local level22.
To conclude this part of the paper, one may observe that the
dominant narratives about gender agenda in literature sources put
emphasis on the importance of external influence. It seems that
international institutions have had a great impact on the actor’s
behavior patterns on a local level and have shaped the dynamic of
changes. The role of Tanzanian organizations has been not omitted
but definitely less attention has been paid to them in comparison
with the global entities.

The gender agenda in local narratives in Tanzania
It has been assumed above that the dominant narratives about
gender agenda in the literature refer in particular to several points
and events, which according to these narratives, may be perceived
as significant for strengthening gender strategies. Among them
are indicated: a set of conferences on women organized by the
UN; the UN declaration that gender equality is an essential part of
development; political and economic transformation set down by
the SAPs; international institutions’ commitment to the legislature
changes on a local level; and the role of external donors in financial
support for local NGOs advocating women’s rights. This section
22

African Women’s Movements. Changing Political Landscapes, op. cit., p. 101–106.

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

217

is dedicated to examining how the above-mentioned rhetoric – if
it does – correlates with the perception of representatives of the
NGO sector in Tanzania.
According to the first point – the importance of conferences
organized by the UN – all respondents declared the same, that they
have perceived this set of events as significant, emphasizing the
special status of the conference in Nairobi. For a number of reasons
meeting in Nairobi turned out to be ground-breaking for Tanzania.
Firstly, the location on the African continent had a symbolic and
practical meaning. On the one hand, the urgency of the situation
of African women has been underlined. On the other hand, these
measures enabled women’s associations, which due to financial
reasons could not afford to participate in conferences outside of
the continent, to send their representatives to neighboring Nairobi.
Secondly, the meeting ended with the adoption of the Nairobi
Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women – an
important document that provided directions for the implementation of gender strategies at national levels23.
At the same time, however, respondents have accented that
although the influence coming from the UN could not be overestimated, it was not the only one important factor in the process
of strengthening gender agenda in the state. The conference in
Nairobi triggered the atmosphere of mobilization and became an
incentive for women’s associations but the need for changes had
existed before and merely appeared at this culmination moment
(Interviews with Dr Rose Shayo, 2015; Rehema Msami, 2015, Profesor Severine M. Rugumamu, 2015; Anna Kikwa, 2016; Ngunga
Tepani, 2016; and Mary Rusimbi, 2016). As an example may serve
Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of
the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development, and Peace, Nairobi,
15–16 July 1985, New York 1986.
23

218

Anna Cichecka

the case of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA).
This organization was established after the conference in Nairobi,
in 1987 but one should be aware that TAMWA’s founders24 had
been advocating women’s rights before that meeting. In a similar
way to other representatives of women’s associations in Tanzania
at that time (TAMWA). Moreover, one of the first initiatives dedicated to gender equality was launched much earlier, in 1978. It
was The Women’s Research and Documentation Project, initially
operating as an informal feminist student’s group and eventually
an important center for data collecting and analyzing25. Therefore,
it may be assumed that the main narrative at this point emphasizes
the role of local initiatives in popularizing gender strategies on
a national level.
Yet, the UN merits for the implementation of gender agenda to
developmental rhetoric in general seem to be almost uncontested.
Respondents agree that nothing could happen without the engagement of local associations but at the same time they recognize the
importance of external pressure (Interview with Dr Rose Shayo,
2015). Due to their well-developed structures international institutions were what had the power to initiate debate and create the
discourse on current global issues. Obviously, this discourse may
be treated as some kind of response to problems and needs but
simultaneously, it has been a driving force for shaping the behavior
patterns at regional and local levels.
Similarly to the narrative in the subject literature, the respondents find out the breaking point as the turn of 1980s and 1990s
and link it with economic and political transformation as well. It is
The founders of TAWMA were: Fatma Alloo, Edda Sanga, Leila Sheikh,
Rose Hajia and Ananile Nkya.
25
R. Meena and M. Mbilinyi, Women’s Research and Documentation Project
(Tanzania), „Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society”, 16(1991), no. 4,
pp. 852–859.
24

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

219

assumed that the reforms initiated by SAPs have transformed not
only the economic and political sphere but have also strengthened
social activity. It should be noted however that the formal change
of a one-party state system to a multi-party has not been equal
to the removal of previous political behavior patterns. It meant,
among others, the consistent dominance of centralized power and
limited space for opposition and the non-governmental activity26.
Thus, it is worth asking the question how gender agenda has
become important in such a difficult political realm. While the
literature sources suggest that it was possible due to the influence
of external institutions, the dominant narrative of interviewed
respondents underlines the importance of local organizations advocating women’s rights and their forms of advocacy, such as: the
watchdog method, creating coalitions and cooperation with the
media (Interview with Sabetha Mwambenja, 2016). Accordingly,
the emergence of gender agenda may be perceived as the process
which has become apparent in international relations because
of the pressure coming from international institutions – what simultaneously has been a response to current affairs at the global,
regional and local levels; but ultimately has been grounded in
the state because of great engagement of local non-governmental
initiatives whose knowledge about domestic obstacles has enabled
them to lobby for changes effectively.
When it comes to the legislative changes, research has acknowledged the influence of international institutions. It is assumed
that international commitments have contributed to more intensive debates on the gender issue in Tanzania. Subsequently, this
discussion about women’s rights is perceived as ground-breaking
as firstly, it has confronted authority with previously neglecting
C. Mercer, Reconceptualizing state-society relations in Tanzania..., op. cit.,
pp. 247–258.
26

220

Anna Cichecka

social needs. And secondly, it has questioned the legitimacy of the
patriarchal model of the family that has been deeply ingrained in
tradition and beliefs (Interview with Dr Rose Shayo).
Most respondents confirm the great role of external donors
in the process of emphasizing gender agenda in the state. They
underline that both the programs of financial support for NGOs
and developmental strategies for the government simply included
the provisions about gender equality and in this way they have
determined the possibility of receiving the funds, making these
funds conditional on the acceptance of provisions dedicated to
women’s rights. At the same time, however, it is worth to mention
that respondents rarely perceive this relation with donors as based
on partnership and accent that the priorities of donors very often
differ from local needs (Interview with Mary Rusimbi, 2016).
In summary, it may be noted that the dominant narrative about
gender agenda among respondents emphasizes the importance of
local initiatives. It is also worth noting that during these interviews
additional issues also emerged, such as: weak cooperation between
NGOs advocating women’s rights and the business sector.

Conclusion
To conclude, it may be assumed that the results of the above
analysis have proved the hypothesis proposed in this paper.
Firstly, it has been demonstrated that the recognition of the role
of gender agenda among respondents differs from the perception
presented in the literature sources. While the literature emphasizes
the influence of external actors, then the respondents underline
the significance of local initiatives and accent their contribution
to the adopting of gender strategies in the state. Secondly, respondents state that powerful forms of advocacy of local NGOs
guaranteed success.

GENDER AGENDA AND DEVELOPMENT IN TANZANIA

221

Simultaneously, it may be stated that as gender agenda was
a part of many developmental strategies, thus NGOs advocating
these gender provisions have played also an important role in the
process of development. Therefore, it seems that the dynamic of
changes have been affected not only by the ideas coming from
international structures but also from regional and national levels.
REFERENCES

African Women’s Movements. Changing Political Landscapes, ed. A.M. Tripp
[et al.], Cambridge – New York 2009.
Feinstein S., D’errico N.C. , Tanzanian women in their own words: stories
of disability and illness, Lanham 2010.
Foreign aid in historical perspective: Background and trends, in: Foreign
Aid and Development: Lessons Learnt and Directions for the Future, eds.
F. Tarp, P. Hjertholm, London – New York 2000.
Gender and economic growth in Tanzania: creating opportunities for women,
ed. A. Ellis, Washington 2007.
Grindle M., Good enough governance: poverty reduction and reform in
developing countries, „Governance”, 17(2004), no. 4, pp. 525–548.
Inglehart R., Norris P. and Welzel Ch., Gender Equality and Democracy,
„Comparative Sociology”, 1(2002), no. 3, pp. 321–345.
Ishengoma C.G., Accessibility of Resources by Gender: The Case of Morogoro
Region in Tanzania, in: Gender, Economies and Entitlements in Africa,
ed. E. Annan-Yao [et al.], Dakar 2004.
Kiondo A., Mtatifikolo F., Developing and Sustaining NGOs in Tanzania.
Challenges and Opportunities in the New Millennium, Dar es Salaam
1999.
Meena R., Mbilinyi M., Women’s Research and Documentation Project (Tanzania), „Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society”, 16(1991),
no. 4, pp. 852–859.

222

Anna Cichecka

Mercer C. Reconceptualizing state-society relations in Tanzania: are NGOs
“making a difference”?, „Area”, 31(1999), no. 3, pp. 247–258.
Pinkney R., NGOs, Africa and The Global Order, Basingstoke 2009.
Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements
of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development, and
Peace, Nairobi, 15–16 July 1985, New York 1986.
Thomas C., Ubóstwo, rozwój i głód, in: Globalizacja polityki światowej.
Wprowadzenie do stosunków międzynarodowych, red. J. Baylis, S. Smith,
Kraków 2008.
Tripp A.M., Political reform in Tanzania: The struggle for associational
autonomy, „Comparative Politics”, 32(2000), no. 2, pp. 191–214.
Millennium Development Goals [Online]; http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml (Aug 10, 2017).
Wendt A., Social Theory of International Politics, Cambridge – New York
1999.
Interviews with: Dr Rose Shayo, 2015; Rehema Msami, 2015, Profesor
Severine M. Rugumamu, 2015; Anna Kikwa, 2016; Ngunga Tepani,
2016; and Mary Rusimbi, 2016, Sabetha Mwambenja, 2016.

Chapter 7.

ANNA WIECZORKIEWICZ

“BLACK WOMEN”
AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION
ABSTRACT

How can theories support, obstruct and determine understanding
and developing of various cultural subjects? I am going to approach
this question by analyzing the biographies of two women who are called
black: Saartije Baartman and Waris Dirie. These biographies have been
told in many ways, for various reasons and for different purposes; they
have been involved in ideological, political, scientific, and also popular
culture discourses. In the perspective proposed by this article, biography
is not conceived as the sequence of successive objective facts but as
a cultural construct defined by many factors (social, political, etc.). This
construct is variable and may occur in many variants, however, a specific
horizon of cultural imagination, established in the particular time and
place, stimulates creating certain types of biographical narratives. The
juxtaposition of these cases may disclose more meanings than a single
analysis of an isolated biography.

I will discuss how biographies become effective persuasive tools
for negotiating and contesting different opinions and convictions.
However, my intention is also to present a reverse of this interaction: certain theoretical orders (e.g. postcolonial theory, feminism)
can ideologize and influence the biographies, providing both
ANNA WIECZORKIEWICZ – Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw.

224

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

a language and a rhetorical frame for expressing experiences and
emotions. In this way, theories can colonize biographies.
My point of departure may seem trivial: I will start from the
landscape of popular culture which may be defined as Western and
global. I have chosen them because they exemplify the effects of processing, combining and using values and opinions of various origin.
My examples come from feature films which claim biographical and
historical accuracy; in each case, though, the reliability is established
on a different basis. (In the first case, the basis is a careful reproduction of the historical period and even incorporating quotation from
authentic scientific text to the movie; in the second case, the script
is based on the autobiographical book of the female protagonist
and it was adapted to the movie with her approval)
Let’s juxtapose two scenes from two different movies:
A well-endowed woman is turning around to the rhythm of the
music that seems as wild as she herself is savage. Her red costume
is tightly wrapped around her body, her legs are bent, she stuck
her bottom in the air, her head is lowered. She is jumping; just
a moment ago, she was tamed by a whip of a trainer who had led
her – thrashing about and grinning her teeth – into the salon. She
has showed, however, that she was not an animal. She has imitated
playing the instruments, she could even produce a melody. And
now she is dancing – wildly and passionately. Everybody in the
salon is captured by the spirit of the dance.
We are in Paris at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
After the performance, elegant ladies in beautiful dresses offer
some champagne to the savage girl and try to start a conversation with her. None of them would like to be like her. Watching
her helps the viewers to feel in their own skin better than usual.
A black woman is walking on the catwalk – she is so beautiful and self-confident that you cannot take your eyes off her.
Just a moment ago, she was wearing a niqab and only her eyes

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

225

were flashing through the narrow opening in the fabric. She has
dropped it, and she was immediately transformed into a bride in
a white dress. This is only the beginning of her metamorphoses:
one garment immediately changes into another; each of them offers a new version of the woman. But there is something solid in
the core of all these changes – a firm core that seems to be fully
controlled by the woman.
This event takes place at the turn of the 20th and 21st century
in the Western culture area.
Both pictures show one black woman performing in front of the
Western public; the first one comes from the movie “Venus Noire”
(2010), the second one from “Desert Flower” (2009). Their juxtaposition may suggest the optimistic message about an oppressed
individual (symbolized by the black woman) who is able to gain
freedom and to take control of both her own life and the way in
which it is told. This rhetorical procedure would be just a simplistic
application of the feminist and the postcolonial studies discourses.
However, it can be also treated as a tool for focusing certain
predicaments of culture; it helps to analyze the complex mechanism
of contesting meanings and values.
When talking about development, we should not skip this issue,
because it shows determinants of the discourse that aspires to be
inter-cultural. I have started with the examples of the popular culture,
because on this ground, we can easily observe the effect of processing, combining and using values and opinions of various origins.
However, this is a part of a much broader issue and other examples
can be found also in academic, political and artistic discourses.
The protagonist of “Venus Noire” is known under the name
Saartjie Baartman or Sarah Bartman. A name which was given to
her in her native language remains unknown. She was Khoikhoi
(who were called by European colonizers Hottentots). She was
brought from the Cape of Good Hope to London in 1810 by Doc-

226

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

tor Alexander Dunlop. That man started displaying her in public
shows under her scenic name „Hottentot Venus”. The role which
she was forced to play inevitably evoked the senses of wildness,
sexuality, excess. These associations worked not only in entertainment enterprises in which she was engaged, but also in scientific
ones, as she has become a handy example for academics who were
considering races, human origins, or more general – the order of
nature. She was also used as an example in abolitionist struggle
against slavery; the fact that she was on display could serve as
a spectacular argument against colonial exploitation.
In 1814, the show was moved to Paris; at the end of 1815,
Sartjie died. Then, the autopsy was carried out on her corpse.
The scientific reports from this event, which were prepared by
Georges Cuvier and Henry de Blainville, where considered very
useful sources by many academics, although they used them in
various ways and for various purposes.
Her skeleton and plaster cast from her body were placed in the
Museum of Natural History in Paris, alongside two other human
skeletons and many specimens of comparative anatomy. Later,
they were moved to the Musée de l’Homme which was opened in
Paris in 1937. A visitor could see the plaster cast figure from the
profile (this arrangement exposed the steatopygic shape); next to
her, a skeleton was also exposed and a photograph of African men
and women above1. In the 1970s, Saartjie Bartmaan’s exhibition
was moved to museum storerooms as a result of growing feminist
criticism2. (However, it was exhibited in 1994 at a temporary exhibition devoted to the nineteenth-century ethnographic sculpture
which was organized by the Orsay Museum.)
Sadiah Qureshi, Displaying Sara Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus’, „History
of Science”, 42(2004), p. 246.
2
Ibidem, p. 245 et seq.
1

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

227

In fact, the posthumous life of Saartjie Baartman was as spectacular and dramatic as her biography as a living person. Her
career as a museum specimen was parallel to her career as a key
case in various scientific theories. Sometimes, these two lines
of life were intertwined. For example, in his famous essay “The
Hottentot Venus”, Stephen Gould (paleontologist, evolutionary
biologist and historian of science) described the moment when
he found “the brain of Paull Broca floating in Formalin in a bell
jar” in the Musée de l’Homme storage 3 and then, he continues the
story:”I saw the dissected genitalia of three Third-World women,
I found no brains of women, and neither Broca’s penis nor any
male genitalia grace the collection.
Three jars are labeled une négresse, une péruvienne, and la
Vénus Hottentotte, or the Hottentot Venus”4. After this finding,
Gould wrote an article about Cuvier and Cuvier’s study which was
published in “Mémoires du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle”. Gould
interpreted that study as an example of the nineteenth-century
mentality: observations were fitted into frameworks of a presumed
theory, but also beliefs and fantasies5.
Gould’s essay stimulated Baartham’s posthumous career as
a crucial example in many theoretical studies. In the 20th century,
S.J. Gould, The Hottentot Venus, in: The Flamingo’s Smile, London – New
York – Victoria – Toronto – Auckland 1991, p. 291.
4
Ibidem, p. 292.
5
Gould points out that this practice is not extraordinary: ‘If earlier scientists cast
the Khoi-San people as approximations to the lower primates, they now rank among
the heroes of modern social movements. Their languages, with complex click, were
once dismissed as a guttural farrago of beastly sounds. They are now widely admired
for their complexity and subtle expression. Cuvier had stigmatized the huntergatherer life styles of the traditional San (Bushmen) as the ultimate degradation
of a people too stupid and indolent to farm or raise cattle. The same people have
become models of righteousness to modern ecoactivists for their understanding,
nonexploitive, and balanced approach to natural resources.’ (Ibidem, p. 300).
3

228

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

Saartjie became the iconic example of a “black woman” in the
feminist discourse. That time, she was discoursively blackened.
Previously, Hotentots were not considered Negros (who were perceived black by Western people). Cuvier (in his reports she was
actually called “Bushman”, not a Hottentot) – described her as
yellow-brown (La coleur générale de peau étoit d’un brun-jaunâtre,
presque foncée que celle de son visage6).
Her biography was also useful for postcolonial studies, and, last
but not least, for the South African political discourse. In 2002, her
remains were returned to South Africa, as a result of negotiations
at the government level. Her remains were buried ceremonially
and she was called the mother of the nation. Thus, the identity
of a “museum object” was replaced by the status of the “ancestor
of the nation”.
The idea that “Saartjie Baartman is the most famous and most
respected South African icon of the colonial era”7 was expressed
in many ways in various articles and books. It is worth mentioning that she was not the only African subjected to posthumous
anatomical investigation in the nineteenth century, nor was she
the only exhibition of an exotic person as a curiosity.
Her biographers expressed the regret that her voice can never
be heard, and that she can be known only from messages produced by other people. In the second example, the woman seems
to surpass this restriction – the narratives about her (which are
often created by herself) expose her agency. The protagonist of
the second movie mentioned at the beginning, Waries Dirie seems
to surpass this restriction.
G. Cuvier, Faites sur le cadaver, d’une femme cunnue à Paris et à Londres sous
le nom de Vénus Hottentotte, „Mémoires du Musée nationale d’histoire naturelle”,
3(1817), p. 265.
7
R. Holmes R., African Queen. The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus, New York
2007, p. XIV.
6

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

229

The Somali woman, top-model, author, actress and human rights
activist struggling against female genital mutilation – tells about
her life herself. She speaks publicly, she publishes books about her
life and about her social activities. She presents her own biography
in such a way that it seems to embody vital narrative patterns,
but she also suggests that she controls the meaning which are
conveyed by the narratives. The narratives about her (which are
often created by herself or consulted with her) expose her agency.
For example, in one of her books “Letter to my Mother”, the
epistolary form is used as a specific tool of therapy and the therapy
is understood in the framework of the Western therapeutic culture.
In this letter, Waris says that everything that happened to her may
seem like a fairy tale. For the sake of the tale, the world of her
childhood is exoticized. However, just at the point where the tale
should end, the ultimate sense of the story is reversed. The narrator proposes a new story: she says that the “Happy End” is the
false ending. In fact, the scene of her spectacular success is only
an artificial world of illusory and deceptive values. In this way,
she seizes the power over her biographical narrative.
However, her narrative is open to various other meanings. The
movie “Desert Flower” (which was consulted with Waris) reverses
the biographical sequence which was told in the book. The story
begins in London. It is true that the opening shots present the
picturesque Africa and some equally picturesque childhood scenes,
but then, the viewer is redirected to the luxury department store
in London and the young Waris, dressed in African way, who feels
completely lost among the abundance of Western women’s clothes.
The change in the narrative order points to the place where
the story begins and also suggests that it is where the conceptual
perspective is constructed. It is in London where this Waris, who
would be able to express her life, is born and who turns her life
story into a manifesto in defense of all the girls and women who

230

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

are being harmed. It influences the interpretation of the source
of moral categories.
Many articles and interviews referred to the figure of Cinderella
to interpret Waris’ biography, and at the same time, they employed
the language of therapeutic culture to tell about overcoming the
childhood’s trauma and emancipation. However, it should be mentioned that in her latest book “Safa”, Waris explicitly says that the
Cinderella story is not the proper point of reference. She wants her
biographical narrative, and especially the movie “Desert Flower,”
to be the weapon in the fight against FGM.
Waris describes herself as the embodied message which circulates between two worlds. The two motifs which are crucial for the
persuasive power of the message are: the visible beauty of the body
and the hidden scar in an intimate part of her body. The meanings
associated with these motives are subjected to changes, depending
on the discursive area in which they occur. From the rhetorical
point of view, we can ask: who is the agent of these changes? Is it
so that only by obtaining the (Western) tools of self-understanding
the African woman can get access to her intimate experience and
also to express it? Or, is it so that by entering a new culture she
also lets new meanings to be inscribed into her body according to
this culture’s order?
These questions can’t be answered unambiguously because the
answer depends on the perspective in which the question is posed.
(The psychological perspective is directed towards the individual’s
experiences, whereas the anthropological one focuses on the predicament of cultural processes, or the inter-cultural relationship.)
In the following passage, I will use another juxtaposition to
present the problematic status of the notions which are used in
biographical narratives.
The episode of the movie “Desert Flower” when Waris is posing
for photos for Pirelli calendar is very meaningful: she is extremely

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

231

uncomfortable when she is asked to undress herself and to expose
her body in front of the photographic lens, but the photographer is
so patient and delicatethat she overcomes her embarrassment and
starts posing; and soon she starts doing it with joy. Her nakedness
transforms in nude presented in black and white photography. This
scene can be interpreted as the image of the liberation of a woman
who regains her body (even if she is instructed by others on how
to use specific gestures.)
The counterpart to this episode is the scene from “Venus Noire”:
In 1815, a few French scientists forced Saarthjie to pose naked in
order to examine her body and to prepare the visual documentation of the research. (In fact, the project was not fully successful
because they could not see famous sinus pudoris – Saartjie did
not want to get rid of the handkerchief, which she managed to
use for covering her most intimate parts.) Though in both cases
there is the issue of presenting a nude female “object” in front of
a white male spectator, the meanings of these episodes are opposing each other. Saartjie does not overcome her reluctance; she
is forced and suppressed. In her case, nakedness is humiliating in
all its versions, even if it was “only” designed as a stage costume.
(During some performances, Saartije wore tight-fitting skin color
costume that suggested that she was rather naked than dressed).
In this case, nakedness is the motif that supports discourse about
oppression.
The movie “Venus Noire” adds one more episode to strengthen
the nakedness-humiliation association: a rape during the private
performance in Paris. Saartjie lies on her back, her legs are spread
and the trainer encourages the public to touch the intimate parts
of her body. She starts to cry. The boundary between staged and
off-stage humiliation is broken. Then, she has only prostitution
and lonely death coming. The movie indicates that she was raped
many times and in many meanings – physically ad symbolically.

232

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

On the contrary, the ‘Desert Flower’ episode of undressing
a woman to nudity works for the discourse of liberation (though
in both cases the female body is exposed to the male viewer and
then presented in images that has exotic and erotic flavor.) This
can be interpreted in the perspective of issues of control over expressing various contents, notions, values. The space for expression
is created by the tension between various concepts of femininity,
exoticism, otherness which are held by various social actors like
scientists, politicians, doctors, artists, fashion designers.
The ‘calendar girl’ does not want to be trapped within the boundaries established by the therapeutic culture society. She changes the
persuasive direction of the manifesto of being sexy, and replaces the
narrative of individual happiness and pleasure by another one – about
the hidden suffering. The fact that she arrives from the non-western
world (which means: from the world of other values) makes the
meanings associated with this event even broader. With no clothes,
dressed in art only, she seems to be more emancipated and freer
than Western women. Paradoxically, these associations confirm the
western strategies of individual self-determination that are crucial
to the Western culture of narcissism. In this perspective, the liberation gesture is employed in the order of Western rites de passage.
Over time, she changes the meaning of this rite by adding
another dimension to it. This happens when, after revealing her
secret of circumcision, she begins to work for other girls and women
who do not have her power. She manages to find the discursive
space where the matter of sexuality is a political and legal issue.
However, she is successful because the personal and intimate
dimension of her story is maintained.
The act of converting the private into the public allows Waris
to speak about sexuality in the high style, but it also changes the
meaning of her intimate experience. Her past individual suffering
is used to build a better world for the others. This may be inter-

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

233

preted as regaining the right to what was taken of Saartjie – to
her body, her sexuality, her intimate story.
However, the episode of Waris’ posing may be interpreted in one
more way. The photo is black and white. Artistic asceticism stresses
what – as one might think – is inscribed in nature: the black female
body is beautifully drawn on the white background. However, Waris
is black in so far as we decide her to be black. When she is presented
in pictures, her skin may have various shades, mostly it is brownish
or olive. She is posed in the way which allows to expose the narrow
nose, slender silhouette. Unlike in the case of Hotentock Venus,
her pictured beauty does not damage Western aesthetic canons.
Spectacular attractiveness of Saartjie consisted in her non-western
body shape, whereas Waris is arranged as a black woman framed by
occidental beauty canons. In fact, the movie episode of posing may
serve as the illustration to Dean McCannell’s article “White Culture”:
the black woman is presented on the white culture background8. As
much as the shape of Saartjie’s body determined its spectacularness,
the monstrosity of the black model’s biography was not immediately
apparent – whether and when it would be explored and in what
light – it would be decided by Waris herself. For the time being,
however, her body is arranged by the photographer, captured by
a convention, to be occidentalized. This scene could be an illustration of Dean MacCannell’s text “White Culture”: “Black Woman”
appears on the white culture background.
“We can never see her except through the eyes of the white
men who described her”9 – Anne Fausto-Sterling stated about
8
D. MacCannell, White Culture, in: Empty Meeting Grounds. The Tourist Papers, London 1992.
9
A. Fausto-Sterling, Gender, Race, and Natiom: The Comparative Anatomy of
“Hottentot” Woman in Europe, 1815–1817, in: Deviant Bodies. Critical Perspectives
on Difference in Science and Popular Culture, eds. J. Terry, J. Urla, Bloomington
– Indianapolis 1995, p. 31.

234

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

“Hottentott Venus”. This argument is very clear in the feminist
discourse about Bartmann.
Actually, the same statement could be made about Waris Dirie,
the model who is created by the camera of a white man. Her body
is given proper poses and gestures, and then she can be exposed
to the public. But on the other hand, this statement cannot be
referred to Waris in unconditional way, since she herself seems to
decide about the selection of facts which compose her biography:
she publishes books, she addresses in UN meetings in defense of
all the women who were or could be subjected to FGM. She speaks
as the one who managed to escape from the paternalistic authority thanks to her own courage, strong will, resistance, and then
started to feel and act in a new way as a free individual.
However: if she had not met the photographer. Or rather: if he
had not discovered her...
In fact, there are two contesting streams of interpretation which
are equally well grounded. And it is not just the matter of glamor
pictures, of wearing western clothes etc. The core question is: what
triggers the process of reorganization of perceiving and sensing
woman’s own body and interpreting her experiences? It seems (it
is the suggestion which results from all versions of her life story)
that if she had not joined the fashion world, if she had not become
an icon of success, she would not be able to express her feelings
and opinions on the official agenda. She would not be able to make
such a spectacular and persuasive self-expression, if a conceptual
language had not existed that involved values recognized as global
and superior to other languages.
When Fausto-Sterling writes that we can only see Saartjie
through the eyes of others (that is of the white men), she means
that we do not really know what her own feelings and thoughts
were. We can only get the access to the second-hand reports of
scientists or journalists. It is not the case of Waris who strives to

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

235

control narratives about herself. What is seen “through the eyes of
men” is the body of a beautiful model presented in carefully posed
photographic images (which, of course, may be interpreted as
reflections of male desire). What she considers to be the essential
truth about herself is expressed in the narratives signed by her
own name (even if her books are written in a cooperation with
co-authors). Yet, the discourse about the oppression is generated
by the mechanism which is much more complex than the viewer/
viewed person opposition.
As a matter of fact, the essential questions are more general:
how are the conditions for constructing expressible experiences and
feeling constructed on the multicultural ground? How to define
a situation when one culture offers conceptual and institutional
tools for naming their specific experiences to other cultures and
how to associate them with specific values? It is not only the
matter of expressing ideas, but also of instructing people how to
experience their own biographies, how to interpret and evaluate
past and present experiences and how to project future and endow
it with meanings.
It may be tempting to present the juxtaposition of these biographies as the optimistic exemplum of the process of emancipation of
marginalized subjects: the surgery which Waris undergoes, restores
to black woman the organs which were taken from Saartjie’s body.
Public “confession” of Waris may be interpreted as reclaiming the
ability to speak with one’s own voice which was suppressed in
Saartjie’s case. Even nudity may be employed in this rhetoric: at
the photographic image, Waris is nude, not naked.
Saartjie’s biography can be told as a process of creating an
object subjected to investigation and control, but, in a way, still
not defined completely. As the work on the meaning of her body
progresses, she becomes more and more disembodied: she provides
matter for formulating clear judgments and persuasive opinions.

