Looking back, looking ahead A Festschrift for Kjell Havnevik

Looking back, looking ahead A Festschrift for Kjell Havnevik
Looking back, looking ahead
– land, agriculture and society in East Africa
A Festschrift for Kjell Havnevik
Edited by Michael Ståhl
ISBN 978-91-7106-774-6
© The authors and The Nordic Africa Institute.
Cover photo: Stuart Freedman/Panos
Photo of Kjell Havnevik: Elnaz Alizadeh
Production: Byrå4
Print on demand, Lightning Source UK Ltd.
Introduction 5
Michael Ståhl
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian peasantry, 1975–2015 9
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
Land cannot give birth to new land 37
Stig Holmqvist
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences 44
Andrew Coulson
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania: A study in trust and mistrust 74
Bertil Odén
Promoting gender equality on land issues in Tanzania: How far have we come? 87
Aida Isinika and Anna Kikwa
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation 97
Rune Skarstein
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures 114
Mats Hårsmar
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa? 134
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
Consolidating land use in Rwanda: Inclusive and sustainable rural development
and lessons from Tanzania 152
Herman Musahara
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethiopia: A comparative
perspective 170
Atakilte Beyene
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity: The works of religion and parallel
cosmologies in Tanzania 182
Terje Oestigaard
Language, knowledge, development and the framing of common destiny in
contemporary Ethiopia: some reflections 200
Tekeste Negash
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security: Message from and
to Africa and beyond 209
Prosper Matondi
About the contributors 225
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications 229
Michael Ståhl
This Festschrift is dedicated to Kjell Havnevik and his research.
Professor Kjell Havnevik is retiring from the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI)
in 2015. For four decades, he has carried out research, taught and supervised
students as well as participated in policy debates on different aspects of agriculture, the environment and African and international development policies. His
output has been voluminous and is internationally recognised. His academic
record includes research and teaching positions at universities and research institutes in Tanzania, Norway and Sweden as well as shorter assignments in several
other countries1. Yet his intellectual home has over the last three decades been at
the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala.
NAI has therefore taken this opportunity to publish a book mainly centred
on development issues in Tanzania in the context of rural development in Africa – a theme that Kjell has pursued throughout his career. The book brings
together research issues with which Kjell himself has been actively involved.
It is my hope that this will be more than a traditional Festschrift, inasmuch
as it includes reflections on the academic and wider intellectual debate on development issues from the 1970s until today.
The book includes the following contributions.
Deborah Bryceson sketches the evolution of politics in Tanzania from the Ujamaa
days to the present. Her focus is on the agrarian situation and she argues that
the peasantry in Tanzania is unravelling and, indeed, that a process of “depeasantisation” is under way. She starts by considering the agrarian idealism of
the original developmental vision and then traces the subsequent trajectory of
change, relying heavily on Kjell’s and her own research findings. In so doing,
she poses the question of how and why the original agrarian development aims
were side-lined. Moreover, she considers how the economic and social coherence
of the Tanzanian peasantry has been eroded over the past 40 years.
Stig Holmqvist provides an exposé of the eviction of the Barabaig people from
their homeland. In the struggle for land, the losers are the pastoralists who insist
Kjell conducted his research at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (Bergen) 1975–1985; at the
Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use Planning, currently IRA, (University of Dar
es Salaam (1978–1980); and at the University of Bergen (1987–1988). He has been adjunct
professor at Agder University (Kristiansand) since 2005. He was senior researcher at the
Nordic Africa Institute Uppsala (1985–1987, 1988–1992 and 2005–2015 and professor
of rural development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU Uppsala
Michael Ståhl
on maintaining their way of life, grazing their herds over vast areas. As minority
groups, they are marginalised and lack political influence. Both small farmers
and large investors cast their eyes at this land. Stig follows some Barabaig families on their trek from the high plains of central Tanzania to various parts of the
country and eventually all the way to the Indian Ocean coast.
contrasts the farming systems of small-scale farmers and large
mechanised estates. He summarises the history of large and small scale farming in Tanzania, looking especially at the myths and misunderstandings that
have been used by proponents of large-scale farming in Tanzania to suggest that
small scale has little potential. His chapter concludes by reviewing the present
position. The evidence suggests that many Tanzanians will continue to be small
farmers for at least the next 20 years, and that they can produce surpluses of
many crops.
Andrew Coulson
Bertil Odén reflects on the relations between the government of Tanzania and
the aid community during the period 2005–15. He provides a brief historical
overview of aid relations from independence until 2005 before turning to the
ensuing years, when the Paris Declaration principles to improve aid effectiveness were implemented. During this period development cooperation relations
moved from euphoria to disappointment. His analysis emphasises the role of
mutual trust in all sustainable development cooperation.
and Anna Kikwa review to what extent land policies in Tanzania have
been gender sensitive. They argue that individual titling is considered a way to
strengthen land rights. However, implementation of land policies has mainly been gender-blind and failed to address the multifaceted relations between
women and men, as if the society and households were undifferentiated. Land
laws are interpreted against the background of customary law and religious
practice, which include provisions that undermine women’s rights. Advocacy
for recognition of the rights of women in actual land deals is weak, since the
women’s movement in Tanzania has an inherently urban bias, and is therefore
slow to react to rural concerns.
Aida Isinika
Rune Skarstein reviews the phenomenon of large-scale land acquisitions in Africa,
often referred to as “land grabbing,” which he places in the broader historical perspective of capitalist development by applying Marx’s notion of “primitive accumulation.” The process of land grabbing is discussed, with particular
emphasis on its consequences for agricultural smallholders. He argues that the
process of land grabbing in contemporary Africa is a form of primitive accumulation that will lead to injustices as well as explosive social conflicts.
reviews how the ideological debates of the 1980s and 1990s over
the primacy of economic growth or social development have today developed
Mats Hårsmar
into a discussion about how economic growth should be framed in order to lead
to social development. Linkages between the character of growth and social
development are now more strongly pronounced. He reviews macroeconomic studies examining the character of current growth in sub-Saharan African
countries and poses the question whether it is sustainable and can lead to structural change.
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl discuss land tenure as a factor in agricultural develop-
ment in the densely settled regions of East Africa. They review various tenure
regimes and attempts to reform land policies as part of modernisation strategies.
How can land-tenure reform help smallholders secure property rights and how
can it boost agricultural productivity? Should one aim at full privatisation of
land, including individual title deeds, or should one strengthen individual rights
through customary arrangements?
Herman Musahara analyses Land Use Consolidation (LUC) in Rwanda in relation
to its potential to achieve food security and agricultural transformation. The
scheme has been instrumental in dramatically raising the yield of major food
crops and in improving food security. Musahara analyses the LUC’s prospects
for achieving inclusive and sustainable development and what the scheme can
learn from other schemes tried elsewhere, specifically in Tanzania.
explores why large-scale land and water acquisitions in Tanzania
and Ethiopia face similar challenges when implemented, despite the marked differences in governance systems. What common and/or differentiating attributes
can be identified to explain the challenges in the current large-scale investment
deals? The focus is on investment patterns and the rights and powers of local
Atakilte Beyene
Terje Oestigaard analyses the concomitant spread of Christianity and of witchcraft
and ritual killings in Sukumaland, Tanzania. Chieftainship has been abolished,
the role of the ancestors has diminished and tradition is no longer important
in culture and cosmology. Instead Christian churches flourish ‒ as does witchcraft. The author analyses whether the declining role of ancestors is enabling the
spread of both Christianity and witchcraft? How and why are witchcraft and
Christianity as religious practices seemingly working perfectly well together?
Tekeste Negash’s chapter stresses that education in Ethiopia is not contributing to
the development of the country, because it is given in a language (English) that
is hardly understood by teachers or students. Moreover, massification of education irrespective of quality and relevance continues to affect the development
of the education sector. Education is important to development, but is not the
only variable. The rule of law and protection of property are equally important.
The author argues that Ethiopia will only get the added value of education if it
Michael Ståhl
changes the medium of instruction to Amharic and Oromiffa, the two major
local languages.
Prosper Matondi traces the research by Kjell Havnevik in light of the current reali-
ties in Africa. Western television images show a continent plagued by drought
and poverty. Yet, there is a need to understand Africa better, and Kjell has contributed enormously to this through his research on agriculture and smallholder
farmers. It is necessary to focus on the role of agriculture and rural production in
averting poverty and promoting economic growth. Matondi surveys the many
challenges that African smallholders and rural producers face, challenges that
Kjell Havnevik and his colleagues and students have long sought to research,
understand and critique.
Michael Ståhl
Reflections on the unravelling of the
Tanzanian Peasantry, 1975–2015 *
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
Looking back to the 1970s, the decade when both Kjell and I arrived in Tanzania for the first time, one can’t help being nostalgic for the optimism and vibrancy of academic debate and analysis that prevailed then, against the backdrop of
a national government that was actively pursuing visionary policies and plans.
At the time, the Tanzanian nation-state, having achieved its independence in
1961, was flourishing both economically and politically. Julius Nyerere, as father
of the nation and president, set the country on an egalitarian development path
aimed at eliminating ignorance, poverty and disease. While virtually all newly
independent African states embarked on modernisation, there were a handful
that embraced socialist objectives. Tanzania’s “African socialism” combined traditional familial values with the objective of building a modern economy and
polity (Nyerere 1968; Bryceson 1988a).
The story of Tanzania’s political and economic rise (Cliffe and Saul 1973;
Shivji 1975; Pratt 1978), then economic descent (Bevan, Bigsten, Collier and
Gunning 1987; Msambichaka, Kilindo and Mjema 1995) has been documented
in great detail and heatedly debated. The country’s recovery is less well known
and, indeed, some would question if there has been a real recovery (Edwards
2012). This article refers to Tanzania’s undulating progression towards a very
different society from what prevailed 40 years ago. And because this is a Festschrift chapter written in honour of Kjell Havnevik, who has dedicated much
of his career to the analysis of Tanzania, I want to try to convey this Tanzanian
story through the eyes of two researchers who lived and worked in Tanzania in
the 1970s, namely Kjell and myself. We have shared the same starting point,
witnessing a country whose economic foundations rested on a cash-crop producing and subsistence peasantry. Since then, both of us have contributed to
the literature on the changing nature of Tanzania’s rural economy, but from
different thematic vantage points. Kjell has documented aspects of the peasants’
use of natural resources, land access and environmental sustainability, whereas
I have focused on their food security, agricultural marketing, the social dynamics of rural households and labour transformation. We have both researched
I am grateful to Kjell Havnevik and Chambi Chachage for their critical comments on an
earlier draft, but the views expressed and interpretations of cited evidence in this chapter
are solely those of the author.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
aspects of non-agricultural income diversification and collaborated closely on
dissecting the impact of Tanzania’s and, indeed, Africa’s neoliberal agricultural
policy regime.
My aim in this chapter is threefold: first, to consider the agrarian idealism
of the original developmental vision; second, to trace the subsequent trajectory
of change, relying heavily on Kjell’s and my research findings, posing the question of how and why the original agrarian development aims were side-lined;
and third, to consider how the economic and social coherence of the Tanzanian
peasantry has eroded over the past 40 years.
Based on Shanin’s (1976) work, I define peasants in terms of four key criteria,
namely: 1) farming, involving the pursuit of an agricultural livelihood that encompasses both subsistence and commodity products; 2) family labour and social organisation serving as the unit of production, consumption, reproduction,
socialisation, welfare and risk-spreading; 3) class coherence, given external subordination to state authorities and regional-cum-international markets through
which surplus is extracted; and 4) community, in terms of local village residence
and adherence to a traditional conformist collective attitude (Bryceson 2000a).
In the following, I schematically trace when, how and why the Tanzanian peasantry began to unravel. However, in view of the fact that the Tanzanian nationstate was originally founded on and designed with peasants’ political, economic
and social aspirations in mind, this topic warrants far more detailed analysis
beyond the scope of this chapter.
Peasant Agrarian Foundations and Nyerere’s African
Socialist Vision, 1960s–1970s
When Tanganyika 2 achieved national independence in 1961 with the handover
of power to Nyerere and his Tanganyika African Nationalist Union (TANU), it
was an overwhelmingly agrarian country (Iliffe 1979; Coulson 2013). Ninetythree per cent of the population lived in the rural areas and produced their livelihoods in smallholder household units (Bryceson 1982, 1988b). Tanzania’s main
exports were coffee, cotton, tea and sisal. The first three were peasant-produced.
Tanzania began nationhood with a large youthful population. Nyerere’s
(1967) African socialist development strategy was informed by familial sentiments that linked localised tribal identities with a unified national identity. Nyerere’s interpretation of socialism was Fabian and modernist in content rather
than Marxist, stressing egalitarian values. Anticipating a proliferating occupational division of labour as the educational level of the citizenry improved, his
aim was to set a precedent for keeping income and property ownership dispari2.
Renamed Tanzania upon the union of Tanzania and Zanzibar in 1964.
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
ties in check, as reflected in his Ujamaa 3 philosophy. Nyerere implemented a villagisation programme in 1973–74 with the modernising objectives of nuclearising peasant household settlement in villages where schools, health dispensaries
and agricultural inputs and productive infrastructure for farmers would be on
hand to boost peasant farmers’ agricultural productivity (Boesen, Madsen and
Moody 1977). The villagisation programme’s coverage was not extended to the
most densely populated highland areas of Tanzania, notably Kilimanjaro, where
such services already existed. In some areas, over-zealous TANU party leaders
were involved in the removal of households from one locality to another by
force. The programme was disliked in some areas for that reason.
The corollary of this programme was follow-up delivery of these services by
national, regional and local government. In the aftermath, a number of ambitious government development programmes were devised, which depended on
state delivery by an efficient and disciplined bureaucracy. These included: the
Universal Primary Education Programme, whereby all children were to be given
free primary school education; the expansion of health dispensaries throughout
the country; and a World Bank-funded National Maize Project (NMP). This
programme was introduced in 1975 and raised peasant maize yields remarkably in Tanzania’s poorest regions, Ruvuma and Rukwa (Bryceson 1993). Those
regions, along with Iringa and Mbeya, became known as the “Big Four” surplus
maize-producing regions of the country.
For academics at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), the 1970s were
years of intense debate about the nature of Tanzanian socialism, the state, party
and national economic development (Coulson 2013). Marxists at “the Hill,” as
UDSM was called, felt that Tanzanian socialism lacked clarity and direction
and failed to serve the interests of the poor relative to the ruling class (Shivji
1975). Others from the opposite end of the spectrum, less willing to publicise
their views, complained that the Tanzanian state was too interventionist, particularly when its material interests were at stake. Some working in government
were not enthusiastic about Nyerere’s insistence on a Leadership Code. Nationalisation of urban rental properties, a policy that Nyerere conceded to appease
the segment of the population keen on hastening Africanisation of the economy,
was deeply resented by the urban Asian population, catalysing the exodus of
40,000 of their number (Aminzade 2013).
But above all, it was Nyerere’s villagisation and agricultural “modernisation”
policies that ignited debate at the university. Both Kjell and I were involved
in gathering empirical data to ascertain what trends were emerging in peasant
production and welfare. Although these were early days, the indications were
that peasants were being provided with more services and infrastructure and
Translated as “familyhood.”
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
the trajectory was one of improvement. Nonetheless, there were premonitions of
difficult times ahead. The first oil crisis hit in 1973–74 amidst drought and the
implementation of villagisation. Famine in the countryside was averted, but Dar
es Salaam, increasingly dependent on staple food imports, faced food shortages.
Fortunately, good coffee and food harvests between 1976 and 1978 allowed the
country to bounce back, but this recovery did not prevail for long (Bryceson
1990, 1993).
Nationally and internationally, 1979 was a crippling year for Tanzania. The
then president of Uganda, Idi Amin, attacked Tanzania, prompting Nyerere’s
retaliation. The Tanzanian army moved to the northwest front, commandeering lorry transport right at the time when the maize harvest was under way,
causing a seeming “harvest failure” that year. Of equal seriousness and more
long-lasting effect, 1979 marked a second oil crisis, causing non-oil-producing
countries like Tanzania, with vast distances between its scattered peasant agricultural production units and Dar es Salaam port, to experience a serious rise
in the cost of transporting their bulky peasant-produced export crops to port
(Bryceson 1990).
Dashed Dreams: Global Market Realignment and the
Dictates of Debt, 1980s–1990s
In the wake of the second global oil crisis, Tanzania’s terms of trade declined
precipitously. Foreign exchange earnings from farmers’ export crops fell drastically while import requirements could not be easily pared back with the growing population and efforts to maintain production in the country’s fledging
factories. Financial loan assistance was sought from the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, but such help was only forthcoming with
heavy conditionality (Havnevik 1987; Toye 1994).4 Kjell Havnevik (1987) published the book, The IMF and the World Bank in Africa, one of the first analyses
of the international financial institution’s Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP).
SAP served to deepen the economic crisis and paralyse African formal sectors in
one country after another.5 Despite the fact that most non-oil-producing, agrarian-based African countries faced the same economic fate vis-à-vis the vagaries
of the world market, the World Bank and IMF blamed much of Tanzania’s
problems on its state-led development programme that encompassed ambitious
state-subsidised crop inputs for peasant farmers and a large parastatal industrial
sector (Wangwe 1987; Campbell and Stein 1992). It was the era of “Reagonom4.
