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Failure Of Villagization Though Ujamaa In Tanzania Politics Essay

Info: 2936 words (12 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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Within a decade, from 1967 to 1977, 13,000,000 Tanzanians have abandoned their homes and resettled into villages (Jennings 2008). Since my visit to rural Tanzania in 2002, I have been fascinated by the settlement of rural people within the country. This arose from my visit to a small Maasai settlement outside Dar es Salaam. I wanted to know why they chose to settle in that particular region. I also wanted to understand how they earn money and if they use currency for food, land, and utilities. After doing some research, I realized the reasoning behind the locations of settlements could be traced to a model of agricultural development called Ujamaa. President Julius Nyerere put this policy in place after Tanzania received its independence from Britain in 1961. It intended to promote social collectivism within the rural peoples of Tanzania through villagization. International Financial Institutions (IFIs), financial institutions that are established by multiple countries and sometimes organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), organizations that are not affiliated with any government, and the Tanzanian government imposed agricultural development through the Ujamaa regime. This process of African socialism negatively impacted the livelihoods of the rural population.

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Nyerere's vision for Ujamaa was to promote social collectivism. He believed that people working together as a family would benefit the rural population more than the settlement schemes that were used during colonization (Schneider 2004). Furthermore, Nyerere needed to produce a change in rural development after independence. Rural development has a colonial past and it did not begin with independence in 1961. Between independence and 1966, the Tanzanian government implemented "settlement schemes" (Lal 2010). These development projects consisted of state-run farms. They were rejected due to high costs and minimal output from crops. To further rural development, the Arusha Declaration was implemented in February 1967 (Chachage and Cassam 2010). This piece of legislation heavily promoted African socialism and brought the Ujamaa principle into effect. The concept of Ujamaa consisted of self-reliance instead of depending on investment, and working together as a family, to collectively reap the benefits of production. It was ideal in principle, but the way it was enforced shows it was not effective in practice. This paper will focus on the implementation of Ujamaa villages from the beginning in 1967 with the Arusha Declaration until 1975 when rural Tanzania was comprised of approximately 7,000 Ujamaa villages (Schneider 2004). This notion has resulted in many consequences for the rural population. Pastoralists were coerced into profit-seeking farmers, IFIs such as the World Bank financed flawed programs to integrate farmers into the international capitalist system, NGOs such as Oxfam aided the state instead of the people, and the government issued power to regional commissioners to interpret Ujamaa as they saw fit. By examining the failure of the Ujamaa Vijijini policy, one can understand how the livelihoods of the rural population have suffered and continue to given the ramifications that remain today.

Nyerere's Ujamaa policy was implemented to promote a socialist movement in Africa. He intended to encourage collective effort in agricultural production through villagization. The Ujamaa system was enforced "to create the institutional framework for political democracy and for a socialist, self-reliant pattern of rural development." (Ghai, Lee, Maeda, and Radwan 1979:52). A vital component of the Ujamaa system was the process of villagization. From 1968 to 1971, the village population rose from 58,000 people to upwards of 1.5 million (Ibid.). This led the government to enforce villagization with legislation, making it compulsory. Due to the effectiveness of this law, by 1976 approximately 90% of the rural population in Tanzania lived in villages [1] . (Ibid.). This indicates that roughly 11 million people were forced to resettle. This is a negative effect of the Ujamaa system, as people were reluctant to abandon their homes and were often forced to do so against their will. For many, this meant abandoning family members, churches, and cemeteries, all of which were significant from an ancestral point of view. This process of resettlement negatively impacted the rural peoples from emotionally (Schneider 2004). Furthermore, rural peasants were greatly uninterested in producing agricultural goods in Ujamaa villages (Ibid.). Nyerere believed development could only occur when people strive to further develop themselves (Ibid.). One of the major problems with the implementation of Ujamaa policy was the way in which the rural population was coerced into cultivating agricultural goods in communal farms (Ghai et al. 1979). In other words, this rural development was imposed on the people, not decided upon by the people themselves. One may question why people would have wanted to work longer and harder on crops they were unfamiliar with when they previously survived from subsistence farming and agricultural cultivation for self-consumption? This lack of motivation led developers to blame the peasantry of the rural population (Hyden 1980). Peasantry appeared to be responsible for the low production of goods in villages. The resistance felt by the peasant mode of production was thought to be "expressions of their 'traditionalism' or 'laziness'" (Ibid. 64). However, it is important to note the peasants felt threatened by the new mode of production within villages. It is unjust to blame the people, as they were poorly educated in terms of organization and management within villages, a task whose responsibility belonged to the government. Overall, the government failed to assist the villages by neglecting to provide villagers with the necessary skills to manage a village (Collier, Radwan, Wangwe, and Wagner 1990).