236

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

Her body depicted in the illustrations from this age suggests sexual
excess, and is associated with transgression of the conventions
(both in terms of social customs and artistic). It also suggests that
order of some fundamental categories (such as the male/female)
are not definite.
Waris’s biography is a story about a woman who struggles to
survive being aware of her marginal position in the society. In
Europe, she learns the performative gestures of Western women,
but she should not lose the exotic flavor of her body in order to be
successful as a model. Once she became successful (in the western
sense of the word), she was able to address in the international
institutional forum on behalf of other marginalized women. Her
biography and her body should be treated as the incontrovertible
evidence of the right of what she demands.
The story which Waris writes with her life defines concepts
of oppression and excesses in the way different from Saarthije’s
biography. In the days of Saarthije, the language adequate to formulate this kind of criticism was in statu nascendi. Its rules were
negotiated in courts, academic institutions, press articles and in
other places of various character. This process was interrelated to
the other one: redefinition of the Other.
Saartjie’s biography reveals the fluency and negotiability of the
rules to define racial and gender difference.
Various narratives about Saarthie which were created over the
years rhetorically reversed the concept of barbarism and obviously
of those people who designed and exploited “Hottentot Venus”
during her life and who were called barbarians after her death,
and it seems impossible to re-read this story otherwise than as the
story of how Western culture has destroyed a woman who was
considered “Other”.
Waris takes over the role of a storyteller; moreover, she is aware
that from the western perspective she should play a specific role,

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

237

or, in other words, to be a definite type of character. However, she
decides which roles she accepts and which rejects. The accepted
roles composed with elements which she considered her roots,
co-created her new occidentalized identity.
By presenting this story in the way outlined above, we follow
a trail which was designed by Waris Dirie herself. She speaks and
writes in many different ways about liberation, salvation, getting
free; it is getting free from personal trauma, but it also is the liberation of African women from the destructive customs, and also
saving Africa from self-destructive processes.
However, in comparison with each other, these biographies can
also reveal the reverse of the optimistic story about liberation and
they question opinions which are claimed to be obvious. Each of
these two biographies can create a revealing perspective for interpreting the other one, and suggests concepts that are useful tools
for revealing the hidden or the shameful elements of the other
one. The alleged similarities in the structure of stories indicate
structural differences of the cultural contexts. Let’s pay attention
to the fact that the process of defining womanhood and femininity
of both Saartjie and Waris did not take place just in one discursive
area. Saartjie’s womanhood and femininity was analyzed in the
framework of freak shows and academic procedures; in the Waris’
case, it was catwalk and the UN forum. In other words, the identity
of the two women was articulated by the dynamic relationship of
two socio-cultural areas associated with distinct values.
Freak shows and a fashion show are the areas that are considered
ambiguous in terms of the values that they evoke.
Freak shows were flourishing at the time when the process of
medicalization and anthropologization of curiosities was in progress. The “curiosities” were more and more likely to be explained
as pathological cases or as ethnic specimens and this explanations
entailed specific procedures and attitudes: diseases should be cured

238

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

by a medical treatment; people from exotic areas should be placed
in the taxonomic order of nature. Freak shows were eliminated
towards keeping audience’s attention by referring to science, but
in fact they were mixing various orders and were considered less
and less appropriate for sophisticated audience, more and more
shameful.
Nowadays, fashion shows are also considered suspected in
some way. Common criticism uses the argument that the beauty
promoted by them is morally impure. They work towards establishing wrong and harmful beauty patterns and watching models
makes each “normal girl” feeling bad. One of its effects should be
anorexia among girls and women. This opinion is expressed also
by Waris herself. She often manifests her critical attitude towards
fashion and its dictatorship. She treats her model career as just
one of the steps in her life that was necessary to pass towards issues that really matter. However, at any time, the accents can be
changed – just as it was in the movie version of “Desert Flower”.
It should me mentioned, however, that fashion as well as FGM
and plastic surgery can be analyzed in terms of the interrelated
categories of subjectivity/reifications of people who undertake/
undergo them. They are cultural practices that hew women’s bodies
to adjust them to certain standards that suggest that they fit for
certain social roles and, for example, they can be married, they can
bear children, or they can look good enough to go out with them.
Nevertheless, a simple feminizing explanation of these phenomena with the male domination can be satisfying in the short run
only. Even Waris Dirie, in her writing about the operations, both
in Africa and in the West, points out that in every culture, women
and men, adults and children are involved in a complex network
of interrelations and dependencies and the person who, at first
glance, seems to be the oppressor, may be seen as a victim if we
consider him or her in the broader contexts. In this multifaceted

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

239

system, what seems to be a mean of oppression can easily be
transformed into a tool of emancipation and vice versa.
The scientific discourse (in the case of Saartjie) and the political
discourse (in the case of Waris Dirie) relativize the ambiguities of
a freak show and a fashion show. They propose an authoritative,
totalizing perspective that is strictly connected with certain axiology
and with defined hierarchy of problems which should be resolved
for the sake of the better world. In this perspective, issues of minor
importance and associated with popular tastes can be tolerated if it
can be assumed that somehow they are used for higher purposes.
They mediate the colonization of bodies and biographies within
the framework of dominant culture and their authoritative discourses.
The freak show was a place where researchers were hunting
for interesting material for their studies as abnormalities could
explain the general rules adopted.
As far as a fashion show is concerned, such relativization is
achieved not only by introducing standards of minimum models’
weight, but also by spreading various types of expertise; in the
framework offered by them, the appearance may be just a sign
of other aspects of life (for example health, or a moral profile).
In the Western culture, there is a widespread suggestion that by
controlling the body, we control our lives. Various body regimes
– diets, exercises, beauty treatments – are presented as tools for
wellness; they also work towards colonizing the body in consumer
culture area.
I am referring to the notion of “colonization” because, in fact,
it is very useful for analyzing Saartjie’s and Waris’ biographies as
two parts of one diptych. As we know, this notion inevitably entails
two assumptions (which not necessarily are expressed expressis
verbis): the premise of structural dominance relation and the
premise of discursive or political suppression of the heterogeneity
of the colonized object.

240

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

Colonial institutions change both the social relations and the
order of thinking; the effect of these changes can last even when
the visible political oppression is over. The example of this endurance is the last act of the “Hotentock Venus” biography. During
the funeral of the remains of Saartjie Baartman, the President of
South Africa made an address to the nation in which he referred
to the democratic values of his country in the post-apartheid
era. He spoke in terms established within the framework of the
French Revolution and European Enlightenment: liberté, egalité,
fraternité. These values are not questioned, and, at the same time,
new freedom is described by referring to the former enslavement.
It is not difficult to discern the fact of colonization of Saartjie’s
body and biography. Her biography, taken over by poststructuralist
and feminist critique, perfectly fitted theories and could help to
clarify abstract elements of the theoretical construction. On the
other hand, the theory processed the biography: specific facts were
chosen to compose the plot. Certain views were expressed through
the figure of “Hotentock Venus”, but this figure was also used as
a proof of the theoretical truth. The physical body of Saartjie was
also reinterpreted.
The problem is more complicated when we ask about the colonization of Waris’ biography. This Waris which is available through
discourses about her does not have a double identity; she has one
multifaceted identity. She speaks as a mature African woman who
still lives as a little girl subjected to the cruel operation; but to be
able to discern the cruelty of this act and to express her experience, she must also be the Western woman and the citizen of the
global world. Moreover, a social and a political area where this
kind of narrative can be told, as well as a conceptual and moral
language of alleged total expression should also be established.
This language is claimed to be able and suitable to express the
experiences of subjects from all over the world.

“BLACK WOMEN” AS A RHETORICAL TOOL OF PERSUASION

241

Waris Dirie biography can be interpreted as a story about the
internalization and totalization of western norms and values and
also about the moral power of these procedures. This biography
can be used as an argument for both supporters and opponents
of liberal choices. She presents herself both as a person who is
liberated from the oppressive mechanism of the native culture,
and as a subject who is colonized by the western culture. If we
rename the process of internalization of western norms and values
to colonization by western norms and values, then the axiological
perspective of this story will change.
The persuasive power of biographic narratives is strong: the
biographies refer to the individual lives that are embedded in particular realities and, at the same time, they show the embodiment
of social relationships, cultural codes, etc. Both biographies can be
used as strong arguments in feminist or postcolonial discourses;
however, considered as conceptual diptych, they manifest the
problematic nature of the key concepts of these discourses – such
as oppression or colonization.
REFERENCES

Cuvier G., Faites sur le cadaver, d’une femme cunnue à Paris et à Londres
sous le nom de Vénus Hottentotte, „Mémoires du Musée nationale
d’histoire naturelle”, 3(1817), pp. 259–274.
Fausto-Sterling A., Gender, Race, and Natiom: The Comparative Anatomy of
“Hottentot” Woman in Europe, 1815–1817, in: Deviant Bodies. Critical
Perspectives on Difference in Science and Popular Culture, eds. J. Terry,
J. Urla, Bloomington – Indianapolis 1995, p. 19–48.
Gould S.J., The Hottentot Venus, in: The Flamingo’s Smile, London – New
York – Victoria – Toronto – Auckland 1991, pp. 291–305.
Holmes R., African Queen. The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus, New York
2007.

242

Anna Wieczorkiewicz

MacCannell D., White Culture, in: Empty Meeting Grounds. The Tourist
Papers, London 1992, pp. 121–146.
Sadiah Qureshi, Displaying Sara Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus’, „History
of Science”, 42(2004), pp. 233–257.

PART III

(IM)MATERIALITIES

Chapter 8.

ASHURA JACKSON NGOYA

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES
AS A THREAT TO THE SURVIVAL
OF HISTORICAL CHURCHES IN MBEYA
ABSTRACT

During the 1920s, Mbeya region witnessed the emergence of African
Independent Churches (AICs) that survived up to the present. These
churches emerged due to the dissatisfactions created by Western initiated churches. Both churches believed in God, and the Bible is used in
teaching but differed somehow in doctrine. This paper draws on oral
interviews, archival documents and secondary sources to examine how
AICs remained as a threat to the survival of historical churches in Mbeya
region during the post-colonial period. Since the formation of AICs, the
state opposed the evolving AICs because these churches were a threat to
authority and had different interests apart from religious issues. Hence,
AICs were opposed to avoid contradiction in the nation controlled by
the British. Similarly, historical churches opposed AICs because they
resisted missionary institutions brought from Europe and their associated values, such as monogamy, individualism, secularism, consumerism and the exclusive privileges of white missionaries. However, with
the challenges experienced by AICs in the colonial period, still, AICs
survived and remained as a threat to the survival of historical churches
in the post-colonial period. Post-colonial threats were on the economy,
different doctrine, followers and teachings, things they provide to people, freedom of praising and worshipping, and the way they considered
faith with culture.
ASHURA JACKSON NGOYA – Mkwawa University College of Education (MUCE).

246

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

Key words: African Independent Churches, Threat, Survival and
Historical Churches.

Introduction
Mbeya region is one of the areas in Tanzania mentioned as
having many denominations. In 2016, Mbeya was cited as the
second region having highest number of denominations in Africa after Lagos in Nigeria1. People of Mbeya had and were good
followers of their religion before the penetration of Christianity.
The penetration of Christianity was accepted with two hands as
leaders were after material benefit first than spiritual demand.
Hence, by 1920s, Christianity expanded into different areas of the
region. Some Christians after being aware of the religion introduced by Western people incorporated some African cultures into
Christianity. From such desire, some Africans succeeded to form
their own African Independent Churches (AICs). AICs have since
their emergence, remained as a threat to the historical churches
economically, spiritually and culturally.

Christianity in Mbeya
The Berlin Mission Society arrived in Mbeya in the 1890s
from Central Africa through Lake Nyasa2. They did not arrive
in Mbeya region from the Coast of the Indian Ocean. Their
coming through Lake Nyasa was mainly due to the proximity
1
See: http/www.mpekuzihuru.com/2016/11/jiji-la-Mbeya-ni-la-pili-kwawingi-wa.html: 29 November, 2016.
2
B. Sundkler & C. Steed, A History of the Church in Africa, Cambridge: UK
2000, p. 535; A. Hastings, A History of African Christianity 1950–1975, Cambridge
1979, p. 45; World Christianities c1914 – c. 2000, ed. H. McLeod, Cambridge
2006, p. 80 (The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 9).

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

247

of Mbeya to the Central African region where Christianity had
been established earlier. The Free Church of Scotland, under
the leadership of Dr Kerr Cross, was the first mission group of
historical churches to arrive and settle in Mbeya region. This
church was part of the Livingstonia Mission which operated
in Central Africa. Dr Cross bought a place and built a house at
an area called Kapugi-Tukuyuin 18883. In the 1890s, when the
Helgoland Treaty set a clear boundary between the German and
British, the Free Church of Scotland-Presbyterian Church left an
area to the Moravian and Lutheran given that the church was
operating in Malawi where the area was under the British, and
Tanganyika was under the German.
The Moravian was another old church missionary which penetrated and worked in Mbeya region. Dr Kerr Cross of the Free
Church of Scotland was of great help in finding the settlement
areas for the Moravians. Dr Cross suggested to the Moravians to
start their permanent centre at Rungwe area4. Dr Cross’ suggestion
came after he was told that Moravians were interested in working
in the area. The Free Church of Scotland welcomed the Moravians
and allowed them to set a mission5. The Moravian missionaries
under Theodor Meyer landed in Rungwe on July 7, 1891, and in
October 1891 established their first mission station at the bottom
of Mount Rungwe (the headquarters of the Moravian Church of
Tanzania today) Rungwe Mission. The first missionaries including
Theodor Meyer and Theophil Richard arrived at the place we now
call Rungwe in Chief Mwakapalila’s territory. Later on, another
group of missionaries came to Rungwe including John Kretschmer
A.Y. Musomba, The Moravian Church in Tanzania Southern Province: A Short
History, Nairobi 2005, p. 6.
4
Ibidem.
5
Ibidem.
3

248

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

and Traugott Bachman. At the end of 1894, they inaugurated the
first worship building6.
In the same vein, the Lutheran Missionaries arrived in Mbeya
region on August 21st, 18917, constituting the third historical church
to penetrate in Mbeya region. Under the leadership of A. Merensky,
they established the first Berlin Lutheran Mission at Wangemanshohe
near the Lufilyo River in October 1891. He was accompanied by
three young missionaries; Nauhaus, Schumann and Bunk and by
two helpers. These ministers were granted land by the chief Mwakabungila. Owing to the heat, the station was moved in 1899 to new
Wangemanshohe, now known as Itete. Two more missionaries arrived in 1892, and three others came the following year (Hauer,
Schuler and Wolff). Further stations were established at Manow by
Reverend Schumann on the 4th June 1892 and Mwakaleli by the
Reverend Bunk on the 31st of May 1895. Ikombe on the Lake Shore
was founded on the 24th of August, 1893 by the Reverend Hubner
and Grieguszies, and in 1910 Matema was built by two missionaries, Dost and Lyike. In August 1915, the missionary Doctor Ochne
arrived and established a small medical station at Itumba8.
To avoid religious conflicts among missionaries belonging to
different denominations, the Moravians established their Christian
congregations adjacent to the Berliner Lutherans. These missions
demanded land for their faith and production, and people as their
followers and labourers. In this case, they agreed upon a boundary
between their respective mission fields following the 34 degree9 of
6
Rungwe Mission Archive (RMA), File Moravian General; File Origin and
Growth of the UNITASFRARUM; see also A.Y. Musomba, Historia Fupi ya Kanisa
la Moravian Kusini Tanzania, Dar es Salaam 1990, p. 11.
7
B. Sundkler & C. Steed, A History of the Church in Africa, op. cit., p. 535.
8
Mbeya Southern Highland Zonal Archive (MSHZA), Part of Vicariate of
Tanganyika, 1899–1932.
9
A.Y. Musomba, The Moravian Church..., op. cit., p. 6.

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

249

longitude from the North end of the Lake Nyasa and clear demarcation was Mbaka River. Moravian mission operated in the part of
the district to the West of the Mbaka River, a boundary fixed under
German administration. The Berlin Lutheran Mission conducted to
the East of the Mbaka River. Mbaka River is near Mbambo village
from Mount Livingstone, in that place the agreement for expansion was agreed in the whole Tanzania10. Following this division
between Moravian and Lutheran, the former expanded mostly in
Mbeya and the later in Njombe and Iringa.
The historical churches which penetrated later on in Mbeya were
given separate areas. For instance, White Fathers – Roman Catholic
was given Tukuyu protectorate in the centre of the district11. Others
included Pentecostal Holiness Mission and Assemblies of God which
operated at Igale-Mbeya district. The Seventh-Day Adventists were
given Mwakaleli as the centre of evangelization. Early during the
colonial period, the division according to denomination was done
to avoid religious conflicts which had torn Europe leading to long
wars12. But, after the WWI denominations were somehow free to
expand. League of Nations entrusted Tanganyika Territory to the
British, they stipulated that there should be freedom of religion
everywhere. Mbeya which was formerly closed to the Moravian
and Lutheran was now open to different denominations13. These
denominations never thought of religious unification for the expansion of Christianity. Their preference to the development relied
much on their national interest.
Meshack E. Njinga, Interview at Tukuyu, November 5, 2014.
Tanzania National Archive (TNA) File: 25/9/33 Mission General Tukuyu.
12
K.I. Tambila, & J. Sivalon, Intra-denominational Conflict in Tanzania Christian Churches”, in: Justice, Rights and Worship: Religion and Politics in Tanzania,
eds. R. Mukandala [et al.], New Delhi 2006,p. 226.
13
MSHZA, History of Diocese of Mbeya, Part III: Apostolic Prefecture of
Tukuyu, 1932–1947.
10
11

250

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

Missionaries who converted Africans themselves have been
regarded and remembered with the great ambiguity. For instance.
in turning people, in some areas they involved in land alienation,
given African knowledge, supported colonialism and preached
Evangel. Such ambiguity laid the ground for later counter-cultural
movements by Africans. Hasting reported that in early West African
days, one or two missionaries became slave traders. Much more,
in South and Central Africa, quietly turned into settlers, large
landed proprietors or colonial officials14. In a nation like South
Africa, Christian evangelists were intimately involved in the colonial process15. A.J. Njoh added that the missions of colonialism
and Christianity in Africa often overlapped and appeared almost
indistinguishable16. Thus, missionaries apart from religious activities
were involved in other activities for their interest. For example, in
Mbeya, early colonial production was firstly introduced by missionaries, for instance, production of coffee17.

African Independent Churches in Mbeya Region
Three decades since the formation of Christianity in Mbeya,
Africans who were converted to Christianity, arouse consciousness
against political, economic, social and cultural dissatisfactions
through religion. In fact, it was during the British period when
the historical churches were challenged by the AICs18. In Mbeya,
A. Hastings, The Church in Africa 1450–1950, Oxford 1994, p. 263.
J. Camaroff and J. Camarroff, Christianity and Colonialism in South Africa,
„American Ethnography”, 13(1986), no. 1, p. 1.
16
A.J. Njoh, Tradition, Culture and Development in Africa: Historical Lessons
for Modern Development Planning, Farnham 2006, pp. 31–32.
17
B. Brock, The Nyiha of Mbozi, „Tanzania Notes and Records”, 1966, no. 65.
18
T.O. Ranger, The African Churches of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam 1972, pp.11–12
(The Historical Association of Tanzania, no. 5); Africa under the Colonial Domina14
15

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

251

AICs emerged in the 1920s and continued to develop with time19.
Examples of the early AICs in Mbeya region include the Watch
Tower under Hanoc Sindano, the African National Church under
Paddy Nyasulu and the Last Church of God and His Christ under
Ben Ngemela. There was also the Little Flock Church under Sem
Mboma20.
Those emerged AICs in Mbeya operation were not positively
supported. The opposition to AICs ranged from historic churches
to the colonial government. Jimmy Nkwamu argued that Africans
who were close to AICs leaders started earlier to oppose AICs21.
It is important to note that AICs were opposed ever since their
formation. AICs were known from South, Central and East Africa
that they were against colonialism. Hence, allowing the growth
of AICs in Mbeya meant the creation of contradiction with the
colonial state and finally decolonisation22.
AICs in Mbeya were criticised by the black and whites as being
politically motivated, judged as bridges back to paganism, and
looked as uneducated and sophisticated as primitive. Hence, some
AICs followers especially leaders were removed from positions
they held in the colonial government. For example, Paddy Nyasulu, who had been educated and became a leader of the African
National Church (ANC), was employed as mission store-keeper
tion 1885–1935, ed. A.A. Boahen, Portsmouth 1990, p. 282 (General History of
Africa, vol. 7).
19
In this paper, AICs are Christian churches independently established and
administered by Africans. AICs broke off from the mission/mainline/historical
churches such as Roman Catholic, Moravian, Evangelical Lutheran, Pentecostal
and Anglican churches. For this study, historical churches these are Christian
churches initiated by Western people in Africa.
20
A. Makunde, Yafahamu Makanisa Yaliyoko Tanzania, op. cit., pp. 13, 93,
107, 122, 129, 136, 144.
21
Jimmy Nkwamu, Interview at Itende, December 7, 2014.
22
TNA File No. 25/8: Rungwe.

252

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

later as a government clerk in Malawi and Tukuyu in Tanzania.
He was dismissed from his position in 1923. Nyasulu was rejected
due to his interest in the African National Church23. The colonial
administration acted promptly to the Watch Tower Church which
prohibited followers to work for the colonial government. In this
process, top leaders of the church were arrested and charged with
uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of others and were sentenced to 12 months each24. Moreover,
some AICs faced problems to get land for religious activities and
were not even allowed to own some books which they thought
made people conscious. In the 1930s, the colonial government
demanded all the African chiefs to take note of Kolineri Kibonde
and Jonah Mwaiteleke who sold books related to religious knowledge. The books such as Deliverance, World Recovery, Prophecy,
The Kingdom, Jehovah, Preparation, The end of the World, and
Who Shall rule the world were prohibited in Mbeya region25.
Thus, the colonial government and historical churches believed that AICs would decline for a short period in Mbeya as it
happened on the Malakite Church in Mwanza which emerged
in 1924 and collapsed in 1934. Also, in 1953, the Church of
Holy Spirit was formed amongst the Haya by the secession from
the Evangelical Lutheran Church; in 1962, half of its members
had been won back by the Lutheran church. In 1956, the Tanganyika African was formed among the Gogo by secession from
the Church Mission Society; a majority of its members were won
back to the Anglican Church in the early 1960s. In 1958, there
was secession from the Moravian Church amongst the Nyamwezi,
Angolwisye Malambugi, Interview at TEKU, September 12, November
20, 2014. See also T.O. Ranger, The African Churches of Tanzania, op. cit. p. 17.
24
Idem, Christian Independence in Tanzania, in: African Initiatives in Religion,
ed. D.B. Barrett, Nairobi 1971, p. 126.
25
TNA 25/9/13: Tukuyu.
23

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

253

and in 1960, the majority returned to the historical church, and
Shambala members of the Usambara-Digo Lutheran Church in
early 1960 had been averted26. In Mbeya, AICs survived in the
colonial period up to the post-colonial era, and new AIC was
emerging year after year.
Contrary to other AICs formed in Mbeya, the Watch Tower
Church proved a failure. At the end of the colonial period, the
church was not considered anti-colonial government but turned
as safety-valves of the colonial government. The Watch Tower
changed the name to Jehovah Witness, and their church policy
was also rectified examples of those policies that were amended.
The change of a name happened when they developed a close
relationship with Jehovah Witness in America. In the age of independence, these churches refused to salute the flag or consider
the politics as anything but the agency of Satan. The church was
seen as incompatible with the maintenance of peace, order and
good governance. So, the Watch Tower declined, and Jehovah
Witness developed27. The leader faced the challenge of mastering
the church efficiently. Hanoc Sindano was not groomed into the
church like other leaders of AICs; rather he was just a follower of
the Watch Tower Bible Society which provided people books and
pamphlets in South Africa without a church. From such base, he
established the Watch Tower Church where he was not able to
balance the relationship with the colonial government, historical
churches in Mbeya, and the church was not even registered. But,
this church was remembered how it was a threat to the British
colonial government. The church refused his people to pay tax
and work for the colonial production.
T.O. Ranger, Christian Independence in Tanzania, op. cit., p. 124.
Christianity in Tropical Africa: Studies Presented and Discussed at the Seventh
International African Seminar, University of Ghana, April 1965, ed. C.G. Baëta,
Oxford 1968, p. 356.
26
27

254

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

AICs as a Threat to the Mission Churches
in the Post-colonial Period
In the post-colonial period, AICs in Mbeya had established themselves so firmly that they were no longer mere Protestant movers,
but theologically genuine expressed Christian faith in the African
perspective or the extension of African traditions on Christian
faith. AICs provided theological reflections centred on African religious beliefs, practices, values, morals, songs, sermons, teachings,
prayers, sculptures, dances, rituals, and symbols. Some of AICs
beliefs were modified compared to the way it happened during the
colonial period. For example, AICs which allowed polygamy during
colonialism in the postcolonial period changes were implemented.
Meshack Njinga reported that in the post-colonial period there
were some changes to AICs, they modified their constitution to fit
the time. A person with many wives, when joined the church and
being baptised, was not allowed to add another wife28. AICs which
emerged in the post-colonial period based much on their doctrine,
African and Western culture was interwoven. For example, AICs
that appeared in the post-colonial period include Last Church of
Tanzania under 1968 by Daniel Mwamuya – Airport; The Church of
Holy Spirit Anosisye Mwabhungulu 1968 – Ghana-Mbeya, African
Church Mission of Tanzania by Festo Mbeyale 1969 – Iyunga; African International Church A. Mwalyambile, 1969 – Kyela; United
African Church Yohana Kabuje, 1969 – Mbalizi. The Last Church of
Tanzania; Epharaim Sichone, 1973 Vwawa-Mbozi; Uamsho la Roho
Mtakatifu Nise Mwasomola; 1978; Simike-Mbeya; Shalom Church
of God, Stephano Mwamengo 1979, Isangu-Mbozi29; The Foundation Church of Apostle and Prophets, Gibson Tuya, 1982 – Ilengo
Meshack E. Njinga, Interview at Tukuyu, November 5, 2014; May 20,
2015, May 21, 2015.
29
Mbeya District Office, October 2014: List of Churches in Mbeya.
28

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

255

Mbozi; Church of Gospel International, Timotheo Mwanyengo,
1985 – Uyole and the Tanzania Forward in Faith Church Pfumo
Kahwema 1987 – Simike. Others were Gospel Revival Centre,
Akimu Mtafya, 1988 – Simike; Tanzania Gospel Church, Alfred
Kaputula, 1989 – Ilomba and Restoration Bible Church, Emmanuel
Tumwidike, 1992 Esso, African Brotherhood Church, P. Mwamlima,
1994 Mbeya City centre, just to mention few30.
Since the formation of the historical churches, economic interest
has been among their preferences. Njinga noted that early production of cash crops in Mbeya was firstly introduced in the mission
centre31. Early converts were also labourers in the introduced farms
around the mission. Many people in the church meant financial
gain. Judged regarding labourers and offerings. The emergence of
a new denomination in an area where there was a historic church
led to disturbance. The disturbance was firstly assessed economically of what the church gained from followers. With the growth of
AICs, this affected historical churches automatically. AICs expanded
in the region geographically, ethnically and with the number of
members, this had a direct impact on the ancient churches. Similarly, AICs had a different technique to gain economically from
followers. Members were encouraged to pay for miracles, other
means of prayers required things which supporters were forced to
buy at the church, and other leaders urged adherents to plant their
seed. Hence, AICs remained as a threat to the historical churches
given that followers were cycling or turned to AICs32.
In Mbeya, AICs ranged from the small to the large AICs. Large
AICs threatened historical churches given that these churches were
growing compared to the period they emerged and the level of the
Ibidem.
Meshack E. Njinga, Interview at Tukuyu, op. cit.
32
Lusekelo Cheyo, Interview at Iwambi, September 21, 2014, November 5,
2014; Emmanuel Mwasile interview at Iwambi, September 24, 2014.
30
31

