IT’S hard to explain the history of Tanzania without speaking about the sector that not only employed the majority of the population, but acted as a driving force of an entire economy of the country.
In a speech by President Julius Nyerere in 1984 while inaugurating the Sokoine University of Agriculture, reminded them that it is farmers who are financing it.
He emphasised, ”Remember that the Sokoine University of Agriculture is owned by the peasants… of Tanzania and that these are poor people”.
To get a proper understanding of what really transpired in the country that is 62 years old today, I will divide our discussion into two phases; Infant and Grown-up phase.
This is the period that began from the year 1961 to 1991. At this time Tanzania was on the learning stage, as it studied the existing problems that affected the country and realised that the solution to this was to heavily invest in the most important sector, the agricultural sector. This gave rise to slogans like; ”Politics and Agriculture”, ”Agriculture is the backbone of the country”, ”Agriculture for life and death” and so on and so forth.
This commitment was done under the banner of African socialism or Ujamaa in Swahili, enacted in the year 1967 under the Arusha Declaration banner. Jeannette Hartmann, a scholar from Hull University, in United Kingdom, enlightens more on ‘Azimio la Arusha’, on her paper titled; Development Policy – Making in Tanzania 1962-1982: A Critique of Sociological Interpretations, ”The Declaration had an emphasis on agricultural development, stressing self-sufficiency in food and socialist development”.
During this period the Government nationalised all the privately owned properties. Mr Dhiru Chauhan, a Moshi resident and one of the well-known agricultural enthusiasts in the country, wrote in one of the regional magazines recently, ”… in the wake of the Arusha Declaration some 52 farms in Northern Tanzania were nationalised overnight and their management was handed over to co-operative societies”.
This new-found spirit coupled with collectivisation of agriculture turned disastrous. Mr Sebastian Edwards, in his paper titled, ”Is Tanzania a Success Story?
A long-term analysis”, writes, ”The collectivisation of agriculture backfired, the villagisation process that forced peasants to move to villages designed by planners was strongly resisted by the population”.
The World Bank’s World Development Report of 1991, just three decades after attaining its independence from Britain, Tanzania was ranked as the second poorest country in the world, just above Mozambique. While Nyerere attributed failure of Ujamaa to implementation as opposed to the doctrine itself, he contends that their reaction on agriculture was a mistake.
Mr Chauhan reports on the interview that Nyerere had with New Internationalist, October 1970, in which he was asked ”What were your main mistakes as Tanzanian leader? What should you have done differently?” Nyerere replied, ”I would not nationalise sisal plantations.
That was a mistake. I did not realise how difficult it would be for the state to manage agriculture. Agriculture is difficult to socialise. I tried to tell my government that what traditionally belonged to the family in the village social organisation, should be left with the family, while what was new could be communalised at the village level”.
Grown up phase
At this stage, a lot was learnt and some new ideas had to be put in place. One of the quick steps taken by the post ’91 administrations was to commercialise the agricultural sector, in the sense that all the decisions from pre-sowing to marketing to selling was left in the hands of individual farmers and their households.
This came after agreement with reality that agriculture in Tanzania was stagnant and unstable. To address the abovementioned challenges, the state started to privatise sisal plantations, among other state-owned estates to bring about more efficiency.
Further, in what could be termed as a silent repentance of public sins, the Government started to encourage farmers to belong to cooperatives and devised plans to form even more of them, the work is now under the Tanzania Cooperative Development Commission (TCDC).
In 1967 we hardly converted locally produced cotton into clothes. Nonetheless, the history changed when Tanzania built a number of textile mills to produce clothes and by 1975 alone, the country had 8 textile mills, capable of producing over 84 million square metres of cloth. While many have now been privatised and still exporting raw cotton, Tanzania is no longer in the place where it used to be as it has a sizable textile industry – though small – which is supplying clothing to the local market.
The manufacturing sector has generally grown in Tanzania. It used to account for about 8 per cent of the national income 1966, but now it stands at about 23 per cent and the biggest composition of raw materials come from farm products. If one would rate the country’s progress, the honest and fair mark would have been, Satisfactory!
At least we have a history to learn from and a commitment to make necessary changes that will create a thriving atmosphere for the generations to come.
Zirack Andrew, National Co-ordinator, Tanzania Pulses Network (TPN),
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Publish date : 2023-12-11 18:12:57