Tanzania sought IMF assistance in 1979.
By contrast, when the global financial crisis of 2008 occurred, Western governments generally reacted with inflationary “quantitative easing” policies and low interest rather than the
deflationary, stringent cost-cutting approach of structural adjustment policies.
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
ics” and “Thatcherism,” when economic thinking was dominated by Milton
Friedman’s and Friedrich Hayek’s market-led theories of neoliberalism.
The World Bank, and especially the IMF, imposed SAP conditionality on one
African country after another characterised by: 1) devaluation of the exchange
rate, 2) severe cutbacks in state funding of social and productive services, 3)
the reduction of the parastatal sector. Nyerere resisted acceptance of the World
Bank’s SAP with his famous 1980 New Year’s speech in which he challenged the
power of international financial institutions to interfere in the policy-making
agenda of a sovereign state. For six years thereafter, lack of agreement on loan
conditionality continued.6 Nyerere considered the IMF’s conditions economically punitive and politically unacceptable. The government implemented its
own structural adjustment policy with the National Economic Survival Programme (NESP), which included devaluation, stringent government cutbacks
and disbandment of poorly performing parastatals and the replacement of crop
authorities with marketing boards (Bryceson 1993). But without supportive external finance from the IMF or from Western donors, who took their cues from
the IMF, Tanzania’s peasant production of agricultural exports plummeted.
Productive and marketing infrastructure eroded and peasant export-crop
output became uncompetitive in the global market due to high transport costs
to Dar es Salaam port and the removal of crop input subsidy programmes
such as the NMP. Operations of the crop parastatals declined and many were
gradually abolished, causing a reduction in the provision of productive infrastructure and services as well as crop-standards control. Smallholder agriculture increasingly lost its commodity production component and was characterised primarily by subsistence food-crop production. Meanwhile, agrarian
communities experienced the decline of their health and educational services
(Lugalla 1995). These trends marked the beginning of an abrupt unravelling
of the peasantry.
The downward spiral was an outcome of a reinforcing negative chain of
events and policies, beginning with the 1979 oil crisis. The implementation of
SAP during the 1980s, in effect, precluded peasant recovery from that crisis
(Gibbon, Havnevik and Hermele 1993). By removing peasant subsidies, cutting
back drastically on parastatal marketing budgets, closing down crop marketing
boards and crop grading facilities, Tanzania’s key export crops ‒ coffee, cotton,
tea and cashew ‒ stagnated or declined, notably coffee in Kilimanjaro and Bukoba, cotton in Sukumaland, cashew in southern and coastal Tanzania and tea
in the southern highlands.
A similar chain of demoralising experiences took place with regard to staple
grain crops, especially maize. The NMP had increased yields by 50 per cent in
6. See also Odén, in this volume.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
the years in which it operated (Bryceson 1990). It bore similarity to the Asian
Green Revolution, which had succeeded in raising wheat and rice yields significantly, reducing the incidence of famine and creating grain-exporting nations. But these achievements resulted from sustained investment in crop yield
improvement over several years (Havnevik, Bryceson, Birgegaard, Matondi
and Beyene 2007). Tanzania’s NMP was much more short-lived, though it had
nonetheless succeeded in boosting the regional economy of the “Big Four” the
seven years in which the subsidies were available.
After the retirement of Nyerere from the presidency, the new president, Ali
Hassan Mwinyi, acceded to IMF conditionality in 1986 thereby releasing loan
support, which provided some degree of relief to the beleaguered agrarian economy. Nonetheless, pressure from the IMF and World Bank continued to be
exerted on the Tanzanian government to liberalise the border trade and for the
country to adopt an open economy. Many other African governments were being directed to do the same during the 1990s, far in excess of countries in most
other regions of the world. Neoliberal advocates argued that price deregulation
and free market competition would result in the “right” input prices and higher
producer prices for farmers, spurring them to increase efficiency, produce more
and make investments to raise land and labour productivity.
Market liberalisation opened the floodgates to the expansion of the informal
economy in rural and urban areas, which provided livelihoods, albeit on generally uncertain, low-pay terms. Staple food buying was liberalised and controls
on retail trade were eased (Bryceson 1993; Bryceson, Seppälä and Tapio-Biström 1999). In view of the strong disincentives to agricultural production, vast
numbers in the countryside took to trade and service provisioning to earn cash
(Bryceson 1999, 2004). Often this involved all economically active members
of the household. Male heads of household, who had experienced the erosion
of their income from export crop production, searched for alternative income
sources. Rural women and youth, who had hitherto been largely outside the
cash economy, joined the scramble to help provide sufficient income for the
households’ basic purchases (Bryceson 2002a and b). In addition to trade and
services, farmers started digging for gold and precious stones in mineral-rich
parts of the country (Fisher, Mwaipopo, Mutagwaba, Nyange and Yaron 2009;
Jønsson and Bryceson 2009; Bryceson and Jønsson 2010). These spontaneous economic initiatives by rural household members were
part and parcel of a process of deagrarianisation and declining coherence of
the peasant household unit, which became socially fragmented and sometimes
economically decentralised, as various household members took up individual
cash-generating activities. Most households performed a varied portfolio of nonagricultural activities in addition to continuing to engage in basic subsistence
agriculture (Havnevik 1993; Havnevik and Hårsmar 1999; Bryceson 2002a,
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
2002b). A family’s spread of income-generating activities and constant experimentation with income diversification by individual members yielded income
and security, much as farmers had previously varied what crops they planted
and when in order to ensure they had some output regardless of weather and
price volatility. Experienced traders or miners were the most likely to be able to
accumulate wealth (Bryceson and Jønsson 2010). The widening of economic
differentiation fragmented the social fabric of the community and eroded the
peasantry as an identifiable class with common political and economic interests.
Paradoxically, these internal changes in the peasantry during the 1980s and
1990s were not generally emphasised in the social science literature.7 The 1970s
debates about the nature of the Tanzanian peasantry were largely forgotten.
Most of the literature dealt with coping strategies under SAP cutbacks, with
income diversification being the most prominent.8
What was clear was that Tanzania was forced to deviate from the political,
economic and social foundations of the country’s original agrarian base, forsaking Nyerere’s visionary planning (Havnevik and Isinika 2010; Bryceson 2010)
and was to follow rather than lead the way in development policy, accepting the
international financial institution blanket policies of SAP and neoliberalism.
National development policy was replaced with government stringency and anti-poverty projects, as people struggled to cope with their straightened circumstances, the deteriorating prospects for their age-old agrarian practices, and lack
of access to improved agricultural production methods with the abandonment
of government agricultural support.
Foreign Direct Investment and Mineralisation:
Golden Future for a Few in the 21st Century?
In the new millennium, policy pressure from the World Bank and IMF has been
directed at extending commodification to capitalist ownership ‒ as opposed to
customary tenure or state control ‒ through “LIMP” (liberalise, marketise and
7. 8.
Forster and Maghimbi’s (1992, 1995) edited collections provided a number of interesting
rural case studies without contesting the meaning and applicability of the term “peasantry” to Tanzania’s post-SAP rural farmers, amidst the proliferation of casualised labour
in Tanzania’s neoliberal economy of the 1990s. As Giblin’s (1998:206) book review notes:
“farmers across the country have seen their hold on land weakened and the departure of
their young, who, despairing of making a living on the farm, flee to the urban informal
Havnevik (1980) was one of the first researchers to identify the importance of income
diversification for Tanzanian peasantries. In the late 1970s, he found peasants in the Rufiji
river valley and delta resorting to non-agricultural income diversification in craft production, fishery and forestry. This could be explained by the historical uncertainty of flooding
cycles in the delta, proximity to Dar es Salaam as a market for craft production, and for
work migration and, above all, the environmental displacement Rufiji peasants experienced after villagisation in their new settlements on higher ground in the Rufiji valley away
from the flood plain they were accustomed to.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
privatise). They have exhorted the Tanzanian government to maximise foreign
capital investment in the country with a specific focus on land and natural resource markets. Certainly, foreign direct investment has been on an upward
trajectory, almost all targeted at the extractive industry in response to the rising
price of gold and other valuable metals and precious stones. The Land Policy
of 1995 and new Mining Act of 2010 have both served to encourage foreign
investment. But has this period intensified the unravelling of the peasantry?
This section explores the tendencies towards concentration of control of natural
resources and land and their effects on rural farmers.
Rush for Mineral Resources
Mineralisation of the Tanzanian economy has been very pronounced from a
base of almost no mineral production in 1990 to mineral export dominance a
mere 20 years later. The early stages of mineralisation provided opportunities for
people, mostly men, to enter artisanal mining. Artisanal mining sites now dot
most regions of the country, but a preponderant majority have been gold sites
located along the contours of the East African Rift Valley in what we refer to as
Tanzania’s “ring of gold” (Bryceson, Jønsson, Kinabo and Shand 2012).
In the late 1990s, new mining legislation was passed seemingly giving scope
to the artisanal mining sector, but at the same time clearing the way for substantial foreign mining investment (Butler 2004). This catalysed mineral exports from large-scale gold mining companies, which rose from less than 1 per
cent of export revenues in the late 1990s to 50 per cent in 2005 (World Bank
2006). However, the legislation weakened the artisanal miners’ position, leaving
them to compete with international mining companies for access to minerals
(Bourgouin 2014; Lange 2008).
Heavy criticism of the government’s administration of the country’s natural resource base ensued. The main issues were unjust resettlement schemes for
farmers, coercion directed at artisanal miners and limited national benefits from
large-scale mining. Exploration and mining companies working in mineral-rich
areas, where artisanal miners had already been mining for decades, were seen to
be displacing artisanal miners. Lange (2006) estimated their numbers to have
declined to 170,000 in 2006, whereas the government maintained that artisanal
miner numbers were above one million (Hayes 2008).
Currently, the Tanzanian mining sector encompasses one medium-scale and
six large-scale gold mines, with a number of proposed gold mining projects
in the pipeline. Tanzania also has one of the world’s most advanced gemstone
mines extracting tanzanite. Williamson Diamond Mine, operating since the
1940s, was taken over by De Beers and then sold to Petra Diamonds in 2008,
and is still producing. Moreover, there are in the pipeline nine preparation projects targeting uranium, coal and nickel. Mining “juniors,” small and medium16
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
sized exploration companies with a high skills base and professionalised management structure often abroad, are present in Tanzania. However, by far the
largest proportion of miners is artisanal.
Artisanal mining’s impact on the peasantry since 2000 is largely one of
deflecting labour away from peasant household agricultural production. Such
mining is far more remunerative, and has attracted ambitious and generally
young men into the mining settlements, to which young women quickly follow. The inter-census period between 1978 and 1988 revealed that Mwanza’s,
Shinyanga’s and Mbeya’s small towns witnessed higher rates of urbanisation as
people flocked to these urban settlements, whose rapid growth was catalysed by
mineral discovery (Bryceson 2010, 2011, Bryceson, JØnsson, Kinabo and Shand
2012). Most, but not all, of Tanzania’s artisanal miners originated in the rural
Second, a minority of Tanzanian artisanal miners managed to save and accumulate on the basis of their involvement in mineral extraction, especially in the
gold sector. Many of them invested in transport, hotels and various businesses in
nearby regional towns, rather than returning to their rural areas to retire. They
represent a broadening of the urban capitalist middle class beyond the capital
city Dar es Salaam.
Other miners returned home to their rural areas, especially those who failed
to make a living in mining. Their return to agriculture, often involving embarrassment and regret that they had not succeeded, points to the central significance of smallholder agriculture as a subsistence fall-back for those who have
failed to maintain a non-agricultural livelihood and for older people and others
who prefer not to risk seeking work beyond the natal household context. This
must be borne in mind with respect to the issue of land commodification.
Land Commodification: Towards Marginalising and Dispossessing Peasants
Tanzania’s land area amounts to 885,800 square kilometres of which an estimated 340,000 is agricultural land with 90,000 square kilometres considered
arable (World Bank 2015). According to the Land Policy of 1995, only 10 per
cent of Tanzania land was under cultivation, with 93 per cent being cultivated
by smallholders, and only 7 per cent under large-scale farming. Vast tracts are
under state control, with 233,300 square kilometres of wildlife-protected land.
The game parks alone cover 42,000 square kilometres (Ministry of Natural Resources 2015). Tanzania’s approximately 12,000 village councils manage about
70 per cent of the nation’s land on behalf of the state (the Commissioner for
Land). The remaining 30 per cent consists of about 2 per cent general land and
28 per cent forestry reserves, wildlife areas and game reserves.
It is useful to explore the background to the changing legal status of land
in order to discern how land commodification is impacting farmers. Nyerere
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
(1958) very early on, in his paper Mali ya Taifa, signalled the need to restructure
rural land tenure for the modernisation of peasant agriculture, with his sights set
on replacing Tanzania’s customary land law with government leasehold rather
than freehold land (Sundet 2006). This suggests that Nyerere supported the
formalisation of land tenure and assumed that the government would carry this
out gradually through efficient and impartial bureaucratic procedures.
After independence, land tenure remained as it was cast during the British colonial period, retaining the distinction between statutory land law, which
applied primarily to urban areas and non-Africans, as opposed to customary
land law, applicable to rural Africans. The 1975 Village Act reframed this legal
dichotomy with respect to rural areas. It established the village as the basic unit
of local government with an elected village chairman, council and village assembly. The national government vested village land titles in the hands of the village
council, which then issued sub-leases to villagers, granting them user rights,
but without permission to sell land.9 Villagers’ land rights derived from the village government, which had extensive powers. Most of village land allocation
during villagisation was extra-legal and this continued to be a tendency in the
post-villagisation 1980s. Village chairmen and councils were apt to arrange land
deals without consultation with or the compliance of villagers.
In the early 1990s, with rising confusion and resentment over peasant land
rights, the government set up a nation-wide investigative Land Commission
headed by Professor Shivji of the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania 1994a
and b; Havnevik 1995). The Commission’s findings revealed that rural people’s
land was vulnerable to state confiscation, justified in the interest of the public,
as well as being affected by arbitrary and sometimes self-interested local-level
interference by village chairmen and councils. The Commission advocated moving away from top-down colonial-style land management and national executive
power over customary land matters. It recommended the creation of a Board of
Land Commissioners and afforded the village assemblies a key role, whereby
the village adult population was to be called together to vote on land allocation
matters. The national government rejected these recommendations on the basis
that land control had to remain in the hands of the national government for development purposes, and the Ministry of Lands rather than the prime ministers’
office was vested with decision-making power (Sundet 2006: 8).
The ensuing Village Land Act of 1999 made some concessions to villagers,
authorising village councils to issue certificates of customary rights of occupancy
as a step in formalising property rights for farmers, which were to be registered at
9. Stein and Askew (2013) document a move on the part of local rural people starting in
Mbeya region in 2004 to formalise their property rights rather than remaining with customary rights, which were considered inferior to statutory rights and subject to reallocation
by village officialdom.
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
a district land registry rather than at village level (Sundet 2005). The village assembly was accorded a consultative role with the stipulation that land allocations
of the village council of under 250 hectares had to be submitted to the village assembly for a popular vote, whereas land transactions of over 250 hectares were to
be approved by the Minister of Land (Chachage and Baha 2009).10
The Land Act of 1999 makes clear that foreigners are not allowed to own
land in Tanzania, hence they access land through various types of leaseholds.
The Act tries to avert a foreign land grab by stipulating that non-Tanzanian land
holdings must be for investment purposes on the basis of leasehold “derivative
rights,” which will revert to the Tanzania Investment Centre at the end of the
leasehold’s duration. However, as Chachage and Baha (2009:10) stress, most
land for allocation to foreign investors is land previously subject to customary rights of occupancy and therefore constitutes “village transfer land,” and
they see the transfer of land from villager to external investors as a process of
The major area of contention since the promulgation of the Village Land Act
has been the government’s interest in identifying unoccupied and unutilised
village land that could be made available to investors (Stein and Askew 2009;
Stein 2013a). During villagisation in the mid-1970s, in the absence of detailed
surveys, village boundaries were contiguously drawn regardless of whether the
land was settled or farmed, such that there was and continues to be reserves of
land within Tanzanian village boundaries. But how much land is unused and
unallocated is unknown and cannot be ascertained until detailed land surveys
and land titling takes place. After more than a decade since the passage of the
Village Land Act of 1999 had elapsed, the then Minister of Lands, Anna Tibaijuka, announced in 2011 that the government aimed to launch a land survey of
the country’s 12,000 villages. Her stated rationale was that such a survey would
identify villages with extra land, with a view to ascertaining available land for
investment, estimating that as much as 18 per cent of village land could be used
for this purpose (Stein 2013; 2014). The aim was to recategorise unused village
land as “general land” for external investment. Tellingly, security of land tenure
for Tanzanian farmers was not mentioned, despite farmers’ qualms about this
issue. This situation invites comparison with the Enclosure Acts in England that
Marx (1867) wrote about 150 years ago, involving large-scale privatisation and
formalisation of rural land tenure and the dispossession of smallholder peasants
of their common land. Marx identified this as a process of primitive accumulation centred on confiscation of the commons11.