256

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

economy they had. Some leaders of AICs were economically stable
compared to those in the historical churches given that the latter
had many years of experience. Thus, some of the leaders from ancient churches were following AICs and negatively criticised their
existence and operation. The critic was not based on the word of
God, but it was on the level of the economy which the leader of
AICs had. Thus, the degree of economy of the leaders in AICs also
was a threat to historic churches. Why such wealth within a short
period of existence33?
People who introduced AICs were previously members of the
historic churches. They gathered into one group, understood and
respected each other. They were aware of strategies which historical
churches adopted to maintain followers, to expand and to develop.
Then, when individuals from the historical churches introduced
AIC, experienced criticism, suspicion, lack of trust, lack of communication, unfriendliness, destruction of family unity all these
were done by the historical churches to AICs. Nsaligwa Kimanga
narrated that Nise Mwasomola, founder of Kanisa la Uamsho,
was a member of Pentecostal Assemblies of God; she was given
power by God to deliver the sick and preach. Her service was not
accepted in the historical churches, and she chased away. In 1978,
she decided to form her church34. Instead of being supported her
services turned as a threat to the former church. It was revealed
that Mwasomola’s church taped followers who were in need with
services she was providing.
AICs turned as a threat to historical churches given that some of
the leaders of AICs were having unique talents while they were in
the former churches. These people were not recognised and some
Kolineri Mwampule, Interview at Jacaranda, September 13, 2014.
Nsaligwa Kimanga, Interview at Simike, September 13, 2014. Rabi Mwakanani, interview at Sokomatola, September 28, 2014.
33
34

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

257

were seen as stubborn/ too crucial to the church. These people
with their unique talents decided to establish their own AIC. These
leaders exercised their talents in their next church, instead of being
recognised for what they were doing, leaders turned to be a threat
to the churches that they worshipped before. For example, the
founder of Restoration Bible Church Emmanuel Tumwidike was
a member of Anglican Church before forming his church and taped
different followers from various historical churches in Mbeya town
even from Anglican Church35.
Most of those who established AICs were members of mission
churches hence automatically they became their competitors.
Leaders of AICs were aware of the weakness of the former church.
Hence they adopted strategies to survive. While leaders in the
historical churches sacrificed time to follow the preaching campaigns of AICs that led a certain amount of biases or antagonism
against the AICs36. AICs reflected rebellion against Christianity
that had continued with European culture. The mode of worship
and other areas of ministry of the historical-related churches were
not psychologically and sociologically satisfying to the Africans.
With the emergence of AICs, the liturgy was made more African,
where African drums, dresses, singing and dancing reflected the
African culture. In this sense, the gospel was made relevant and
contextualised to the thought patterns of the converts. Juma added
this threatened historical churches as their followers were attracted
with inclusiveness which was added in Christianity which was
not there before. Medrick Mbuba revealed that AICs threatened
historical churches because they in AICs traditional and modern
were welded37.
Interview with Angolwisye Malabugi, op. cit.
Juma Jacob, Interview at Nzovwe, September 18, 2014.
37
Medrick Mbuba, Interview at Nzovwe, September 18, 2014.
35
36

258

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

Interpretation of the Bible, the issue of polygamy, taking alcohol,
the way of singing in the church, not considering long preparatory period before baptism, just to mention a few, was contrary
to the historical churches. The Last Church of God and His Christ
and African National Church supported polygamy which was not
allowed by the historical churches38. Mary Kategile emphasised
that polygamy added members to AICs in Mbeya such as the Last
Church of God and His Christ and the African National Church39.
The Last Church of Tanzania, which emerged in 1973 by Sichone
with registration number SO. 5712, also believed in polygamy40.
In 1990, the church had about 850 followers in Tanzania, 215 in
Zambia and 120 in Malawi with headquarters in Vwawa-Mbozi41.
David Sichone Reverend that Archbishop Samweli Mwabughi
was appointed in 2007 up to 2015, then the church had 260,000
followers both in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia42. The historical
churches and AICs were all Christians but had different beliefs
which remained as a threat to the survival of historical churches.
AICs were seen as an enemy to the historical churches43. The doctrine of polygamy threatened the old church even though they
prevented it to the larger extent. The teachings threatened the
church given that it was African culture from the beginning, many
Pastor Mbao, Interview at Sabasaba, September 15, 2014. See also J. Baur,
2000 Years of Christianity Africa: An African History, Nairobi 1994, p. 479.
39
Mary Kategile, Interview at TEKU, September 8; September 9; September
11, 2014.
40
Mary Kategile, Interview at TEKU, op. cit.
41
SHMZA, File, M.60.15: The Last Church of Tanzania. See also W.H. Turner,
The Church of the Lord: the Expansion of a Nigerian Independent Church in Sierra Leone and Ghana, „Journal of African History”, 3(1962), no. 1, pp. 91–92,
Intention of AICs was not to expand within their own localities only, but into
different areas.
42
David Ephraim Sichone, Interview at Vwawa, November 4, 2014.
43
Interview with Emmanuel Mwasile, op. cit.
38

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

259

people joined the church and accepted only a single wife, but in
reality were having many wives44. With the church which gave an
opportunity to many wives, this gave room to the development
of African culture which was prevented by the historical church.
The growth of AICs went parallel to the changes occurred in
the society. AIC exemplifies the intimate link between problems
and the solutions. For example, economic and social hardship in
the 1970s and 1980s fuelled people to AICs. Different informants
agreed that people joined AICs when they heard that people’s problems were tackled by the church45. Juliana Mbilinyi reported that
early members of the church of Uamsho were Roho Mtakatifu in the
1970s were those whose diseases were cured by Nise Mwasomola,
the founder of the Church. AICs in Mbeya gained followers as this
experience was shared experience to the traditional religion when
an individual had a problem related to diseases a traditional healer
was a solution. Traditional African communities were to a large
extent health-orientated communities, and in African traditional
religions, rituals for healing and protection were the most prominent ones. So, AICs, with a similar function of healing diseases,
made people join them. Also, Nathaniel Ndabila proclaimed that
the same God who saves the soul heals the body, delivers from evil
forces, and provides answers to human needs46. Indeed, sickness
was by far the most common reason given by people attending AICs.
Moreover, preaching the prosperity gospel, in these churches
the pastor occupied a prominent place in the life of the followers, what the pastor was speaking, people were able to listen and
follow. This trend expanded through the 1990s after the failure
of Structural Adjustment Policies imposed by the Bretton Woods
Daudi Sichinga, Interview at Mbeya City Centre, September 12, 2014.
Juliana Mbilinyi, Interview at Simike, September 13, 2014. April 20, 2015.
46
Nathaniel Ndabila, Interview at Uyole, September 19, 2014.
44
45

260

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

institutions. People lost confidence in economic mechanisms,
social recovery plans and the ability of governments to bail them
out, and turned to the AICs for survival. Preaching the gospel of
prosperity and miracles dominated, these churches, with their
human founders called apostles, prophets or archbishop promised
earthly happiness. These churches offered utopian hopes through
the gospel of prosperity and miracles. The prosperity gospel found
fertile ground in Africa because of the real sufferings facing these
Christians burdened who needed immediate relief and thought,
could find happiness trusting in anyone making such promises.
Healing services, indeed, sickness is by far the most common
reason which people give for attending AICs. Testimonies of healing,
soundness and miracles are heard from many about their answered
prayers. In quite some cases those concerned claim that they first
went to the hospitals, and or consulted traditional healers. They
then resorted to an AIC when the foreign physicians and herbalists
failed them. In several AICs, a special day was set aside for healing
purposes. Sometimes, a sick person would be expected to stay in
the Church for healing service. David Nicholous put evident that
prayer and healing is a significant role in these churches in Mbeya.
Some AICs announced that they were curing specific diseases such
as HIV which was a serious problem from the 1980s, cancer and
diabetes through prayers47. Involvement of AICs on HIV, which was
a problem facing different people in Mbeya, was compatible. Mbeya
region in Tanzania encompasses two major highways and is adjacent
to two international borders. In the late 1980s, HIV epidemic rapidly
expanded in the Mbeya region, fuelled by these unique geographic
features and exacerbated by a lack of trained health staff, shortage
of medicine and a weak health care infrastructure.
Interview with David Nicholous, op. cit: see also. Patric Mbao, Interview
at Sabasaba, September 15, 2014.
47

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

261

To respond to the rapidly growing HIV epidemic in the region,
in 1988 the Tanzania government (through the Mbeya Regional
Medical Officer’s Office and the Mbeya Referral Hospital), in
collaboration with the German Agency for Technical Cooperation
and the University of Munich in Germany, established an intervention programme on HIV/AIDS called the “Mbeya Regional AIDS
Control Programme”. The program aimed to fight against the
rapidly expanding HIV epidemic in the region. The Programme
collaborated with other partners including the US Military HIV
Research Program (MHRP) in the late 1990’s and the Tanzanian
National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) under the vigorous and committed leadership of Dr. Leonard Maboko and Prof
Michael Hoelscher48. The effort to prevent the spread of HIV
somehow proved a failure in Mbeya. Instead of the decline in
a number of the people affected by HIV, the toll increased year
after year. Mbeya Regional AIDs Control Programme (MRACP)
continued the fight against HIV/AIDS since the 1980s. The Regional Medical Officers (RMO) directly supervised the MRACP.
MRACP adopted a participatory approach in all of its functions,
involving all interested partners and the civil society organisation.
But, Mbeya remained among the region where HIV/AIDS toll is
high within the nation. Mbeya region is the second hard-hit region in the country after Dar es Salaam as far as AIDs infections
are concerned49. Many followers in Mbeya were taped to AICs
to get healing services.
One of the distinctive features of these churches is the elevated
position accorded to women. In spite of the fact that the historical
See: http://www.hvtn.org/en/team/international-clinical-trial-sites/MbeyaClinicalResearchSite.html 22/9/2016.
49
F.R. Mbogella, Factors Associated with the Spread of HIV/AIDS among the
Female Youth in Tanzania: A case of Mbeya Municipality, Dissertation (Unpublished), University of Dar es Salaam 2002, p. 45.
48

262

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

churches preached the principle of equality of sexes, men usually
hold the principal positions of authority. The Archbishops, Reverend
Ministers, Pastors, Priests, Choir Leaders and so on are typically all
men. AICs, on the other hand, have been exceptional in encouraging women to participate in the ministry of the Church. They
provide opportunities for leadership and the exercise of authority
for women who usually far outnumber the men who attend these
churches. Some of these Churches were and are being established
or co-founded by women, for example, Nise Mwasomola in Mbeya.
Omoyajowo has an extensive list of such founders in Nigeria. Asare
Opoku also observed that there are women first-class prophetesses
and deaconesses in the Musama Disco Christo Church in Ghana.
Alice Lakwena of Uganda was another woman-founder of a Holy
Spirit movement. Other positions of leadership for women, as
Barrett showed, include Reverend-Mothers, Lady Leaders, Mothersin-Israel, Superior-Mothers, Praying-Mothers, Lady-Evangelists,
women Church Planters and so on50. It may also be added that
in these Churches women get more possessed, they are prone to
give more testimonies, they are more operative in initiating songs,
dancing, jumping and clapping than men. From the preceding, it
is not surprising to note that there are usually far more women
societies, prayer groups, hospitality associations and welfare unions
than men’s in the AICs.
Survival strategies adopted by AICs remained a threat to the
historical churches. For example, the fight against poverty among
church members through economic empowerment was among
the strategies taken to survive. It was argued that the church
saw poverty as spiritually characterised, meagre family income,
powerlessness, physical weariness, isolation and vulnerability.
D. Ayegboyin & S.A. Ishola, African Indigenous: A Historical Perspectives,
op. cit., p. 30.
50

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

263

They believed that poverty was a social and economic justice
which must be addressed by Christian as one of their primary responsibilities51. The church had exerted efforts to organise formal
and informal entrepreneurship training among church members.
Professional in areas related to business and entrepreneurship was
invited by the church leaders to run training on entrepreneurship.
From such practice, the church managed to form micro credit
scheme among church members52. Enterprising training among
church members catered in areas such as bookkeeping, marketing and rules of good business practices. Through this strategy,
the church had seen to be emancipating its church members not
only through spiritual bareness but also on economic well-being.
Even though it was a slow growth, AICs were moving. People
were able to construct their church through this strategy53. Some
AICs established church departments to develop their church.
These include evangelization, economic, health and press and
information office54.
AICs threatened historical churches in their mode of worship
which is typically African. Drumming, clapping and dancing typify
the community as different from other Christian denominations
of European origin and the basic concept of religion. Thus, when
one considers the doctrinal foundations of AICs and their closeness to the socio-cultural background of Africans, one can safely
predict that these churches will maintain their leading role, and
51
A. Mpesha, The Role of the Church in Microcredit Financing for Business
Development in Tanzania, Grand Rapids 2004, p. 5.
52
Oyi Masambili, interview at Mbeya city centre, September 12, 2014.; David Nicholas, Interview at Simike, September 14, 2014; Interview with Abiud
Simkoko, Interview at Simike, September 09, 2014; Medrick Mbuba, Interview
at Nzovwe, September 18, 2014.
53
Interview with David Nicholous, op. cit.
54
Dastan Hapelwa, Interview at Veta, September 20, 2014.

264

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

AICs were projected to become more familiar because of their
offer of assistance to the spiritual problems of people in the
complex world of today. It is necessary, however, to ensure that
church growth by the membership was accompanied by growth
in spiritual power55.
Africans naturally enjoy a more expressive form of worship.
Consequently, in contrast to the supposedly dull liturgy of the historical churches, the AICs have given a home to a more fascinating
and exciting form of worship with singing, clapping, dancing and
stamping of the feet. Most of the songs sung are songs in traditional
lyrics. Usually, they are evocations and sometimes spontaneous
composition accompanied by ringing of bells, drumming and the
use of other native musical instruments as well as Western equipment56. Everybody participates in clapping, dancing and singing.
Prayer is also spontaneous and everyone is inspired to pray and
deliver a message or give testimony. Thus, they practice lively
church worship.
Dedication to Evangelism and Revival; AICs have an extraordinary zeal and enthusiasm for evangelistic ministry and revivals.
They organise and conduct regular crusades, revivals and prayer
sessions at several nooks and corners of towns and villages. Most of
the AICs leaders were itinerant preachers and evangelists who held
revival meetings wherever they went. The practice is very right of
Moses Orimolade, Babalola, Ositelu, Samson Oppong, and Simon
Kimbangu, to name just a few. One of the usual prophetic utterances
in these churches is the urge on the leadership and follower-ship to
rise early in the morning, walk around a neighbourhood with the
ringing of the bell, while proclaiming the message of the Gospel.
https://www: Gospel and Culture from Perspective of African Instituted
Churches, 30/7/2017; 4;54pm.
56
Lusekelo Cheyo, Interview at Iwambi, September 21, 2014, November 5,
2014; Kastory Erasto Msigwa, Interview at Tunduma, September 25, 2014.
55

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

265

The individuals concerned must also hold or lead between seven to
twenty-day revival meetings in or outside the church or to conduct
open-air crusades for a specific number of days.
Different AICs were running their activities in the areas not
set/designed for religious institutions as churches failed to acquire
land legally. Very few succeeded to get the land lease earlier. So,
it was not easy for AICs to get a proper area for church construction. AICs leaders ended up buying a house or using their own
houses for the service. Many of AICs in Mbeya were located in
slum areas such as Simike, Nzovwe, Iyunga, Mama John and
Ilomba57. These areas are well populated and hence easy to get
followers, while most historical churches were located in the
designated religious areas58.
Cheyo acknowledged teachings of the word of God in AICs to
its followers. Instruction of the word of God was the clear foundation of the church’s existence; it enabled AICs to cross over all
storms for the decades of its existence. They taught realities to
their followers according to the Bible and relevant to the society,
especially which touches people at the time59. In prioritising Bible
teaching, the church had several scriptures teaching a session in
the church as well as at home of the followers60. Teaching attracted
church members and non-church members thus making the church
permanently fill its people’s hearts and hence its survival. Different from the historical churches, some Africans had the culture of
going to the church without the Bible just listening when leaders
were reading. The practice was contrary to AICs people who were
having the Bible and leaders sometimes pointed anyone to read
the word of God. The new method meant that the sheep will alFrank E.P. Mwaitebele, interview at Tunduma, September 25, 2014.
Ibidem.
59
Interview with Lusekelo Cheyo, op. cit.
60
Nathaniel Ndabila, interview at Uyole, September 19, 2014.
57
58

266

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

ways stray to where they might find good pasture, and they were
getting it in AICs61.
The historical churches in Mbeya had been affected by AICs.
Christopher Mwanisongole noted that AICs had something to
teach the historical churches and vice versa62. Since the formation of AICs, even though it remained small in comparison to the
historical churches, AIC has continued to be the main threat to
the historical churches. AICs Gospel was rooted in African style
compared to historical churches. Nicholous supported that one of
the AICs most precious assets was its experience of being rooted
in African cultures. Leaders who formed AICs wanted Christians
to fit African culture. Even though the result was not the same, it
was the matter of challenge63.
Also, even though AICs are complained negatively by the historical churches, still different modification in these churches was
due to the services provided by AICs to the followers. As a result,
in Mbeya, some people are getting services to both churches.
Thus, they are dual worshipers; as a result, it was difficult to assess definite expansion of these churches. Followers were cycling
members both in historical churches and AICs.
Through AICs in Mbeya, the historical churches had adopted
different things done in the AICs which were not standard to
their denominations, mainly Protestant denominations. AICs
practised well things like praising and worshipping, prayers,
services like healing, and counselling. Without adopting these,
AICs will remain a threat to the historical churches64. The his61
J.A. Gyadu, United over Meals Divided at the Lord’s Table: Christianity and
the Unity of the Church in Africa, „Transformation”, 27(2010), no. 1, pp. 16–17.
62
Christopher Mwanisongole, Interview at Nzovwe, November 10, 2014.
63
Interview with David Nicholous, op. cit.
64
Interview with K. Mwaisumo, op. cit. Interview with Emmanuel Mwasile,
op. cit.

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

267

torical churches leaders should also learn from AICs that even
Africans were able to stand on their own and develop their church
without asking support from outside65. Leonard Maboko, one of
the leaders of the historical church, showed the desire on that
“we feel that we must be in touch with independent churches
to understand the influence and practice of self-reliance”66. Ositelu adds that most of their practices have been adopted by the
so-called the historical churches and the American style new
generation churches67.
Maboko added that as long as the AICs speak the language
which the ordinary person on the street, the masons, carpenters
and illiterates understand, they will survive. As long as they
continue to fulfil the claims that they were able to help those
who faced unique difficulties in life, they will thrive. Provided
they heal sicknesses, serve as a haven of rest to those in distress,
and give relief to those with psychosomatic troubles, they will
continue to survive in the face of all odds which were likely to
befall them68.

Conclusion
AICs will remain a threat to the historical churches if they
fail to recognise the meaning of Christianity and how Christianity had been expanding. It is true that in Mbeya Christianity
is growing through AICs. By the 1960s, the religious picture in
Mbeya region was somehow clear. The 1967 census shows that
Interview with Abiud Simkoko, op. cit.
Interview with Leonard Maboko, op. cit.
67
R.O.O. Ositelu, African Instituted Churches: Diversities, Growth, Gifts, Spirituality and Ecumenical Understanding of African Initiated Churches, Hamburg 2002,
p. 38.
68
Interview with Leonard Maboko, op. cit.
65
66

268

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

Mbeya had about 43% Christians, 2% Muslims, 53% African
Religion, and 2% others69. Ndaluka argues that there were over
90 churches in Zanzibar and there were over 300 denominations in Mbeya Regions in the 1990s. The new denominations
seem to compete with the historical ones70. In 2016, Mbeya was
mentioned as the second region having many denominations
in Africa and the first being Lagos in Nigeria71. In the information declared by district commissioner Paul Ntinika, Mbeya had
about 450 denominations. David Mwashilindi added that many
churches were not a problem given that order was followed72. If
at the beginning there were only two denominations with their
doctrine and target, so it is clear that with AICs which are more
than hundred denominations in Mbeya, the former churches were
not happy with it. Also, Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and
Pentecostal Council Tanzania (PCT), religious organisations in
Mbeya, do not accept AICs. Historical churches and AICs all are
Christians but they preferred division.
REFERENCES

Africa under the Colonial Domination 1885–1935, ed. A.A. Boahen,
Portsmouth 1990 (General History of Africa, vol. 7).
Ayegboyin D. & Ishola S., African Indigenous: A Historical Perspectives,
Houston 1997.
Baur J., 2000 Years of Christianity Africa: An African History, Nairobi 1994.
URT, 1967 Population Census, vol. 3.
T.J. Ndaluka, Social Cohesion and Religious Intolerance in Tanzania, in: The
Political Economy of Change in Tanzania: Contestations Over Identity, the Constitution and Resources, ed. R.S. Mukandala, Dar es Salaam 2015, p. 49.
71
See: http/www.mpekuzihuru.com/2016/11/jiji-la-Mbeya-ni-la-pili-kwawingi-wa.html: 29 November, 2016.
72
Ibidem.
69
70

AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES AS A THREAT...

269

Brock B., The Nyiha of Mbozi, „Tanzania Notes and Records”, 1966, no. 65.
Camaroff J. and Camarroff J., Christianity and Colonialism in South Africa,
„American Ethnography”, 13(1986), no. 1, pp. 1–22.
Christianity in Tropical Africa: Studies Presented and Discussed at the Seventh International African Seminar, University of Ghana, April 1965,
ed. C.G. Baëta, Oxford 1968.
Gyadu J., United over Meals Divided at the Lord’s Table: Christianity and
the Unity of the Church in Africa, „Transformation”, 27(2010), no. 1,
pp. 16–27.
Hastings A., A History of African Christianity 1950–1975, Cambridge 1979.
Hastings A., The Church in Africa 1450–1950, Oxford 1994.
Makunde A., Yafahamu Makanisa Yaliyoko Tanzania, Ndanda 1997.
Mbeya District Office, October 2014: List of Churches in Mbeya.
Mbogella F., Factors Associated with the Spread of HIV/AIDS among the
Female Youth in Tanzania: A case of Mbeya Municipality, M.A Dissertation (Unpublished), University of Dar es Salaam, 2002,
Mpesha A., The Role of the Church in Microcredit Financing for Business
Development in Tanzania, Grand Rapids 2004.
MSHZA, History of Diocese of Mbeya, Part III: Apostolic Prefecture of
Tukuyu,1932–1947.
MSHZA, Part of Vicariate of Tanganyika, 1899–1932.
Musomba A.Y., Historia Fupi ya Kanisa la Moravian Kusini Tanzania, Dar
es Salaam 1990.
Musomba A., The Moravian Church in Tanzania Southern Province: A Short
History, Nairobi 2005.
Ndaluka T., Social Cohesion and Religious Intolerance in Tanzania, in: The
Political Economy of Change in Tanzania: Contestations Over Identity,
the Constitution and Resources, ed. R.S. Mukandala, Dar es Salaam
2015, pp. 35–54.

270

Ashura Jackson Ngoya

Njoh A., Tradition, Culture and Development in Africa: Historical Lessons
for Modern Development Planning, Farnham 2006.
Ositelu R.O.O, African Instituted Churches: Diversities, Growth, Gifts, Spirituality and Ecumenical Understanding of African Initiated Churches,
Hamburg 2002.
Ranger T.O., Christian Independence in Tanzania, in: African Initiatives in
Religion, ed. D.B. Barrett, Nairobi 1971, pp. 122–145.
Ranger T.O., The African Churches of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam 1972 (The
Historical Association of Tanzania, no. 5).
RMA, File Moravian General; File Origin and Growth of the UNITASFRARUM;
SHMZA, File, M.60.15: The Last Church of Tanzania.
Sundkler B. & Steed C., A History of the Church in Africa, Cambridge:
UK 2000.
Tambila K.I. & Sivalon J., Intra-denominational Conflict in Tanzania Christian Churches, in: Justice, Rights and Worship: Religion and Politics in
Tanzania, eds. R. Mukandala [et al.] New Delhi 2006.
TNA File No. 25/8: Rungwe.
TNA File: 25/9/33 Mission General Tukuyu.
Turner W., The Church of the Lord: the Expansion of a Nigerian Independent Church in Sierra Leone and Ghana, „Journal of African History”,
3(1962), no. 1, pp. 91–110.
URT, 1967 Population Census, vol. 3.
World Christianities c.1914 – c.2000, ed. H. McLeod, Cambridge 2006
(The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 9).

Chapter 9.

MUSSA KASSIMU

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI
TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS RITUALS
Influences and Absorption of African
traditionalists’ Mind in the Third Millennium
ABSTRACT

Whether one’s religion is more or less worth is an attitude of mind.
From the 19th century to date, foreign religions have profound effects on
African beliefs. Foreign religions surpassed traditional African religions
in the way African perceive them better at the expense of theirs. Wanyamwezi practices have been influenced in terms of identity, worship,
religious ceremony, gratitude to Supreme Being and other institutions of
religion; which are more based on foreign religions. The work deals with
Wanyamwezi, a community of Central-Western Tanzania, which has been
in contact with Arabs as porters and their areas stationed by European
missionaries all of which acted as levers for foreign religions spread. This
work, therefore, has shown some important traditional ritual practices
strongly valued by Wanyamwezi before the influence of foreign religions
and how the latter resulted into identity crisis, which if left unchecked
may result into chaos accompanied by strives as it has been experienced
at Buselesele and Zanzibar in Tanzania, as well as in the Central African
Republic only few to mention. It is not conflict-based but impact-based
paper in which there is an identity crisis accompanied by blustering of
who are right in the eyes of God as an ideological weapon in winning
more supports and gaining many followers. Islam and Christianity have
MUSSA KASSIMU – Assistant Lecturer, Department of History, Political Science and Development Studies, Mkwawa University College of
Education.

272

Mussa Kassimu

numerous numbers of faith adherents, among them are Wanyamwezi
with few not convinced by either of the sides. Data were collected from
Tabora Municipality and former Urambo District (Kaliua and Urambo)
through interview, questionnaire, focus group discussion and observation. The target was not to find the number of followers of each religion
but to find out how the Nyamwezi as a case were absorbed by foreigners
religiously. Understanding African traditional beliefs and merging with
what religion is, one will be in a good position to understand the current
role of African religions.
Key words: religions, tradition, rituals.

Introduction
A human being is a social being who, from the first time of his
existence, began a social life, lived and organized themselves in
groups that later developed into the early societies. They engaged
in different economic activities including agriculture during stone
ages, and developed a system of beliefs to solve some complicated
issues1. Africans had a sense of religion millions of year ago, from
the time Africans were attempting to manipulate the unseen world
that controls natural object and phenomena by means of magic2.
Drought and little harvests are some of the issues that forced man
to have such kind of belief. Shillington3 explains that with ‘Homo
erectus’ of the ‘acheulian’ period men have had some form of ritual
or early religion with the beginnings of the deliberate burial of the
dead. Men probably sought remedies for evil in inherited beliefs
and institutions. They consulted the diviners, made offerings for
ancestral spirits, countered witches and employed medicines4.
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, New York 1979.
J.S. Mbiti, African Religions &Philosophy, Dar-es-Salaam 1969.
3
K. Shilligton, History of African Revised, New York 2005.
4
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, op. cit.
1
2

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

273

For that sense, people had a belief in supernatural power and
as a result they created imaginary Supreme Beings referred to as
gods in their daily activities. The Supreme Beings are the origin
and sustenance of all things5. The essence of religious practices is
the struggle of human kind to control the unseen events. Religion
became an institutional aspect of societies, which was the result
of men’s struggle to control and understand the material world as
Rodney6 asserts that religion was an aspect of the superstructure
of a Society, deriving ultimately from the degree of control and
understanding of the material world. Therefore, religion is very
important among other institutions of society which maintains
the bond between and among members and assures continuation
as well as its existence.
However, societies have been interacting overtime from the
ancient period to the present. Such interactions resulted into social
influences in not only religious aspects but also other structures of
society7. ‘In God we trust’, is being used by most of Americans. The
saying had its origin in African theological doctrine developed during the height of the infamous slave trade to reinforce the slaves8.
When two societies of different sorts come into prolonged and
effective contact, the rate and character of change taking place in
both is seriously affected to the extent that entirely new patterns
are created, and the weaker of the two societies is bound to be affected9. Most of African traditional religions were perceived weak
in the Foreigners’ eyes, including that of the Nyamwezi; hence,
were absorbed. Rodney10 stated that African ancestral religions
J.S. Mbiti, African Religions &Philosophy, op. cit., p. 29.
W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Dar es Salaam 1972.
7
J.S. Mbiti, African Religions &Philosophy, op. cit.
8
D.A. Mungazi, The Mind of Black African, Westport 1996.
9
W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, op. cit.
10
Ibidem.
5
6

274

Mussa Kassimu

were no better or worse than other religions as such. It implies
that whatever happened in other world religions also could happen
in African traditional religions. African societies were open-ended
allowing integration of other new culture11. Therefore, African societies provided room for the new culture, religion as part of that
culture. It evidently proves that African religions provided chance
for the imported foreign religious aspects.
T. Shibangu and colleague12 stated that African society is not
the ancient Society but a Society with Euro-Christian and Islamic
influences. Therefore, much of what was practised was influenced
by Christianity and Islam. Accepting either of the two influential
religions meant innovation in the existing culture. Africans, by the
time outsiders came with what they called religious civilization,
were recognizing and praising their own gods. Rodney13 disclosed
that:
“As are well known, traditional African religious practices exist
in a variety, and it should also be remembered that both Islam and
Christianity found homes on the African continent almost from their
very inception. The features of the traditional African religions help
to set African cultures apart from those in other continents”.