The implementation of the Ujamaa regime harmed the rural residents who were forced into villages. Regional commissioners and officers were given a great amount of power from the state to enforce Ujamaa policy as they saw fit (Schneider 2004). Thousands of people were forced out of their homes by violent methods such as house burning. Armed troupes were used to physically move people out of their homes if they resisted (Jennings 2008). The use of force in this situation demonstrated the shift toward an authoritarian regime in Tanzania, masked behind the Ujamaa principle of participatory democracy (Chachage and Cassam 2010). Reports from NGOs at the time reported the use of violence as a strategy to physically remove rural inhabitants and force them to perform agricultural labour. These previously subsistence-based farmers involuntarily cultivated unfamiliar crops. Regional officers were given enough power to unjustly enforce villagization law against the will of the people. Living in the Ujamaa villages, pastoralists were transformed into settled farmers (Schneider 2004). They became mere labourers as they were quickly integrated into the international capitalist economic system as suppliers of raw materials (Chachage and Cassam 2010). This coercion worked as a strategy for the government to implement the Ujamaa policy. On the surface, Ujamaa appeared to be a system promoting self-reliance through social collectivism by reducing dependence on imperial powers. Conversely, the implementation of the policy violated the rights of the Tanzanian people as well as strengthened the country's dependence on the First World for the import of manufactured goods. How can people work together in a brotherhood when their homes were destroyed and they were forced to abandon their previous lives? The use of violence to resettle millions of people had a negative impact on the livelihoods of the individuals being resettled. Also, it caused detriment to peoples' motivation to perform labour. Their lack of interest stems from the lack of choice they were given in the Ujamaa villagization system. The hard power used by the government to implement villagization only deteriorated the effectiveness of this process of rural development.

Nyerere's vision for the Ujamaa policy was to decrease the country's dependence on imperial powers, especially after Britain's colonial rule (Mushi 2001). Nevertheless, the state granted IFIs such as the World Bank access under the condition it would follow the state's agenda (Chachage and Cassam 2010). The World Bank promoted villagization through various programs, some of which took place shortly after independence (Ibid.). These transformation programs aimed to increase the usage of land and promote modern agricultural practices (Collier et al. 1990). This led to the introduction of machinery that proved to be useless to farmers as they were unqualified to use them. This resulted in a waste of investment as machines such as tractors were often abandoned. Instead of helping rural citizens learn how to use the machines and increase their production as a result, the World Bank simply gave them machines that they could not benefit from (Chachage and Cassam 2010). The World Bank relied on modernization theory to back up their development programs in rural Tanzania (Ibid.). The transformation programs consisted of settled farmers using modern technology given to them by the World Bank to farm whilst under the supervision of World Bank employees acting as village managers (Ibid.). This exploited villagers as it allowed them to be cheap labour in the eyes of the World Bank. Furthermore, this development model contributed to the production of raw materials and did not deviate from the necessity to import expensive, manufactured goods. The World Bank's model of rural development intensified the exploitation of the rural population in Ujamaa villages.

Similar to the entrance of financial institutions, the NGOs that were allowed to enter post-colonial Tanzania followed the state's agenda. In other words, these NGOs, including Oxfam and Christian Aid, were essentially state actors as they were heavily involved in the Ujamaa process. Christian Aid heavily supported the villagization process from 1973 to 1975 even though the organization was fully aware of the violence used to force the rural population into villages. Reports of Christian Aid projects indicated acts of violence such as burning houses and setting huts on fire as a result of resistance to resettlement (Jennings 2008). Furthermore, the government reduced water supply and food provisions to many pre-existing villages (Hyden 1979). Rather than assisting the villagers, Christian Aid financially assisted the government by pushing their agenda for villagization, despite the evident damage this had on the rural inhabitants (Jennings 2008).

Another noteworthy NGO responsible for supporting the Ujamaa regime in Tanzania was Oxfam. Oxfam provided projects that were specifically geared toward promoting the Ujamaa system. Jennings argues Oxfam "became, through its own choice and free-will, a surrogate of the state" (2002: 512). This role of Oxfam as an NGO in this case is a misconception. He further argues Oxfam ignored the shift toward an authoritarian regime in Tanzania as well as the "inconsistencies in rural development policy" (Jennings 2002:514). Therefore, Oxfam bypassed its role to aid the rural population in developing as a separate entity from the state, without the government's intentions at heart. Oxfam also consciously played a role in forcing an increase in production in villages, while shifting away from communal production (Ibid.). This organization also "noted the use of police and military troupes in resettling families" (Jennings 2008:172). Yet, it continued to participate largely in Ujamaa villagization. Jennings indicates Oxfam contributed to villagization in three ways. Firstly by helping new Ujamaa villages and removing aid to previously existing villages (Ibid.). Secondly, by supporting programs aimed at developing village government in the hopes of increasing development participation by villagers (Ibid.). Finally, by supporting agencies, programs, and organizations associated with the state (Ibid.). Jennings also indicates that Oxfam itself was aware of the failures of villagization including development that was "imposed rather than encouraged; the policy was implemented in an ad hoc fashion; and it was undertaken with undue haste" (Ibid.135). Essentially, there was a lack of support by the public for villagization because it was obligated and not voluntarily carried out.