10. Sundet (2006: 10) describes the outcome of the Tanzania’s Village Land Act of 1999 as
“tokenistic devolution of partial authority to village level” that he links to the devaluation
of the customary traditional sector as opposed to the modern statutory sector.
11. See also Skarstein in this volume.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
In fact, confiscation of land from the peasantry is not new. Under Nyerere,
existing peasant farmland was acquired by the state for the creation of state
farms as well as the reallocation of farmland under the villagisation project,
all in the name of the public interest and national economic development. The
emotive term “land grab” refers to the seizure of customary tenure or state-held
land for transfer into private or corporate ownership on the part of foreigners or
nationals (Chachage 2013). Early attempts at this were contested and labelled
More recently, as the price of oil climbed in the first decade of the new
millennium, affluent Western, Middle Eastern and Asian countries launched
a worldwide search for farmland to produce biofuels (Matondi, Havnevik and
Beyene 2011). The Tanzanian government, pressured to attract foreign direct
investment,13 secured a number of investor applications for leasehold land,
prompting it to try to identify leasable land under the jurisdiction of village governments. Chachage and Baha (2009) and Abdallah, Engström, Havnevik and
Salomonsson (2014) compiled lists of biofuel projects under discussion or under
way, and provide valuable comparative information on biofuel investment over
the last 10 years (see Appendix I and II below).14 By 2009, out of 23 biofuel projects documented, approximately 617 square kilometres had been requested but
less than half of that was allocated (283 square kilometres) and far less still, only
ten per cent, became actual planted area (24 square kilometres). Five years later,
in 2014, the project listing had increased to 33, which accounted for roughly
the same amount of land requests (666 square kilometres), of which only 20 per
cent became allocated land, and again less than 10 per cent was actually planted.
Appendices I and II list these figures and the reasons the land was not allocated
or used. In most cases, the potential investor abandoned the land requested due
to hitches with the allocation procedure or because it was subsequently realised
that the farming conditions (soils, rainfall, supporting infrastructure) were not
conducive to a feasible investment.
By way of illustration, Havnevik and Haaland (2011) documented the case of
Swedish SEKAB, a reputed energy company, which incurred a loss of 170 million Swedish Kronor, over 70 per cent coming from Swedish taxpayers’ pockets,
during the firm’s Sida-backed attempt to produce biofuels from sugarcane in
12. This is exemplified by the Loliondo land case, which reached a point of intense contestation
in the early 2000s (Igoe 2003; Ojalammi 2006; Nordlund 2013).
13. In 2012, the Tanzanian government, among other African governments, signed a cooperation agreement framework with the G8 and was supported by the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) to facilitate the acquisition by private investors of agricultural land for large-scale agro-industrial farming (Stein
14. It should be noted that there is no central registry where these applications can be scrutinised.
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
Tanzania. By 2009, 422,500 hectares had been requested and 22,500 actually
granted. The SEKAB application for a derivative right of occupancy15 had run
into various hitches in the leasehold application system. Havnevik and Haaland
(2011: 35) interviewed the SEKAB manager, who expressed his perspective on
the land-leasing process thus:
… the difficult nature of the process had by late 2008 led to the fact that “very
few foreign investors have so far been given such derivative rights” … to access
village land, the foreign investor and its local subsidiary … were urged … to visit Rufiji district and village authorities in order to identify and discuss the availability of suitable land. For a village to allow foreign investors to lease village
land under derivative rights, the Village Assembly, constituted of all villagers
above 18 years of age, has to give its consent. Discussions at village level, however, provide ample ground for misunderstanding due to language problems,
cultural barriers and insufficient knowledge and information about local rights.
Above all, SEKAB encountered a number of agronomic and technical difficulties arising from its unfamiliarity with the agricultural conditions in the Rufiji
district, where they were attempting to lease 400,000 hectares for the production of sugarcane. The volume of irrigation water needed from the river proved
technically unrealistic, and the climate and woodland character of the land were
unsuitable. In some places, the proposed lease land overlapped with villagers’
targeted food production areas.16 In effect, this investment was threatening to
become a repeat of the infamous Groundnut Scheme of the late 1940s, when a
large-scale British food production investment proved to be a short-lived fiasco
given a miscalculation of the average rainfall in Nachingwea (Hogendorn and
Scott 1981).
What the above evidence suggests is that villagers are not in imminent and
widespread danger of being dispossessed of their customary landholdings by
foreign investors. Many foreign investors are potentially interested to be sure,
but the complicated nature of existing land legislation combined with the lack
of surveyed land greatly reduces the possibility of investors being allocated leasehold land in secure ways. Even where they are, realisation of the harsh nature
of the physical environment and the lack of infrastructure in Tanzanian rural
areas leads many investors to abandon their plans to avoid heavy losses. Much
of the unused land in Tanzania is in semi-arid areas where human habitation
15. A foreign company cannot own land in Tanzania, but can be given a user right or lease
through the Tanzania Investment Centre, which manages leaseholds on behalf of the
Commissioner of Land. On the basis of a leasehold system, a foreign company is given a
derivative right of occupancy for a specified period and must pay an annual fee for the land.
16. The Swedish EcoEnergy took over from SEKAB and had further crippling operational
and financial problems http://www.actionaid.se/en/tags/251/375 (accessed 31 May 2015).
EcoEnergy is discussed by Holmqvist in this volume.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
has historically been sparse and agriculture unpromising due to the inhospitable
But the above does not imply that Tanzania has no land grab and that the
rural commons are safe. Clauses of the Village Land Act provide opportunities
for corruption on the part of government bureaucrats, who can acquire wellresourced village land (Section 4) and pass it on to private companies (Chachage
and Baha 2009: 14). Tanzanian peasant land rights have yet to be made legally
secure in most places, so land grabs by village officials are likely to continue.
Tanzanian land law is a potpourri of democratic sentiments, mixed with
the legacy of an autocratic colonial and villagisation legacy carried out in the
name of the public good, and unrealistic legal stipulations that cannot be met,
given bureaucratic inefficiency and inordinate delays in surveying the country’s
village land. The vast majority of villagers do not have land certificates that
provide them security of tenure and the gap between the country’s land law and
actual practice is wide, exacerbated by government administrators’ lack of training, haphazard record keeping, procedural carelessness, including not bothering
with third party validation and signatures on agreements, allocation bias on
the part of the bureaucratic agents and lack of judicial oversight. All this creates a lack of transparency and a smokescreen for irregularities and corruption.
Fortunately, the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (Haki Ardhi),
founded in 1994, and other NGOs advising villagers on their land rights, have
mounted effective advocacy campaigns on behalf of Tanzanian farmers vis-à-vis
the government for fairer land allocations where land is in dispute, but they too
face the problem of bureaucratic opacity.
Unpredictable Pathways: Tanzania’s Disintegrating Peasantry
and the Nyerere Legacy
Primitive accumulation in Tanzania in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is
distinct from the processes that Marx described for England in the 18th and
19th centuries as the industrial revolution coalesced. Marx (1867) defined primitive accumulation as a process through which the embryonic capitalist mode of
production arises and extends itself while dissolving precapitalist production. In
the process, peasants are dispossessed of their means of subsistence and means
of production and land is concentrated in the hands of capitalist non-producers.
It would be simplistic to think that the form this took in England necessarily
repeats itself in other parts of the world through time (Bryceson 1980). In Eng17. Gillman (1936) noted in the 1930s that two-thirds of the country’s population was concentrated in only one-tenth of its land surface, primarily in the highlands, while over 60
per cent of the land was virtually uninhabited. One-third of the population eked out an
agrarian livelihood in the country’s central savannah land and coastal hinterlands.
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
land, people were dispossessed of their jointly held “common land” and individual holdings, causing many to migrate to find paid employment. Classically,
land dispossession engendered labour displacement in England.
In Tanzania, a reverse process has taken place. Large-scale labour displacement has preceded land dispossession. Since 2000, the latter has been erratically
taking place behind the smokescreen of the haphazard implementation of the
1999 Village Land Act. Prior to the Act, Tanzania’s peasantry had experienced
intense erosion under the stress of the international oil crises of the 1970s, SAPs
during the 1980s and the neoliberal policies of the 1990s. As global terms of
trade turned against agricultural commodity producers after the oil crises, Nyerere’s plans for modernising agriculture and raising agricultural productivity
following the villagisation programme’s concentration of rural settlements had
no chance of succeeding. The global capitalist economy struck a heavy blow to
the viability of the peasantry at that point.
The peasantry faced disintegrative forces in several respects. To try to ensure continued access to their basic purchased needs, peasant households had to
quickly diversify their income away from farming. In so doing, peasant households became far less coherent production units. Male heads of household faced
a loss of livelihood as well as a lowering of their patriarchal position as they lost
salience as cash earners within their households. Their wives and youthful offspring became income earners in their own right.
In the scramble for non-agricultural cash earnings, some individuals and
households were far more successful than others. This was particularly the case
for some artisanal miners who were able to accumulate and eventually to invest
in non-mining assets, usually in the district and regional towns in the mining
regions. Small town urbanisation accelerated remarkably (Bryceson et al. 2012).
Using the definition of urban areas as populations of 10,000 people,18 the size of
population invariably entails a division of labour that extends far beyond agricultural production to embrace an array of trade activities, services and professions, and a multi-ethnic population where peasant and tribal customary ways
of life and sense of community are out of place.
This period marks state attempts to woo foreign investors in terms of the
country’s mineral and land resources. Tanzania’s “commons,” the unutilised
lands between the villages’ contiguous boundaries, are now being contested.
18. The 2012 national census records the urban population at 30 per cent of the national total,
but this understates the proportion of people living in urban areas due to the existing bureaucratic specification of urban populations as official townships and municipalities. This
finding shows a strong bias against the acceptance of rural areas which have grown rapidly
and transformed into densely populated urbanised agglomerations that are of township
size. District officials are reluctant to relinquish such locations from their district jurisdiction, given that they constitute nodes of economic activity that have a richer tax base than
the surrounding rural countryside.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
While foreign land investment has yet to take off to any marked degree, it is often rumoured that officials in high places are benefiting from the mining boom
and efforts to identify suitable land for investment.19 Nyerere’s vision of a democratic and egalitarian nation in which the poor masses benefited has become
elusive. Most disappointingly, perhaps for Nyerere ‒ if he were alive to witness
it ‒ is the fact that the government bureaucracy has long put aside its adherence
to the Leadership Code.
Meanwhile, standards of state delivery of bureaucratic functions and services have deteriorated steadily since the economic crisis years of the late 1970s
and 1980s, when the government became extremely under-resourced. Rumours suggest that private land ownership and natural resource investments
by elite Tanzanians, notably those with strong connections with government,
are widespread. National wealth is expanding, but is being disproportionally
distributed to the private as opposed to the public sector. Artisanal mining has
boosted class differentiation as miners with money gravitate to urban areas to
build high-rise buildings for rental accommodation and expansion of urban
business interests.
Where does all this leave the people who are living and farming in Tanzania’s
rural areas? First, further detailed analysis of the Tanzanian national census
results for the rural population who are living in settlements of less than 10,000
people will probably show that the countryside is ageing, as youth migrate and
leave older people behind to farm. Second, Tanzania’s Labour Force Survey statistics are misleadingly being used to assume that most people in rural areas
are still farming, whereas income diversification in rural as well as urban areas
has progressed significantly (Bryceson 1999, 2002a, 2002b; Wuyts and Kilama
2014).20 Most households have more than one non-agricultural income stream.
Third, smallholders’ agricultural work is primarily for basic subsistence needs.
The drastic decline in export cash crop production per capita is a strong indicator of this.21
19. During Kikwete’s presidency, a number of corruption scandals have resulted in cabinet
reshuffles. The most recent has been the Escrow scandal in December 2014, which led to
the dismissal of the Minister for Lands and Housing and the resignation of the Minister
for Energy and Minerals, representing the key ministries with custodial care of Tanzania’s
privatisation of the country’s commons.
20. The Tanzania Labour Survey only reveals people’s stated primary and secondary occupations, which rarely reflects the actual allocation of their labour time across an assortment
of work activities. People’s default occupational identity is “farmer,” but they are often
engaged in several activities that are not agricultural but are difficult to convey, so the
expedient is to simply state “farming” when asked.
21. Large-scale agricultural outgrower schemes are starting to boost export crop production,
for example of cotton, but they do not constitute peasant production and are an outcome
of large-scale capitalist investment of foreign or domestic origin. Unfortunately, Tanzanian
agricultural production statistics do not distinguish between smallholder and corporate
outgrower production.
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
The issue of subsistence brings us back to the significance of the land grab
and the destruction of Tanzania’s rural commons. I have argued that peasants’
loss of village land is not a catalyst for a labour exodus, precisely because that
has already happened. Tanzania’s urban areas are bulging with youth and people
of peak economically active age who are trying to eke out an existence primarily in the urban informal sector. Nonetheless, elite Tanzanians’ or foreigners’
encroachment on the village commons raises the possibility of obstruction to
farmers’ subsistence production. Clearly, agriculture continues to be the means
of survival for the ageing rural population, but it has possible knock-on effects
for people further afield. Vast numbers of people have migrated from their rural
home areas but retain ties with their upcountry families that they are likely to
draw on when they face hard times in the city or encounter a livelihood crisis
wherever they may be. In the absence of a national public welfare system, reliance on a subsistence fall-back through extended household ties is their insurance against destitution. In other words, even though the land incursion may
not affect their access to the means of production directly, it could indirectly
jeopardise their means of subsistence.
What would Nyerere think now, and could it have been otherwise? The blow
to the peasantry over the last two decades of the 20th century was profound.
Global market forces have been steering Tanzanian peasants along a pathway towards oblivion. As with any unpredictable event, there are detrimental as well as
beneficial effects. Certainly the scramble for non-agricultural income unleashed
a great deal of creative energy as people sought new lifestyles and new occupations in the informal sector that offset some of the anxiety and uncertainty
associated with the livelihood crisis of two decades of decline in peasant farming (Bryceson 2002a and b). For some, it led to improved standards of living
and fulfilment of economic aspirations beyond their hopes, but for many others
it has led to impoverishment and degradation that would have greatly disappointed Nyerere as an African socialist.
But Nyerere was, above all, a pragmatist who sought to bring modernity to
his citizenry, and was credited with saying “we must run while others walk”
towards that goal. He would have acknowledged that plans are bound to deliver
unintended consequences. Though the country has strayed from his vision, if
he were alive he would probably be pleased that despite all the setbacks and a
population that had more than quadrupled since national independence, there
has been remarkable progress in the health, education and welfare of the people.
Overall, the benefits of modernity have been very unequally distributed. So
“running” has succeeded in pushing the nation forward but, most importantly,
the population that started the race in 1961 was radically different from that
reaching the 2015 mark. There are still farmers to be sure, but not peasants in
the classic meaning of that term. The crucial point, often overlooked, is that
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
most Tanzanians are happy to be something other than peasants. A peasant
is seen as someone with a traditionally ascribed occupation and lifestyle based
on hard work and lacking in the comforts and opportunity afforded by piped
water, good healthcare and schools. Nyerere’s villagisation programme sought
to go a considerable way in rectifying that. However, there continues to be a
gulf between rural and urban infrastructure, convenience and lifestyle choices,
as is generally the case in most African countries. Hence Tanzanians’ quest for
modernity is usually urban-bound. In effect, Nyerere’s modernist vision and
plans for the peasantry have ironically led towards the self-liquidation of that
peasantry. In no small measure this has been spurred on by the policy interventions of the international financial institutions.22
As for the future, Tanzania’s recently discovered enormous natural gas deposits are likely, when developed, to take the country ever further from Nyerere’s quest for equality. By the time that transpires, the peasantry will be
becoming a distant memory. But the peasantry should not be forgotten. The
importance of Tanzanian scholars narrating the trials and tribulations of the
country’s thwarted plans, unexpected opportunities and its unfolding evolutionary and revolutionary paths towards a diverse, post-agrarian society cannot
be over-emphasised. As for Nyerere’s vision, it will inevitably fade over time, but
his egalitarian, modernising aspirations as the country’s founding father and the
willingness of millions of peasants to embark on modern nationhood with him
at the helm will remain an undeniable historical fact.
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CMC Agriculture
Bio-energy Tanzania
Donesta Ltd and Savannah Biofuels Ltd
Trinity Consultants/
Bioenergy TZ Ltd
Shanta Estates Ltd
Tanzania Biodiesel
Plant Ltd
Clean Power TZ Ltd
Diligent Tanzania Ltd Jatropha
Sun Biofuel
Bagamoyo, Coast
Bagamoyo, Coast
Bagamoyo, Coast
Bagamoyo, Coast
Bagamoyo, Coast
Rufiji, Coast
Arusha; Babati, Manyara; Handeni, Tanga;
Singida; Monduli,
Kilwa, Lindi
Kisarawe, Coast
White Sorghum Bagamoyo, Coast
Oil Palm
Oil Palm
Oil Palm
Appendix I: Land Requested/Acquired for Producing Biofuel Crops as of 2009
Project abandoned after realised high cost of doing land use
Land request approved but asked to do land use plans
Agreement with villagers signed
Land not surveyed; land granted by district but not by TIC
Surveying land to be granted
200 ha planted
Collecting seeds from natural and planted forests
Land dispute in court for extra 350 ha obtained from 2 villages.