Evidence shows that African religions have existed from ancient
Africa, during the stone-age dominated by Homo erectus. Although
Africans of a certain geographical area practiced cultures which
slightly differed from that of others, they shared some common
characteristics such as sacrifice to the ancestral spirits, the sacral
role of the chief as a cult-personnel as well as tribal festival dur11
A.A. Mazrui, Africa and other Civilization; conquest and Counter Conquest,
in: Africa in World Politics; The African State System in Flux, eds. J.W. Harbeson
and D. Rothchild, Boulder 2000, pp. 110–135.
12
T. Shibangu, Essential of Research Methodology in Human and Social Sciences, Kampala 2007.
13
W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, op. cit.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

275

ing tribal and personal crises as well as healing exercise in society.
Rodney14 asserted that religion pervaded African life in the period
before the coming of whites, just as it pervaded life in other prefeudal societies. Therefore, Africans had established their own
belief system by the time foreigners landed on the continent.
The nineteenth-twentieth century was the period of the considerable Arab and European influences on the African ways of
life as the two were competing to de-Africanize the continent.
Nineteenth century was the period of Europeans coming into Africa as Ranger explained that the 1870s – 1890s were the time of
great flowering of European invented tradition. Europeans were
rushing into Africa. Therefore, nineteenth century seems to be the
time of competition between Asians and Europeans, respectively.
Iliffe15 stated that missionaries in East Africa were competing with
an expanding Islam as well as competing with each other.
Kimambo16 (1969) reported that nineteenth century was the
period of Tanzanian history which had been much oversimplified.
For it was easy either to work in the nineteenth century as the
period of change and the pre-1800 period as one during which
many Tanzanian societies were static, or to recognize changes
and, perhaps ‘improvements’ in both social and political organization, but consider that changes to be initiated by some ‘superior’
groups of people with a special kind of ‘know-how,’ while the
stimulus to many of the changes which took place in that period
could be traced to the arrival of new groups of people into regions
already inhabited. The word ‘inhabited’ here may refer also to
cultural achievements including development of religion. Neither
Europeans nor Arabs only can be condemned for the changes on
Ibidem.
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, op. cit.
16
I.N. Kimambo, The Interior Before 1800, in: A History of Tanzania, eds. I.N. Kimambo and A.J. Temu, Nairobi 1969.
14
15

276

Mussa Kassimu

Africans, but one can have a look over these influences from the
multi-dimensions as Kimambo17 asserts that:
“There was no single group responsible for transmitting the ideas of
change and ‘improvements’ to all parts of Tanzania. Secondly, even when
ideas defused from one area to another, local initiatives transformed
these ideas and adopted them to the needs of that particular society”.

Their influences resulted from Africans’ interaction with external
world like what was happening to the rest of the world such as in
China and Roman. Rodney18 noted that, “By the end of feudalism,
Europeans began to narrow the area of human life in which religion and the church played a part”. Talking about Europeans and
Christianity is the narration of inseparable aspects. Iliffe19 states
that, “Three innovations in indigenous religions appear to have
taken place in German times. One was the continued vulgarization
of religious activities hitherto to specialists, much as kubandwa
had been vulgarized into ‘buswezi’ in Unyamwezi”. Therefore,
Christianity exerted its influence on popular cult.

Methodology
Approach and Research Design
The study on the Foreign Religious Influence upon Wanyamwezi
Traditional Rituals was organised qualitatively as an approach
which includes designs, techniques and measures that do not
produce discrete numerical data, and in which data are often in
form of words rather than numbers, and these words are grouped
into categories as it was done by the researcher20. Case study was
Ibidem, p. 18.
W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, op. cit.
19
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, op. cit., p. 206.
20
O.M. Mugenda and A.G. Mugenda, Research Methods; Quantitative & Qualitative research Approach, Nairobi 1999.
17
18

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

277

employed to find an in-depth, real time or retrospective analysis
of case21 (Edmond and colleague, 2013). Therefore, case study
was admitted purposefully to find in-depth and retrospective influence of the monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam upon
Wanyamwezi traditional religious rituals.
Study area
The study was carried at former Urambo District (Urambo and
Kaliua) and Tabora Municipality (Unyanyembe) in Tabora, Tanzania
(shown in figure 1) and Tabora Municipal (shown in figure 2) and
former Urambo District (current Urambo and Kaliua). The region
is populated by different groups including the Wanyamwezi: the
dominant group, their cousin Basukuma. Significant minorities
include: Waha, Wanyiramba in Igunga, Wafipa, Wachaga, and
refugees from Burundi that have added varieties to that region
ethnic’s make up22.
The two areas (Tabora municipality and former Urambo district)
have a total population of approximately four hundred thousand
out of population of two million and three hundred thousand of the
whole Tabora region: However, the researcher did not manage to
get the number of Wanyamwezi23. Tabora municipal has twenty five
wards out of which six were visited namely: Kanyenye, Gongoni,
Chemchem, Kitete, Ng,ambo and Itetemia (Figure 2). Urambo has
sixteen wards out of which four were reached and worked upon;
Itundu, Imalamakoye, Kapilula and Urambo (Figure 3). However,
the researcher also visited Ushokola ward of the new Kaliua District
which was part of former Urambo because he intended to carry
out the study in former Urambo district and Tabora Municipal.
W.A. Edmonds, and T.D. Kennedy, An Applied Reference Guide to Research.
Designs;Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods, New Delhi 2013.
22
The President’s Office, Planning and Privatisation, January, 2005, p. 208.
23
Population and Housing Census, vol. 2, 2012.
21

278

Mussa Kassimu

Figure 1. Map of Tanzania showing Tabora Region

Source: Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics (2012).

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...
Figure 2. A map showing Tabora municipality

Source: Tabora Municipal Administrative office.

279

280

Mussa Kassimu

Figure 3. A map showing former Urambo District (current Kaliua and Urambo)

Source: Urambo district administrative office.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

281

Sample size, sampling procedures and data analysis
The study involved twenty five Nyamwezi adult people aged fifty
to sixty years and twelve elders of sixty one years old and above,
with knowledge of the traditional religious rituals who were the
key-informants. These were obtained through snowball sampling;
eighteen religious officials, nine Muslim leaders, such as sheikhs
and maalim, as well as nine Christian religious leaders including
pastors, nuns and clergymen, religious leaders who would analyse
the principles to which the converts should adhere to in order to
become a true Christian or Muslim all of whom were purposively
sampled. Four traditional healers were consulted as traditional
ritual experts and two grandchildren of Nyamwezi chiefs, Mirambo
and Fundikira who were also purposively selected Grandchildren
would somehow disclose the sacred rituals practised by their
grandparents as according to most African tradition grandchildren
are given names and other ritual inheritance. Schonenbeger24
supports that, “In giving a name to a child, Wanyamwezi parents
remember their own parents in gratitude and reverence by calling
their children by the names of their own parents and of brothers
and sisters of their own parents”. Names were given sequentially
with the responsibilities vested to the grandparents. Generally, the
study involved a total of sixty one respondents.
The researcher employed purposive sampling technique to
get religious leaders and chiefs’ grandchildren by virtue of their
position. The selected cases were judged as the most appropriate
ones for this study. Religious leaders would provide the principle
to which the new converts should adhere.
The report contains data from both primary sources and secondary sources through interview, Focus group discussion, QuestionP. Schonenbeger, Nyamwezi Names of Persons, „Anthropos”, 90(1995),
Heft. 1–3, pp. 109–132.
24

282

Mussa Kassimu

naire and Documentary Review; therefore, the project preserved
its validity due to the use of multiple data collection methods
involved in the study in relation to the objectives. The stability of
this study is based on the assumption that consistent results would
be provided if investigation were repeated in the same context.
Data have been analysed qualitatively.

Findings
Wanyamwezi traditional religious ritual practices
Prior to foreign influences, there were varieties of Nyamwezi
traditional religious rituals, according to the interviews held in
2014 in the areas under the study, one of the respondent explained
ritual practice as ‘Kwisenga’ which means the prayer and any other
related activities. Varieties of these ritual practices according to
the respondents were determined by event in advance. These
include: deaths of a family or community member, installation of
chiefs to the office, preventive rituals against the occurrence of
natural disasters, misunderstandings between or among family
members, and that aimed at seeking blessing before a person left
from his, her or their home for seeking better life were among the
determinants. Kendall25 supports that religious beliefs are linked
to practices that bind people together and to rites of passage such
as birth, marriage and death. These events are associated with
religious rituals. The following are varieties of religious rituals
identified during data collection.
1. Religious rituals pracitsed in mourning days of death of members of the community.
This was regarded as part of community rites; therefore, religious ritual practices would be held and were of two types. Those
25

D.E. Kendall, Sociology in Our Times, Ware 2000.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

283

practised following deaths of chiefs and other respected, and that
was held after the commoner’s death. At the interview, the member
of the Nyamwezi community said:
“During the burial ceremony of the chief, the elder people would
organize the special prayer. We believed that a dead chief would
become the ancestral spirit who would keep on helping us whenever
we neededa help. A chief’s body had to be well chiefly dressed”.

Burial of such kind revealed respect to the chief. It also signified
the status of the chief in religious affairs. Iliffe26 explains, “Most
commonly ancestors’ propitiation was extended to make a chief’s
ancestors influential over the welfare of the territory they ruled.
Regular sacrifices might be made at their graves, or they might
be propitiated in communal misfortune”.
Shillington27 in supporting this explains that African political
and religious authority was generally very closely allied. Even in
the smallest-scale society the chief was usually the guardian of
religious shrines or protector of the ancestral spirits. Therefore,
in respect to the chief, a special religious ritual practice following
his death was necessary. Chiefs in almost all African ethnic groups
had special respect. For example, Shillington28 stated that Mansa’s
central religious role within the empire was crucial to people’s
survival and he was thus treated with exaggerated respect. The
Nyamwezi chiefs were honoured for the virtue of their status in
the community; therefore, what was practised for them had no
or slight difference from the other African community, whether of
the Western, Southern, Eastern or Central Africa.
Another type of traditional religious ritual practice in honour to
death was that practised during the death of a common person. The
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, op. cit.
K. Shilligton, History of African Revised, op. cit.
28
Ibidem, p. 94.
26
27

284

Mussa Kassimu

prayer would be carried out during the mourning days, differently
from that in honour of the chief ‘mtemi’ or sub-chief ‘mwanangwa’.
One of the interviewees said:
“The commoners’ burial ceremonies were respected, but were never
held like those of chiefs’. Commoners were buried alone followed by
normal ritual practices. People also could stay at the funeral in the
days of mourning. If he or she was an elder person, the elders would
carry the corpse and were responsible for sacred requirement during
burial ceremonies”.

However, among the commoners, also the organisation of burial
ceremonies differed from one another. The interviewee proceeded
and the response was, “If any of the two twins died, he or she had
to be buried while covered with the barks of trees, in lower land
area or near the well or dams”. When the interviewee was asked if
there was any gender consideration to these burial ceremonies she
replied that gender could play part only for the twins. The male twin
could only be buried by males and if it was a female, only females;
in black clothes with soaked flour smeared on their foreheads, were
responsible to bury her but all people attended the funeral.
2. There were also religious practices held during the installation
of a new chief to the reign
A chief having both political and religious authority was given
respect during the ceremony. He was regarded as new to maintain
good relationship among his subjects and between the communities and the sacred. One of the interviewees said that the installed
chief was showered with water from the soaked leaves of tree
called ‘Mvuta mvula’ meaning rain attractor”. Rain was valued so
much as a source of life. Whichever worth thing was regarded as
brought by rainfall. Therefore, washing him to attract rain was
not only to attract rainfall but also attracting anything good for
the betterment of the society.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

285

Most of ritual practices involved the use of traditional medicine
made of different types of trees and dead animals. The interview
held at Chemchem in Tabora disclosed what was really done when
the authority was entrusted to the chief. Another interviewee said
their elders had the authority to declare the new chief and they
told him that he was washed with ‘Mvuta Mvula’ purposively to
attract good things to their community and throw away bad omen
for the prosperity of the Nyamwezi society. Then, traditional prayer
would be held for wishing success to the chief and the whole
society throughout the period overseen by the installed chief.
There were also medicines used by chiefs such as ‘mzimilwa’ to
end conflict between the chief and his enemies. Another medical
tree was ‘mtwaligana’ used to make him popular to the people.
‘Mkungamila’ also was used, while soaked in water, to call people
from different world directions. It was spread towards West, East,
South and North while articulating some words. All medicines
used depended on the ritual practices, that is why certain words
would be spoken to show intension for the practice.
The interview held at Gongoni in Tabora, one of the grandsons
of chief Mirambo said that ‘mkungamilwa’, ‘Mvuta Mvula’ and
‘mzimilwa’ were important materials that could not be let finish
out”. That means, it would be better to let other things finish out
than those medicines. Therefore, the role of a chief was associated with traditional medicine as part of their religious practice.
The chiefs were considered the ritual experts as well as the only
people who could communicate with the ancestral spirits. Most
of the things which were done for the respect of any African chief
were not different from other African leaders of prior to innovation.
As African traditions had no much difference from one another
as Kimambo29 supports, “Generally speaking the ‘ntemi’ was no
29

I.N. Kimambo, The Interior Before 1800, op. cit., p. 22.

286

Mussa Kassimu

different from the king or chief of west lake region. He had to
possess certain sacred symbols; he had to lead in certain rituals,
above all, his own well-being was identified”. Shillington30 supported that the village head or chief; the ‘Mansa’ in Malinke was
the person most directly linked with the spirit of the land upon
whom continued and depended the production of their crops. The
Mansa, as a guardian of the ancestors, was thus both religious and
secular leader of his people.
3. There were also religious rituals practised for ending misunderstandings and conflicts among community or family members.
It is normal for people living together, sometimes, to have conflicts, misunderstanding and even quarrels for different reasons. For
Wanyamwezi, prolonged misunderstandings among family members were considered as the curse from God; therefore, immediate
attention was required. Special religious ritual practices would be
held for ending such problem. The interviewee at Ushokola explained that if any kind of prolonged misunderstanding or conflict
arose, the family elders would make an urgent call, gathering all
available members in the locality. During the occasion a fire was
lit. Words signifying to stop the conflict would be spoken to beg
God, then fire had to be extinguished showing the ending of such
conflict.
4. Other rituals aimed to protect the family or community
against epidemic diseases.
Smallpox (ndui) was among those diseases. In protecting such
kind of diseases, the interviewee at Itundu said, they were ordered
to extinguish fire in their households on the day prior to occasion
against ‘ndui’ and were required to take fire only from the chief’s
30

K. Shilligton, History of African Revised, op. cit.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

287

residence that could be spread to all other households. Extinguishing fires in other people’s settlement signified stopping the spread
of disease. Taking fire from the chief’s house was regarded as taking new fire free from such kind of disaster which was believed to
heal people. That fire was regarded to be strong enough to fight
the disease because it was from the guardian of religious shrine.
5. There were religious practices done for the purpose of seeking blessing from traditional god ‘Likubhe Linyagasa’.
According to the interview held, the respondent elucidated
that religious ritual practice would be carried and headed by the
family elder, grandfather or father assisted by mother or grandmother within the household. The prayer aimed at achieving
blessing from the ancestral spirit for the prosperity of clans’ or
individuals’ goals. When he was asked if someone left without any
ritual practice he replied that one would hardly succeed and he
or she would be likely to get bad omen. For that sense, religious
ritual practice was inevitable. The same was done for the person
who was almost to marriage, and those who wanted to leave
for trade. One of the discussion through focus group revealed
that ritual practices would enable the married people to have
good life, healthier children and be free from any magic trick or
illusion. The prayer would lead them in good luck. Hence, for
economic gain and the betterment of social affairs, ritual practice
would be the best.
6. Religious rituals to avoid natural disasters such as flood, drought
and others
In regard to the occurrences of the natural disasters such as
famine, draught and floods there were religious ritual practices as
a means of protecting the community against them. For example,
for the heavy rainfall accompanied with thunderstorms, one of the

288

Mussa Kassimu

interviewees explained about special prayer that had to be held
under twins’ supervision. Twins had to stand at the door while
holding a winnowing basket ‘ungo’ containing maize flour. They
had to beg for stopping the rainfall, and their prayer would soon
end the rainfall. The prayers for the other disaster were also carried
in accordance to the formality. The respondent added that draught
was normally considered to be a result of people being against the
norms so maybe god was annoyed; therefore, it was a curse from
God (limurungu). Begging for forgiveness required elders to make
an assembly on hills and sometimes to the specified area called ‘kwa
itambalale’. Women were participating in accordance with norms of
the society as it was explained by one of nyamwezi elders at Kitete
that only women who were not in menstrual circle participated in
the prayer. She added that the prayer involved sacrificing animals
such as goats, sheep and cows with black colour.
Shillington31 supports that:
“Nyamwezi held Europeans responsible for drought, while Sukuma
conservatives blamed religious innovation: ‘we see clouds but they
move away. God hides the water lets us die...what our crime, oh God?
Men arrived who taught us lies, not to make the right sacrifices”.

7. There are traditional religious rituals practiced in gratitude to
God due to normal delivery of Children.
Schonenbeger32 presents the feeling of Wanyamwezi on getting
children and expressed that Wanyamwezi are fond of children and
see children as the most marvelous gift of the creator. Therefore,
they had to thank god ‘Likubhe Linyangasa’ in gratitude for the
safe birth. It was explained by respondent that a pregnant woman
always would pray for good health and normal delivery because
only ‘liimulungu’ is the one that determines mother and child’s
31
32

Ibidem, p. 342.
P. Schonenbeger, Nyamwezi Names of Persons, op. cit., p. 109.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

289

health. Parrinder33 supported that when a woman announced to
husband or mother that she was pregnant, there was rejoicing and
precautions were taken to ensure normal gestation and delivery.
A sacrifice of thanks was made to the supreme God, or the family
gods’representatives or ancestors who were naturally relevant in the
reproduction of their family and provision of a channel of rebirth.
Prayers were made for the health of the mother and her baby.
Organization of traditional religious practices
Traditional religious rituals were organized in two levels. The
lowest level was that of the family where religious rituals could
be carried for the betterment of the family. Whether for happiness
or sadness, the event brought members of the family together to
hold traditional religious rituals. One of the interviewees said
they used to congregate at their elder’s house when they wanted
to thank their God, ‘Likubhe linyangasa’ for success or asking for
forgiveness when things were going so badly. Eruption of diseases,
misunderstandings among the family members, poor agricultural
harvests and bad omen in the day to day activities were among
the issues requiring ritual practice to be held upon”.
The highest traditional religious organizational practice was of
the community level. The chief, mtemi, or sub-chief, mwanangwa,
was the ritual supervisor. It was coordinated in response to the
problems directly affecting the whole community. The respondent
interviewed at Mwinyi reported that drums were beaten to call
people from different places. Then, it was announced the day and
time when the gathering would be held, although time was not
distinct as time was determined by the direction of the sun and
crow of the cock among other signs. The matter would either be
for political reasons, like the installation of a new chief, social rea33

E.G. Parrinder, African Traditional Religion, London 1974.

290

Mussa Kassimu

sons like solving the problem existing in the society”. There were
special areas arranged by either a chief with his council of elders
at community level or by the head of the family at family level.
1. Requirements during religious ritual practices.
The organization of religious practices required preparation.
This includes clothing and other things in extra (clobber) as well
as sacrifice.
2. Clobbers and sacrifices.
There was special clothing alongside with other materials in
accordance with the specified occasion. the clobbers usually were
the permanently prepared things that could be used in more than
one occasion, provided that they were appropriate and kept well
to maintain natural appearance. According to the interview held
at Itundu, the respondent elucidated that the ritual supervisor had
to be in clothes made of barks of trees with a goat’s tail on hand.
Beads made of either pumpkin seeds, or other identified materials would be worn on arms. Leather belt tightened on waist and
a special hat with ostrich feathers on the head.
A chief, due to his status, used to be in a special clobber different from that of other people. For the other people as respondent
said, men would be in black, red or white clothes styled in man’s
open-sided cloak (rubega) with beads on their heads and arms.
Women also had to be in black, red or white clothes but worn
tightened above their breast. They wore beads around their heads,
arms, waists, and slightly above their ankles. Black and red were
worn during the mourning occasion; the white clothes were worn
during the happiness.
All other participants had to be in a uniform-like clothes which
depended upon the occasion on the spot. It was hard to find people
in different dress during religious occasion because it was a custom.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

291

However big the occasion was, it would be nothing without
sacrifice to the ancestral spirit. The sacrifice included animals
with specific colours and type, grain food and traditional beer.
People had to prepare a black Billy-goat ‘beberu’ or a bull to be
slaughtered during the occasion. Then, after the chief or head of
the family would lead the crowd’s prayer by telling the ancestral
spirits the reason for gathering at that place. The sacrifice was part
and parcel of traditional religious practices. People had to sacrifice
to their ancestral spirits showing a real concern.
Influences by the foreign religions
Religion is a belief intrinsically arisen which results into observable actions in an effort to either satisfying a person or being
part of self-identity. Religious practices require identified areas on
which the practice is held under respective leaders, time framework
for religious activities and respective clothing. All these affected
traditional religion of Wanyamwezi.
1. Seeking new identity
The traditional Supreme Being known as “Likubhe Linyanyasa”
was replaced by either Christian God or Muslim Allah. One is not
considered as a true Muslim or true Christian unless admits in his
mind the concept of Almighty God or Allah with other religious
principles.
One religious leader of Moravian sect annotated that it was
an obligation for one to be a true Christian to accept that God is
one. To believe in the Jesus Christ as a savior and his death was
for the sins committed by human beings. The Holly Bible, new
testament the gospel (John 1:26–29) 34 states that “The next day
he saw Jesus coming toward him, and told them to behold, the
The British and Foreign Bible Society, Holy Bible, revised Standard Version,
New York 2008.
34

292

Mussa Kassimu

Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of World,” It is supported by
the Holly Bible, the first letter of John1 (5:10)” he who believes
in the son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not
believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in
the testimony that God has born to his son”.
The response from ustadh, a teacher of among Islamic school,
in Urambo district told the researcher that one is obliged to adhere
to the five Islamic principles if needs to be truly Muslim. This was
supported by Johnson who explains the five Islamic pillars35 that:
“The five pillars, primary duties, of the Islam: are witness; confessing the oneness of God and Mohammad, his prophet; prayer to be
performed five times a day; alms giving to the poor and the mosque;
fastening during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in the Moslem’s lifetime”.

Iliffe36 noted that the third religious innovation was reformulation of beliefs perhaps by emphasizing Gods intervention in human
affairs as against the activities of subordinate spirits, for subordinated spirits were less relevant than God to the larger World.
He added that in Unyamwezi, the missionaries’ identification of
Katavi with Satan may have aided the growth of his cult. It is
also through the invention of these new religions, the traditional
prophets were replaced by Christian and Muslim prophets, Jesus
Christ and Prophet Muhammad, respectively.
Illife presented that indigenous religious resources could help
men to comprehend their new situation but that work was believed
to be truly done by the foreign religious prophets. Iliffe explained
about the prophet who had foretold the coming of the Europeans.
These were among other African prophets who used to tell about
the future; among them were the rain makers who were part of
35
36

The Islamic Foundation, Qurani Takatifu; Chapa ya kwanza, Nairobi 2005.
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, op. cit.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

293

ritual experts. Later in the era of Islamization and Christianization
emerged new prophets with much prominence. Their birthdays
are much more valued than traditional prophets’. “Maulid” and
“Christmass” have been celebrated every year to mark the days
when Prophets Muhammad and Jesus Christ were born respectively.
Then, the roles of Muhammad and Jesus replaced that of the traditional prophets. John, as many people called him, the baptizer
is one of the new prophets who gained popularity.
The Holly Bible, The New Testament the gospel (John 1:26–29)
explains that when John was answering the question asked by the
priests and Laxities who were sent by the Jews, he said “I baptized
with water but among you stands one whom you do not know,
even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not
worthy to untie...”. John, according to that version, had foretold
the coming of Jesus Christ that was proved to be true later. Therefore, the traditional prophets who did the similar work to what
John and other foreign prophets did, was replaced by the foreign
religious prophets.
2. Regular time for holding religious events
Time framework on religious events was another religious innovation. Traditional religious events were irregularly held. They had
no particular time identified, instead they depended on the event
in advance. The Islamic religion, for example, needs recitation of
a prayer five times a day, each is recited on a particular time. The
respondent said that they attend the five session prayers namely;
the Morning Prayer ‘Alfajiri’, the afternoon prayer ‘adhuhuri’, the
evening prayer ‘Alasiri’ followed by another in two to three hours
after ‘Magharib’ then the night prayer ‘Al-isha’. She added that
Muslims also celebrate events namely Iddil-el-fitr after the fastening of the holy month of Ramadhan, and Iddi-el-Hajj. For the
Christian, religious practice and events also are regularly done.

294

Mussa Kassimu

One of the respondents told the researcher that they normally
celebrate Christmas on 25th December every year, commemorating
the birth of Jesus Christ, and Easter which starts on Wednesday to
Ester Monday of the identified weeks in that particular year. It is
done after ‘kwa resma’ a forty-day-fast. However, other Christian
denominations such as the seventh day Adventists (SDA) celebrate
neither Christmas nor Easter. Generally, foreign religious events
are regularly prepared and held.
3. The role of chiefs in leading religious affairs was replaced by
pastors, sheikh, bishops and other clergymen
Another religious reformulation was the emphasis on the
pastors, priests, sheikh, ‘ustadh’ at the expense of chiefs as religious leader. Because the chiefs lost their political power, so
they did the religious’. Shillington37 supports, “As the power of
the Mansa increased, so did the religious significance”. Mansa
was the Malinke chief who is purposefully cited as an example in
representing other African chiefs whose responsibilities look alike
across the African continent. Generally speaking the “Ntemi” was
no different from the king or chief of the West Lake Region. He
had to possess certain sacred symbols; he had to lead in certain
rituals above38.
By the time the invented religions took way and Christianity valued pastors, priests, pop and other recognized people in
Christian faith, the Muslim community put its emphasis on sheikh
and ustadh who are very much respected. Traditional chiefs were
devalued in the eyes of the Christian believers and Muslim followers. Traditional ritual experts like rain makers, chiefs and others
are not as important as they used to be.
37
38

K. Shilligton, History of African Revised, op. cit., p. 94.
I.N. Kimambo, The Interior Before 1800, op. cit., p. 22.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

295

4. Specified places were introduced replacing the traditionally
recognized areas in which religious rituals were practiced.
The foreign religions, Christianity and Islam, brought a new
concept of religiously specified area for prayer namely churches
and mosques. The researcher portrayed in the preceding versions
of this work that the Nyamwezi community held their prayer at
home, at chiefs’ palaces, on hills and near dams in accordance
with the event in advance.
In the new era, Uyanyembe experienced the mushrooming of
Mosques and churches as the Arabs introduced Islam at first, then
Germans followed with Christianity, that also was supported by the
British who came later, who did not deform Christianity instead
they made it prosper. Churches were the buildings for European
and Jewish Christian worship which used from the time immemorial. In ancient times, according to the Holy Bible, the revelation
to John (1:10) when John stated that:
“I was in the spirit on lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud
voice...telling me to write what I saw in the book, then I was ordered to
send it to seven churches; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna and to Per’gamum
and to Thyati’ra and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odice’a”.

However, in the ancient time, the Holy Bible (Matthew: 16:18)
shows the promise of building a church on the rock and the powers
of death would not prevail against it. Therefore, it was a promise
to build the church that its roles continue to influence other parts
of the world. The churches spread to different parts of the world
including Africa. Currently there are many churches and mosques
in Unyamwezi. According to the interview, one of the respondents said that people were willing to provide contributions for
building places for worship, churches and Mosques were built in
every corner. They supported morally or materially as in the Qur
an suratul swaf (Qur an 61:10) which reminds believers of how
they can emancipate themselves from the everlasting fire, ‘Jehan-

296

Mussa Kassimu

nam’ through believing Allah and to fight for the way of God; by
providing moral and material support.
There are almost more than nine Mosques in town as well as
more than fifteen churches of different denominations, but only
one place for traditional religion ‘Kwaitambare’, the place where
traditional religious rituals were practised. That illustrates people’s emphasis on churches and Mosques at the expense of their
traditional religious areas.
5. Traditional clobber was replaced by robes ‘kanzu/joho’, mantle
‘juba’ jellaba for the islams and modern clothes in other religions
Religious influence also appears in the way people put on during prayers. Clobber for traditional ritual practices was replaced
by modern clothes. Wearing black or red bed sheet-like clothes is
no longer considered. The Christians attend their mass wearing
the most modernized clothes like suits, modern gowns and skirts
with rosary in some denominations. The Muslims wear modern
trousers, robes of different colours with prayer beads ‘tasbihi’.
Members of foreign denominations told the researcher that they
are not bound to the dressing code but priests are obliged to be
in robes with colour according to ‘Liturgy’.
6. Self-identity of the Nyamwezi based on their adherence to the
new principles of the Islam and Christianity
The foreign religions, Islam and Christianity, introduced the
system of Islamization and Baptism as ways through which
a member is legally accepted in these foreign religions against
the old system in which a member was naturally born. A newborn adhered to traditional religion naturally as in other African
communities39.
39

J.S. Mbiti, African Religions &Philosophy, op. cit., p. 4.