In the end, Ujamaa Vijijini was admirable in theory, but in practice posed many problems for the rural population. The implementation of Ujamaa villagization required an immense amount of state intervention and 'national development' (Jennings 2008). The procedure forced the resettlement of millions through violent methods, often against the will of many rural inhabitants. These peasants and pastoralists were also forced to increase their production of agricultural goods within the Ujamaa villages. IFIs such as the World Bank installed programs that involved machinery that could not benefit the farmers, as they were not given instructions as to how to use them. Even though NGOs should have risen to the demand for villager aid, they rose to the demand of government and state aid. They essentially worked alongside the state to achieve the goal set by the Ujamaa regime.

It is highly important to note even though the villagization aspect of the Ujamaa system negatively impacted the livelihoods of the rural inhabitants, other aspects of the system intensified the well being of many. For example, Chachage and Cassam argue "The policies of Ujamaa enabled Tanzania to enjoy one of the highest literacy rates in the world" (2010: 52). It is equally important to note Nyerere's concept of Ujamaa was to develop economically and socially without imperialist and capitalist influence, as he embraced the traditional, family-oriented nature of life in rural Tanzania (Ibhawoh and Dibua 2003). However, Ujamaa has increased rural inequality as well as poverty (Collier et al. 1979). Hyden suggests the true barrier to socialist transformation in rural Tanzania lies in the peasant mode of production (1980). In order to transform the peasant mode into an efficient mode of production effectively, as seen by the failure of Ujamaa, the rural population will have to undergo major development.

To put this in today's perspective, the financial crisis we have recently experienced is an example of failure in an unregulated capitalist system (Chachage and Cassam 2010). What we have seen is a nationalization of financial institutions as well as state intervention in terms of an increase in public funding for healthcare and welfare programs. Similarly, Nyerere attempted to put socialist economic policies in place through Ujamaa to develop the country socially and economically into a more egalitarian society. Ujamaa is responsible for an increase in many indicators on the HDI (Ibid.). At the same time, the country declined in economic growth. A lesson learned from the Ujamaa Vijijini policy and the rural development of Tanzania from 1968 to 1975 remains clear: in order for social and economic development to occur, wealth must be distributed equally while production increases (Ibid.). Although Ujamaa proved successful in mobilizing people and creating thousands of production-based villages, it did not allow for an increase in production or for egalitarian distribution of wealth. Therefore as a policy it has failed to produce sustainable social and economic development.


Bonny Ibhawoh and J.I. Dibua. 2003. "Deconstructing Ujamaa: The Legacy of Julius Nyerere in the Quest for Social and Economic Development in Africa." African Journal of Political Science 8:59-82.

Chachage, Chambi and Annar Cassam. 2010. Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere. Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers Ltd.

Dharam Ghai, Eddy Lee, Justin Maeda and Samir Radwan. 1979. "Overcoming Rural Underdevelopment." Proceedings of a Workshop on Alternative Agrarian Systems and Rural Development. Arusha, Tanzania: International Labour Organisation.

Hyden, Goran. 1980. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Jennings, Michael. 2008. Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, Inc.

Jennings, Michael. 2002. "Almost an Oxfam in Itself: Oxfam, Ujamaa and Development in Tanzania." African Affairs 101:509-30.

Lal, Priya. 2010. "Militants, Mothers, and the National Family: Ujamaa, Gender and Rural Development in Postcolonial Tanzania." Journal of African History 51: 1-20.

Mushi, Samuel. 2001. Development and Democratisation in Tanzania. Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers Ltd.

Paul Collier, Samir Radwan, Samuel Wangwe and Albert Wagner. 1990. Labour and Poverty in Rural Tanzania: Ujamaa and Rural Development in the United Republic of Tanzania. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schneider, Leander. 2004. "Freedom and Unfreedom in Rural Development: Julius Nyerere, Ujamaa Vijijini, and Villagization." Canadian Journal of African Studies 38: 344-372.


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