No EIA done
400 ha pilot farm planted. Integrity of EIA questioned
8,211 ha of land formerly belonging to 12 villages transferred to
general land; derivative title being finalised
Seed cane planted and irrigation reservoir constructed
In land acquisition process
Contracted over 4,000 farmers
Operational project status
land area*
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
Prokon BV
Mitsubishi Corpora- Jatropha
Kapunga Rice Project Jatropha
DI Oils Tanzania Ltd
Kikuletwa Farm
Arusha, Dar es
Salaam, Coast
Mbarali, Mbeya
Mpanda, Rukwa
Mwanza, Mara,
Shinyanga, Tabora
Biharamulo, Kagera
Kisarawe, Coast
Rufiji, Coast
Planned to replant rice with jatropha; President recently ordered
that rice cultivation patterns not be changed
Abandoned plans for Tanzania
Growing Jatropha
Contract farming with 2,000 smallholders; does not own any
plantation land
Looking for land in these regions
Aimed to sensitize local communities but project abandoned due
to alleged lack of government support
No operational progress due to lack of funds
Applied for land
Planted 360 ha and financing land use plans in 7 villages
Land lease pending. Cultivating rice while growing oil palm
Jatropha and
Aloe Vera
Source: Chachage and Baha (2010) compiled from Gordon-Maclean, Laizer, Harrison and Shemdoe (2008), Sulle and Nelson (2009)
JCJ Co. Ltd.
Jatropha and
Bio Massive
Oil Palm
Oil Palm
African Green Oils
InfEnergy Co. Ltd
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
Prokon Renewable
Energy Ltd, Germany
Felisa Ltd, Belgium/
Africa Agrofuel and
Emission Reduction
Co. Ltd. USA/TZ
Donesta Ltd and
Savannah Agrofuels
Ltd, Tanzania
InfEnergyUK (2005)
BioMassive, Sweden
Jatropha and
Oil palm
Sunflower and
Oil palm
100 + 4,258
Area acquired
requested (hectares)
9 000
Sun Biofuels, UK
Agro EcoEnergy,
Eco Energy, Sweden
Diligent, NL (2004)
No Investor (year started
Mpanda, Rukwa
Arusha etc
Appendix II: Status of large-scale biofuel investments in Tanzania (2014)
Switched to rice with new name: Agrica
Land lease pending 2010
Land acquired, abandoned due to lack of funds
Rumours about bankruptcy 2013
Left the area due to e.g., lack of finances
Using only seeds from existing hedges, voluntary liquidation
2012, sold to Eco Carbon, France
Only outgrower schemes liquidated in March 2011
Seed cane production 200 ha, expecting financial closure 2013
Liquidated 2011, sold to Thirty Degrees East (Mauritius) in 2012
Operational project status
land area
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
Tanzania Biodiesel
Plant Ltd
CMC Agric-Bioenergy White sorghum
Wilma, USA
Croton spp.
Mitsubishi Corpora- Jatropha
tion, Japan
SAVANA Agrofuels Ltd Sunflower and
BioShape, NL
JandJ Group (Pty) Ltd, Jatropha
South Africa
Jatropha and
Moringa oleifera
Oil palm
Sweet Sorghum
Jatropha, rice
Oil palm
Bioenergy Tanzania
Africa Green Oil,
Kapunga Rice Project
Trinity Consultants
Bioenergy Tanzania
Shanta Estates
D1 Oils, UK (2003)
Arusha, Dar es
Dodoma, Kongwa
Tanga and
Mbarali, Mbeya
Ceased activities, still hold land lease
Abandoned due to alleged lack of government support
Abandoned plans
District authorities “not sure of existence” (2012)
Has not appeared in district since 2010 (alleged lack of water)
Abandoned plans due to long land acquisition process
District authorities “not sure of existence” (2012)
District authorities “not sure of existence” (2012)
Abandoned plans for Tanzania
Surveying land (2010)
Renting land to smallholders 100,000 Tsh/ha/yr
Left land with palms or uprooted palms and departed
In the process of getting derivative rights 2010
Reflections on the unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantra, 1975–2015
Kitomondo, Italy/
Biodiesel crop
Eurotech, South Korea Jatropha and
Castor oil
TM Plantations,
Oil palm
Sithe Global Power,
Oil palm
Agri Sol Energy, USA Corn
Info Energy, UK
Kigoma, Rukwa
Clean Power Tanzania Oil palm
33 Biodiesel EA Ltd,
Bahi district
Source: Abdallah, Engström, Havnevik and Salomonsson (2014), 21-4.
Abandoned due to high cost of land use planning
Switched to rice because of regional plan
Land acquisition in process 2010, abandoned plans for biofuels
Planning to grow 100,000 ha and to invest more than US$ 20
Deborah Fahy Bryceson
Land cannot give birth to new land
Stig Holmqvist
Standing alongside Giamu Marish watching the smouldering remnants of his
burnt-out house, I have the nasty sensation that history repeats itself. Nearly 40
years earlier, my wife Aud and I were gazing at Basotu Plains, a highland area in
central Tanzania, where land was being cleared to prepare for a Canadian development project. The intention was to cultivate wheat on a large scale. This was
supposed to be the flagship for other agricultural projects in Africa. It had the
blessing of the Tanzanian authorities, including the president, Julius Nyerere,
who took a personal interest in its development.
Giamu Marish now tells me that at that time, many years ago, his home was
located up there on the plains. This land was called muhajega by the Barabaig
people and it was considered to be the best grazing land.
“I was young then,” says Giamu. “But I had two wives and three children
and we had enough cattle to support our livelihood. We had a good life. There
was water in the lake and honey in the trees … But one day the authorities came
and told us that we had to move. We asked them why. ‘Because you do not have
any right to live here,’ said the officials, who were accompanied by police officers. We explained that this is our land and that we Barabaigs have lived here long
before the ancestors of these officials were born … But nobody listened. When
we refused to move, they came back with big machines and drove them over my
homestead. Then they set fire to everything.”
Giamu Marish sighs, and silently watches the smouldering remnants of what
was until very recently his home. There are an additional eight homesteads that
have been set alight here in the open savannah landscape south of Lake Manyara National Park. But no one has been killed and the cattle have been rescued.
Nevertheless, nine families now live like refugees among Fever Trees and sparsely
growing palms. It is a woeful sight. Scattered household utensils (pots and pans,
skins, calabashes and cloth) are hanging on branches in the shade of the trees.
Several naked children are staring at me, but nobody is afraid. On the contrary, they approach me politely and bow their heads, as one is supposed to do
when greeting an elder. Somebody even dares to pass his hand over the hairs of
my arm. All the dogs seem to have escaped the fire unscathed, at least a dozen
lie stretched out on the ground, panting in the heat.
One of the older women, Dagabonga, who has a furrowed face, approaches
me. “You can see how we are doing now! We live like wild animals. We live like
the hyenas that come here at night … But even the hyenas have a home to return
to when they want to sleep!”
Stig Holmqvist
She points to her grey hair. “Do you think my hair got this colour because
I have slept in the sun? No! I’ll tell you. All our problems started the year the
French investor arrived. Before then we lived in peace. I have given birth to my
children here. I have worked hard all my life. And now all is gone. Look around,
this is all we have got left …What are we supposed to do? No one pays any attention to us, no one respects us.”
Dagabonga is interrupted by a younger woman, who turns to me almost
furiously: “Why is it that only you have come? Why did you not bring the
president along? We want to see him here! Only he can do something about our
situation. We won our case in court! Duncan helped us with that.”
The young woman is right. A few months ago the Barabaigs here in Vilima
Vitatu won a victory in the Court of Appeal of Tanzania with the help of a daring lawyer in a case that had been dragging on for five years. They had lost in
the lower courts but now had triumphed in the highest instance.
But despite the final verdict, local authorities and the French investor seem
not to care. They still try to chase away the families. If nothing else works, they
are prepared to use brute force.
To me, it is incredible that the French investor would want to expel the locals
who have lived here for so long. In 2008, he acquired, under strange circumstances, a concession to build a few exclusive tourist resorts. I think it is obvious
that tourists would welcome the possibility of visiting the authentic homes of the
original people after viewing the game.
To the investor, a former big game hunter, wild animals are, however, more
interesting than local people. Over the years, he has worked to displace them,
supported by corrupt local officials.
In this part of Tanzania, conflicts between agriculturalists and pastoralists
go a long way back in history. Yet as long as there was no immediate land shortage, as long as the land frontier remained open, the different peoples could coexist. Today, when the farming family survives on a small agricultural plot that
they prepare, plant and weed, it is a disaster if roaming cattle and goats intrude
on the farm and eat the growing crops.
In Tanzania, as in many other African countries, access to customary land
and secure rights over it is a burning political question. The rapidly growing
population sees access to a shamba, a plot of cultivable land, as a security in an
insecure world. However, many international investors are also eyeing Africa’s
‘virgin soil,’ either for large-scale agricultural investments or as tourist resorts,
and free of local inhabitants.
In this clash for land, the losers are the Barabaigs, the Maasai and other
groups who insist on maintaining their pastoralist way of life, grazing their
herds over vast areas and occasionally farming small plots. As minority groups
they are marginalised and lack political influence. Both small farmers and large
Land cannot give birth to new land
investors cast their eyes at this land. It is commonly felt that the pastoralists are
unproductive and that their land could be better used for farming, not least for
large mechanised estates.
As we stand near the still smoking ashes of Giamu Marish’s homestead, he
pokes the dying embers, the tears rolling down his cheeks. “We won our case in
the court. But still the authorities want to get us out of here. They tell us that the
best we can do is to move away. They say that if we move then all the problems
will be solved …”
He is interrupted by the keen young woman, the one who thought that I
should have brought the president up here to listen to their grievances. Now she
hisses: “The authorities … what do they understand? A human being can give
birth to a new human being. But land cannot give birth to new land. There is
no more land than there is now. Maybe the authorities can give birth to new
land? Where is that new land that they tell us to move to?” Her beautiful brass
bracelets glisten in the sunlight as she gestures with her arms towards the open
savannah landscape.
Sometime later, in the coastal region of Bagamoyo north of Dar es Salaam, I remember her words as we sit with four Barabaig women in the shadow of bushes
close to a signpost proclaiming EcoEnergy.
“Now we have moved all the way to the shore of the big sea. We cannot move
on further …” says the woman called Gharibo, as she points east towards the
Indian Ocean.
We met these women on the road and I asked Margaret Maina, my interpreter, if they would have time to stop for a chat. “Oh yes we have time,” said
Gharibo. Actually they were in a hurry to visit a woman who had given birth to
a baby and to congratulate her with a calabash of milk, but they still wanted to
tell us about their situation.
Gharibo is the oldest of the women, two others are her co-wives, one is a
neighbour and the youngest is her daughter-in-law. All of them are dressed in
pearl-embroidered skin skirts. Three of them wear brass rings around their arms
and necks, and all have traditional wave-shaped Barabaig tattoos on their chins
and cheeks. It strikes me how keen these women are to maintain their cultural
identity, just like the women I met in Vilima Vitatu and in other isolated areas
where Barabaigs have moved. Now they tell me about their lives in that open
and fearless way I have so often admired among Barabaig women. Gharibo leads
the conversation. Margaret laughs every now and then at some comment before
translating for me.
Gharibo recalls that she came here to Bagamoyo in the 1990s. She and her
family had been on the move across Tanzania for almost 20 years. She is originally from Hanang, and as a newlywed she lived on the Basotu plains, close to
Stig Holmqvist
TCWP – the Tanzania Canada Wheat Programme.1 It is estimated that the
wheat scheme over the years confiscated some 100,000 hectares of land, burning down homesteads in the process, while the authorities at the same time
started moving people by force into collective Ujamaa villages. Gharibo and
many other families took their cattle and moved away in search of new pastures.
“When we at last arrived in this area, close to the sea, there were not many other
people around. The grazing was good and we settled here. For a number of years
our life was good. The cattle grew fat and the children were healthy. We had a
lot of milk.”
Gharibo’s two co-wives agree. Yes, they are still having a good life here.
Their husband is a considerate man who takes good care of his family. Even
though there are things to complain about, the women think that their life is
okay. “Other people who live here leave us alone …” “But now we are worried,”
interrupts Gharibo, as if she thinks that the other women’s account is too idyllic. “There are many things happening here,” she continues. “There are rumours.
The authorities and people from EcoEnergy have come to talk to us a couple of
times. There is a lot of talk, but nobody has told us what will happen. Somebody said that we have to move away because all this land will be planted with
Gharibo nods towards the dense high grass where we are sitting. “They say
that we will get assistance to move to another piece of land. There has been so
much talk for such a long time … but we know nothing.”
Margaret Maina, my assistant, who is herself a Barabaig and has struggled
hard to get an education, has at certain times worked for EcoEnergy. Her task
was to support and prepare the 10 families living here for what in all likelihood
will happen – departure.
“But nobody really knows how that will take place,” Margaret had told me
once when we were discussing EcoEnergy’s plans. “The project management
would like everything to take place correctly, otherwise they will not get any
money from Sweden. I have heard that you Swedes are very particular when it
comes to following procedures,” Margaret says, giving me a wry smile.
Maybe I sensed a slight irony in her smile. For good reason –Swedish involvement in the Eco Energy project is controversial.
In 2005, the Swedish energy company SEKAB, based in Örnsköldsvik, began
to eye Tanzania. Already active in Mozambique, SEKAB intended to develop
an ethanol project, as they had already done in Sweden. The conditions in Tan1. It was established in the late 1960’s. It changed name to NAFCO – National Agriculture
and Food Corporation – when the Canadian aid agency withdrew from the project after heavy internal criticism in Canada. The Tanzanian government then tried to run the
scheme as a parastatal, albeit with little success.
Land cannot give birth to new land
zania seemed ideal. The government had given the assurance that free land was
available, Swedish development cooperation had prioritised the environment
and SEKAB had proposed an enterprise focusing on environmentally friendly
energy development. This should have a fair chance of attracting Swedish funds
from the development cooperation budget.
Two areas were selected – Rufiji in the southeastern part of the country and
Bagamoyo in the east-central part. Both areas are criss-crossed by perennial rivers, which would be the water sources for the plantations that would produce
the sugarcane to be converted into ethanol and sugar. These products were to
supply the domestic market.
Feasibility studies were undertaken and the company launched an information drive emphasising that the Bagamoyo sugarcane project would be a winwin for the Tanzanian economy, the environment and the local people. But the
Barabaigs I met did not share this optimism ‒ they were just worried. And soon
international environmental organisations started to question the rosy picture
painted by SEKAB.
It is not my intention to analyse the feasibility reports and the debate in
development forums, for that has been done elsewhere.2 Let me just summarise
what happened.
By 2009, criticism of the planned project had become profound and Sida
(the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) decided against
guaranteeing additional loans to SEKAB’s subsidiary in Tanzania. At the same
time, the parent company decided not to invest additional money in the Bagamoyo project. However, a week before this decision was made public, SEKAB’s
board had entered into an agreement with another company Eco Development in
Europe AB. The three owners of the latter (who happened to be SEKAB board
members) were to acquire all the shares in SEKAB’s subsidiaries in Tanzania
as well as in Mozambique. The price paid by the new owners amounted to the
modest sum of 400 Swedish kronor (some USD 50) for a 170 million investment. It was pointed out in the SEKAB records that these board members did
not take part in the decision.
Of course Gharibo and her family did not know anything of these international dealings. However, during my visit they told me of the rumours about
the big farming project that was about to start. In March 2014, a group of dignitaries arrived in the area to inaugurate EcoEnergy. Feasibility studies had been
modified, doubts and questions about the approach to and organisation of the
proposed project had been reconsidered and rectified. The Tanzanian authorities
2. See Havnevik, K. and H. Haaland (2011) “Biofuel, land and environmental issues: the
case of SEKAB’s fuel plans in Tanzania” in Matondi, P., K. Havnevik and A. Beyene (eds)
Biofuels, Land Grabbing and Food Security in Africa. London/New York: Zed Books and
Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. See also the article by Bryceson in this volume.
Stig Holmqvist
had issued a licence and everything seemed to be in good order for project startup. Moreover, Sida had reassessed its earlier position and had decided to provide
a credit guarantee for a first commercial loan to EcoEnergy. Thus it would now
be possible to move on from the pilot project to a project on a large scale.
A few months after the formal inauguration, the Tanzanian newspaper The
Guardian issued a special edition about the green revolution in the country.
EcoEnergy was featured as an example. According to the newspaper, EcoEnergy
would become the largest agricultural project in East Africa. It would generate
4,000 new jobs, produce 130,000 tons of sugar annually as well as 10 million
litres of ethanol, and would in addition provide electricity to 100,000 households. One hundred per cent of the potential of sugarcane would be utilised.
The importance to the national economy would be significant. Currently, Tanzania imports half of the sugar it consumes and most of its fuel. The investments
in infrastructure would, moreover, contribute to the general development of
Bagamoyo region. President Jaya Kikwete, who was born in the region, was
gladdened by the fact that the investment would benefit his supporters there.
Thus wrote The Guardian. I am convinced that the agricultural sector in
Tanzania will remain the most important source of livelihood for the population years ahead. The majority still live off the land by cultivating small shambas.