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

297

The indigenous Nyamwezi identify themselves with either
Christian or Moslem names. Being baptized declared a person
a Christian although the process has slight differences from one
denomination to another. It is supported in the Holly Bible, the
gospel according to John 1 (pp. 30–35) States, “This is he of whom
I said, After me comes a man who ranks before me, fore he was
before me... I came baptizing with water...but he who sent me to
baptize with water said to me, this is who baptizes with the Holy
spirit”. The Holly Bible chaptered the Gospel according to John 1
(3:3–5) when Jesus was asked by Nicole, a ruler of Jews on how
man would be born again he responded “Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless one is born a new, he cannot see the kingdom of God...
Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the
kingdom of God”. Baptism is one of the conditions for entering
the Kingdom of God.
In the Islamic religion, also, one had to be Islamized to become
a member of the Islamic word. The same, it was encouraged to
accept the new names of Islamic culture, women to accept a new
wearing style like covering all parts of the body with exception
of the face and the hands. This had been done to Nyamwezi converts. According to the Holly Qur-an, (suratul Zumar:3} reveals
that, “the only supreme being deserves to be adored is “Allah”
and warns those who worship other creatures will be punished.
Allah is never with those who do not accept him and his way. It is
among the effective versions used to bring followers to accept and
adhere to Islam. According to the interview with some converts,
they explained one would have to confess that there is no one
who deserves the worship upon him unless Allah and doubtlessly,
Muhammad is Allah’s messenger. Following confession, the person
has to adhere and practically follow the remaining pillars of Islam.
Generally, almost Wanyamwezi community has been divided to
the so called world religions namely Islam and Christianity. These

298

Mussa Kassimu

religions have been in competition between them and among the
varieties of the same religions trying to influence more people to
join. Tshibangu40 et all states that the traditional African religion
became identified in mind of many Africans that had failed and had
been subjugated that many people began to proclaim adherence
to Christianity and Islam. Iliffe41 supports, “In 1930s in Tabora,
the African Muslims were said to be divided into two factions, the
left hand and the right hand; the left hand standing for drumming
in the mosque, more participation by women and in general for
a more Africanist Islam”. Therefore, the division could be within
or between religions.
Illife42 wrote that it was reckoned by the Governor in 1912 in
Tanganyika that the place contained 300,000 – 500,000 Muslims. It
shows how far the Islamic influence had reached. Germans wanted
to push Christianity: therefore, it seems they were in competition
with Muslims.
Among the effects of foreign religions to traditional Wanyamwezi religious ritual was also the spread of literacy which
almost changed the way religious leaders supervised the prayers.
People had to read Quran or Bible for Muslims and Christians respectively. All of what should be said was recited from
those two Holly books. Shillington43 revealed one of the consequences of Islam was the spread of literacy usually in Arabic
through the teaching of Qur-an. While the Missionaries opened
mission stations in which people were taught bibles among
other subject. Kiparapara mission station was one of the most
influential centers.
T. Tshibangu, J.F. Agayi and L. Sanneh, Religion and Social Evolution, in:
A History of East Africa, eds. I.N. Kimambo and A.J. Temu, Nairobi 1999, p. 501.
41
J. Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika, op. cit., p. 183.
42
Ibidem, p. 215.
43
K. Shilligton, History of African Revised, op. cit., p. 90.
40

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

299

Conclusion
Wanyamwezi community has varieties of ritual practices, only
very few people practise them openly as the only way of solving
problem but not their daily practice. The majority feel ashamed or
betray their new faith. Traditional religious prayers are still practiced secretly among the converts. African traditional religions were
open-ended and were receptive, able to accept changes and did
not limit Africans to practice and join the new religions provided
that one avoids taboo in accordance to Wanyamwezi customs.
In real sense, techniques employed by influential groups, the
European and Arabs used such as education, trade and evangelization among others aimed at attaining their goals. For the Africans,
Wanyamwezi in particular, positive effects came as effects rather
than motives. They used religions to soften the Wanyamwezi and
African minds in general so as to accept their foreign faith and be
the base for colonization.
There are many aspects of the traditional religions that play
roles similar to the invented aspects, for example, Wanyamwezi
believed in a single deity, ‘Likubhe linyangasa’, a supreme being
characterized by having over all control of the universe, the omnipotent. Also, God is the eternal, omniscient and invisible. Mbiti44
supported that conversion involves a mingling of traditional religion
with a biblical religion, since nobody enters into the Christian faith
with a religious vacuum and nobody can sweep out every trace of
former religious background. The Christian faith with a biblical
background, in effect finds a certain number of common or similar
religious elements in the African converts45.
Religion is the social institution in the society which includes
beliefs about the sacred or supernatural rituals in which believ44
45

J.S. Mbiti, Bible and Theology in African Christianity, Nairobi 1986, p. 128.
Ibidem, p. 128.

300

Mussa Kassimu

ers are drawn together by the common religious tradition46. The
traditional religion united Wanyamwezi community, guided their
behaviors on evils and goods.
Generally, since faith is unquestionable belief that does not
require proof or scientific evidence, what was presented by the
foreign religions about traditional religions that are of the uncivilized people is not correct47. The African religions could seek to
answer important questions such as why we exist, why people
suffer and die and what happens when we die. Neither Wanyamwezi traditional religions nor foreign religions are against life after
death48. Religious practices in all religions discussed are of great
importance provided that each fulfills the need of that society.
Religions are socially defined and the rituals mean the obedience
towards the Supreme Being.
REFERENCES

Edmonds W.A. and Kennedy T.D., An Applied Reference Guide to Research. Designs; Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods, New
Delhi 2013.
Iliffe J., A Modern History of Tanganyika, New York 1979.
Johnson O., Information Please Almanach, 49th ed., New York 1996.
Kendall D.E., Sociology in Our Times, Ware 2000.
Kimambo I.N., The Interior Before 1800, in: A History of Tanzania,
eds. I.N. Kimambo and A.J. Temu, Nairobi 1969.
Mazrui A.A., Africa and other Civilization; conquest and Counter Conquest, in: Africa in World Politics; The African State System in Flux,
eds. J.W. Harbeson and D. Rothchild, Boulder 2000, pp. 110–135.
D.E. Kendall, Sociology in Our Times, op. cit., p. 530.
Ibidem, p. 531.
48
J.S. Mbiti, African Religions &Philosophy, op. cit., p. 4.
46
47

FOREIGN RELIGIONS AND WANYAMWEZI TRADITIONAL...

301

Mbiti J.S., Bible and Theology in African Christianity, Nairobi 1986.
Mbiti J.S., African Religions &Philosophy, Dar-es-Salaam 1969.
Mugenda, O.M and Mugenda A.G., Research Methods; Quantitative & Qualitative research Approach, Nairobi 1999.
Mungazi D.A., The Mind of Black African, Westport 1996.
Parrinder E.G., African Traditional Religion, London 1974.
Rodney W., How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Dar es Salaam 1972.
Schonenbeger P., Nyamwezi Names of Persons, „Anthropos”, 90(1995),
Heft 1–3, pp. 109–132.
Shibangu T., Essential of Research Methodology in Human and Social Sciences, Kampala 2007.
Shilligton K., History of African Revised, New York 2005.
The British and Foreign Bible Society, Holy Bible, revised Standard Version, New York 2008.
Tshibangu T., Agayi J.F. and Sanneh L., Religion and Social Evolution, in:
A History of East Africa, eds. I.N. Kimambo and A.J. Temu, Nairobi
1999.
The Islamic Foundation, Qurani Takatifu; Chapa ya kwanza, Nairobi 2005.

Chapter 10.

PIOTR CICHOCKI

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC
IN CHURCH AND BEYOND

Dialectic relation of religion and development
Introduction
Since the sociocultural evolutionism died away, the technical
development and the religion have been not discussed together.
However, these two in western philosophies and social contexts
have intermingled long before and ever after the evolutionist approach. Some remarks about these relations in a rough version
can be grouped as follows:
1. The philosophy of enlightenment and social politics started
by the French Revolution replaced the earlier, religion-centered
approach with the glorification of the pure reason1. The pure
reason in this case guarantees the progress, excluding the religion
as outer or contested sphere. The effect of such an approach can
be seen in the modern science, lacking the religious paradigm,
including the anthropology of religion, founded on the lay,
neutral assumption on a social provenance of a religion. These
types of discourses are also visible in an organization of modern
PIOTR CICHOCKI – Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology,
University of Warsaw
B. Meyer, Mediation and the Genesis of presence: towards a material approach
to religion, Utrecht 2012.
1

304

Piotr Cichocki

states, especially in Europe (vide France, Scandinavia, Benelux
countries or Germany), clearly separated from religious institutions or even dominating them. However, if we derive from Max
Weber’s interpretation of the capitalism as an effect of Protestant
values and ethics2, we can see that the distinction between these
spheres are not absolute, but rather visible as a realization of
a different model. I believe that closer observation of this model,
combined with non-western imaginaries of bonds between the
sacred, power and technical can shed a light on the unfamiliar
terrain of social practices between above mentioned ideal types
of ‚technology’ and ‚religion’.
2. The second perspective is derived from the perspective of
religious institutions, sometimes questioning the authority of
a modern state. It can be observed in conservative and religious
social movements, like the Polish Catholic Church or many religious organizations in the United States. The approach to the
technological development ranges from a contestation (defined
as a fight with the so called “the culture of death”, supposedly
transmitted by modern electronic media), to capitalize it only as
a highly controlled means of a social communication. Only last
few years bring the gradual dynamic implementation of the newest
technologies to political campaigns of conservatists or evangelization in Europe and North America. The most remarkable example
is Polish (and international) Radio Maryja and Television Józef.
Both broadcasters using sophisticated and expensive technologies
transmit an extremely conservative political message, questioning
non-Christian media, technologies and economic model. Altogether
it makes a good example of how western conservatism just from
its foundation – if we date it again in the French Revolution times
R.R. Wilk and L. Cliggett, Ekonomie i kultury: podstawy antropologii ekonomicznej, Kraków 2011.
2

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

305

– accepts new forms and meanings only when they became an
integrated element of a social life.
This short paper, however, regards not European or global relations between the religion and the technical development, but
rather traces it in certain locations in East Africa. I believe, though,
that the view from a different perspective can unveil some less
understandable aspects of the critical bond.

What religion and technical
development have in common?
The aim of the ongoing research, which I relate to within this
short paper, is to understand how electronic technologies were
integrated onto religious practices and imaginaries of East African
religious men. I conduct research in Northern Region of Malawi
and for the comparative purpose in Iringa Region of Tanzania. The
growth of the technologic infrastructure – one of pillars of the development – is global and national project but it is also perceived,
contextualized and sometimes contested in certain localities, and
the latter is a subject of the study.
The technical development, when it is becoming to materialize from being a project, a plan and a symbol, to materialized
part of everyday life, is re-worked and incorporated by local
ontologies. Hence, the technology affects and is affected by local discourses and practice, that are essential to constitution of
the local life.
From the other hand, as many anthropologists argue and as
is confirmed by literally every and each interlocutor during the
research, the religion plays an essential role in functioning of
African communities and individuals. The classic of the anthropological theory of religion, E. Evans-Pritchard, observed that the
understanding of notions of God – or spirit – gives “the key to [...]

306

Piotr Cichocki

philosophy” of African communities3. The religion understood
as a ritual practice, a cosmology, a moral constitution, a way of
communication – incorporates and redefines discourses and materialities of the technical development, as well as is reshaped and
recontextualized by them4.
To properly understand the dynamic relation of religious life
and the technical development in Eastern Africa it is required to
identify the ambiguous role of religious institutions5. The religion
– Christianity in this case – has a tremendous impact on the ‚colonization of minds’, but gives also an effective identity scripts and
resources for the resistance against hegemonies6.
The other key issue is an understanding of the current role of
native religions and rituals that play a crucial but undefined part
in the political and social life of Malawi and other countries from
the region. In a consequence the main problem is in questioning
the dichotomy of the seemingly rational technological development
E.E. Evans-Pritchard and E. Gillies, Witchcraft, oracles, and magic among the
Azande, Abridged with an introd. by Eva Gillies, Oxford 1976.
4
T.G. K i r s c h, Ways of Reading as Religious Power in Print Globalization,
„American Ethnologist”, 34(2007), no. 3, pp. 509–520; Idem, Restaging the Will to
Believe: Religious Pluralism, Anti-Syncretism, and the Problem of Belief, „American
Anthropologist”, 106(2004), no. 4, pp. 699–709.
5
Due to various determinants and the need of precise scope, I limited my
research to Christian congregations of continental Tanzania and northern Malawi
and by institutionalized religious institutions I address Catholic, Protestant and
African churches. Similarly, the theorization of religious practice bases on the
historical context of Christianity in Africa, with absolutely key role of colonization. However, I am aware of different angle of Islamic history and hence different definitions of development and technology in its context, also because both
countries have significant Muslim population especially in respectively – Swahili
coast and southern Malawi.
6
J. Comaroff and J.L. Comaroff, Of revelation and revolution, Chicago 1991;
B. Sundkler and C. Steed, A history of the church in Africa, Cambridge – New
York 2000.
3

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

307

and the allegedly irrational sphere of ritual or at least to show the
movement in between these spheres.
Let me pause this theoretical, abstract exploration and start
to elaborate the character of relations between the religion, the
technology and the development on three examples observed in
Malawi and Tanzania in 2016 and 2017.
During the research I focus on the technology, specifically
technology of sound and music7, I ask, how the technologic innovation influences the practice of believing and the religious and
social onthology.
The three cases concern respectively:
– Church of Central Africa Presbiterian (CCAP) Malawi, more
specifically in Mzuzu, Rumphi and Lilongwe;
– Vimbuza possesion cult practiced by Tumbuka and Ngoni people
from Northern Region of Malawi;
– varied Christian congregations and gospel music production
studios in Iringa region.
In 2016 I experienced first meetings and discussions with the
diviners from Malawian cities: Malawi and Rumphi. I conducted
parallel observations in Christian congregations of number of parishes in Mzuzu and Rumphi, including St. Augustine, Christ Congregation in Malawi in Chiputula, CCAP Luwinga, CCAP Rumphi
and others. I have talked with members of congregations and with
frequent patients of the diviners, who are involved in vimbuza cult
as well as possessed persons including vimbuza diviners. During
the first stage of the research I applied mainly participant observations and interviews along with the detailed study on performative
principles and practices. The research objective was to trace the
categorizations and entanglements of technologies and practices
in context of the (so-called) traditional ritual performance.
7

As ‘technology of sound and music’ I understand.

308

Piotr Cichocki

I have conducted around 80 ethnographic interviews, based on
reference scenarios. The knowledge from my interviewees gives
an opportunity to understand religious and technologic conceptualizations, interpretations of genealogies and the connections
to wider cultural universe8 Conversations with people associated
with religious rituals shed a light on emic classifications, individual
practices and subjectively used materialities related to prayers.
The interview is recognized as one of the most innovative yet well
established method of social sciences9, which gives an inside to
inner cultural and individual worlds10. In case of religious practices
the method may be essential to glimpse emotions and affects of
interlocutors.
The participant observation addressed problems of the materiality and the body in the fieldwork. Observations within the project
comprehend spaces emerging from and through rituals11, imponderables of everyday life. They also allow to trace and understand
bonds of the language and the practice and acts of embodiment.
For example, the distinction between imported products of western
technology (like electronic keyboards) and the local handicraft (like
wooden drums) marked by a diverse symbolic can be observed by
the ways how certain technological objects are treated, touched,
stored, preserved and used (e.g. carefully cleansed, proudly presented, kept hidden or exposed12).
A. Seeger, Why Suyá sing: a musical anthropology of an Amazonian people,
Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] – New York 1987.
9
M.V. Angrosino, Doing Ethnographic and Observational Research, London
2007.
10
M. Hammersley and P. Atkinson, Ethnography: principles in practice, London – New York 1983.
11
G. Born, Music, Sound and Space Transformations of Public and Private
Experience, Cambridge 2013.
12
G. Rose, Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual
materials, London – Thousand Oaks 2001.
8

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

309

The research is based on emic approach, which requires that
rather than the perspective of theories or global institutions represented by documents like catechism, national development
strategies or prognosis of the World Bank, I study the perspective
and experience of local social institutions and individuals. This
optic allows to understand what is the religion and the technologic development in practice, in action, first of all embodied and
enacted, only then verbalized.

Electric Christianity
Church of Central Africa Presbyterian is dominant denomination
in the region. During the several months stay in Malawi I have
observed mostly urban churches belonging to Livingstonia synod
in Northern Malawi. Livingstonia has a special role in the history
of Nyasaland and afterwards – Malawi. It was established in 1894
by Scottish missionaries, who in search of non malarial climate13
moved from lake-shore locations of Cape Maclear and Bandawe to
higher grounds. Parallel to the activity of zealous Europeans, the
British Central Africa Protectorate started to flag its military presence in the area, justifying it with the fight with slave trade, concentrated in nearby Karonga at the stronghold of warlord named
Mlozi, soon after beaten by British troops.
Soon the colonial administration prompted the restructuralization of local people into ‚tribal groups’ with hierarchies, allowing
the colonists to rule through the mediation of tribal chiefs. This
process also affected the relationship between earlier inhabitants and
Ngonis14, by forming administration structure of Tumbuka tribe from
By that time the knowledge of mosquito-borne cause of malaria was not
popularized.
14
Ngoni people were a group composed by fugitives from today’s KwaZulu
Natal and their captives migrated during mfecane movements. They had politi13

310

Piotr Cichocki

the former15. The mission was both the centre of this administrative
reforms and education addressed also for members of the established Tumbuka tribe. Only several dozens later the well-educated
graduates of Livingstonia took crucial part in the independence
movement. This was followed by economic marginalization of the
region during dictatorship of decades-long presidency of Kamuzu
Banda, declared Chewa, who, as most of my interlocutors stressed,
underdeveloped the Ngoni-Tumbuka area according to his plan.
Today’s presbyterian Christianity is dominating the religious life
in the region, especially among Tumbuka people16. Presbyterian liturgies and prayers require electronic17 instruments, like programmed
keyboards as an accompaniment for gospel dancing choirs. Choirs
are usually organized within particular congregations and they
also use the technological equipment that belongs to the church.
Due to the disposal of almost all musical equipment, churches are
theoretically in control of the music education and the local scene18.
cally dominated local groups in the mid-XIXth century, but in time assumed their
language. Tumbuka people consisted on population inhabiting the area before
Ngoni invasion.
15
L. Vail, The Creation of tribalism in Southern Africa, London – Berkeley 1989.
16
Although I do not dispose of the quantitive data, I have noticed that majority of Ngoni people who I met are members of Catholic church.
17
Of course the electronic and the electric should not be treated by anthropologists as purely “given” material context, but as the socio-technologic phenomenon.
The electric and electronic sound, as a field of study on (post)modernity, engages
also philosophers. Greatly appreciated by anthropologists, Don Ihde compares the
classic music and rock music sound, and coins the notion of “flow” as an essential
quality of the latter. The flow, as he demonstrates, an over-embracing embodied
process, is a mode of experience distinctive for modernity, defined by an extended
use of electronic media (D. Ihde, Listening and voice: phenomenologies of sound,
Albany 2007). Ihde’s theory gives an remarkable example of how the social is
constructed by the technologic and the technologic emerging from the social.
18
The other music studios belong to independent producers connected with
hip-hop and dancehall music, but they are usually located in private household

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

311

A similar pattern can be observed on the scene of presbyterian
gospel of Northern Malawi outside the church performances. Presbyterian gospel has the best organized network of music recording
studios and producers in the region. Producers are working within
a pattern of electronic rhythms, that are highly appreciated by
artists and their listeners as danceable, mixing it with western
arrangements, and rhythms derived mostly from a South African
and Congolese music. The process of the production is highly
dominated by digital technologies and arrangements are purely
electronic which excludes a studio recording of live instruments.
To be the producer means to skillfully use electronic programs and
hardware. The only non-automatized sounds are voices of soloists
and choirs. To be Christian producer, which also implies a good
deal of relatively lucrative19 profession, means to be restricted only
to Christian music20.
The bond of a Christian congregation, the technology and the
commerce is visible also in the process of a production and a distribution of records. The paramount of expectation toward the
local music carrier is to release a DVD with collection of videos to
10 or more original songs, but such an endeavor greatly exceeds
and consist of the software, desktop computers and peripheral device. Hip-hop
and dancehall remain independently distributed outside churches’ structures,
but religious motifs carry throughout their work relatively often.
19
By stating that some economic activity was lucrative, we have to keep in
mind that due to general economic situation of northern Malawi, the type of
work was considered very dynamic. For example, one of best producers in Mzuzu
(and a marvelous interlocutor), let’s call him Don, during my research decided to
open a new studio, where he could be the only owner and manager and couple
of months later, move to South Africa to earn an incomparable amount of money,
not on music production though.
20
Generally music producers in Mzuzu are strictly limited to certain genres
and parallel to cracked music software, arbitrary associated with the music style,
i.e. in 2016 arrangements of gospel music were produced with Digital Audio
Workstation Reason and hip-hop, dancehall style with Fruity Loops.

312

Piotr Cichocki

financial capacities of soloist or even choir. The production and the
release of DVD was hence the venture of the complete congregation,
not the individual artist. Elders of congregations decided about
the investment in production of choir DVD, then after the costly
process of recording and video shooting, when the production is
finished and DVD is ready, the released title is sold in churches
and other religious or semi-religious events.
For the musicians, producers and believers the technologisation of prayer, service and the evangelization (as this is the way,
the music carrier of gospel musicians is defined), however limited
due to crisis of Malawian economy and scarcity of technological
resources, is anything but contradiction. Purely electronic rhythms,
media and arrangements used during prayers indicate a relation
between electricity, electronic instruments and Christianity, seen
also as, literally and spiritually understood, enlightenment and
development. The sound of the electronic brings the declaration
of being modern, effective also in case of effectiveness of prayers.
Thus, it stands as the declaration against paganism.
This, however, is not only a progressive social declaration of
being modern. To grasp the deeper layer of association between
the development of electricity and Christianity I must address the
second case – vimbuza possesion cult.

Spirits from acoustic drums
Night soundscapes of smaller towns and villages, that are
known to be centers of vimbuza cult, reverberate with a distant
drumming sound from the darkness, a clear indication of an ongoing ritual.
Nights of vimbuza performances are usually firmly set to particular days of week, distinguished between nearby thempilis. At
the night of a performance patients, drummers, listeners, dancers

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

313

and most importantly the keeper of thempili21, known as singanga
– which is translated as ‚African doctor’ by English speaking Tumbukas and Ngonis. The actual term vimbuza is the name of a disease
and a medical and musical practice, that aims to communicate
with spirits possessing diseased persons22. Most of categories of
participation in the ritual are fluid and listeners can easily become
drummers, even dancers. However, to become vimbuza dancer,
one has to be diagnosed by the doctor as diseased. The diagnosed
person starts to take part in rituals and due to individual character
of disease can be cured after several dancing sessions, become
a constant member of dancing team, or in most particular cases,
become a singanga. Foregoing symptoms of sickness depend on
a particular possessing spirit – they varied from a haunt in a dream
by a stranger, through allergy to everyday staple food – nsima23,
to fever, chronic tiredness and surliness in everyday contacts with
neighbors. It can even drive to death, if no therapy is maintained
which means that demands of spirits are ignored.
The single vimbuza dance – an isolated unit taken from the
all night ritual – is presently performed by three drummers and
individual dancer24. During the night another drummers and following dancers are involved. Three drums are playing distinguished
parts, with first as a base rhythm playing regular crotchets, the
second playing fast tuplets and the third one – the main – playing
Most vimbuza ceremonies I observed and being told of were performed at
thempilis – a small temple usually located at the main dancer household, managed by him – or her together with family members.
22
B. Soko, Vimbuza: the healing dance of Northern Malawi, Zomba 2014.
23
Nsima is a puree from corn flour. As one of my informants said about
attitude toward this staple food, “without nsima we haven’t eaten anything”.
24
It is worth noting that vimbuza contains also different styles of music performances, that share the general idea of provoking the presence of spirits by
the rhythmical density layered with melodic invocations. Not all performances
involve the drumming orchestra.
21

314

Piotr Cichocki

more complicated rhythmic variations synchronized with dancers
steps. Commenting after performances, drummers and dancers
emphasized that it is the drummer who follows steps of the dancer
and dancer’s feet are actually steered by a spirit, who also directs
particular songs and rhythms.
For the anthropologist the most distinctive sound is the roaring
reverb of the main drum. The drums are produced from a certain
local type of a tree and a goat skin. They are usually made with
a hole in a lynchpin. The hole is covered by a resonating membrane
made usually from a piece of a plastic bag and a cut bottle top. The
massive resonator covered by the thin membrane produces the enormous pulsating sound, which really fills in the space of thempili. The
knowledge of the technic of drumming and the drum production
is often passed within families, but it is also sometimes distributed
within the dancing group and, as some interlocutors highlighted,
by spirits. Many drummers noticed that the process of learning is
the matter of an observation of rituals and a gradually increasing
participation, rather than an initiation or an isolated education.
Vimbuza, as commented by interlocutors, is founded on the
aim of making spirits manifest in public, cooling them down by
the dance and ceremonial gentility, enabling them to express their
will. Only the fulfillment of spirits’ fads is a condition of a healing
process.
There are some other circumstances, within which spirits may
be met, for example the sound of a broken twig in the bush, or
a howl of the wind but these cases are always individual. Spirits
are actually often compared to the wind. They cannot be seen, but
one can see effect of their actions, as trees are moved by a blow.
This metaphor is in fact reversible: I had observed during one of
performances a female dancer, who had embroidered name on
the back of her ritual dress – anyamphepho – which means “miss
wind” (mphepho – wind).

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

315

The public manifestation of spirits may happen in two ways.
The first way is more direct (more visible, one can say), when after
the intensive rhythm and dance, spirit begins to talk through the
(mouth of) the possessed person.
The second mode of manifestation is in every element of vimbuza. Lyrics of songs, rhythms, dance steps, attires of dancers are
dictated by spirits during the performance. By this we can see that
spirits actively take part in performance.
Stephen Friedson commented on vimbuza as construction of clinic
reality within which patient is diagnosed and eventually healed25.
Nevertheless, the concept of clinic reality has been criticized by
anthropologists of medicine as colonial, construction of reality
seems to be good start to think about vimbuza as a technology. The
anthropologist who had researched the phenomenon of vimbuza
around 30 years ago, proposed to understand music in vimbuza as
a kind of technology, that constructs efficient clinical treatment of
patients. I must favor this second approach, that enables to understand vimbuza in context of development of technologies.
Vimbuza like gospel music performed during church service
or concert, gathers players, dancers, auditors, instruments, other
spiritual and material functional paraphernalia, spirits, angels and
demons. It consists of physical sound, lyrics of songs and dance
movement but what is the constructive notion of music, goes far
beyond the summary of elements and actors. Not defining it by the
summary I rather describe it as temporary, semi-virtual collective
of human and non-human actors within which a transformative
work can be done by spiritual intervention enabled by technology.
Despite the fact that many singangas incorporated Christian
symbols into the medical practice, using opening prayers to
S.M. Friedson, Dancing prophets: musical experience in Tumbuka healing,
Chicago 1996.
25

316

Piotr Cichocki

Yehova, biblical quotations and sings of the cross, by puritan
presbyterian Christians all sounds of drums are strongly associated with dangerous demonic spirits, a black magic and a sinful heathenism. Thereby, the sound and instruments inscribe
particular rituals into wider ontologies and connect them with
technical infrastructures.
Consequently, the close association of those cultural practices
with certain materialities and technologies were observed. The
materialities, as interviews have proven, linked to spiritual categories, identified with certain kind of immaterial beings – Holy
Spirit – in case of the electric (and electronic) sound of Christian
music, and spirits of animals, ancestors or of a rover provenience,
clinging to the acoustic sound of local membranophones (n’goma).
The character of sound, the instrument is associated with imaginary of the development understood as an electrification on
the one hand and exclusion of malevolent spirits on the other.
My presbyterian interlocutors found the idea of the electronic
Christian gospel music using the dynamic and highly danceable
local vimbuza rhythm unreasonable. Others made an assumption
that spirits ignore the electronic sound and can only be called
out (and be heated according to the local ontology) by acoustic
drums. As a consequence, educated puritan Christians, who listen
to the gospel music, reject the local rhythms and dances, associating it with dangerous spirits and threatening cults, and highly
esteem music genres from other countries – rhythms of reggae,
soukouss or mbaqanga from South Africa, that are neutral within
the context of local cult economies26. This attitude may be also
an answer to the lack of studio recordings of vimbuza rhythms.
I also heard that in certain circumstances the same members of Christian
congregations take part in vimbuza ceremonies, however personal declarations
of such a membership are hidden not only from European anthropologists but
also from fellow Malawians.
26

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

317

I know only two professional recordings made by Malawian producers, and they are associated with understanding the vimbuza
as part of cultural heritage. One was the electronic version of
vimbuza made for local dance and music group named Kukaya,
who defines its role as a preservation and promotion of Malawian
north tradition, the other – produced by the local branch of the
national television as a documentation of dances performed for
president of the republic27.
The development concerns not only a technical infrastructure or a purely material realm. It is also perceived in a spiritual
way, as an alliance of Christianity and modern technologies,
that dominates, but not erases non-modernized material and
spiritual actors. These actors – like vimbuza spirits – are still present and powerful, but the development of modern technologies
aims to give new powers to overcome them, isolate them and
keep them hidden from the technologically increased presence
of Jesus Christ, manifested by sensually experienced electronic
sounds or electric light. Hence, the struggles of development of
the country are seen in categories of not only an economic and
political reconciliation but also the Manichean conflict of good
and evil. It is worth noting though that the definition of evil – like
witchcraft, spirits in this case – indicates an ambiguous relation
with own pre-colonial past, for example native religions which
are understood as dangerous relics.
The second example reflects the modern history of Malawi, and relates to
country’s first president, who was supposed to gather an “army” of African healers (also from Northern Region), aiming to strengthen his health and charisma
with all kinds of nationally available magic, including musically transmitted
powers. It presumably helped, at least in opinion of Malawians, as he held his
office until he was in his nineties. Moreover, Kamuzu Banda often expressed
his attachment to “traditional African values” and the involvement in the magic
and dance within the state’s representations made this declaration consistent,
according to words of my interlocutors.
27

318

Piotr Cichocki

Divine speed
These assumptions based on research in Malawi have some
parallels in religious practices in neighboring Tanzania. Despite
the proximity and many similarities, including ethnic groups like
Ngoni, Tumbuka and Nyakyusa, the countries’ histories are somehow dettached28.
Not to dig deeper in the colonial and postcolonial times, for
this paper it is well enough to noticethat the infrastructure and
accessibility to modern goods is far more secured in Tanzania.
Considering that, I was curious how the notions of the technical
development are perceived in religious context by members of
Christian congregations in Iringa (and some Iringa and Mbeya
born Dar Es Salaam residents). During a few weeks (proceeded
by studies on the literature) spent in Tanzania dedicated to comparative research, I observed spaces of religious practices, religious
materiality and discussed the ritual phenomena in Iringa and Dar
Es Salaam, obviously I also analyzed music and its technology
used during prayers.
Number of researches of non-western healing practices and
religions of Tanzania concern interactions with spirits29 or categorization of non-material beings. The general category is called
in Kiswahili mashaitani. Pat Caplan wrote about distinction into
mizimu and majini made by Swahili people from Mafia Island.
Majini are often reffered to as spirtis of water and also resemble
28
Only in this volume the historical context of Tanzania is addressed by
Maximilan Chahula and Maciej Ząbek. Enough said that differences of political
silhouettes of both countries’ first presidents – Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Julius
Nyerere clearly show the multitude of contrasting, political projects emerging in
newly established African states.
29
S.A. Langwick, Bodies, politics, and African healing: the matter of maladies
in Tanzania, Bloomington 2011.

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

319

men from different ethnic groups. Cults connected with majini,
called mkobero and tari, have many common features with above
mentioned vimbuza cult30. It is clearly visible that despite political
and economic detachment dated in colonial times, the cultural
aspect reminds akin or at least gradable changing.
The distinctive part of Tanzanian religious practices is their
mediatization. Comparing to Malawi one can have clear impression that Tanzanian congregation takes a full advantage of the
accessibility to a technical hardware and software. The high quality
gospel music videos, advertising banners, video broadcast, sms
services, amplified speakers transmitting religious holy masses
and prayers seem to be integrated parts of the local religious life.
Not only the materiality but also the research on the discursive
reveals the religious truth of the technological.
One of numerous charismatic churches from Dar Es Salaam
announces its services by showing the banner with slogan “Divine
speed” and illustration of an exceeded speedometer. The same
church involves – as many others – live band, playing long hours of
rhythmical, electrified music with guitars and electronic keyboards.
The tempo of the music gradually rose, finding the culmination in
the final part of the service. Similar scheme of a long and widely
resounding religious performance I found in Iringa’s Seventh Day
Adventist congregation.
My interlocutors from Iringa told me about services of puritan churches, comparing them to the spiritual, extreme body
building in professional gym. The comparison, however, was not
verbalized but expressed with gesticulation resembling a body
building exercise when talking about zealous prayer sessions of
congregation.
P. Caplan, African voices, African lives personal narratives from a Swahili
village, London – New York 2003.
30

320

Piotr Cichocki

I was also introduced to the project of a church owned bank,
with name related to economic progress. The aim of the bank was
to invest money of parishioners for a common capital accumulation. I have been instructed that this financial project is not about
the business, but about faith.
The other example refers to a transnational religious practice,
welding Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and
other countries from the region. It concerns prophet Shepherd
Bushiri, grown in Mzuzu, but presently living in South Africa, where
he built economic and organizational empire, including a prominent channel Prophet TV. One of the most influential personages
in Eastern and Southern Africa, by my Tanzanian interlocutors, he
is perceived mostly by recorded and broadcasted sermons, rumors
about miracles (e.g. he was supposed to sponsor football national
teams with a miracle money) and multiple music videos of bands
promoted by Prophet TV.
Martin Lindhardt, who observed the religious practices in Iringa
Region, in a series of articles explains the categorization of modern
material goods (i.e. banknotes, CDs) and ways they are attained,
as deeply rooted in theological evaluations and concerns of the
black magic31. Lindhardt explains these practices as part of the
so-called cult economy, a complex set of views on the essence of
the capitalist economy, market goods and money, which engages
them in a good-evil Manichean polarity and informs about moral
and sinful ways of a capital accumulation.
The acceleration, the power, the capital, the effectiveness, the
amplification – these are features of religious symbolism and maM. Lindhardt, More Than Just Money: The Faith Gospel and Occult Economies
in Contemporary Tanzania, „Nova Religio”, 13(2009), no. 1, pp. 41–67; M. Lindhardt, “If you are saved you cannot forget your parents”: Agency, Power, and Social
Repositioning in Tanzanian born-again Christianity, „Journal of Religion in Africa”,
40(2010), no. 3, pp. 240–272.
31

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

321

teriality, indicating a relation with the technical development. By
these all, we can see that in practice, the religion and the technical
development are perceived as nearly equal or at least compatible.
Moreover, seeing the religious practice from the perspective of its
effectiveness allows to understand the relations of Christianity
and local religions32 not as contradictions but as dialectic and
concomitance33.
As a conclusion I would like to propose a question to an open
discussion and a thesis.
The question concerns the thread from the very beginning of
the lecture, when I indicated Max Weber’s work “The protestant
ethic and the spirit of capitalism”34. In the seminal volume, Weber
introduces the way of understanding modern capitalist, bureaucratic, rational, lay in its essence society as the effect of religious
movement of the protestantism. The capitalism and its core value
– the development might be, according to Weber, deeply bonded
with the religion, however the layness and the material rationalism
of modern seculars states show the ambiguous relation of these
two. Hence, the question is: to what extent connections between
32
In the light of studies on vimbuza or zar religion, that have shown how
these cults emerged in the context of historical change, it seems to be obvious
oversimplification to address them as “traditional”. See R. Natvig, Oromos,
Slaves, and the Zar Spirits: A Contribution to the History of the Zar Cult, „The
International Journal of African Historical Studies”, 20(1987), no. 4, p. 669;
B. Soko, Vimbuza: the healing dance of Northern Malawi, op. cit.; A. Young, ‘Why
Amhara get kureynya: sickness and possession in an Ethiopian zar cult’, „American
Ethnologist”, 2(1975), no. 3, pp. 567–584.
33
J. Mlenga, Dual religiosity in Northern Malawi: Ngonde Christians and African traditional religion, Mzuzu 2016; T. Ranger, Religious Pluralism in Zimbabwe.
A Report on the Britain-Zimbabwe Society Research Day, St Antony’s College, Oxford,
23 April 1994, „Journal of Religion in Africa”, 25(1995), no. 3, p. 226.
34
M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, S.l.: Merchant
Books 2013 [1905].

322

Piotr Cichocki

religion and technical development in Eastern Africa are an effect
of religious colonization by Protestant countries i.e. Germany and
Great Britain, or the manifestation of a longuee duree – long-lasting
structure of culture, in which the divine is not an abstract, but an
effective power.
The thesis on the other way, concerns the very essence of what
the technical development might be. What can be concluded from
above examples is that the technical development is not (or not
only) an objective of social and political change. It is a function in
a network determined and defined by social relations in varieties
of social contexts.
REFERENCES

Angrosino M.V., Doing Ethnographic and Observational Research, London
2007.
Askew K.M., As Plato duly warned: music, politics, and social change in
coastal East Africa, „Anthropological Quarterly”, 76(2003), no. 4,
pp. 609–637.
Born G., Music, Sound and Space Transformations of Public and Private
Experience, Cambridge 2013.
Caplan P., African voices, African lives personal narratives from a Swahili
village, London – New York 2003.
Comaroff J. and Comaroff J.L., Of revelation and revolution, Chicago 1991.
Evans-Pritchard E., Nuer religion, Oxford 1970.
Friedson S.M., Dancing prophets: musical experience in Tumbuka healing,
Chicago 1996.
Hammersley M. and Atkinson P., Ethnography: principles in practice,
London – New York 1983.
Ihde D., Listening and voice: phenomenologies of sound, Albany 2007.

AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN CHURCH AND BEYOND...

323

Kirsch T.G, Ways of Reading as Religious Power in Print Globalization,
„American Ethnologist”, 34(2007), no. 3, pp. 509–520.
Kirsch T.G., Restaging the Will to Believe: Religious Pluralism, Anti-Syncretism, and the Problem of Belief, „American Anthropologist”, 106(2004),
no. 4, pp. 699–709.
Langwick S.A., Bodies, politics, and African healing: the matter of maladies
in Tanzania, Bloomington 2011.
Lindhardt M., ‘More Than Just Money: The Faith Gospel and Occult Economies in Contemporary Tanzania’, „Nova Religio”, 13(2009), no. 1,
pp. 41–67.
Lindhardt M. “If you are saved you cannot forget your parents”: Agency,
Power, and Social Repositioning in Tanzanian born-again Christianity,
„Journal of Religion in Africa”, 40(2010), no. 3, pp. 240–272.
Meyer B. Mediation and the Genesis of presence: towards a material approach to religion, Utrecht 2012.
Mlenga J., Dual religiosity in Northern Malawi: Ngonde Christians and
African traditional religion, Mzuzu 2016.
Natvig R., Oromos, Slaves, and the Zar Spirits: A Contribution to the History of the Zar Cult, „The International Journal of African Historical
Studies”, 20(1987), no. 4, p. 669.
Ranger T., Religious Pluralism in Zimbabwe. A Report on the BritainZimbabwe Society Research Day, St Antony’s College, Oxford, 23 April
1994, „Journal of Religion in Africa”, 25(1995), no. 3, p. 226–251.
Rose G., Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of
visual materials, London – Thousand Oaks 2001.
Seeger A., Why Suyá sing: a musical anthropology of an Amazonian people,
Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] – New York 1987.
Soko B., Vimbuza: the healing dance of Northern Malawi, Zomba 2014.
Sundkler B. and Steed C., A history of the church in Africa, Cambridge
– New York 2000.

324

Piotr Cichocki

Vail L., The Creation of tribalism in Southern Africa, London – Berkeley
1989.
Weber M., The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, S.l., Merchant
Books 2013.
Wilk R.R. and Cliggett L., Economies and cultures: foundations of economic
anthropology, Boulder 2007.
Young A., Why Amhara get kureynya: sickness and possession in an Ethiopian zar cult, „American Ethnologist”, 2(1975), no. 3, pp. 567–584.

Chapter 11.

ANTONIO ALLEGRETTI

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY
OF DEVELOPMENT AMONG CHRISTIAN
MAASAI IN CONTEMPORARY TANZANIA
ABSTRACT

Affiliation to Christianity among the Maasai of Tanzania is relatively a recent phenomenon when compared to the quite long history
of Christianity in the rest of the country. It is, however, a phenomenon
that is rapidly spreading with new churches mushrooming in Maasai
villages and transforming the social, cultural and material landscape
of Maasailand in Tanzania. This chapter intends to show how religion
can add a further layer to the analysis of the transformations involving
the meanings and practices associated to being Maasai in contemporary Tanzania. Unlike popular (and academic) discourses that tend to
consider factors of change such as religion or economic diversification
as external to Maasai tradition and associate them to the waning of
meaning underlying it, this chapter argues that the sphere of spirituality (i.e. Christianity) constitutes an arena in which political relations,
intended as power relations between different sectors of society and
community, are played out. Rather than simply representing a generational change as to the preferences for cultural references and role
models among younger generations as opposed to their fathers, the
arena of religion is a site of negotiations for the access to human and
material assets, and to overall ‘development’. The analysis in the chapter
endorses the shift of perspective from religion as a cultural system or
set of ethereal beliefs that pertain to the sphere of individual faith, to
the material aspects (e.g. consumption, architecture, and the imporANTONIO ALLEGRETTI – St. Augustine University of Tanzania, Mwanza.

326

Antonio Allegretti

tance of material goods), that work as interface between these and the
sphere of the discernible.
Key words: Maasai, materiality, religion, Christianity, development.

Introduction
Anyone trying to define concepts such as globalization, identity,
nationalism, and the like cannot but acknowledge a partial view and
all the limitations attached. With religion, the question of definition becomes even more hazardous as we enter the sphere of faith,
touching on the sensibility of all people in the world who consider
themselves followers of any institutionalized faith. Many influential theorists and scientists in the history of human thought, from
Freud, to Darwin, to Marx, have touched on religion, developing
theories within their respective areas of authority1. As the fathers
of social sciences began to approach the question of religion, the
‘sacred’ and the ‘supernatural’ became the objects of inquiry2. With
Geertz3, the attention shifted to symbols as “extrasomatic control
mechanisms for organizing experience and governing behavior”4.
Quite surprisingly, only towards the end of the 20th century
social scientists, especially anthropologists, have started focusing
on much more ‘mundane’ matters when looking at religion as an
object of inquiry5. Beyond more ethereal and intangible aspects of
J.D. Eller, Introducing Anthropology of Religion, New York – London 2007.
R.L. Winzeler, Anthropology and Religion. What We Know, Think, and Question, Lanham – New York – Toronto – Plymouth 2012.
3
C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Culture: Selected Essays, New York 1973.
4
J.D. Eller, Introducing Anthropology of Religion, op. cit.
5
W. Keane, On the Materaility of Religion, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2,
pp. 230–231; D. Chidester, Engaging the Wildness of Things, „Material Religion”,
4(2008), no. 2, pp. 232–233; B. Meyer, Media and the Senses in the Making
of Religious Experience: an Introduction, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2,
1
2

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 327

religion such as those that pertain to the sphere of individual belief,
it is common acknowledgment today among anthropologists that
religion is an element that determines forms of social organization, hence an inherently social phenomenon6 determined by the
particular historical dynamics in which it surfaces and evolves7.
This article focuses on a specific case of (changing) social organization in relation to religion, that is, the ‘traditional’ forms of social
organization, mostly those age(sets) and gender-based, among the
Maasai of Tanzania. It focuses on how Christianity among Maasai
communities adds a further layer of analysis in understanding
the current position of Maasai people as a culturally identifiable
community. The chapter therefore highlights how Maasai today in
Tanzania break the boundaries of ‘community’ itself based on tradition, culture and ethnic identity as they partake in other networks
in the wider society. It is therefore, an analysis of overlapping and
co-existing sets of values with religion constituting one particular
sphere of morality alongside others, above all, that of tradition.
The analysis spotlights politics and materiality as arenas in which
the religious registers are played out; these are two spheres that have
recently attracted the attention of anthropologists of religion. No
doubt, the most influential work on religion and politics in Africa
by Ellis and ter Haar8, can be taken as a starting point when trying
pp. 124–135; Idem, Materializing Religion, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2,
p. 227; D. Morgan, The Materiality of Cultural Construction, „Material Religion”,
4(2008), no. 2, pp. 228–229.
6
B. Morris, Religion and Anthropology. A Critical Introduction, Cambridge
2006, p. 1.
7
T. Asad, The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category, in:
Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam,
ed. T. Asad, Baltimore 1993, pp. 27–54.
8
S. Ellis and G. ter Haar, Religion and Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, „The
Journal of Modern African Studies”, 36(1998), no. 2, pp. 175–201; Iidem, Worlds
of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa, London 2004.

328

Antonio Allegretti

to deploy meaningful connections between the sphere of religion,
that of politics and the question of power, as a regulator of dynamics and structures of authority and hierarchy9. While Ellis and ter
Haar’s stress on the significance of religion as the “most important
way in which Africans interact with the rest of the world”10 may be
overemphasized, the bond between the sphere of religion and politics
in Africa is undeniable. Ellis and ter Haar refer mostly to religion as
the ultimate source of power mainly in a situation of weak states,
which characterizes the African continent. Their broad definition
of power as “the ability of a person to induce others to act in the
way that he or she requires”11, however, makes the analysis of the
connection between religion and power itself applicable not only
to national politics but also to much smaller-scale local dynamics
such as for instance, the case and dynamics of social change at issue
here among Maasai communities, where authority and hierarchy
emerge as much as in the national political arena.
At local level, in Maasai communities, Christianity as an institution and one of the arenas in which power relations unfold,
interacts with other overlapping and co-existing arenas of power,
such as for instance the realm of ‘tradition’ grounded on Maasai
ethnic identity. Tradition, culture, and identity, as political arenas
where management and battle over resources are exercised, are
a prevailing viewpoint of classic anthropology12, as much as more
Iidem, Religion and Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, op. cit, p. 195.
Iidem, Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa,
op. cit., p. 2.
11
Iidem, Religion and Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, op. cit., p. 196.
12
J. Ferguson, The „Bovine Mystique”: Power, Property and Livestock in Rural
Lesotho, „Man”, 20(1985), no. 4, pp. 647–674; Idem, The Cultural Topography of
Wealth: Commodity Paths and the Structure of Property in Rural Lesotho, „American
Anthropologist”, 94(1992), no. 1, pp. 55–73; Being Maasai: Ethnicity & Identity
in East Africa, eds. T. Spear and R. Waller, Oxford – Dar es Salaam – Nairobi –
Athens 1993.
9

10

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 329

recent scholarship that looks at the integration between pastoral
and cash economy among the Maasai and other pastoral groups
in Eastern Africa13. The history of Africa and colonialism displays
the distinct bond between tradition, identity and battles of power
on the ground. With, for instance, the establishment of Native
Authorities based on ethnicity or formalization of customary law
by colonial administrators for the sake of administering large territories otherwise impossible to rule, new struggles for entitlements
over resources emerged14. Today, tradition continues to constitute
among the Maasai an important institution that determines forms of
social organization and (not without conflict) structures of power,
hierarchy and authority for the management of resources, from
livestock to land and cash, between different sectors of society
(elders, youth and women)15. Christianity has added one more
dimension to these dynamics, having brought a new set or register
of values which is on many occasions, in overt conflict with the
register of tradition.
E. Fratkin, East African Pastoralism in Transition: Maasai, Borana, and
Rendille Cases, „African Studies Review”, 44(2001), no. 3, pp. 1–25; K. Homewood, Ecology of African Pastoralist Societies, Oxford – Athens – Pretoria 2008,
pp. 228–229; K. Smith, The Farming Alternative: Changing Age and Gender Ideology among Pastoral Rendille and Ariaal, „Nomadic Peoples”, 3(1999), no. 2,
pp. 131–146; F. Zaal, Economic Integration in Pastoral Areas: Commercialisation
and Social Change among Kenya’s Maasai, „Nomadic Peoples”, 3(1999), no. 2,
pp. 97–114.
14
S. Berry, No Condition Is Permanent. The Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change
in Sub-Saharan Africa. Madison 1993; M. Chanock, Neither Customary nor Legal:
African Customary Law in an Era of Family Law Reform, „International Journal of
Law and Family”, 3(1989), pp. 72–88; D.L. Hodgson, Once Intrepid Warriors: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Cultural Politics of Maasai Development, Bloomington 2001.
15
A. Allegretti, Maasai Ethnic Economy: Rethinking Maasai Ethnic Identity
and the ‘Cash Economy’ across the Rural-Urban Interface, Tanzania. PhD Thesis
[unpublished]. The University of Manchester, 2015; Being Maasai: Ethnicity
& Identity in East Africa, op. cit.
13

330

Antonio Allegretti

As with ethnic identity not defining the entirety of the social
world in which those who refer to themselves as Maasai are enmeshed, neither religion can be taken as a “totalizing” institution16;
religion should not be considered an institution that is sweeping
away Maasai traditional institutions based on ethnic identity. As
Green argues17, religious communities in Africa, loosely defined as
groups of people sharing a particular vision of the world (inherently religious), “are not necessarily longstanding but come into
being around particular ritual agendas”18. Instead, as globalizing
processes abridge distances and spaces, the Maasai, as many other
so-called ‘traditional’ or place-based groups19 around the world,
find themselves at the intersection of different communities which
triggers a complex evolution of the meanings and practices associated to ethnic identity as well as the necessity to adapt the
analytical categories that have so far been used to describe it.
These developments come inevitably into being as inherently political contests in which the religious as a “category of analysis and
practice” inevitably “has origins in the political struggles around
delimiting the power of certain institutions”20, in this case Maasai
‘traditional’ institutions.
The second piece of the puzzle in the analysis, i.e. materiality,
comes up as the tangible arena in which these political relations
are enacted. Religion materializes through the external, material
world, many anthropologists have started to point recently as they
M. Green, Confronting Categorical Assumptions about the Power of Religion
in Africa, „Review of African Political Economy”, 2006, no. 110 pp. 635–650.
17
Ibidem.
18
Ibidem, p. 642.
19
Groups all around the world that for political historical reasons have maintained connections to a particularly distinct (‘traditional’) lifestyle, with strong
geographical connotations and links to ‘ancestral’ land
20
M. Green, Confronting Categorical Assumptions about the Power of Religion
in Africa, op. cit., p. 637.
16

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 331

have partaken in the so called ‘media turn’ in religious studies21.
Religion as experience that can be acquired through the senses22
comes at the opposite end of religion as individual belief without
denying it; it simply acknowledges that, as Keane puts it, “even
where belief is crucial, it must still take material form [...] Ideas are
not transmitted telepathically. They must be exteriorized in some
way, for example, in words, gestures, objects, or practices in order
to be transmitted from one mind to another”23. In this chapter,
the material realms of the battle between traditional and religious
institutions as carriers of value are food consumption which has
a particularly heightened significance among the Maasai24, and
the material form of the church as ‘house of God’ whose church
members contribute to develop.

Fieldsite and methods
The fieldwork on which this chapter is based was conducted
during different time intervals from 2010 to 2012 in the Maasai village of Losirwa25 which is for the most part pure grazing rangeland
(Fig. 1). The closest peri-urban centre, Kigongoni, stretches over
the main paved road that cuts across the Maasailand of Losirwa
and increasingly encroaches open rangeland used by the Maasai
of Losirwa for grazing (Fig. 2). A few kilometers further down
M. Engelke, Religion and the Media Turn, „American Ethnologist”, 37(2010),
no. 2, p. 371–379.
22
B. Meyer, Media and the Senses in the Making of Religious Experience: an
Introduction, op. cit., pp. 124–135.
23
W. Keane, On the Materaility of Religion, op. cit, p. 230.
24
P. Spencer, The Maasai of Matapato: A Study of Ritual Rebellion, Manchester
1988; A. Talle, Ways of Milk and Meat among the Maasai: Gender Identity and Food
Resources in a Pastoral Economy, in: From Water to World Making, ed. G. Palsson,
Uppsala 1990, pp. 73–93.
25
Names of locations are real.
21

332

Fig. 1 Losirwa Rangelands

Antonio Allegretti

Fig. 2 Paved road in Kigongoni

the paved road, on the way to the worldwide known Ngorongoro
Conservation Area, one comes across the small town of Mto wa
Mbu which forms a single, though patchy, (peri) urban conglomerate with Kigongoni.
I conducted ethnographic fieldwork through participant observation as well as a few formal interviews with a number of individuals, including those affiliated to the church, being hosted by
the Tutunyo26 Maasai family. While lodging in the Tutunyo boma27
I commuted between the rural and urban-based locations including attending church Sunday masses and other church events in
the local Lutheran church in Losirwa which is located somehow
at the ‘border’ between the open rangeland of Losirwa and the
peri-urban territory of Kigongoni. This chapter is grounded on
Names of people are fictitious.
An enclosure made of several huts, one or more livestock kraals, and surrounded by a fence made of tree branches, i.e. the traditional Maasai homestead.
26
27

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 333

a wealth of information, opinions, impressions and practices that
I recorded during such events in the local church but also by talking to other informants outside the church networks. The main
protagonists of this account are young moran28 whose age ranged
from 20 to 35 such as Luka, one among whom I built relationships
of trust and friendship, as well as Isaya, a close friend of Lekishon
(and mine), and a Maasai moran himself from another Maasai
close-by village, who, at the time of fieldwork was the evangelist
appointed by the Lutheran parish council in Mto wa Mbu to work
in the local church in Losirwa. When I use the name ‘father’, I refer
to Tutunyo’s boma head, a Maasai elder and Luka’s father, with
whom I also established a close relationship of trust and respect.
In a way, throughout this chapter I hint at these three protagonists as embodiment(s) of the different positions or stances
when it comes to the relationship between ‘tradition’ and Christian
spirituality, with Isaya representing Christian values, ‘father’ the
‘traditional’ values, and Lekishon mediating between the two. As
a certain degree of typification is unavoidable, I wish to stress that
this account does not claim to exhaustively report the complexities
of (Maasai) ‘tradition’ in its interaction with modernization forces.
It is, however, a sincere attempt to ethnographically document the
challenges and dilemmas that young men, like many other ‘indigenous’ or place-based peoples around the world, are confronted
with when undertaking their individual life paths towards full
personhood within the collectivities to which they belong.

Mediating between ‘communities’
No forms of social organization is or has been in human
history determined by an entirely homogenous set or register
28

Young Maasai in the warriorhood life stage (before entering ‘elderhood’).

334

Antonio Allegretti

of values; all communities and societies to some extent, especially in transitional times, and increasingly in our contemporary global world, have drawn from different ‘value baskets’ in
routine life and ideology. Nowhere more than in contemporary
Africa this holds true29, considering the combination of factors
such as urbanization, market liberalization, and demographic
change that continue to clash with and impact on, at times
violently, more ‘traditional’ forms of social organization mostly
originated in rural life30. The case of the Maasai in Tanzania and
the spread of Christianity is only one among many in the African
continent.
That eastern Africa pastoralism is in transitional times is by
now an acknowledged fact31; market liberalization, livelihood
diversification and urbanization starting in the 1980’s have had
major effects on these groups. The general understanding among
researchers is that these factors of change have impacted on the
Maasai by triggering cultural homogenization and loss of tradition.
Elsewhere, I have challenged this kind of narrative and argued that
tradition and culture underlying Maasai ethnic identity are being
transformed and reinvented rather than swept away32. Even in
the case of market integration, which is commonly acknowledged
as a factor leading to ‘disappearing’ tradition and ethnic identity,
I have argued, tradition and ethnic identity can be ‘capitalized’
on and become market institutions for market gains by Maasai
29
J. Guyer, Marginal Gains: Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa, Chicago
– London 2004.
30
D.F. Bryceson, Rural Livelihoods and Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Processes and Policies, in: Rural Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction Policies, eds.
F. Ellis and H.A. Freeman London – New York 2005, pp. 43–74.
31
E. Fratkin, East African Pastoralism in Transition: Maasai, Borana, and
Rendille Cases, op. cit., pp. 1–25.
32
A. Allegretti, Maasai Ethnic Economy..., op. cit.