Former President Julius Nyerere’s words are probably still relevant: “The hoe in
the soil is the best friend of the poor”. But the hoe has to be modernised. Tanzanian subsistence farmers do survive, even during years of bad weather, but their
farms lack the potential to produce tangible surpluses for investment.
So, how do you ensure rural development? Through the reallocation of resources from the urban sectors to rural communities, or through large-scale,
mechanised and often foreign-funded agricultural investments? Nyerere had the
first alternative in mind, conceived as the Ujamaa policy. But his ideas were
implemented through the forcible resettlement of people and the confiscation of
land. The results were catastrophic for many small farmers, pastoralists and for
the national economy as a whole.
Most probably a combination of small scale and large scale is necessary, but
with meaningful consultation and real alternatives for local communities, not
by force. In the best of worlds, the Eco Energy sugar plantation and ethanol factory would be a success, for the Barabaigs and other communities living in the
area as well.
However, as I sit together with Gharibo and her friends I am still gripped
by uneasiness. That time long ago comes to my mind, when my wife Aud and I
talked to Barabaigs in Hanang about what was to happen in their area when the
Canadian development project was established. That too, was supposed to be
one of the greatest development projects in Africa, bringing increased production and welfare to the nation. International experts and Tanzanian politicians
Land cannot give birth to new land
were convinced about its bright future. Today nobody wants to talk about the
But for Gharibo, the memories from Hanang are vivid. Now she is afraid
that everything will be repeated and that she and her family will once again be
evicted when EcoEnergy starts clearing the land. She admits that the concerned
families have been promised compensation and access to new land. “But where
is that land?” snorts Gharibo. “Maybe out there in the sea …” she says, pointing
eastward to the Indian Ocean. “And how much land have we been promised?
Only enough for a small shamba, not land for our cattle.”
Gharibo explains that her family owns a hundred heads of cattle. Never before have they had to beg for anything from anybody. “We have always been selfsufficient,” she emphasises, and asks Margaret to explain that precisely to me.
“So what will happen the day the clearing machines arrive?” Gharibo and
the other women remain silent long after Margaret has asked the question. Then
suddenly, with a dramatic gesture Gharibo covers her face with her hands. She
starts shivering. Margaret embraces her. We remain seated like that in deep uneasiness, while I regret having put the question. The future?
Gharibo’s story about a lifetime on the move, without security in land, is a
story of a way of life in disintegration. Gharibo, her family, as well as the Barabaigs as a people see no future in a world where a French wildlife entrepreneur
can buy the loyalty of local authorities or, for that matter, politicians are being
charmed by Swedish aid money.
However, it is difficult to look into the future. Just as I finalise this article (in
May 2015), I learn that the future of EcoEnergy is again in question. The Swedish project managers have not succeeded in mobilising the necessary investment
capital, and Sida has discontinued its disbursements (the 50 million kronor already paid out may be accounted for as disbursements to a badly planned and
executed development project).
What this means for Gharibo and the Barabaigs in Bagamoyo nobody
knows. Maybe they will have a few more years of grace. But the story of EcoEnergy reminds me of the Canadian project in Hanang. The muhajega pastures
taken from the Baragbaigs were never returned to them.
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture:
Tanzanian experiences1
Andrew Coulson
According to Marx and Engels (in the 1848 Communist Manifesto) small farmers should not exist: they should long ago have been driven out of business by
large highly mechanised “agribusiness” with close links to processing companies
and produce markets. This view is shared, in broad terms, by writers such as
Paul Baran on the left, or Paul Collier on the right of the political spectrum, or
geographers such as Deborah Fahy Bryceson, who write about “deagrarianisation”. Henry Bernstein is not explicit on this, but writes very warmly about large
scale agriculture.
But small farmers do exist – in India, most countries in South Asia and Central America and, since the land reforms of the late 1970s, in China. In many
parts of Africa, including Tanzania, their numbers are probably still increasing,
despite rapid urbanisation, climate change and alternative means of raising income in rural areas, such as artisanal mining, and failures in the marketing of
most of the crops grown for export.
The theory of how small farms compete with large ones owes much to the
agricultural economist Alexander Chayanov, who studied small farms in Russia
before the First World War. He influenced the “populist” or “narodnik” writers
and politicians who argued against Lenin’s and Stalin’s determination to achieve
economies of scale through collective farms.2 In the 1960s and 1970s, agricultural economists in Tanzania undertook pathbreaking studies of the ways in
which labour was used on small farms (e.g. Ruthenberg 1964, the six studies in
Ruthenberg 1968, and the work of Michael Collinson). More recently, development specialists have shown how the innovations of the “green revolutions” in
India can be implemented on small farms as well as large (e.g., Lipton 2010).
In Tanzania, small and large farms have coexisted for more than 100 years,
Some of the material in this chapter was presented at the 19th Annual Research Workshop
of REPOA, Dar es Salaam, in April 2014, under the title Small and Large-scale Agriculture:
Contrasting Contributions to Economic Development in Tanzania. A paper on cotton was
presented at the Colloquium in honour of Lionel Cliffe on Democracy, Land and Liberation in Africa Today, Cape Town, 20-21 October 2014. The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of participants at both these events, but also the work of countless
Tanzanian farmers, and that of researchers who have sought to understand them, especially
the pioneering agricultural economists of the 1960s and 1970s.
For a detailed discussion of this, see Coulson (2014a).
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
making it possible to test whether this theory stands the test of time.3 The total
value of production by small farms far exceeds that of large. However, the last
few years have seen determined efforts to encourage production on large farms
– in some cases supplemented by small-scale “outgrowers” growing crops on
This chapter looks first at the theory and extends it. It then summarises the
history, looking also at some of the myths or misunderstandings that have been
used by proponents of large-scale farming in Tanzania to suggest that small
scale has little potential. It concludes by reviewing the present position. The evidence suggests strongly that many Tanzanians will continue to be small farmers
for at least the next 20 years, and that they can produce surpluses of many crops.
The Theory: How Small Farms Compete with Large
Many studies have found a shocking “inverse relationship”: small farms have
greater yields per unit of land than large farms on similar land in the same country.4 This is a tendency or a statistical relationship, not a law. It is found in local
situations, not in cross-country comparisons – average yields of maize and wheat
are higher in the US than in Africa (other than parts of South Africa), regardless
of the size of farm. They may also be higher in a single country if the large farms
are on better land or have better water supplies or access to inputs that are not
available to small farmers.
Why should the inverse relationship, or anything close to it, exist, given
the resources available to large-scale farmers? Chayanov (1925) pointed out that
small farmers use more labour per unit of land than large, i.e., they “exploit
themselves,” and especially women and children. They use the labour of a whole
family, which enables them to undertake tasks that are costly for a commercial
farmer – such as building stone walls, terraces or irrigation canals, or making
green manure, or scaring away monkeys. Pingali et al. (1987) pointed to the
high costs of supervising labour on large farms. Bernstein (2009: 60–1) adds the
initial costs of the waiting time before a farm is developed and its first crops harvested – as with tree crops such as tea or coffee. Small farmers have shown that
they can undertake complex agricultural procedures, such as curing tobacco, as
In this chapter, the term “small farm” does not refer to a particular size of farm. It does
refer to existing patterns of land use, in which farm families grow much of their own food
and sell surplus production. Some of these farms are substantially bigger than others. The
paper does not discuss differentiation among farmers in rural Tanzania and the emergence
of large African-owned farms.
This “inverse relationship” was found in the German agricultural census of 1895 (David
1903) and in the Russian zvemstvo statistics studied by Chayanov and Lenin . Amartya Sen
discovered it in India in 1962 (Bernstein and Byres 2001, fn.38 p. 22). Berry and Cline
(1979) found it in six countries, Cornia (1985) in 15. A special issue of World Development
explored it in 2010 (including an introduction by Wiggins, Kirsten and Llambí and an
important article by Lipton).
Andrew Coulson
efficiently as large farmers, and that if fertilisers, sprays or improved seeds are
available they will use them when the risks are not great and the operations are
profitable. Chayanov also recognised that many of the disadvantages of small
scale could be mitigated if the small farmers worked together in cooperatives,
especially for the marketing of their crops, as in Denmark (Mitrany 1951: 44ff.;
Coulson 2014a: 411).
The inverse relationship may have other causes. Thus many of the Tsarist
land-owners neglected much of their land. The same was true of many of the
settlers in Zimbabwe – which was why production could increase when the land
was allocated to war veterans and others from 1999 onwards (Stoneman and
Cliffe 1989: 130–1; Hanlon, Manjengwa and Smart 2013). Much of the huge
area given to agribusiness companies in Africa, including Tanzania, in recent
years (Locher and Sulle 2013, 2014) is underused.
Small-scale farmers also get increased production by using technologies that
are difficult to implement at large scale. In Tanzania, much of this technology
was invented and implemented before the German conquest (Kjekshus 1977:
26–50). Thus on Kilimanjaro and in the Usambaras and many other places,
small farms benefit from complex systems of irrigation channels. The carrying
of green material to make manure up to higher levels made possible the banana
agriculture of Karagwe (now sadly threatened by viruses and nematode worms).
The “Matengo pit” cross-cutting ridges are extremely effective ways of green
manuring, and also protect the soil from heavy storms (Stahl 1961: 49a, 95–6).
Farmers used both green and animal manure, and systems of crop rotation.
Other good practices involve mixed- or inter-cropping, that is, growing more
than one crop on the same plot. Large farmers often prefer a single crop in a field
for convenience of mechanical planting and harvesting and the use of chemicals
to control weeds. But there are at least eight scientific reasons why intercropping
may produce higher total yields: if one of the crops grows quickly and covers the
surface of the soil, then soil erosion is reduced; so is evaporation of water; with a
lower density of any one crop, pests and diseases spread more slowly; if two crops
use nutrients at different levels in the soil, both may get good yields; less weeding
is needed – in effect one of the crops replaces weeds; a legume such as beans may
“fix” nitrogen from the atmosphere and so fertilise another crop, such as maize;
if one of the crops fails, for instance because of drought at a critical time, the
other may not only survive, but have more space in which to grow; and one crop
may provide much appreciated shade for the other.
To these can be added arguments specific to small-scale cultivation: small
farms also have animals or birds – chicken, goats or cattle – which provide eggs,
milk and meat, and also manure for the agricultural crops; a farmer can give
special attention to, and so get more product from, small parts of the farm such
as a damp patch or a patch with different soils, or close to a dwelling house and
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
therefore easy to manure; hoe or ox-ploughing does less damage to the soil than
tractors; there is less risk of damage to machinery from tree roots5 – and trees
may also provide shade as well as fruits or nuts; on fertile soil but steep slopes
(for instance, the volcanic soils of Mounts Kilimanjaro or Rungwe in Tanzania)
the hoe is often the most productive method of cultivation. On larger plots, with
less steep gradients, ox cultivation may be efficient. Pingali et al. (1987) demonstrated that when tractors can only work for a short period in which crops have
to be planted before the soil becomes too dry, they are often not cost-effective.
Supporters of large-scale farming, or agribusiness, are often influenced by
the agriculture of the plains of the mid-West of the United States, where huge
farms grow just a few crops (often just one) with high levels of mechanisation
and often irrigation, and produce yields which on average are higher than anywhere else in the world. They forget that these are extremely capital intensive
systems, that they are dependent on very high (and often increasingly high) use
of fertiliser, insecticides, weed killers and other inputs (most of which have high
energy and hence carbon contents) and the use of genetically modified (GM)
seeds.6 Much of the large-scale agriculture to produce biofuels in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and some other Latin American countries has similar characteristics. There are attempts to reproduce this in Africa, but as Kaag and Zoomers
(2014) show, a number have already failed.
Small farmers are not peasants.7 From colonial times onwards (arguably earlier) most small farmers have been integrated into the global economy (Bern5. Pingali et al. (1987) give the costs of removing tree roots as a major disincentive to tractor
cultivation, other than in soils which are permanently cultivated or in areas without trees.
Tree roots that destroyed mechanical implements were one of the causes of the failure of
the Groundnuts Scheme in Tanzania in the 1950s (Coulson 2013: 79-82). In some very wet
conditions, tractors may get stuck, while hoe cultivation is possible.
6. The case against GM crops that are bred to resist weed killers is not that they are a risk to
health, but that in the long run they will not be sustainable because weeds will emerge that
are resistant to the weed killers or require very high levels of weed killer to remove them.
These weeds will have no competition, so they will spread fast.
7. Anthropologists who try to understand what motivates those who live in rural villages
use the word peasant as a term of approval. But Deborah Bryceson (2000: 1) notes that
in day-to-day English usage it denotes someone uncultured or obstinate, and is associated
with descriptions such as “primitive,” “backward,” “uneducated” and “obstructive,” Thus
the word “peasant” can be used to imply that small farmers are unskilled, ignorant or
misguided. The majority of scholars – from Chayanov to the present day – have no illusion that small-scale farming is often backbreaking hard work, for very uncertain returns,
and understand that most small farmers continue only because it gives them a possibility for keeping themselves and their families alive, and there is nothing better available.
Conversely, the words “modern,” “commercial,” “efficient” and related terms can also be
weapons and used as terms of praise or aspiration, often without meaningful support from
evidence. In the discourse of linguistic analysis, these words are “empty signifiers” (or
“floating signifiers”: words without unambiguous meanings used with little or no accompanying evidence to promote or discredit a writer’s point of view (see Jeffares 2007: 44–69;
2014). Henry Bernstein now concedes that the term “peasant” is problematic, or “anachronistic” (Choonara 2013), and avoids it where he can.
Andrew Coulson
stein 2010). They sell crops or other products. They purchase what they cannot
make individually. To fund those purchases they obtain money, much of it by
selling agricultural products, but also from sales of animal products, hunting,
poaching, fishing, charcoal, craft items or from other parts of the informal sector, including small-scale manufacturing, artisanal mining and migrating in
search of labour, or working for other farmers. In years of poor harvests, or when
prices for their crops are low, they may, up to a point, withdraw from markets,
but there are limits on how much and for how long this may be sustained.8
When faced with the demands of the outside world, small farmers have two
choices: they can increase production and sell surpluses, or they can resist, reducing production and consumption and surviving in other ways (Wolf 1966:
14–5).9 The resistance can be very subtle, as with the social and political strategies adopted by the small rice farmers in Malaya studied by Scott (1985), who
were threatened with loss of income when large farmers mechanised, or the
case studies in Scott and Kerkvliet (1986), or the different tactics adopted after
forced villagisation in the 1970s by three different Ujamaa villages in Tanga
Region (von Freyhold 1979) or Rungwe District (Thoden van Velsen 1975). The
common feature of all these studies, and others concerned with the adoption
or non-adoption of new seeds, is that when anthropologists or other researchers
talked to the farmers, they uncovered good reasons for these decisions.
The rural sector also provides a “reserve army of labour,” or a “sponge” (Wuyts and Kilama
2014)), which absorbs labour not yet needed for manufacturing or other industries. However, in the years of structural adjustment in the 1980s, when marketing was disrupted and
farm prices were often very low, agriculture was not attractive, those who could turned to
other ways of making money, such as artisanal mining. Bryceson (e.g., 1997; 2000; 2014)
is one of a number of writers who characterise what is happening in the rural areas of many
parts of Africa as, “depeasantisation,” or even “deagrarianisation.” This is often associated
with “desertification,” and especially the march southwards of the Sahara Desert, affecting
countries in West Africa, Southern Sudan and the northern parts of Uganda, Kenya and
Ethiopia. However, the arithmetic of population growth is such that in countries such as
Tanzania, which are less directly affected by desertification, the absolute number of small
farmers is still increasing. It is misleading (as Bryceson would surely agree) to write small
farmers off as marginal, or in all cases unable to be self-reliant or to contribute to their own
Some writers assert that it is still possible for small farmers to survive outside the market
economy. That was Göran Hydén’s position in 1980, when he wrote of an “uncaptured
peasantry” in Tanzania, and argued that there would be no progress until the state “captured” it, though by 1983 he was advocating the extension of the market. Waters, who
worked with refugee families in the far west of Tanzania in the 1970s and 1980s, claimed
that near self-sufficiency was still a viable way of life in remote places in Tanzania, where
there was unclaimed land. He also suggested another tactic: farmers may plant relatively
risky crops, such as maize, in drought-prone areas, knowing that, if they fail, they can
appeal to the government for famine relief (Waters 2007). Iliffe (1979: 314) suggests that
maize, replacing the more drought-resistant sorghum and millet, was more attractive to
farmers once the colonial government provided famine relief. This may be a factor in the
calculations of some farmers, but it is a strategy too unpredictable to be a major part of the
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
For example, any innovation that does not take account of labour bottlenecks at key times in the year increases risk, or produces a product which is not
as tasty or easy to cook as traditional varieties, will often be rejected. The assumption that farmers plant recently developed seeds using fertilisers and other
chemicals, ignores the fact that many farmers (and Tanzanian consumers also)
have preferences for traditional varieties, for their cooking properties, aromas
and storage characteristics. Thus a farmer may plant two varieties of rice – one
a quick-growing high-yield variety for sale, but alongside it a traditional variety
for cooking and perhaps also sale. There is also an economic argument for planting crops that use labour at different times in the growing season. In America
and Europe, extra resources can usually be hired if necessary. But where most of
the labour is provided by the farming family, economists should look at farming
systems – how farmers benefit from the complementarities of different crops and
their needs for labour at different times.10
Small farmers respond to changes in prices – higher prices usually lead to
increased areas planted. Ellis (1982: 270–2) showed that production of food
crops rose and traditional cash crops fell in response to the price signals given
by government-fixed prices in the 1970s. Eriksson (1993: 7–74) drew similar
conclusions. Dercon (1993) studied the responses of cotton output in Tanzania to price changes. He was able to show not only that farmers adjusted their
behaviour (especially to changes in relative prices between cotton and rice or
maize), but that they grew more of the food crops and less cotton when there
were shortages of consumer goods.