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 335

themselves33. This has led to a plurality of value registers rather
than replacement of an old (i.e. tradition/culture) with a new one.
Maasai church goers in Losirwa village (and throughout Maasailand presumably), embody this plurality of value registers in that
they partake in different social networks and social worlds parallel to those networks based on ethnicity that have been described
so well in classic ethnographical accounts34. Their identity is an
assemblage that hinges on their membership in a multiplicity of
communities that come from religion35 and formal education36, and
their social lives are shifting and diverse. Younger generations of
moran are those most involved in parallel spheres of relationships.
Both these spheres of relationships are somehow recognized in
Losirwa and overall in the country as carriers of ‘modern’ values
and for their empowering role within Maasai society. Several of
these young warriors assiduously attend the local church, supporting and sometimes leading the activities of spreading the religious
message, often through organizing events such as collective prayers,
religious film showings, and helping followers and non-followers
with counseling and other kinds of moral support. Among these
young churchgoers, many were at the same time enrolled in primary or secondary school, and those who were attending boarding
schools away from Losirwa would not miss church events or simply
the Sunday Mass on their return home for holidays.
Idem, „Being Maasai” in Markets and Trade: the Role of Ethnicity-Based
Institutions in the Livestock Market of Northern Tanzania, „Nomadic Peoples”,
21(2017), no. 1, pp. 63–86.
34
P. Rigby, Persistent Pastoralists. Nomadic Societies in Transition, London
1985; P. Spencer, The Maasai of Matapato: A Study of Ritual Rebellion, op. cit.;
H. Schneider, Livestock and Equality in East Africa, Bloomington 1979.
35
D.L. Hodgson, The Church of Women. Gendered Encounters Between Maasai
and Missionaries, Bloomington 2005.
36
E. Bishop, Schooling and the Encouragement of Farming amongst Pastoralists
in Tanzania, „Nomadic Peoples”, 11(2007), no. 2, pp. 9–29.
33

336

Antonio Allegretti

What struck me was how these young Maasai shifted in their
practices as well as the way they verbalized this plurality of forms
and sets of values. One thing that struck me in particular was how
they never complied with, or better said, intentionally broke, the
traditional Maasai rules of food consumption (see next section) during church events. They would share meals with women (a taboo
in most cases within the Maasai village) in heterogeneous groups
and paying very little attention to the sharing rules within age
sets (see next section). At times, they would express contempt for
traditional rules in force in the village; at other times, with little
awareness of proposing contradicting ideas, they would underline
the positive values of Maasai ‘tradition’ and their pride in showing
group affiliation through food sharing.
Overall, religious affiliation affected these young men’s views
about some specific and important aspects of their daily life as
well as their visions of future. These aspects had to do with ideas
connected to individuality, practically expressed by the rejection
of complying outside of ‘traditional’ networks with the sharing
rules, and triggering a stronger sense of the self as opposed to
group and ethnic collective awareness. The way they verbally
envisioned their future also was an expression of contradictions
such as their views about what constitutes wealth. They criticized
elders’ attachment to livestock at the expenses of other forms of
wealth such as a ‘modern’ house, while wishing to retain and
reproduce their families’ wealth in livestock as a form of reproducing family values and ethnic identity. Polygamy as opposed
to monogamy was another domain that blatantly expressed these
contradictions considering that many individuals who voluntarily
and convincingly had made themselves carriers of religious church
values (including monogamy), were in fact polygamous, having
married more than one woman, and continuing to marry other
women as they continued with their moral engagement with the

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 337

church. Notwithstanding their participation in co-existing communities and networks, they continued to claim their identity
as Maasai and as pastoralists, including those enrolled in school
where usually values connected to agriculture-based livelihoods
are highlighted as opposed to pastoralism which is considered
a backward lifestyle37.
Evidently, the ideas that put the Maasai as an ethnic group,
their customary and traditional institutions and practices, in opposition and mutually exclusive with instances of monetization,
commoditization, ‘modern’ technologies (i.e. mobile phones), and
in general many other aspects of everyday life of youths in Tanzania (e.g. religion affiliation and formal education) are mistaken,
perhaps having survived as historical legacies of economic policies
or development interventions38.

Political religion
The plurality of communities in which younger generations of
Maasai males are embedded is a very complex set of overlapping
registers of values, as seen above, and this heterogeneous mix impacts on how resources, economic assets and wealth are managed,
and the entitlements over and distribution of them.
The wedding of Luka, a 25-year-old Maasai warrior in the Tutunyo family and one of my closest friends in the field, was the
occasion during fieldwork in which I realized the ‘politics’ involved
in the relationships between spiritual affiliation to the local Lutheran church (or absence of it) and the politics of distribution
and entitlements to resources and assets. It was striking to witness
Luka’s struggle in positioning himself between his father’s efforts
37
38

Ibidem.
D.L. Hodgson, Once Intrepid Warriors..., op. cit.

338

Antonio Allegretti

in encouraging him to celebrate a ‘traditional’ Maasai wedding
with related redistribution of entitlements and ownership of cattle
(see below), and Isaya’s (the evangelist in the Losirwa church and
Luka’s close friend) equally strong resolution to have a Christian
celebration for him.
The first sign that the wedding celebration for Lekishon was
to become a battleground for different views was father advising
Lekishon to avoid having, during the celebration, people dressed
in ‘Swahili’ clothes39. Isaya interpreted father’s suggestion (or
admonition) as an effort to persuade Lekishon to have a fully
traditional wedding without ‘external’ invitees that could disrupt
the ceremonial traditional ritual. In one of his manifestations of
disapproval, Isaya argued: “What kind of feast is it going to be?!
Just drinking milk?!”.
Milk (and its consumption) as determinant of traditional social
organization and medium of life turns in individuals’ life cycles40
sees its importance amplified during Maasai traditional celebrations
through the ritual practice. On wedding celebrations, for instance,
drinking milk according to a specific ‘protocol’ that requires groom
and bride to drink milk in front of a delegation of wazee (elders),
serves to establish the everlasting wedlock. On the occasion of the
rite of passage from childhood to adulthood for males (through
circumcision) too, milk is used by the one performing the operation
to wash his hands as a stronger cleanser than water. Isaya’s ridiculing of the importance of milk on the wedding ceremony meant to
express his disapproval and standpoint against tradition that, in
the specific regard of marriage, rejected any alternative medium
for the establishment of the wedlock such as those accounted for
by the religious register.
39
40

Ordinary clothes such as trousers, shirts and the like.
A. Talle, Ways of Milk and Meat among the Maasai..., op. cit., pp. 73–93.

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 339

As time went by, a decision had to be taken as to the type of
wedding to arrange. Not without inner struggle, Lekishon decided
eventually to organize a ‘traditional’ wedding only after overcoming and resisting the impetus or impulse, as he confided to me, to
call the marriage off. The wedding was eventually celebrated and
the traditional conventions including the customary consumption
of milk were adhered to. Participants, strictly dressed in Maasai
clothes, attended the whole ceremony from early afternoon to
evening consuming cow meat and different types of spirit along
with other drinks from bottled beers to sodas.
Other dynamics of entitlements and redistribution of property
rights over livestock were particularly important to observe, especially the choice for the animals to be sold to fund the ceremony.
Father ‘borrowed’ five cows from his other sons and sold them to
finance Luka’s ceremony as per ‘customary’ habit which had previously enabled Luka’s older brothers to fund their own respective
wedding ceremonies. Weddings are only one occasion in which
one can realize the complex web of exchange and redistribution
of property rights within an extended Maasai family41. I also described elsewhere42 how younger warriors, elders, and women
form a triangle of power relations expressed through property
rights and entitlements over livestock in interaction with other
forms of wealth, from cash to land, and houses. Such complex web
is certainly one specific instance in which affiliation to Christianity on the one hand, and partaking in ‘traditional’ networks on
the other creates conflicting relationships between the two communities. Isaya made extremely clear to me what he thought of
the web of exchange within the ‘traditional’ Maasai family when
P. Spencer, The Maasai of Matapato: A Study of Ritual Rebellion, op. cit.;
Idem, The Pastoral Continuum. The Marginalization of Tradition in East Africa,
Oxford 1998.
42
A. Allegretti, Maasai Ethnic Economy..., op. cit.
41

340

Antonio Allegretti

he referred to Luka’s boma as a “dictatorship”, with Luka’s father
being the dictator “eating his sons’ wealth”, referring to father’s
entitlements to dispose of his respective sons’ cows without them
having a say on it.
Religious affiliation has come with values that refer to individual success as opposed to shared property rights within the
extended family. Similar criticism with respect to ‘sharing’ was
however expressed by some elders, including the Tutunyo boma
head (i.e. Luka’s father), about the networks of distribution among
church followers. On one of our many interesting conversation,
father referred critically to the offers donated by church followers
on a weekly basis that go to fund projects such as the renovation/
construction of (religious) buildings and the purchases of supplies
for the sake of religious activities. He argued: “Everyday they ask
you to contribute money for their things; how can you contribute
everyday?! And you don’t see any benefit from it”.
Such kind of criticism about circulation of wealth within church
networks does not only come from those who are evidently outside
such networks, but also from some insiders, and even church leaders
themselves. Another interesting field informant I often spent time
with in Losirwa and Kigongoni was Matayo, a Maasai middle-aged
man originally from the neighboring village of Munghere who, after
going through inner struggle of the kind Lekishon went through on
occasion of his wedding, had taken the difficult decision to hang
up his cassocks and marry a second younger wife. He lived at the
‘border’ between the Losirwa Maasailand and the peri-urban tissue
of Kigongoni, having built a new house after leaving the church.
His story is particularly significant when analyzing how the sphere
of religiosity and spirituality in the local community of Losirwa/
Kigongoni is heavily entrenched in networks and dynamics of
resource sharing and management, local ‘politics’, and individual
life paths in achieving (economic) independency and success.

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 341

The way he talked about his previous involvement with the
Lutheran church showed the political dynamics that occur between
church leaders and church followers. He said that the offering of
money to the church had become an obligation fulfilled with great
difficulty by many. People who could not prove their ‘attachment’
to the church by offering money would be looked upon and be
embarrassed whereas the more ‘generous’, charitable, and benevolent would acquire positions of respect alongside church leaders
and even gain decision-making power in the church affairs. Such
stratification, he argued, is morally questionable when in a church
and religious context where the values of equality ought to underlie
social relationships among members.
These dynamics affected his own involvement with the church.
As a priest, his position of leadership entailed not only his physical
presence in the church but also to lavish and donate even larger
sums of money for church projects and to the church members
themselves as ‘offers’ to support their livelihoods. Such situation
became unbearable to him and his family:
You see, those people and elders in the church always tell you, you
have to go to the church every single day otherwise they would ‘accuse’
you of not being a good Christian. Plus, you have to be the first to contribute to set the example to other people... but that way you will end
up poor! So many priests who retired from their services ended up becoming alcoholics ‘cos they could not save anything in their whole lives!

Leaving the priesthood was not an easy choice for him, but it
turned out to be the right one as he explained: putting all his efforts in his farm earned him important assets and wealth to the
point that he is now envied, he said, within the village. He argued
that he followed “God’s way” in leaving the church and succeeded
in his other life endeavors.
It emerges that the sphere of spirituality is far from being simply
confined to an individual’s faith in a spiritual being. Quite the op-

342

Antonio Allegretti

posite, it is an arena that much resembles that of ‘tradition’, where
social and political relationships are established, nurtured, and at
times severed. These dynamics become even more complex when
one partakes at the same time in both the church community and
other networks based on Maasai ‘tradition’ as observed in the case
of Luka. Luka’s words in reference to this problematic link, and
referring to his own situation as opposed to that of Isaya, showed
how strong the dilemma was for him:
Isaya wants me to abandon all the Maasai tradition at once; but
he is wrong ‘cos when you are born in a certain tribe it is difficult to
abandon everything.

Then, he continued:
He has already achieved his individual position within the church,
so people in the church help him out when he needs to be helped; no
one is going to help me but my family in the village.

That individuals can and do mediate between the two spheres
of Christianity and (Maasai) tradition as a way of gaining recognition of personhood (also by achieving economic success)
was confirmed on many occasion by Isaya who would not miss
a chance to tell me how becoming a priest had enabled him to feel
satisfied and fulfilled. In his own case, and unlike many others
like Luka, the mediation between the two spheres materialized
through the outright abandonment of Maasai tradition but without renouncing his own Maasai identity. On many occasions he
referred to not only property rights arrangements but also Maasai
traditional consumption arrangements which I will discuss in the
next section as ‘slavery’ while at the same time reaffirming his own
ethnic identity as a Maasai and his role as one who is supposed
to strive to ‘educate’ his own Maasai people (those partaking in
the church). As once he told me while discussing the question of
Maasai tradition:

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 343

You wazungu [whites] want the Maasai to stay the way they are
because you want to come here and see the traditional life, but they
really need to change and get developed, and they can only do that
if they abandon their traditions!

The question of development, as will be seen in the next section,
is in fact particularly meaningful when considering the material
embodiment of the community (political) dynamics just described.

Material religion
Meyer’s well-known historical account43 of colonial Christian
mission churches and conversions in Ghana is perhaps one of the
most accurate, compelling, and still current accounts of ‘material
religion’, that is, the material aspects that embody spirituality
making it discernible in the outside world. Meyer shows quite emphatically how “worldly matters”44 played a fundamental role in,
or better still, constituted the tangible socio-political arena for the
conversions of Ghanaians to Christianity during colonialism. Against
the mission rhetoric which promoted the use and consumption
of consumer goods (e.g. imported clothes) as simply an outward
sign of an inner (Christian) spirituality, Ghanaians absorbed and
transformed consumption practices by assigning them meanings
that pertained to individual (economic) success in a competitive
rivalry between each other, hence, as a result, dismissing the vision of the Christian mission of the sober and humble Christian45.
It is undeniable that there is an overt link in contemporary
Africa between the sphere of spirituality and that of ‘worldly
matters’. The connection becomes even stronger as religion as
B. Meyer, Christian Mind and Worldly Matter, „Journal of Material Culture”,
2(1997), no. 3, pp. 311–337.
44
Ibidem, p. 313.
45
Ibidem, pp. 311–337.
43

344

Antonio Allegretti

a network overlaps with other associational networks and spheres
of practice from local economic activities providing networks
of trust for vendors-customers relationships46 to other networks
of social capital that are widespread in Africa and can depend
on the so-called ‘big man’ logic47. Among the Maasai, the sphere
of consumption, especially of food, is normally loaded with an
exceptionally complex set of meanings that rarely find equals in
other communities around the world. Food consumption, in terms
of different practices as well as types of foods, determines complex
gender and age-based social dynamics and relations, including
those of a ‘political’ nature between sectors of community, as well
as the life cycle of single individuals (both men and women)48.
Unsurprisingly, food consumption has acquired new meanings as
a result of factors of change from urbanization to migration and
economic development49, and religion constitutes one of these
factors determining changing practices.
Isaya’s emancipation from traditional networks based on Maasai
ethnic identity, as an example of the divergence between the religious and ‘traditional’ spheres and networks, for instance, was
embodied in the way consumption of food would occur in his
private family life. While on fieldwork, I visited his original home
in a neighboring village to Losirwa, Losimingori village. The arrangements of furniture and other items in the boma, including
those used for dining, clearly marked a deliberate shift from the
way things are done, and food is eaten, according to the ‘traditional’
Maasai way. By the time we approached lunch time, a table would
46
K. Meagher, Identity Economics: Social Networks and the Informal Economy
in Africa, Oxford 2010.
47
J.F. McCauley, Africa’s New Big Man Rule? Pentecostalism and Patronage in
Ghana, „African Affairs”, 112(2012), pp. 1–21.
48
A. Talle, Ways of Milk and Meat among the Maasai..., op. cit., pp. 73–93.
49
A. Allegretti, Maasai Ethnic Economy..., op. cit.

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 345

be placed in the center of the hut, and people would sit in a circle
and eat each in his or her own plate with forks and spoons. The
party would be a heterogeneous mix in terms of gender and age.
Such arrangements markedly differed from food consumption arrangements I had previously been acquainted with in other boma
including Tutunyo family. Groups sharing food according to the
‘traditional’ arrangements are gender and age-based exclusive;
men and women prior to marriage (and for some time after the
marriage) would never share food together, neither would elders
with younger people (although the restrictions are looser in such
case). In Isaya’s boma, a moran would also have food on his own,
thus breaking one of the strongest taboos in Maasai culture, which
forbids moran to have food individually without sharing with their
comrades.
On the occasion of church events in Losirwa, I could easily recognize the same intentional breaking of traditional rules of food
consumption that I witnessed in Isaya’s boma. Men and women
would eat either indoor in the church or outside, but not forming
the small age and gender-based homogeneous clusters that are
formed for instance during ‘traditional’ parties (e.g. circumcision
feasts, wedding parties etc..). On such occasions, for instance,
especially moran isolate themselves from the rest of the invitees
as part of the social dynamics and conventions that designate the
moran as the group that covers key functions within Maasai society
(i.e. providers of security for both people and cattle).
Isaya always referred to the aforementioned taboos in food
consumption practices as ‘slavery’, that is, for moran who are not
allowed to eat when hungry unless sharing with another moran
within the same age set, but also for married couples who are not
allowed to share a meal, a normal activity any other non-Maasai
couple is able to enjoy without restrictions, until they reach the
adulthood stage of life (i.e. when men/husbands leave behind

346

Antonio Allegretti

the moranhood stage of life as the next batch of younger men are
circumcised). On one occasion, Isaya revealed to me that many
moran had confided him to concur with the church message but
that breaking the food taboos, such as for instance the restriction
on eating meat with women, would result in social stigma too
strong to endure for them. Isaya himself was aware of the power of
such taboos and added another untold truth which had to do with
moran’s anxiety to lose their appeal (hence sexual affairs) in the
eyes of women in the village who were not affiliated to the church.
Once again, Lekishonwas the most eloquent about the controversial relationship that moran establish with the two spheres
(‘tradition’ and religion) while partaking in both:
I follow the tradition on food consumption when I am in traditional feasts, and I do not follow it when I am in a church feast. If
I ate meat with women during the circumcision of olayoni [children],
wazee [elders] and other moran would think I have gone crazy!
[laughter].

Partaking in different communities, therefore, has created
overlapping systems and sets of values which are not necessarily
mutual exclusive, but that do entail discreet and subtle maneuvers
within the realm and boundaries set by the values underlying each
single community.

Religion and the materiality of development
As consumption brings out the complex link between Christian
spirituality and tradition within individual life paths for one to
gain his or her personhood, other arenas of materiality, that is,
the material expression of the church, embody people’s efforts in
striving to achieve development. The material and architectural
expression of the church in Losirwa is imbued with meanings that
pertain specifically to (the achievement of) development as an

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 347

essential and universal life project to better one’s own life. This
has to be looked at both within local social dynamics and in the
broader national context where ‘modern’ houses (made of bricks
and cement and corrugated iron roof) are indisputable signs of
development and individual’s economic success50. In the case of
Maasai communities, as I have described elsewhere51, a ‘modern’
house is imbued with additional meanings when put in opposition
(actual and symbolic) with the ‘traditional’ Maasai hut with the
customary division of space according to age and gender52.
The relation between the materiality of ‘the house’ and instances
of social organization has a long history in anthropology53. Not only
the house itself, also furniture and other material arrangements that
are part and parcel of the ‘house’ as a tangible expression of sociocultural system(s) have been under the lens of anthropologists54.
Elsewhere55 i have touched more extensively on how the tangible
expression of the house and domestic space in contemporary
Maasai communities have taken new meanings that have clashed
with customary domestic arrangements56, becoming an arena of
the social transformations triggered by the shortening of distances
between rural and urban areas. These changing dynamics bear
M. Green, Participatory Development and the Appropriation of Agency in
Southern Tanzania, „Critique of Anthropology”, 20(2000), no. 1, pp. 67–89
51
A. Allegretti, Maasai Ethnic Economy..., op. cit.
52
Ibidem.
53
G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. The Classic Look at How We Experience
Intimate Places, Boston 1994 [1958]; About the House. Levi-Strauss and Beyond,
eds. J. Carsten and S. Hugh-Jones, Cambridge 1995.
54
D.L. Lawrence and S.M. Low, The Built Environment and Spatial Form,
„Annual Review of Anthropology”, 19(1990), pp. 453–505.
55
A. Allegretti, Maasai Ethnic Economy..., op. cit.
56
D.L. Hodgson, Once Intrepid Warriors..., op. cit.; A. Talle, Women as Heads of
Houses: the Organization of Production and the Role of Women among the Pastoral
Maasai in Kenya, „Ethnos”, 52(1987), no. 1–2, pp. 50–80.
50

348

Antonio Allegretti

manifest resemblance with, for instance, the case of the pastoral
group of the pastoral Endo in Kenya illustrated by Moore57 where
the process and (externally imposed) project of ‘modernization’
materialized as an opposition of values and meanings attached to
‘traditional’ houses (located on the escarpment) vis-a-vis ‘modern’
houses made of bricks geographically located on the valley floor.
In Losirwa, repeated references during Sunday sermons are made
to the church as the ‘house of God’ and how offers are needed to
nurture ‘the house’ by purchasing new items, improving walls,
constructing ‘modern’ toilets etc. The church as ‘house of God’ is
metaphorically referred to as ‘moral’ shelter against the predicaments of modern society such as HIV, poverty, and general moral
decay; hence, the church as architecture embodies the metaphor
of the ‘house of God’. Not only in Losirwa; on other occasions such
as for instance the inauguration of a church in the neighboring
village of Esilalei I attended, the speech given by the Maasai village chairman concentrated on the new church as a timely resort
for the Esilalei villagers against an unidentified looming plight
hitting the community. The palpable euphoria I beheld on the
inauguration day was also due to the participatory nature of the
project which the nearly totality of the invitees had contributed
to, and that had created a sense of collectivity and community
sheltered metaphorically and materially under the roof of the
newly constructed ‘house of God’.
Not until the early 2000’s, the connection between religion
and development, especially in developing nations, has been
obfuscated by the secular approach that prevailed in developed
nations58. Eventually, towards the early 2000’s, academics have
H. Moore, Space, Text and Gender: an Anthropological Study of the Marakwet
of Kenya, New York 1986.
58
S. Deneulin and C. Rakodi, Revisiting Religion: Development Studies Thirty
Years On, „World Development”, 39(2011), no. 1, pp. 45–54.
57

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 349

led the way towards the recognition of religion as an actor of
and in development, drawing connections for instance with efforts made within the Millenium Development Goals framework
in Africa59 and preparing the terrain for Faith Based Organizations to be recognized by such important donors as the DFID
as ‘agents of transformation’ (and be granted money for their
operations)60. As the ‘traditional’ secular vision of development
proved impractical, the academic world was confronted with
new horizons of research and action. As Deneulin argues: “the
unavoidable presence and importance of religion in the lives of
people in developing countries – and in most developed countries
too – invite development studies and its constituent disciplines
to reconsider one of the assumptions upon which they are often
based: that secularization is a universal, desirable, and irreversible trend”61.
The history of development and religion as an institutional and
economic course cannot be detached from the political relations,
and connections that contribute to determine it – connections and
relations not only between countries or whole blocks (e.g. the socalled ‘Political Islam’), but also the kind of political relations that
occur at small-scale levels. If development studies, as Deneulin has
argued62, have had a rude awakening from the secular approach
to development, other social sciences like anthropology, especially
Africanists such as Meyer and others as highlighted above, have
recognized the political implications at local level within the
religion-development connection.
59
A.J. Njoh and F.A. Akiwumi, The Impact of Religion on Women Empowerment, „Social Indicators Research”, 107(2012), pp. 1–18.
60
G. Clarke, Agents of Transformations? Donors, Faith Based Organizations, and
International Development, „Third World Quarterly”, 28(2007), no. 1, pp. 77–96.
61
S. Deneulin and C. Rakodi, Revisiting Religion..., op. cit., pp. 45–54.
62
Ibidem.

350

Antonio Allegretti

For instance, in Losirwa, the investment in the church as a material construction and a collective project of development occurs
also as a reaction that stems from the criticism by church people
towards ‘tradition’, hence, an undertaking that feeds back into the
‘political’ relations between religion and ‘tradition’ I have referred
to above. Benevolence towards church projects such as investing
in furniture, renovations of the house and the like, are ‘generous’
acts that respond to the dialectal relationship between partaking
in a community which requires altruistic gestures and individual
motives aimed at the achievement of personal development63.
Christian values of generosity are put in opposition to discourses
of selfishness attached to ‘tradition’ and the stubborn attachment
to cows as a form of individual wealth. But generosity, to the affiliated to the church, gets in not only for collective projects of church
renovation; it is also an attribute that features other acts such as
investing in the building of a private house, which are inherently
to be considered private investments.
As such, the material expression of the church represents an
alternative and parallel (to that of ‘tradition’) arena for accessing
development that is strongly rooted into the local and national vision
as to what constitutes progress, and development (i.e. a ‘modern’
house). The material expression of the church embodies values of
modernity, and people’s efforts in expanding it with new furniture
and renovation stand for people’s attempts to achieve such values.
Where many individuals are not in the economic position that would
allow them to build their own ‘modern’ house, investing in a collective venture enables them to embrace at the same time the values of
generosity underlying the vision promoted by the church, and the
values of individual development and modern national citizenship.
S. Gudeman, The Anthropology of Economy: Community, market, and Culture, Hoboken 2001.
63

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 351

Conclusion
This chapter has tried to propose an alternative analytical
framework for the understanding of the socio-economic context of
the Maasai in contemporary Tanzania. ‘The Maasai’ today cannot
be regarded as a discrete social unit with a specific ‘tradition’ or
culture as distinctive traits of ethnic identity spatially bounded as
it was during the pre-independence years when specific boundaries
confined people to the Maasai Reserve first, then Maasai District64.
On the contrary, even though the rural economy persists in specific spaces that could be even identified on a map, ‘the Maasai’
in contemporary Tanzania may rather be regarded as an assemblage of individuals each with their own life experiences within
rural life and, importantly, outside of it. An ongoing process of
negotiation between the ‘traditional’ rural economy and lifestyle,
and a multiplicity of outside social and economic arenas, such as
for instance religion, I believe, provides an appropriate analytical
tool to make sense of the changes that commoditization and the
market produce. It helps explain how and why average young
Maasai men are not the only ones to live across multiple economies
and communities. Even highly educated Maasai, of whom I have
met a number, who live in cities and work for important NGOs,
continue to have their own boma in their respective villages, and
pursue parallel economic careers in their villages as livestock owners and occasional upscale traders.
As religion and church affiliation continue to spread among
Maasai communities along with commoditization, urbanization,
and the ‘market’, practices and meanings associated to Maasai
‘tradition’, culture, and ethnic identity will acquire further and
more complex significance rather than disappear. My own pre64

D.L. Hodgson, Once Intrepid Warriors..., op. cit.

352

Antonio Allegretti

diction on the ‘future of the Maasai’, a widespread concern
among anthropologists that often has produced looming ominous prophecies, is that the Maasai will increasingly partake in
a multiplicity of social, political, cultural and economic arenas
also as a response to increasing pressure over the rural economy
that comes from increasingly scare natural resources. Rural lifestyle, social organization and culture will undertake some steady
readjustments rather than major transformations to adapt to
changing conditions.
REFERENCES

About the House. Levi-Strauss and Beyond, eds. J. Carsten and S. HughJones, Cambridge 1995.
Allegretti A., Maasai Ethnic Economy: Rethinking Maasai Ethnic Identity
and the ‘Cash Economy’ across the Rural-Urban Interface, Tanzania.
PhD Thesis [unpublished]. The University of Manchester, 2015.
Allegretti A., Being Maasai” in Markets and Trade: the Role of EthnicityBased Institutions in the Livestock Market of Northern Tanzania, „Nomadic Peoples”, 21(2017), no. 1, pp. 63–86.
Asad T., The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category, in:
Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity
and Islam, ed. T. Asad, Baltimore, 1993, pp. 27–54.
Bachelard G., The Poetics of Space. The Classic Look at How We Experience
Intimate Places, Boston 1994[1958].
Being Maasai: Ethnicity & Identity in East Africa, eds. T. Spear and R. Waller,
Oxford – Dar es Salaam – Nairobi – Athens 1993.
Berry S., No Condition Is Permanent. The Social Dynamics of Agrarian
Change in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madison 1993.
Bishop E., Schooling and the Encouragement of Farming amongst Pastoralists in Tanzania, „Nomadic Peoples”, 11(2007), no. 2, pp. 9–29.

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 353

Bryceson D.F., Rural Livelihoods and Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan
Africa: Processes and Policies, in: Rural Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction Policies, eds. F. Ellis and H.A. Freeman, London – New York,
2005, pp. 43–74.
Chanock M., Neither Customary nor Legal: African Customary Law in an
Era of Family Law Reform, „International Journal of Law and Family”,
3(1989), pp. 72–88.
Chidester D., Engaging the Wildness of Things, „Material Religion”, 4(2008),
no. 2, pp. 232–233.
Clarke G., Agents of Transformations? Donors, Faith Based Organizations,
and International Development, „Third World Quarterly”, 28(2007),
no. 1, pp. 77–96. 2007.
Deneulin S. and Rakodi C., Revisiting Religion: Development Studies Thirty
Years On, „World Development”, 39(2011), no. 1, pp. 45–54.
Eller J.D., Introducing Anthropology of Religion, New York – London 2007.
Ellis S. and ter Haar G., Religion and Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, „The
Journal of Modern African Studies”, 36(1998), no. 2, pp. 175–201.
Ellis S. and ter Haar, G. Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political
Practice in Africa, London 2004.
Engelke M., Religion and the Media Turn, „American Ethnologist”,
37(2010), no. 2, pp. 371–379.
Ferguson J., The „Bovine Mystique”: Power, Property and Livestock in Rural
Lesotho, „Man”, 20(1985), no. 4, pp. 647–674.
Ferguson J. The Cultural Topography of Wealth: Commodity Paths and the
Structure of Property in Rural Lesotho, „American Anthropologist”,
94(1992), no. 1, pp. 55–73.
Fratkin E., East African Pastoralism in Transition: Maasai, Borana,
and Rendille Cases, „African Studies Review”, 44(2001), no. 3,
pp. 1–25.
Geertz C., The Interpretation of Culture: Selected Essays, New York 1973.