These studies also demonstrate the importance of the marketing infrastructure. If farmers are not paid a good price, or are paid very late or not at all
for their work, they will be very reluctant to grow that crop. But that requires
agents from the public or private sectors with sufficient money at the times it
is needed and outlets ready to take the crops when they are purchased. If these
conditions are not in place, there is no point running extension campaigns and
it is irresponsible to criticise farmers who withdraw from growing those crops
(Coulson 2015).
Small farmers run businesses (Collier 2010: 213; Bernstein 2010: 93–4).
They make commercial decisions about what to plant, how much, and where.
They buy and sell. They save and invest. They need cash. They allocate the family labour. They decide whether to hire additional labour at peak periods, for
example, to bring in the harvest. They work hard, usually for very low returns,
but they do have some discretion in what they do. There is a great range in how
10. This was how African agricultural economics was studied and researched in the 1970s,
but this “farm systems analysis” has now largely been replaced by calculations of the gross
margin for each crop separately. It is time for the earlier tradition to be revived.
Andrew Coulson
successful they are – from large and successful farmers at one extreme, to those
barely surviving at the other. Their position is comparable to other parts of the
informal economy.
Since over-specialisation in a single crop will lead to labour shortages at the
peak periods of labour need for that crop, farmers are rational in planting small
quantities of a crop at different times (even if this reduces the expected average
yield) and in dividing their time between several crop or livestock activities or
other opportunities to earn money. This also lessens the risks involved if a single
crop fails.
This is not to suggest that being a small farmer was, or is, easy. On the contrary, it involves hard physical work for much of the year for very low returns
in cash. But farmers who grow most of their own food can, in most situations,
Women are particularly exploited. On farms with male “heads of household,” they do much of the back-breaking work – digging, weeding, cutting and
carrying grass to feed stall-fed cattle, selling small quantities of produce. This is
in addition to childcare and cooking. Most small farms in Africa could not survive without this labour. Koopman and Faye (2012) and other feminist writers
are correct to categorise it as a form of exploitation. When there is no male head
of household, for example, through widowhood or domestic violence, life can
quickly become almost impossible – with women losing control of their land
(see, for example, da Corta and Magongo 2011; Bryceson (ed.) 1995, especially
the article by Bridget O’Laughlin).
Tanzania: The Coexistence of Small-scale and Large-scale Agriculture
One of the main motivations for the German conquest was to promote settlement, but the colonisers quickly discovered that it was often more efficient to
persuade or force African farmers to grow the crops they wanted. In the 100
years since then, Tanzania’s population has grown and the area under cultivation has increased, but the coexistence of small and large farms has continued
(Coulson 1978; 2013). Small farmers grow food – maize and bananas, sorghum,
millets, rice, cassava, potatoes, beans and other legumes, fruits, vegetables and
nuts. They sell part of what they grow, including “cash crops” that require processing before use. Robusta coffee was indigenous in the Bukoba area, Arabica
coffee was grown by small farmers on Kilimanjaro from the 1890s, and cotton
was cultivated south of Lake Victoria before the First World War (Iliffe 1979:
154–5). Settlers had political support: if the First World War had not intervened,
German East Africa might have become a state controlled by settlers. Plantations with large labour forces and processing factories were created, owned by
companies with access to capital (today’s agribusiness). They failed with rubber
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
(after an initial boom) and cotton, but succeeded with sisal on land with access
to the railways, mainly near Tanga, Morogoro and Dar es Salaam (Iliffe 145–7).
After the First World War, “Tanganyika” became a Trust Territory under the
League of Nations, administered by the British, nominally on behalf of its local
population. Many settlers went to Kenya or Rhodesia, where the legal position
was clearer. But some of the German farms were rehabilitated, especially after
Germans were allowed to return, and in the 1930s “settlers regained some of the
influence they had lost” (Iliffe 373).
At the end of the Second World War, the British government needed raw
materials and its former troops needed employment. This was the background to
the Groundnuts Scheme, which attempted to grow groundnuts for their cooking oil in three underpopulated parts of the country – Kongwa near Dodoma,
Nachingwea in Mtwara District and Urambo near Tabora. It was an abject failure in all three locations, technically and economically (Coulson 2013: 79–80).
However, some of those who came to work on the scheme stayed on and some
became settlers and were joined by others seeking a new life after the war. Kathleen Stahl (1961: 37–50) paints a picture of the settlers just before independence:
there were 1,124 farms around Arusha and Moshi, in the Southern Highlands
and around Lushoto. This was a small number compared with Kenya, where
they were far more entrenched. That did not prevent settlers from trying to
influence the colonial government. This was stopped by independence in 1961.
Meanwhile, the Colonial Development Corporation (later Commonwealth Development Corporation) and international companies such as Brooke Bond and
Unilever invested in plantations growing tea, pyrethrum, wattle and other crops.
In the years before and after independence, agricultural production and exports rose, most of it from small farmers. But the World Bank and other experts (as well as Nyerere and other Tanzanians) were impatient at the speed of
change. They promoted both the “Improvement Approach” (small farmers) and
the “Transformation Approach” (large-scale mechanised production on large
farms or settlement schemes).
By 1966–67, the settlement schemes were seen to be economic failures, paving the way for Nyerere’s version of Ujamaa, in which economies of scale were
to be achieved from communal work, which was to be voluntary (Nyerere 1967;
James 2014). This failed for many reasons, the main one being the difficulties
in creating systems of rewards and incentives that would reward the efforts put
into communal work (von Freyhold 1979; Thoden van Velsen 1973; Wisner et
al. 1975; Ibbott 2014).
Instead, the ruling TANU (Tanganyika African Nationalist Union) party
implemented a policy of forcing people to live in “villages” (Coulson 2013: 280–
309). This often meant moving away from the best land, and involved a significant loss of the capital that farmers had invested in their houses. Agricultural
Andrew Coulson
production fell. The position became much worse when the price of oil trebled
in the early 1970s, much faster than the prices of Tanzania’s agricultural export
crops.11 The IMF saw the situation as one of a structural failure in the Tanzanian
economy, which could only be corrected by reducing government budgets and
opening the economy to market forces. Only in 1986, after Nyerere had stood
down as president, did Tanzania accept the IMF conditions and its financial
Do we believe the figures?
An important qualification to any analysis of agriculture in Tanzania is the fact
that the figures for agricultural production and prices are extremely unreliable,
especially for crops grown for food and consumed locally, or marketed through
unofficial channels. A number of academic writers have pointed this out (most
recently Edwards 2014: 242–7; also Ponte 2002: 65–71; Skarstein 2010; ASDP
2013 Annex 2: 13–14, 16–21). Agricultural censuses are conducted from time
to time: in 2006 more than 40,000 farms were surveyed. Cross-checking is
done where possible (for instance, with information about rainfall, or estimates
of consumption corrected for imports and exports). Aerial photographs can provide information about cultivated areas and livestock numbers. Small sample
censuses are conducted at regional level. Statistics are also compiled from estimates by district agricultural staff of likely harvests in their areas.
But problems remain. Farmers’ recall of quantities or areas may not be accurate. When crops are interplanted, the census returns figures for the “major
crop.” It is not clear how the figures deal with by-products, such as cassava leaves
used for cooking when the main crop is the tuber, which may be harvested later.
When prices fluctuate, the enumerators return “an average.” Where crops have
been sold outside official channels, farmers may be reluctant to disclose them.
If they are not paid for (because, for example, of failures in the voucher system,
or because there is no market for what they have produced), they may still be
included in the figures. Both Edwards and the Agricultural Sector Development
Programme (ASDP) authors suggest that the estimates by agricultural officers
may be biased by pressure, for example, to report good figures, or bad figures if
they are looking for famine relief. The discussion that follows should therefore
be treated with great care.
11. Lofchie (2014) and Edwards (2014) both follow their mentor Bates (1981) in asserting
that farm prices were deliberately kept low to create surpluses for industrialisation. There
is some evidence for this, but inefficiency and corruption could have achieved the same
results without deliberate conspiracy (Coulson 2014b:42ff). Whatever lay behind it, world
prices were not passed on to farmers (a kilo of coffee was worth much more in Kenya than
in northern Tanzania), unofficial exports increased, farm inputs became very hard to purchase legally and farmers were very dissatisfied (Lofchie 2014: 32ff.).
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
Impact of Liberalisation
There are many detailed studies of the impact of liberalisation. Gibbon, Havnevik and Hermele (1993: 52–64) showed that following devaluation of the
Tanzanian shilling, better prices were not passed on to farmers and that, partly
as a consequence, agricultural production was higher in the years immediately
before the major devaluations than it was afterwards. Ponte (2002) showed how
the opening up to the private sector of cotton ginneries and coffee pulperies had
deleterious impacts on the production and export of those crops. The systems
for providing inputs on credit broke down, as farmers could take their credit
from one trader and sell to another without repaying their loans. In the scramble
for business, quality deteriorated – traders were even prepared to buy crops before they were harvested, regardless of the resulting quality (Ponte 2002: 25–6,
27–8; Coulson 2015).
The situation for food crops was only a little better. Skarstein (2010: Table
1) noted that marketed production of maize and rice grew at around 3.5 per
cent per annum in the supposedly chaotic years of the late 1970s, but fell in
the years of structural adjustment from 1986–92. He considered many possible explanations for this, concluding that the growth was primarily due to the
availability of subsidised fertiliser that made possible a “Green Revolution in
the Southern Highlands,” which became the bread basket (a better description
would be maize basket) of Tanzania, at a time when production in the Arusha
area rose little. When the subsidies for fertiliser were withdrawn, there were falls
in production.
But in the Southern Highlands, Isininka and Msuya (2011) reported that
once subsidies for fertilisers were reintroduced, around 2004, production increased: 73 per cent of the AFRINT II12 sample of farmers in Iringa were using
pesticide sprays on maize and 71 per cent on paddy, and 37 per cent of the sample were using improved seeds, mostly hybrids, for maize.
From the early 1990s, agricultural production was reported to be growing at
around 4 per cent. Tanzania’s urban populations were growing rapidly, but not
sufficiently to prevent the absolute numbers living in the rural areas from also
rising. In contrast to the situation considered by Skarstein (2010) in the years
immediately after structural adjustment, the agricultural sector was able to contribute to feeding the growing urban population.
Figure 1, from a presentation in support of the agricultural commitments
in Big Results Now, summarises the official figures from 2007 to 2011. In value
and tonnage, maize was by far Tanzania’s most important crop, although in
2009 the value of rice (but not the tonnage produced) exceeded that of maize.
Sorghum and cassava benefited from increased prices. Food and Agriculture
12. See www.keg.lu.se.
Andrew Coulson
Figure 1. Production of Key Crops 2007–11.
Organisation figures also show rapid increases in the production of both round
and sweet potatoes, onions and tomatoes, all of which had expanding markets
in urban centres.
Growth in agricultural production at 4 per cent sustained over time is rare
in comparative world terms. It was achieved when world prices for most of Tanzania’s traditional agricultural export crops were falling, climate was poor in
the north of the country, the impact of global warming was becoming apparent
and there was evidence of increasing exhaustion of the soil and the drying up of
water sources. The traditional cash crops contributed little to this, because prices
fell so that even when there were years of high production, they contributed less
value to the producers. The growth came in food products such as tomatoes,
onions and potatoes, and above all in maize and rice production. It is clear, to
say the least, that this was not a failing sector.
However, these results occurred in a context where national GDP, driven by
rapid growth in mining and tourism, grew at close to 7 per cent. Thus agriculture
contributed a smaller proportion of GDP: 28 per cent in 2005 but only 23 per
cent in 2012, with the contribution of services rising from 46 per cent to 49 per
cent, and industry (including mining) from 20 per cent to 22 per cent (ASDP
2013:5). Thus the high increases in GDP did little to reduce poverty or inequality (Atkinson and Lugo 2010, using data from the Household Budget Surveys).
In this period, Tanzania became open to proposals for large-scale agriculture
from agribusiness interests in countries around the globe, some responding to
opportunities to supply new markets for biofuels, others proposing to grow food
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
grains for export, including propositions from the Middle East, which realised
that it would be cheaper to supply food for their internal markets from Africa
than from irrigating their deserts (Sulle and Nelson 2009; Chachage and Baha
2010; Chachage 2010; Pearce 2012). Tanzanians in the private sector and at
Sokoine University of Agriculture started making the case for large-scale production – and influenced the policy statements discussed below, Kilimo Kwanza
(2009), the “Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania” (SAGCOT )
(SAGCOT 2010) and Big Results Now (2012). These can all be seen as reactions
to the much more comprehensive Agricultural Sector Development Programme,
which has relatively little to say about large-scale agriculture. These are considered in the sections which follow, along with some of the myths and misunderstandings on which they depend.
Agricultural Sector Development Programme
The Tanzanian Development Vision 2025, launched in 1999, aims to transform
the country in 25 years “from a low productivity agricultural economy to a
semi-industrialized one, led by modernized and highly productive agricultural
activities which are effectively integrated and buttressed by supportive industrial
and service activities in the rural and urban areas.” It is linked with MKUKUTA, the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty, prepared in
2005 and revised in 2010. Its aim is to reduce poverty and inequality, primarily
in the rural areas, and to meet the targets of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The Agriculture Sector Development Strategy was prepared in 2001,
and aimed to achieve a growth rate of 5 per cent per annum in the agricultural
sector, rising to 10 per cent per annum by 2010, and to substantially reduce
levels of rural poverty. The Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP),
developed in 2006, set out in detail how this was to be done. Three-quarters of
the financial resources needed would be provided through “basket funding”:
donors would pool money to implement the programme on the basis of annual agreements with the Tanzanian government over how it would be spent.
Three-quarters of the budget, including expenditure on extension services, was
delegated to the district councils. The remaining quarter, including expenditure
on government research stations and on irrigation, was allocated by central government departments. Proposals for a second phase of the ASDP were drawn up
in 2013 (ASDP 2013: 6–9).
Near the start of the draft is the following quotation:
Tanzania has a total of about 7.1 million ha of high- (2.3 million ha) and medium-potential land (4.8 million ha), supported by rivers, lakes, wetlands and
aquifers. Of the 2.3 million ha classified as high-potential, only 363,514 ha had
improved irrigation infrastructure in 2012, accounting for only 1.3 percent of
Andrew Coulson
the total land with irrigation potential. An estimated 55 percent of the land
could be used for agriculture, and more than 51 percent for pasture. However,
only about 6 percent of the agricultural land is cultivated, and the practice of
shifting cultivation causes deforestation and land degradation on pastoral land.
Tanzania is one of the few countries in Africa that still has extensive wildlife
resources and protected areas that account for about 25 percent of its total land
area. (ASDP 2013: 5–6)
This quotation includes a series of myths, misunderstandings, fudges or untruths, which appear in slightly different versions in documents produced by
Tanzanian government sources, donors and in newspapers. These have made it
very difficult to have a serious discussion about agriculture in Tanzania.13
The most misleading is the claim that 55 per cent of Tanzania’s land could
be used for agriculture – and hence that there is a vast area of land just waiting
to be used. In areas of known high potential – the mountains of the north and
northwest, around Lake Victoria, the coastal areas, and much of the Southern
Highlands – most of the suitable land is already cultivated. Indeed, on Kilimanjaro and some other areas there is the opposite problem – many plots have
been divided so much that they are barely viable and there is encroachment
into forested areas needed to preserve water sources. There are areas that could
be cultivated in the far west and in the south. But much is game reserve (the
Selous), national park (Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Ruaha, Mikumi, etc.) or forest
reserve. Most of the land in the middle of the country has average rainfall of
less than 750mm, below which rainfed agriculture is hazardous. Much of the
so-called arable land (for example, in the Southern Highlands) is steep hillside,
often heavily eroded. Much land that is not planted is deliberately fallow – not
in use for agriculture that year, but it will be used in future – and the quotation appears to confuse shifting cultivation, where land is left fallow to recover,
with pastoralism. Furthermore, the soils in most of the unused areas are of poor
quality: they lack important nutrients, are poor at retaining organic matter and
include a silica content that makes them set extremely hard until the rains come.
Others are (or in some cases were) at great risk of soil erosion – for example, the
Ismani area north of Iringa, which in the 1960s and early 1970s was a frontier
13. The following quotation from a presentation by the chairman of the Agricultural Council
of Tanzania claims five times as much arable land and an unbelievable area with potential
for irrigation: “44 million hectares of good arable land but only 23% is currently under effective utilisation. 62,000 sq. kms of the fresh water resources available for crops, livestock
and fish farming which is grossly under utilised. 29 million hectares of irrigable land BUT
only 1% is currently under irrigation. 19 million cattle, 17 million sheep and goats, 50 million chicken which are not commercially exploited. 1,424 Kms of coastline and 223,000
Sq. Kms of Tanzania’s Exclusive Economic Zone of the Indian Ocean which is not being
effectively exploited.” (Shamte 2011, slide 6). The points about fisheries are fair comment.
The rest is oversimplified and misleading.
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
for African-owned tractor hire operatives, but is today a wasteland. Donors and
government spokespeople should be extremely careful before they claim without
qualification that Tanzania has large areas of surplus land that can be used for
agriculture, because, at very least, this underestimates the problems.14
The targets for irrigation are also unrealistic. Tanzania does not have huge rivers flowing across flat alluvial plains, as in much of Pakistan, the Punjab and the
great plains of China or Burma, whose water comes from the Himalayas. There is
one substantial river, the Rufiji, fed by a number of tributaries. One of these, the
Great Ruaha, has already effectively become a seasonal flowing river, not least
because of the large out-take of water for irrigation at Mbarali near Mbeya, with
adverse consequences for the hydroelectric schemes down the river at Mtera and
Kidatu that supply Dar es Salaam. On the Pangani River, use of water for irrigation has reduced the quantities available for electricity generation at Nyumba
ya Mungu. When the irrigation strategy was revised in 2005–06, the president
proposed a target of 1 million hectares to be irrigated in five years. This was 20
times as much as had been created in the previous five years. Not surprisingly, it
proved unattainable, even though almost 80 per cent of the money in the ASDP
was allocated for irrigation. Almost all of this was spent on reconditioning existing schemes (Therkildsen 2011: 14–21; Kilimo Kwanza 2009: slides 20–21).
Very large areas of irrigation could be achieved by widespread use of boreholes,
but boreholes are expensive in many parts of Tanzania, where the water is deep
down and hard to locate. Can Tanzania justify sinking boreholes to supply water for irrigated agriculture when 60 per cent of the rural population does not
have access to a source of piped water?16
The third problem with the quotation is its interpretation of pastoralism.
Most of the land used by pastoralists would otherwise lie unused. It is true that
they burn the scrub at the end of the dry season, but this kills insects such as
ticks that affect cattle, and it fertilises the land so that grass grows quickly when
it rains. The problems faced by pastoralists are how to survive the long dry periods, and recent extensions of crop agriculture on land formerly used for dry
season grazing (and reserves for hunting where they are no longer permitted to
14. There is a further contradiction: if there is surplus land, intensification of the agriculture
might not provide the optimum returns to labour – it might be better to find low-cost
means to increase the area under cultivation.
15. That raises the question of how they were allowed to become derelict – suggesting that
they were not highly profitable. In the past, some of these schemes have not produced
more than one crop per year, that is, little more than they could have produced without
the investment. This was true at Mbarali in the early 1970s, where farmers growing rice on
swampland outside the irrigation project achieved similar yields to those on the irrigation
16. Small-scale irrigation from streams is often extremely viable. See Mdee (2014) for case
studies in Morogoro region.
Andrew Coulson
roam) mean that these important contributors to the Tanzanian economy and
diet are in danger of dying out.
The ASDP focuses on a small number of crops: maize, rice, sugarcane, sunflower, sesame and horticultural crops. However, small farms minimise risk by
planting a wide range of crops. Then, if one is attacked by pests, disease, or there
is insufficient rain at the right times, there may still be output from the other
crops. This also makes possible a balanced diet for the farm families. Risk is
further minimised, and total production on average increased, by mixed cropping. Thus it should be normal to plant beans at the same time as maize, to plant
bananas with coffee, to plant under fruit trees, and to plant a wide variety of
quick-growing vegetables wherever the soil would otherwise be left exposed. The
ASDP (and Big Results Now – see below) should consider systems of crops, and
how farmers can minimise their risks: they are wrong to focus on a few crops.
There is some critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of extension. Extension workers should be able to help farmers with the problems that
face them. Those problems may or may not be those highlighted in extension
training. The ASDP points out that most farmers are already aware of the traditional messages about how crops should be grown: “What is lacking and gaining
importance is focus on how farmers increase their incomes by engaging in more
profitable activities including value addition and improved market efficiency”
(ASDP 2013, para 29b).
The section of the proposed revision of the ASDP that supports the government agricultural research service does not recognise the crises it faces (Coulson
and Diyamett 2012). Many problems are a consequence of inadequate recurrent
funding over the years, which has left researchers not only with difficulties in
maintaining equipment, but unable to carry out field trials with farmers, to
listen to their problems, and to travel to conferences and meetings with other
researchers.17 The lack of core funding also makes it hard for Tanzania to appraise and make best use of agricultural research undertaken internationally, for
example by IRRI,18 ICRISAT,19 ASARECA 20 and AGRA.21 The research service
is run through seven research zones, whereas responsibility for the extension ser17. The ASDP documentation reports that the total spending on agricultural research has
increased, but most of it goes to academic institutions. These are also in a better position to
get funding from external sources, including international organisations in the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
18. The International Rice Research Organisation.
19. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, with an office in
20. The Assocation for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa, which
potentially gives Tanzania access to work in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, among other
21. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a private NGO largely funded by the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose aim is to improve the productivity of small farmers.
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
vice has been delegated to the district councils, of which there were 169 on the
mainland in 2012. This makes the extension service dependent on the political
priorities of district commissioners, who may or may not liaise with the research
The ASDP includes some discussion of value chains: of storage, transport
and other means of increasing the proportion of value added reaching farmers
through, for example, better storage or local processing. It gives less attention
to reducing unofficial deductions (such as cesses paid at road blocks), or government policies such as export bans or sudden unexpected imports,22 or, above
all, in ensuring that farmers actually receive what they are owed. The biggest
conceivable disincentive to increased production by small farmers is a voucher
system where (for whatever reason) the vouchers cannot be converted into cash,
or, as appears to have been the case with much of the 2012 cashew nut harvest,
there is insufficient money to purchase the crops. Improvements in marketing
would almost certainly give much greater returns to farmers than investment in
Policies more or less similar to the ASDP can be found in almost all African
countries south of the Sahara and reflect the “Washington Consensus” of open
borders, a maximum role for the private sector and identification of a small
number of crops whose productivity can be raised through use of high-yielding
new varieties together with fertilisers and other chemical inputs. The policies of
AGRA are similar. The fundamental criticism of all these is that, in the last resort, they are top down. They do not start with the achievements of small farmers and the best means of addressing the problems they face. As a result, they
look at crops one at a time, instead of relationships between the different crops
that farmers plant in an area. They give too much weight to production (through
new seeds and chemicals) and too little weight to marketing. If the support systems are in place, there is almost no limit to what small farmers can produce.
Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First)
This ambitious plan was launched by President Kikwete in 2009.23 It was “formulated under the patronage of the Tanzania National Business Council”
(Ngaiza 2012) and the Agricultural Council of Tanzania (both of which represent large-scale farmers), with technical support from academics at Sokoine University of Agriculture and elsewhere – but not in the Ministry of Agriculture. It
is “a Private Public Initiative where the private sector is the engine of economic
growth-mandated to be the lead implementing agent” (Ngaiza 2012, slide 15).
22. The market for rice was disrupted when the government suddenly authorised the import of
large quantities of cheap rice in February 2013.
23. A year ahead of the 2010 elections.
Andrew Coulson
Its policies are described in ten “pillars” (Government of Tanzania 2009).
Much is uncontroversial, including measures to support small-scale farming.
However, the place given to large-scale agriculture is much more overt than in
any previous Tanzanian document. In particular Pillar 5 strengthens the power
of the state to allocate land for large-scale agriculture. Pillar 2 commits the
country to substantially increased spending on agriculture, and especially on
irrigation, so meeting the Maputo Declaration target that 10 per cent of the government budget be spent on agriculture, and to creating a Tanzania Agricultural
Development Bank, among other measures. But its target of 7 million hectares
for irrigation is unachievable and irresponsible. In practice, the proposed budget
allocations for agriculture have not been achieved – and budgets have become
indicative only, with only fractions of the money released. The Agricultural
Bank was created but concerns about its long-term future remain.24
The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT)
The concept of agricultural “corridors” in Africa appears to have been invented
by the Norwegian fertiliser producer Yara International in 2008 and developed
by the British consultants AgDevCo, with support from Syngenta, Monsanto,
Unilever and a range of powerful international organisations and donors. The
“Beira corridor” in Mozambique, running inland as far as Harare in Zimbabwe,
was launched in 2009. SAGCOT was promoted, in a wave of publicity, by President Kikwete at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2010. Its
website describes it as “an inclusive, multi-stakeholder partnership to rapidly
develop the region’s agricultural potential.”
The related map shows the area covered by this – close to a third of the whole
land area of the country. It is not a corridor in any usual use of the term, though
it includes areas that could be considered corridors, notably the Kilombero Valley, which is close to both a river and the TAZARA railway, and the area of the
Usangu Plains around Mbarali.
Publicity materials suggest that land is available in large quantities, and
that the beneficiaries will include large numbers of small farmer “outgrowers”,
growing crops on contract to supplement those produced on a central farm. It
encourages international companies to come forward with offers to develop particular projects. The president takes a major interest. The board includes many
of Tanzania’s leading agriculturalists from the public and private sectors. Where
possible, the project proposes involving small farmers as outgrowers, growing
crops on contract to supplement those produced on a central farm. A detailed
environmental report includes discussion of land acquisition and compensation
24. There are many problems with agricultural banks across Africa, and little to suggest that
the situation in Tanzania will be different.
land. It turned out that the Tanzanian government expected either the investors or the donors supporting them to provide this infrastructure. And investors applying for rights to land sometimes found that someone else was there first, or there were small-­‐scale farmers who were very reluctant to lose their land. AgDevCo, which had a head start, did not have the resources to either buy land or develop infrastructure, and, as of 2013, its most advanced projects were on farms where it could get Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
access to land that was already alienated for agricultural use. Map : The Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania Map11:
TheSouthern Southern
of Tanzania
Source: SAGCOT
Source: SAGCOT Big Results Now to smallholders, making it clear that many small farmers will lose land (ERM
By the end of the 2000s, any Tanzanians began twas
o realise that while an open economy and the 2012),
a list
ready availability of consumer goods was very desirable, completely unfettered markets were not However, on the ground development was slow. Potential investors hoped
necessarily in their best interests.25 They looked to countries in Asia, especially Vietnam, which had that thea mbasic
inof place
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roads, elecsurvived ost unpleasant war, followed by a pbe
eriod socialism nd then enforced structural adjustment, where sufficient
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anzania. T
anzania a
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ith C
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irms would have a smooth path to getting rights to the land. It turned out that the
increasingly won building contracts in international competitions. But the most influential exchanges Tanzanian government expected either the investors or the donors supporting
turned out to be with Malaysia, where leading politicians and civil servants were explicit about the themfor to
And investors applying for rights to land
need an aprovide
ctive and ithis
nterventionist state (Tan 2013). sometimes found that someone else was there first, or there were small-scale
who were very reluctant to lose their land. AgDevCo, which had a head
The point was made at the Annual Research Workshops of REPOA in 2012 by speakers from Vietnam and
2013 by
a keynote
from Malaysia,
in 2014 buy
by speakers
have speaker
the resources
develop infrastructure,
and, as of 2013, its most advanced projects were on farms where it could get ac15 cess to land that was already alienated
for agricultural use.
Big Results Now
By the end of the 2000s, many Tanzanians began to realise that while an open
economy and the ready availability of consumer goods was very desirable, completely unfettered markets were not necessarily in their best interests.25 They
looked to countries in Asia, especially Vietnam, which had survived a most
25. The point was made at the Annual Research Workshops of REPOA in 2012 by speakers
from Vietnam and China, in 2013 by a keynote speaker from Malaysia, and in 2014 by
speakers from Japan.
Andrew Coulson
unpleasant war, followed by a period of socialism and then enforced structural
adjustment, but where the state had kept control of key aspects of the economy.
Growth in Vietnam was faster than in Tanzania. Tanzania also maintained
good links with China, whose firms increasingly won building contracts in international competitions. But the most influential exchanges turned out to be
with Malaysia, where leading politicians and civil servants were explicit about
the need for an active and interventionist state (Tan 2013).
President Kikwete visited Malaysia in 2011, and was impressed with their “delivery lab” approach to planning, in which stakeholders in relevant sectors were
closeted in a hotel for two or three weeks until they agreed on an action plan for
their sector. The Malaysians agreed to send key experts from their Performance
Management and Delivery Unit, PERMANDU, to explore how such an approach might work in Tanzania. In October 2012, six “focus areas” were agreed
by the cabinet: agriculture, education, energy, transportation, water, and resource mobilisation.26 Between February and April 2013, the six “labs” met and
worked long hours at the White Sands Hotel outside Dar es Salaam. Their targets were then agreed by the cabinet, and key performance indicators were set
for the managers of the chosen sectors. The commitments are summarised in
Figure 1. The total cost was calculated at over USD 10 billion over three years.
However, for the first year less than half of this was available from the government budget or other sources, and it was hoped that much of the balance would
come from the private sector (BRN 2013a).
In contrast to Kilimo Kwanza, the targets for agriculture concentrate on just
three crops: maize, rice and sugar (it was left open for oilseeds and horticultural
crops to be added in a second phase). The maize sector would be addressed
through 275 warehouse schemes in six districts in the southwest of Tanzania.
The “collective rice irrigation and marketing schemes” develop and expand on
the programmes of the ASDP, but with very specific and ambitious targets for
both areas and yields. The proposal is to develop block farms, where land is
prepared and irrigated collectively, but cultivated individually. This would include the irrigation projects recently refurbished or created.27 But there is little evidence of a commitment to working closely with farmers – the projects
are presented as expensive, and then as a more or less automatic process (BRN
2013b). Sugar and rice production would be expanded through 25 “commercial” farming deals, mainly on newly irrigated land.28 These involve huge areas:
11 of them include “nuclear farms” of 20,000 hectares or more with substantial
26. Remarkably, given its importance in most discussions of development strategy, and that
Tanzania’s exports of manufactured goods exceed its exports of agricultural products,
manufacturing was not one of the six “labs”.
27. This is uncannily similar to the settlement schemes of the 1960s.
28. Continuing the emphasis on irrigation in both the ASDP and Kilimo Kwanza.
managers of the chosen sectors. The commitments are summarised in Figure 1. The total cost was calculated at over $10bn over three years. However, for the first year less than half of this was available from the government budget or other sources, and it was hoped that much of the balance would come from the private sector (BRN 2013a). Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
Figure 2: Big Results Now Targets Figure 2. Big Results Now Targets
Source: BRN 2013a: slide 11
Source: BRN 2013a: slide 11 extra land for outgrowers. The plan specifies that “to prepare the community for
In contrast tinvestors”
o Kilimo Kwanza, the targets agriculture concentrate on just three crops: incoming
four visits
will befor made
to each
site and there
be maize, rice and sugar (it was left open for oilseeds and horticultural crops to be added in a second phase). The an additional visit “to discuss other matters (compensation and resettlement) …
maize sector would be addressed through 275 warehouse schemes in six districts in the southwest as necessary.” Soil surveys, environmental analysis and social analysis were to be
of Tanzania. The “collective rice irrigation and marketing schemes” develop and expand on the conducted over 16 days in the field for each project.
programmes of the ASDP, but with very specific and ambitious targets for both areas and yields. The The development economist Brian van Arkadie, who has written extensively
proposal is to develop block farms, where land is prepared and irrigated collectively, but cultivated about Vietnam, commented at the 2013 REPOA Annual Research Workshop
individually. This would include the irrigation projects recently refurbished or created.27 But there is that this type of planning linked with administration, which has been suclittle evidence of a commitment to working closely with farmers – the projects are presented as cessful in creating industrialisation in many Asian countries, derives from the
same kind of command centres, charts and maps.
in most discussions
that Tanzania’s exports of
However, when applied to agriculture,
there isoftoo
much detail
manufactured goods exceed its exports of agricultural products, manufacturing was not one of the six “labs”.
of this
success.of That
is particularly true of largeis uncannily
settlement schemes
the 1960s.
scale agriculture, where the track record is, to say the least, mixed. The proposals
for basing agriculture on large irrigated farms share many of the characteristics
16 of the Groundnuts Scheme – on an even bigger scale. Agriculture can seldom be
rushed. It requires time to work out the problems and develop the land. If the
people who live in those areas are to be involved and to benefit, then it will take
much longer than 16 days to win their hearts and minds.
Perhaps for the best, most of the very large agricultural projects have not
been implemented as planned: the capital resources were not available, there
were problems with land rights and water rights, and there were adverse reactions from some local populations. Even so, there will be long-term costs in
terms of non-use of much of the land and uncertain ownership. It is a paradox
that this programme is doing exactly what Malaysia did not do – come up with
Andrew Coulson
unfeasible targets and then throw resources at them. It is a route that can lead
only to disillusion and despair.
Land Grabs
Proposals to subsidise the growing of crops to produce fuel, the high prices of
food grains on world markets from around 2008 onwards, and the apparent
availability of land suitable for agriculture made African countries a target for
investors from Europe and America, but also from Asia and the Middle East.