354

Antonio Allegretti

Green M., Confronting Categorical Assumptions about the Power of Religion in Africa, „Review of African Political Economy”, 2006, no. 110,
pp. 635–650.
Green M., Participatory Development and the Appropriation of Agency
in Southern Tanzania, „Critique of Anthropology”, 20(2000), no. 1,
pp. 67–89.
Gudeman, S. The Anthropology of Economy: Community, market, and
Culture, Hoboken 2001.
Guyer J., Marginal Gains: Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa, Chicago – London 2004.
Hodgson D.L., Once Intrepid Warriors: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Cultural
Politics of Maasai Development, Bloomington 2001.
Hodgson D.L., The Church of Women. Gendered Encounters Between Maasai
and Missionaries, Bloomington 2005.
Homewood K., Ecology of African Pastoralist Societies, Oxford – Athens
– Pretoria 2008.
Keane W., On the Materaility of Religion, „Material Religion”, 4(2008),
no. 2, pp. 230–231.
Lawrence D.L. and Low S.M., The Built Environment and Spatial Form,
„Annual Review of Anthropology”, 19(1990), pp. 453–505.
Meyer B., Christian Mind and Worldly Matter, „Journal of Material Culture”, 2(1997), no. 3, pp. 311–337.
Meyer B., Materializing Religion, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2, p. 227.
Meyer B., Media and the Senses in the Making of Religious Experience: an
Introduction, „Material Religion”, 4(2008), no. 2, pp. 124–135.
Morgan D., The Materiality of Cultural Construction, „Material Religion”,
4(2008), no. 2, pp. 228–229.
Morris B., Religion and Anthropology. A Critical Introduction, Cambridge
2006.

THE RELIGIOUS (AND POLITICAL) MATERIALITY OF DEVELOPMENT... 355

Meagher K., Identity Economics: Social Networks and the Informal Economy
in Africa, Oxford 2010.
McCauley J.F., Africa’s New Big Man Rule? Pentecostalism and Patronage
in Ghana, „African Affairs”, 112(2012), pp. 1–21.
Moore H., Space, Text and Gender: an Anthropological Study of the Marakwet of Kenya, New York 1986.
Njoh A.J. and Akiwumi F.A. The Impact of Religion on Women Empowerment, „Social Indicators Research”, 107(2012), pp. 1–18.
Rigby P., Persistent Pastoralists. Nomadic Societies in Transition, London 1985.
Schneider H., Livestock and Equality in East Africa, Bloomington 1979.
Spencer P., The Pastoral Continuum. The Marginalization of Tradition in
East Africa, Oxford 1998.
Smith K. The Farming Alternative: Changing Age and Gender Ideology
among Pastoral Rendille and Ariaal, „Nomadic Peoples”, 3(1999),
no. 2, pp. 131–146.
Spencer P., The Maasai of Matapato: A Study of Ritual Rebellion, Manchester 1988.
Talle A., Ways of Milk and Meat among the Maasai: Gender Identity and
Food Resources in a Pastoral Economy, in: From Water to World Making,
ed. G. Palsson, Uppsala, 1990, pp. 73–93.
Talle A., Women as Heads of Houses: the Organization of Production and
the Role of Women among the Pastoral Maasai in Kenya, „Ethnos”,
52(1987), no. 1–2, pp. 50–80.
Winzeler R.L., Anthropology and Religion. What We Know, Think, and
Question, Lanham – New York – Toronto – Plymouth 2012.
Zaal F., Economic Integration in Pastoral Areas: Commercialisation and
Social Change among Kenya’s Maasai, „Nomadic Peoples”, 3(1999),
no. 2, pp. 97–114.

PART IV

VARIA

Chapter 12.

KLAUDIA WILK MHAGAMA

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID
PROJECTS IN TANZANIA:
Socio-cultural aspects of cooperation
between local partners and external donors
and its impact on development
ABSTRACT

Although the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) have been brought
forward as one solution to more sustainable development in Tanzania,
Church organisations and Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) still depend
on resources ultimately originating from an organization’s environment and/or international partners. Many organisations in Tanzania
consider the partnership with the external donors as important for
the long-term security in running the particular institutions. However,
still there is a lack of regulations which could help such organisations
to extend the long-term goals and sustain their success in cooperation
with external donors. This is caused by several aspects. First of all, the
permanent cooperation occurs in physical and material contribution
involving financial sources and external staff. This causes some sort of
dependency between these organizations and external donors. Donors
and local partners have different power and resources, though often
shared relief and development goals. Local partners may need funding
to operate, donors need others to implement1. At the same time, such
actors (e.g. Missionary societies, international donors) aim to decrease
KLAUDIA WILK MHAGAMA – Jagiellonian University.
Local partnership: A guide for partnering with civil society, business and government groups, Portland 2011, p. 20.
1

360

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

dependence2. Another aspect concerns the limited funding and short
time of implementation of a particulal project. This leads the relationship
between local partners and external donors to a noncommitted relations
rather than a long-term partnership. The last but not least important aspect
mostly occurs in cultural and social context. Lack of special attention to
this aspect may bring results nonefective to the local community. Donors
often do not have access to communities due to security restrictions or
limited personnel3. This aspect indicates the need of working with a local
partner who accurately diagnates needs and then oversees the effective
implementation of the project. Following these factors as a background
for the heading of this paper, it is necessary to answer the following questions: 1) what is the partnership and what kind of role play local partners
in cooperation with the Polish Aid; 2) what is the impact of a socio-cultural
factor on formation of long-term effects? The above questions aim at
identifying the most important factors influencing the long-term effects of
project implementation in Tanzania leading to sustainable development.

What is partnership?
According to the Guide of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)4 „...a partnership is an agreement to
do something together that will benefit all involved, bringing results
that could not be achieved by a single partner operating alone, and
reducing duplication of efforts. [...] To achieve sustained success it
is essential that basic local parameters be created and agreed upon;
equally essential are political will, resourcing, and the appropria2
J. Pfeffer & G.R. Salancik, The External Control of Organizations: A Resource
Dependence Perspective, Redwood City 2003.
3
Local partnership..., op. cit., p. 20.
4
This document has been prepared collectively by members of the OECD LEED
Forum for Partnerships and Local Governance and staff members of the Forum
Office in Vienna, under the coordination of the Chair, Michael Förschner. The
opinions expressed and arguments employed therein do not necessarily reflect
the views of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries.

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

361

tion of funds”5. What is more, The Guide enumerates number of
characteristics of efficient partnership6. There is no clear suggestion
pointing to social and cultural aspects of partenrship. However, ther
are several points indicating such characteristics like: social acceptance, representation by experienced persons who have influence
within their organisation, good communication between actors and
“learning culture”. The Guide emphasizes also the characteristics
needed to implement long-term strategy. One of the first and most
important is „an assessment of local needs and a consultation process
with local actors„as well as „the various measures and projects are
planned and correspond to the strategy and to local and regional
needs”7. According to Derick W. Brinkerhoff and Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff „...In the international development arena, the partnership
is both a core element in programs to improve the delivery of key
goods and services in poor and transitioning countries, and often
applied descriptor of the relationship between the external funders
of the programs and the organizations or groups in the Countries
involved in carrying them out”8. In practice, partnership means
maximizing the potential of a partner from a supportive country to
implement project activities9. The Guide identifies partners higlithing
the partnership’s objectives as important to bring in the different
relevant parts of the public sector as well as the business, commuOECD, Sucessful partnership. A Guide, OECD LEED Forum for Partnerships
and Local Governance, 2006, p. 7.
6
Ibidem, pp. 7–8.
7
Ibidem, p. 8.
8
D.W. Brinkerhoff and J.M. Brinkerhoff, Partnerships between international
donors and non-governmental development organizations: opportunities and constraints, „International Review of Administrative Sciences”, 70(2004), no. 2, p. 254.
9
Ewaluacja polskiej współpracy rozwojowej udzielanej za pośrednictwem MSZ
RP w latach 2012–2015 w wybranych krajach Afryki Wscodniej i Bliskiego Wschodu,
Raport końcowy z badania ewaluacyjnego KOMPONENT I – Afryka Wschodnia,
Warszawa 2016, p. 63.
5

362

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

nity and voluntary sectors10. Across this diversity, there are three
broad groupings, though relationships may fit into more than one
category at the same or different times and can evolve: 1. Project
partnerships for a specific project with mutually agreed aims and
objectives. 2. Strategic partnerships, working together over time
with sufficient alignment of goals and objectives towards achieving
a lasting impact on poverty. 3. Alliances with single organizations/
groups or networks/coalitions of groups working together towards
a specific goal, even though organizational/institutional mandates
and long-term purpose may be quite differen11.

Polish Aid as an external donor in Tanzania
Polish Aid Programme (PAP) can be clasified as a programme,
coordinated by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs12. It is the
main tool used for cooperation in the European Union and the
OECD Development Assistance Committee. Poland, as one of the
members, is involved in development cooperation for the benefit of
developing countries. Polish development cooperation constitutes
a part of Polish foreign policy and fits into the European and global
development policies, including support for achieving Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs)13. In accordance with the law, the Polish
OECD, Sucessful partnership. A Guide, op. cit., p. 10.
Local partnership..., op. cit., p. 7.
12
The Minister of Foreign Affairs coordinates development cooperation acting
through the National Coordinator of Development Cooperation who holds the
rank of secretary or undersecretary of state. The Coordinator is assisted by the
Development Cooperation Policy Council, a consultative and advisory body to
the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
13
Poland took an active part in the international community’s efforts to
elaborate a new set of development goals: the Sustainable Development Goals,
which replaced the Millennium Development Goals; a new model of development cooperation funding, which culminated in the 3rd International Conference
10
11

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

363

development cooperation is based on the Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme, developed for a minimum period
of four years. The document sets the objectives and geographical
and thematic priorities of development aid. The first multiannual
programme covered the period from 2012 to 2015. Poland’s Second
Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme, covering the
period from 2016 to 2020 and containing a strategy of action for
developing countries, was adopted by the Council of Ministers on
6 October 201514. Polish development cooperation is implemented
through programmes and projects, addressed to specific groups
of beneficiaries (bilateral assistance), as well as member fees and
voluntary contributions to international institutions, funds and
organisations (multilateral assistance). A substantial part of the
funds is directed at priority countries of the Polish development aid
programme in cooperation with Polish nongovernmental organisations, public financial sector units, Polish Academy of Sciences and
universities. Polish aid projects are also carried out in cooperation
with Polish representations and diplomatic missions15. Adopted
by the Council of Ministers on 6 October 2015, the Multiannual
Development Cooperation Programme for 2016–2020 sets strategic
objectives and directions of Polish development cooperation in the
middle term. In line with the principle of enhancing the efficiency
and effectiveness of development cooperation, the Programme
outlines the areas targeted by Poland’s development cooperation,
providing for a more concentrated approach in terms of geography.
on Financing for Development (13–16 July 2015, Addis Ababa); and the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was formally adopted at the United
Nations Summit on 25–27 September 2015.
14
See: https://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/About,Polish,aid,202.html [access:
th
28 July2017].
15
See:https://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/Mission,statement,204.html [access:
th
28 July2017].

364

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

Tanzania as one of the priority countries has bacome a beneficiery
of Polish Aid Programme16. Within frames of “Polish Development Assistance” Programme, between 2011 and 2017, Tanzania has bacome
beneficiary of Polish Aid 22 times, including Foundation „Kiabakari”17
that has become beneficiary 6 times (in 201318, 201619 and 201720).
16
Priority partner countries now include current beneficiaries from Sub-Saharan
Africa: Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. However, Polish Aid programme has
also implemented several projects in other cuntries, e.g. Zambia, Uganda, Burundi,
Rwanda, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia or Namibia. See: https://
www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/Sub-Saharan,Africa,449.html, [access: 28th July2017].
17
Kiabakari is a village in northwestern Tanzania, between Lake Victoria and
the Serengeti National Park. There is a Catholic parish run by a missionary. On
the mission area there is a health center where about 15,000 people are being
treated annually (mainly women and children). The mission also includes a kindergarten and primary school where 240 children are educated. In addition, there
are over 40 people working on the mission. For more than 25 years Kiabakari has
been run by a Polish priest who is also the founder of the Kiabakari Foundation,
which works to improve the quality of life, health and education, and promotes
the development of the local population.
18
„Mbingu na Dunia – Mavuno ya Mvua” (Heaven and Earth – Water Harvest)
– complex system for harvesting, treatment and retention of rain and ground water
for educational and medical institutions in Kiabakari (PPR 122/2013); 2) “Mbegu
Njema” (Good Seed) – A modern preschool in Kiabakari: a chance for the proper
development and education of the children in the rural areas of Mara Region.
Transformation and furbishment of the existing infrastructure for the needs of the
preschool. (PPR 124/2013); 3) „Upendo Unaojali” (Tender Love) – broadening
of the modern pre- and post-natal mother and child healthcare with the expansion
of the hospitalization base in health center in Kiabakari. (PPR 125/2013).
19
“Tazama na Tabasamu” (Look and Smile) – Eye and dental clinic in Kiabakari
– an effective rescue measure in the desert of the medical services of this nature for
the society of north-western Tanzania. (PPR 46/2016); 2) “Shule Bora” (Perfect
School) – the completion of the construction and furbishment of the primary school
in Kiabakari – a chance of the access to the high quality education for the rural
communities of Mara Region. (PPR 47/2016).
20
Salama Zaidi Lamadi (Safer in Lamadi) – The betterment of housing conditions and safety of children and the youth with albinism through the construction
of the dormitory and fencing the caring center in Lamadi. (PPR 18/2017).

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

365

Since 2009 until 2016 within the “Polish Aid Volunteering Programme 2009”21 Tanzania has become beneficiary 25 times, including three times for Foundation „Kiabakari” (in 201122, 201223 and
201524)25. Within the frames of „Small Grants” Tanzania has become
beneficiary country two times including Kiabakari mission in 201226
and St. Walburg’s hospital in Nyangao27 in 201528.
21
Since 2008, the MFA has been implementing the Polish Aid Volunteering
Programme, aimed at supporting the direct involvement of Polish citizens to help
citizens of developing countries, as well as disseminating information among
Polish society on the problems facing these countries. The Polish Aid Volunteering
Programme involves the following: Volunteers, Polish organizations managing
volunteer work in the framework of projects, Partner organizations in countries
covered by projects, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which finances the programme; See: https://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/Volunteering,Programme,810.
html, [access: 28th July2017].
22
„Afya Bora” (Perfect Health). Voluntary support of Kiabakari Mission, aimed
at malaria and other diseases profilaxis, including introduction of health promotion
and health education programs. (WPP1283/2011).
23
„Huduma ya Kwanza”. Volunteer First Aid and Health Education for the
citizens of Kiabakari and Kukirango community. (WPP 931/2012).
24
„Ili Wawe Na Afya” (That they may have health). The growth of the level of
the medicare of the inhabitants of Kiabakari and of the Butiama district in Tanzania
(WPP 783/2015).
25
See: https://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/Polish,Aid,Volunteering,Program
me,2015,–,Results,2292.html, [access: 28th July2017].
26
„Providing modern delivery unit to the Health Centre in Kiabakari (Tanzania)”.
27
St. John’s Hospital Walburg’s is one of the largest hospitals in the region
of Lindi and Mtwara. It is owned by a Catholic diocese. It is missionary hospital
founded 56 years ago by the Benedictine nuns from Tutzing, southern Germany.
The hospital has 220 beds and 4 basic departments: surgery, internship, obstetric
gynecology and pediatrics. Previously there was also a tuberculosis treatment
unit. The total staff number is 240 employees, of which 140 are medical staff.
In the year 2015 the hospital received 34,440,000 outpatients who come to the
hospital even from neighboring countries (eg Mozambique).
28
Quality improvement of surgical treatment in St. Walburg’s Hospital in
Nyangao and other hospitals in Lindi and Mtwara region (Tanzania).

366

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

The local partners
and the key individuals in Tanzania
Project implementation requires knowledge about the problems
of local community as well as their development needs. Regardless
of the sector, partnership should be governed by at least two main
principles. The first one is participation of a member of a local
community that gives a chance, directly or through representation
by local partners, to participate in the design, implementation and
monitoring of programs. Local partners play an essential role in
encouraging participation and ensuring different experiences, needs
and capabilities of various groups in a local community29. Hence,
a close cooperation with the local partners at the stage of designing
and project implementation is a prerequisite for accurate diagnosis.
Very often, local organizations and their cooperative working with
a PAP are based on key individual which may be a major person to
complete the project successfully. The St.Walburg’s hospital project,
for example, was carried out in cooperation with a Polish doctor
who has worked in the hospital for many years and is the only
specialist surgeon working there. He is a key person in the field of
cooperation for many years with a Polish diplomatic mission. As
a partner and key individual, he provided many relevant information that led not only to the correct course of project activities but
also to the continuation of the project. As a physician, he pointed
first to the real problem of the local community, such as motorbike
accidents, so that the problem was correctly diagnosed and invested
in the hospital’s surgical equipment. In the case of the parish in
Kiabakari, there was a presence of a Polish missionary who had
over 25 years of experience in missionary work in Tanzania. So
far, he has coordinated many development and volunteer projects
29

Local partnership..., op. cit., p. 5.

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

367

in Tanzania. As a partner and key individual, he oversaw the implementation of the project, both in terms of quality and budget
implementation. He also provided financial contributions for some
tasks. In both cases, the local partners had the task of ensuring the
timeliness of the project and the reliability of the work performed.
They were directly supervising the implementation of the tasks and
while carrying out the tasks of the project, they were responsible
for realizing the new goals in accordance with the adopted concept.
Such individuals supporting the organizations are concerned about
the problems they face trying to maintain stable relationship. Due
to Pfeffer & Salancik30, stable relationship is achieved through
friendship, informational exchanges and understanding. This leads
to the second principle of partnership which is accountability. According to the MerciCorps Local Partnerships Guide, accountability
is defined as a two-way responsibility: among partners, between
the program and donors, and the program and communty. Partners
are accountable to each other when they honor their commitment
to communicate plans and are responsible for what they actually
do. Accountability requires transparency31. That is why, the need to
have a reliable partner who will be able to meet the project requirements is one of priorities leading to the sustainable development
of local organisations32.
The partnership emerges itself not only in relations between
the external donors and the local partners represented very often
by key individuals, but also involves the local experts, leaders and
representatives of the public. This is a form of empowerment that
allows local actors to participate in project decision-making and
take responsibility for their actions. At the same time, the partner
J. Pfeffer & G. R. Salancik, The External Control of Organizations..., op. cit.
Local partnership..., op. cit., p. 5.
32
Ewaluacja..., op. cit., p. 37.
30
31

368

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

organization assumes that it supports the local community in
the process of assuming responsibility for the implementation or
continuation of the project, as long as the community needs it. It
functions here as a facilitator, who gradually withdraws from the
project activities. At a time when the local community is ready to
take full responsibility for the effects of the project, all decisionmaking power goes into its hands33. In the case of St. Walburg’s
hospital, knowledge that was acquired during training is not only
used by trained doctors, but also gives the physician the opportunity
to transfer knowledge to other staff working in the same hospital
or in nearby hospitals. This phenomenon is also referred to as the
so-called self-sustaining model, which means that the support
received for the project generates revenue that can be reused to
sustain and/or develop positive effects of the program. In this
case, the partner organizations themselves take care to ensure the
continuity of the funding. Such model is particularly desirable in
job creation projects34. One of the difficulties is certainly that the
continuation of the project activities (training) is paid from the
hospital’s financial resources, which slightly damages the hospital
budget. Nevertheless, according to the beneficiaries, the effects of
the activities are so much added that the hospital’s training has not
stopped. This is of course a model example of the empowerment
principle. In practice, a local partner has a constant control of project activities even after the project has been officially discontinued.

Socio-cultural context
Another key aspect of successful implementation of projects in
Tanzania is the skillful adaptation to the localized socio-cultural
33
34

Ibidem, p. 65.
Ibidem, p. 51.

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

369

context. There are of course some obvious points concerning adaptation to the needs of the local community such as knowing the
local language or overthrowing local superstitions (for example,
putting a phone to the heart helps an unconscious person; the
albino problem). However, it is worth noting the inapparent ones
like the issue of expenditure that should bring long-term effects.
This is extremely difficult with still modest resources of Polish
Aid Project. It is therefore essential to focus resources and invest
in projects that can bring significant improvements in a relatively
short limit of time. In this area, the role of a local partner is very
important. He can identify projects that address the needs of the
local community. However, there is also a need to create the project
based on expected effects as well as the cost of implementation.
The projects evaluation indicates soft projects as those that have
a high degree of efficiency. Special projects are devoted to the
development of competences or professional skills, assuming the
introduction of beneficiaries into the labor market or creation of
new jobs35. In the case of actions targeted at the local community,
the best sustainability of soft projects is noted, particularly where
they are well suited to the current needs of the local community and
the participants are deliberately selected from the local community
(eg. local leaders). In this case, local community representatives
not only use the knowledge they have acquired for their needs,
but also become multipliers – they transfer knowledge further. The
project – Kiabakari first aid, for instance, resulted in the emergence
of knowledge multipliers using the knowledge acquired during
the project but also continuing the activities of project on their
own. Participants of this project (teachers, students, medical staff
and the local community) continue their activities on their own,
using the knowledge gained during the day-to-day training by
35

Ibidem, p. 32.

370

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

introducing first aid topics into seminar and into the classroom.
Primary school teachers were teaching school pupils and others by
showing in practice how to help, in the course of everyday situations (fainting, breaks, car accidents). However, the inclusion of
a local community into the process of implementation, is also an
important factor in the sustainability of projects36. This was the
case with the first aid training in Kiabakari, where volunteers had
to adapt the training to local problems (eg. snake bites, insect bites
or motorcycle accidents) and to face local prejudices (eg. drinking
Urine for poisoning). In the case of a maternity ward project, it
was important to assure mothers-to-be of the possibility of having
a baby without any obstacles. Previously, women often needed to
be transported to a hospital 15 kilometers away, which was not
always possible due to an ambulance or a private car, for which
the owner required a high fee (which the family was unable to
pay). Today, the equipped delivery room allows future mothers to
have a peaceful and safe delivery on the spot.
According to the report, the biggest risk of failure to achieve and
maintain the expected effects, is in the projects implemented in
the field of health. There are the legal, procedural and institutional
constraints that make the development of health institutions with
the help of external donors very difficult. An excellent example is
the St. Walburg’s hospital in Nyangao, which operates in partnership with the government (Private Public Patnership – PPP). In case
of this type of contract, the government requires free care for the
vulnerable group (mothers, children and the elderly). In return, the
government offers subsidies to the hospital in the form of basket
funds or staff compensation, as well as the provision of adequate
medical staff. The question of staff is, however, one of the biggest
problems. The government is not able to provide enough doctors.
36

Ibidem, p. 54.

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

371

Single workers are delegated, but their work is temporary. Also,
medical staff, when given the opportunity to work in a government
hospital, resign from private / mission hospitals (in this case, the
so-called church based hospitals) in connection with the possibility
of receiving more government revenue. A similar situation occurs
on the mission in Kiabakari. The health center is not supported
financially and personally by the government. In addition, the
resort can not perform many treatments because it does not have
the official status of the health center. Another problem of the Kiabakari resort is the fact of having 25 medical staff. Meanwhile, the
center employs 15 people and pays them from its own sources. For
this reason, many operations can not be performed. In the case of
volunteering projects that are being developed in both cases, there
is a risk that the functioning of the health service is conditioned by
the continuous flow of additional support in the form of material
resources and volunteers, and there is no chance of self-realization37.
Projects addressed to institutionalized beneficiaries, i.e. teachers or
physicians, typically result in the departure of trained staff to better
paid jobs, which causes them to cease working on project sustainability. The problem here can be to use the acquired knowledge for
their own private needs, e.g. for self-development, change of work,
etc., rather than for the purposes of the project. However, it should
be noted that soft projects aimed at enhancing knowledge, the
acquisition of competencies or skills, are sustainable in the narrow
sense of the term, as the sustainability of once achieved effects of
design activities. Once acquired knowledge and competences are
provided to the beneficiaries, even if they are no longer linked to
the achievement of the project objectives.
In a social and cultural context one should not exclude implementation of hard projects. However, combining hard and soft projects
37

Ibidem, p. 33.

372

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama

(either in a single project or in the case of successive projects) is
also frequently used and improves the effectiveness of the project,
assuming the project is well suited to local needs. At St. Walburg’s
hospital that combination is implemented. Hard projects are visible
through the support of the infrastructure: renovating not only the
three hospital departments and the purchase of a variety of surgical
equipment but also the renovation of the sanitary facilities. In the
case of soft projects, trainings for physicians were conducted. The
doctors involved in the project not only gained the knowledge they
needed for their work, but also had the opportunity to make more
surgical procedures, using already purchased tools. This indicates
the ideal implementation of soft and hard projects in a single one.

Conclusions
Trying to answer one of thequestions concerning the role of local
partners in the partnership with the Polish Aid, attention should be
paid to definition of partnership that emphasizes such aspects as:
a presentation by experienced persons as well as friendship, informational exchanges and understanding; good communication; and
consultation process with local actors. For most projects implemented
by PAP, the diagnosis of needs is based on analyses carried out by
partner organizations. PAP assumes a great commitment of partners
to the project and includes local experts, leaders and representatives
of the public. Cooperation with the local partners gives PAP a good
understanding of local issues, engagement, and partnership relations
with local contractors. The implementation of PAP projects aims to
build the capacity of partner organizations to manage their projects,
finally leading to their professionalisation. In the case of Polish
entities difficulties in carrying out the diagnosis is the construction
of competitions, which do not assume the financing of preparatory
work on the project, including onsite visits and diagnosis of needs

EFFICIENCY AND UTILITY OF POLISH AID PROJECTS IN TANZANIA...

373

in cooperation with the partner organization38. Thus, presence of
key individuals within the local partner organisation, that know the
needs of local communities, is very often a critical success factor
for project implementation. Key individual may be first pointing
to the real problem of the local community and corresponds to the
strategy and to local and regional needs. Key actors that represent
local organisations may provide many relevant information that led
not only to the social acceptance but also effective completion of
a project and its continuation. Such activity supports the organization and maintains a stable relationship by friendship, informational
exchanges and understanding.
The functioning in the socio-cultural context indicates the need
not only of the already mentioned close cooperation with the local partner, but also the trust of the key idividuals. However, to
emphasize the type of implemented projects and the appropriation
of funds are equally important. It seems that soft projects as those
that have a high degree of efficiency. The most effective projects
are the ones, that are devoted to the development of competences
or professional skills. In that case, community representatives that
are selected from the local community appear to be multipliers
that transfer knowledge further. However, there is a need of inclusion of a local community that becomes direct beneficiary of the
project. Although the soft projects are the ones assuring long-term
effects, there is also a big need of combining hard and soft projects
that reinforce synergistic effects39. However, the main barrier to
the long-term effects is the low level of funding and the time limit
(one year) of the projects. Thus, increasing expenditure on PAP
is a prerequisite for more effective implementation of projects40.
Ibidem, p. 67.
Ibidem, p. 41.
40
Ibidem, p. 36.
38
39

374

Klaudia Wilk Mhagama
REFERENCES

Books:
Brinkerhoff D.W., and Brinkerhoff J.M., Partnerships between international
donors and non-governmental development organizations: opportunities and constraints, International Review of Administrative Sciences,
70(2004), no. 2, pp. 253–270.
Pfeffer J. & Salancik G.R., The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective, Redwood City 2003.
Websites:
Polish Aid, https://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/Polish,Aid,160.html [accesed 2017].
Projects:
„Huduma ya Kwanza”. Volunteer First Aid and Health Education for the
citizens of Kiabakari and Kukirango community. (WPP 931/2012).
„Upendo Unaojali” (Tender Love) – broadening of the modern pre- and
post-natal mother and child healthcare with the expansion of the hospitalization base in health center in Kiabakari. (PPR 125/2013).
Quality improvement of surgical treatment in St. Walburg’s Hospital in
Nyangao and other hospitals in Lindi and Mtwara region (Tanzania).
(558/2015/MG2015).
Reports:
Ewaluacja polskiej współpracy rozwojowej udzielanej za pośrednictwem
MSZ RP w latach 2012–2015 w wybranych krajach Afryki Wscodniej
i Bliskiego Wschodu, Raport końcowy z badania ewaluacyjnego KOMPONENT I – Afryka Wschodnia, Warszawa 2016.
Local partnership: A guide for partnering with civil society, business and
government groups, Portland 2011.
Sucessful partnership. A Guide, OECD LEED Forum for Partnerships and
Local Governance, 2006.

Kolekcja

Cytat

Cichocki, Piotr (ed.) i Ząbek, Maciej (ed.), “Cultural shift in East Africa: developments, biographies, (im)materialities,” Cyfrowa Etnografia, Dostęp 4 grudnia 2022, https://cyfrowaetnografia.pl/items/show/6240.

Formaty wyjściowe