In Tanzania, even before Big Results Now, huge areas were at stake (Sulle and
Nelson 2009: 16–17). An official in the Tanzania Investment Centre (reported
by Sulle and Nelson 2009: 18) said that private investors had requested a total
of more than 4 million hectares for the growing of biofuels. A ministerial speech
in December 2008 indicated that 640,000 hectares had been “allocated,” but
rights of occupancy had been granted for only 100,000 hectares. Sulle and Nelson produced a table showing 280,000 hectares “allocated” to 17 projects. In
2013 Locher and Sulle updated this, having checked as many as possible of the
projects on the ground (Locher and Sulle 2013; 2014). This showed that promises had been made or land transferred for more than 700,000 hectares, though
many of the proposed projects had not proceeded much beyond upbeat press
releases which indicated that an investor was in negotiation to gain access to a
large area of land.29
Meanwhile Havnevik and Haaland (2011), and Abdallah, Engström, Havnevik and Salomonsson (2014) and Locher and Sulle (2014) have shown how
those who set out to grow biofuels made slow progress or failed. However, even
if large-scale agriculture proves non-viable, several of these developers will
have long-term title to much land, especially as land leased by foreign interests
through the Tanzania Investment Centre is protected under international law
and cannot easily be challenged in the Tanzanian courts. Meanwhile, the way
in which these projects are handled in the media, and the enthusiasm shown by
leading Tanzanians, shows that the door is still open. It is therefore misleading
to describe what is happening as “hype” (Kaag and Zoomers 2014). The consequences of these land transfers will be felt for generations to come.
In an influential review of a number of African countries, the World Bank
economists Deiniger and Byerlee concluded that:
The … evidence suggests that large-scale expansion of cultivated area poses significant risks, especially if not well managed. As the countries in question often
29. Of this, 325,000 ha. is land presently farmed by refugees from Burundi and elsewhere in
the far west of Tanzania. The refugees have been offered the prospect of Tanzanian citizenship, but only if they agree to move and disperse. Otherwise they run the risk of being
forcibly returned to their countries of origin.
Small-scale and large-scale agriculture: Tanzanian experiences
have sizable agricultural sectors with many rural poor, better access to technology and markets, as well as improved institutions to improve productivity on existing land and help judiciously expand cultivated area, could have big poverty
impacts. Case studies illustrate that in many instances outside investors have
been unable to realize this potential, instead contributing to loss of livelihoods.
Problems have included displacement of local people from their land without
proper compensation, land being given away well below its potential value, approval of projects that were only feasible because of additional subsidies, generation of negative environmental or social externalities, or encroachment on areas
not transferred to the investor to make a poorly performing project economically viable. Many countries with large amounts of currently uncultivated land
suitable for cultivation also have large gaps between potential and actual yields.
Thus … large increases in output and welfare for the poorest groups could be
possible through efforts to enable existing farmers to use currently cultivated
land more productively. (Deininger and Byerlee 2011: xlii)
All these features have been identified on projects in Tanzania.
This chapter set out to test the theory that small farms can, in appropriate circumstances, compete with or outperform large. It presented theoretical evidence
about how this can be; a historical survey that showed how large farms in Tanzania have often found it hard to survive; and summaries of Tanzania’s current
policies, which show support for the private sector and agribusiness on a scale
not seen since before independence, but that these enterprises too are finding it
hard to compete.
Small-scale farmers in Tanzania have repeatedly over the years shown that
they can increase their production of crops for sale. The strongest recent evidence for this is the “green revolution” in the Southern Highlands, Ruvuma and
Rukwa Regions, based on hybrid maize, rice and the opening up of markets for
potatoes, tomatoes, onions etc. in Dar es Salaam and other urban centres. This
depended on subsidies for fertiliser being available, but was achieved without
much support from the extension service. In Urambo and elsewhere there was
rapid expansion in the production of flue-cured tobacco. There were near-record
productions of cotton in 2012 (Coulson 2015) and cashew nuts in 2011–12.
However, in the case of cotton the value of the crop did not rise due to declines
in world prices, while the cashew nut crop overwhelmed the purchasers: there
was neither the money to buy all of it, nor the capacity to process it.
There were also failures and declines – in the production of coffee, and the
growing of bananas in the northwest of the country. There are reasons for these
failures: years of poor rainfall around Arusha, very low prices for coffee, attacks
by viruses on banana plants. It is also unsurprising that, in areas of population
Andrew Coulson
pressure, some of the land that was brought into permanent cultivation 40 or
50 years ago is suffering from mineral deficiencies and soil exhaustion, and that
some has been lost to soil erosion. Moreover, traditional water sources are affected by global warming and failures to maintain forest reserves that protect
water sources (for instance, on Kilimanjaro) or to plant new trees when old trees
are cut down or die.
In these circumstances, an increase in value of total agricultural production by just under 4 per cent per annum is a success (but note the outstanding
questions about the accuracy of the official agricultural statistics), and it was
achieved without significant extra contributions from large farms.
Meanwhile, Tanzanian planners have exaggerated the potential of large
farms and the easy availability of land, and underestimated the challenges they
face. In particular, they have exaggerated the potential of irrigation, producing
targets that are unfeasible (such as irrigating 7 million hectares of land in a few
years), and given insufficient consideration to the need to keep rivers flowing to
supply hydroelectricity and to preserve biodiversity.
There is potential for large farms in the export of flowers to Europe, currently
increasing at 9 per cent per annum, in the growing of improved seeds for sale,
in sugar (despite its long-term consequences for health and obesity, which are
leading Western countries to try and limit the consumption of sugar, especially
for children) and in forestry. Irrigation will look more attractive if the newly created or refurbished schemes can achieve the high yields, and two or more crops
a year, which are necessary if they are to cover the very high initial capital costs.
But overall, as it was for the Germans more than 100 years ago and for the
British 60 years ago, the cheapest and quickest means to increase agricultural
production in Tanzania is to support and trust small farmers by ensuring that
marketing arrangements are in place that will give them fair prices for the crops
they sell.
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The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
A study in trust and mistrust
Bertil Odén
Over the years, Kjell Havnevik has published a significant number of texts on
macroeconomic policy and development cooperation, including the links between these two fields, and often with empirical material from Tanzania. In
some cases he was also commissioned by aid agencies and international organisations to evaluate or assess the results of development cooperation in a specific
country or through the use of a specific aid modality. It therefore seems appropriate that my chapter reflects upon the fate in Tanzania, during the period
2005–15, of the Paris Declaration principles to improve aid effectiveness. This
topic is also an excellent example of the important and, at the same time, underestimated role of mutual trust in all sustainable development cooperation.
The chapter starts with a brief historical exposé of aid relations from independence until the launch of the Paris Declaration in 2005. The second and
main part covers the period from 2005 until early 2015, during which development cooperation relations moved from euphoria to disappointment. Concluding comments end the chapter.
The discussion is focused on relations between the government of Tanzania
and the aid donor community established in Dar es Salaam. This gives an exaggerated picture of the role of development cooperation compared to other factors. It also reduces the importance of domestic policy decisions and domestic
relations. This is a deliberate and almost unavoidable effect in a brief text focusing on aid relations.
Historical relations between Tanzania and its aid donors
– travels down a bumpy road
Honeymoon – from independence to the oil and debt crisis
Overall relations between the government of Tanzania and the aid donor community have changed significantly over the years since independence. During
the 1960s, the previous British colonial administration was transformed into a
national government, with quite a number of British staff still working in the
administration of the recently independent country. Gradually, a number of
other countries as well as international organisations offered support and new
forms of public development cooperation emerged. The volume of aid increased
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
rather rapidly, but the state administration was thinly staffed, in spite of the
inflow of external specialists and material resources.
After the Arusha Declaration in 1967, the policy of self-reliance, including a
number of rapid and ambitious economic policy reforms, was introduced. These
reforms included nationalisation of most of the major financial, commercial
and manufacturing enterprises, rapid state-financed expansion, the Ujamaa village system, introduction of universal primary education, expansion of primary
health facilities and rural water supplies, and a new basic industries policy. As a
result, the public sector expanded rapidly.
This also meant that Tanzania launched a development policy, in which
some parts were at odds with the mainstream market-based development thinking of most donors at the time. In spite of this, Tanzania under President Nyerere became popular among donors, including the World Bank, which was
prepared to support the country with substantial credits. Very early Tanzania
had thus become a favourite laboratory for the main donors, in which full-scale
experiments in the fields of development strategy and aid policy, methods, etc.
were undertaken.
For some donors, Tanzania was also regarded as an arena of Cold War competition between East and West. The Soviet Union supported the country tepidly and China financed and constructed its largest development cooperation
project of the time, the Tazara railway from Dar es Salaam to the copper belt in
Zambia, after the World Bank had declined to do so.
Many of the initiatives and reforms implemented in Tanzania during ”the
Ujamaa era” turned out to have effects that were the opposite of those intended.
Production stagnated, the needed economic surplus did not materialise and private external capital was not interested in investing. The government became
more and more dependent on development aid, official loans and inflationary
deficit domestic financing. For a couple of years, aid donors went along with
Tanzanian policies and supported their implementation, contributing to projects and programmes that were later deemed to have contributed to the crisis
of the 1980s.
Some researchers argue that lack of development in the agricultural sector,
and hence the absence of an increasing investible surplus to sustain growth in
other sectors, was a major cause underlying the onset of the crisis in the late
1970s. To this should be added an overambitious and too hurried industrialisation programme, running parallel with a rapid expansion of social services.
An important factor aggravating the situation was the high inefficiency of surplus utilisation (Boesen, Havnevik, Koponen and Odgaard (eds) 1986). To that
should be added a number of strong external factors. The most commonly mentioned was external economic shocks, such as the tripling of world oil prices
twice during the 1970s, which quickly eroded the forex reserves. The armed
Bertil Odén
intervention in Uganda to remove President Idi Amin from power also took a
heavy toll in both human and economic terms.
The 1980s – economic crisis, structural adjustment, eroded mutual trust
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Tanzanian crisis manifested itself in an
acute shortage of foreign exchange and drastic reductions in manufacturing,
which resulted in increasing scarcity of basic consumer commodities and inputs.
For example, at the beginning of the 1970s Tanzanian exports corresponded to
75 per cent of its imports, but by the beginning of the 1980s this share had fallen
to 45 per cent. It became more and more difficult to cover the rest with development aid and commercial credits (Boesen et al. 1986).
The underlying negative trend in agricultural development, resulting in a
stagnating agricultural surplus that was heavily taxed by the state, in particular
the crop authorities, caused concern among the political leadership.
It was also recognised that the system of long-term five year plans could not
address the situation of acute crisis. A National Economic Survival Programme
(NESP) was launched in 1981, which envisaged a rapid increase in agriculture
exports, a restructuring of the economy and increased industrial capacity utilisation supported by sizeable external loans and grant aid. As the conflict with the
IMF over the economic policy continued, little external support was forthcoming, and soon it became clear that NESP would not meet its targets.
The first years of the 1980s saw an international shift towards neoliberal
economic policy and the emergence of President Reagan in the US and Prime
Minister Thatcher in the UK as leading political figures internationally. In this
context, the more or less general donor support for Tanzania gradually gave way
to an almost unanimous attitude among donors that Tanzania had to agree with
the IMF and the World Bank on a stabilisation and structural adjustment programme. Only thus, it was felt, would Tanzania be able to get out of an unsustainable debt situation and improve the conditions for economic structural
The most hesitant followers of this international trend were the Nordic countries. They supported the government of Tanzania when it tried to launch the
“home-brewed” National Economic Survival Programme in order to avoid the
stringent conditions set by the IMF and World Bank. Soon after its launch, it
became clear the programme would be impossible to implement. Based on these
conclusions, the Nordic countries informed (in November 1984) the Tanzanian
government that they could not continue their aid unless Tanzania accepted the
IMF conditions.
Tanzania’s unwillingness to accept the IMF’s loan terms was remarkably
strong, considering the country’s acute need for additional foreign assistance.
In the early 1980s, the national leaders stated that giving in to these condi76
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
tions would compromise the Tanzanian development model (Wangwe 1987).
It required a shift in the political leadership to change that view. The 1984/85
budget signalled that the Tanzanian government was prepared to change its
policy, in particular in the fields of agricultural producer prices and devaluation.
In 1986, Nyerere resigned as president and was replaced by Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
After that, an economic stabilisation agreement between Tanzania and the IMF
was signed in August that year. In agreement with the World Bank, a Tanzanian
government Programme for Economic Recovery for 1986/87 – 1988/89 was also
launched (Boesen et al. 1986).
From then until the mid-1990s, stringent stabilisation economic policy and
significant structural economic reforms were agreed and at least partly implemented and lending and grant aid from both the Bretton Woods institutions
and bilateral donors was resumed.
Early 1990s – continued liberalisation and deteriorating aid relations
The first Tanzanian Economic Recovery Programme was based on the principle
of “getting prices right.” In the second programme, covering 1989 to 1992, the
reforms revolved around social adjustment and institutions. These later stages
required more political commitment than the earlier ones.
Donors began to express concern in the early 1990s regarding what they
considered insufficient political commitment by the Tanzanian government.
They felt that Tanzania was failing to implement the reform programme and
had not mobilised sufficient domestic resources. The Tanzanian government,
on the other hand, claimed that donors were interfering too much and were
undermining national ownership of the development agenda (Wangwe 2010).
This stand-off led again to a deterioration in the aid relationship between the
government and foreign donors. The situation was cause for concern among
many actors in Tanzania and within the donor community, particularly among
Nordic donors.
Relations with the donor community were not very harmonious, as the level
of corruption increased and what was minted as “aid fatigue” grew among donor
governments. The latter pushed for still stronger reforms, which the Tanzanian
government felt would erode its ownership of national economic policy. Mutual
trust between the development partners eroded and very few constructive attempts to improve the situation were made.
From the mid-1990s: Tanzania as a Paris Declaration frontrunner
In 1994, the Nordic countries, with Denmark the driving force, decided to take
action to improve the relationship. They launched a process that led to the appointment of a group of independent advisors under the leadership of Professor
Gerry Helleiner of the University of Toronto. The advisors undertook a study,
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which was published in 1995. Subsequent discussions between the government
and donors were based on this report. Opening up such a dialogue became a
new policy priority. The result was the compilation of a set of “agreed notes”
(in the form of 18 points) stating, among other things, that there was a need to
improve government leadership of development programming and to achieve
greater transparency, accountability and efficiency in aid delivery (Wangwe
2010). Reports assessing the progress made by both parties were presented to
consultative group meetings (formal meetings between a partner country and
the donor community) in December 1997, March 1999 and May 2000.
The government of Tanzania launched the Tanzania Assistance Strategy
(TAS) in 1998-99 as a coherent national development framework for managing
external resources to achieve stated development objectives and strategies. TAS
represented the national initiative to restore local leadership in promoting partnership in the design and execution of development programmes. It contained
a three-year national strategy covering various aspects of the national development agenda set out in the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which had
also been endorsed by donors. Moreover, it contained best practices in development cooperation and a framework for monitoring its implementation.
TAS was followed by an action plan from 2002/03, which set out more practical implementation steps in four areas: promoting government of Tanzania
leadership, improving predictability of external resources, increasing capture of
aid flows in the government budget and improving domestic capacity for aid
coordination and management of external resources (Wangwe 2010:211). The
government and donors agreed to set up monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
that would review the progress in improving the aid relationship and discuss
reports submitted to the Tanzanian government and donors so that agreement
could be reached on next steps.
The job of undertaking independent reviews was entrusted to an Independent Monitoring Group (IMG) appointed jointly by the government and donors.
The IMG was thus a successor to the previous Helleiner group. Its first report
(IMG 2002) was presented to the Consultative Group meeting in December
2002. Thanks to the impartiality of its authors, the report was able to raise a
number of sensitive issues for discussion by donors and between donors and the
government (Odén and Tinnes 2003).
It should be noted that this development took place three years before the
launching of the Paris Declaration. Tanzania, as a frontrunner in the international trend towards more effective development cooperation, once again became a testing ground for donors.
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
The Paris Agenda saga – from euphoria to disappointment
As of 2005 the Paris Agenda set the stage for international development cooperation negotiations.1
The second IMG report was presented in April 2005 and the third in September 2010 (IMG 2010). They reviewed the status of the government-donor
relationship in Tanzania and assessed the progress made towards the principles
and objectives set out in the TAS and the Joint Assistance Strategy for Tanzania
(JAST) (see below). What follows is to a significant extent a summary of the
findings of the latter report.
JAST: Succeeding the TAS was JAST, signed in 2005 and covering the years
2006-10. Based on experience thus far in implementing a new aid relationship
with Tanzania, it was designed to take the TAS to a higher stage of national
ownership and leadership, and to reduce transaction costs by enhancing harmonisation and alignment with national priorities and national systems.
JAST tried to align each donor country’s assistance strategy with the government’s long-term outlook for the period up to 2025. It stated that donor funds
should be used collectively for implementing the second Poverty Reduction
Strategy, called MKUKUTA. JAST was formulated in a consultative process involving the government, donors, non-state actors and parliamentarians. The key
issues in JAST included the division of labour based on comparative advantage,
the use of technical assistance for capacity development, and recommendations
for the increased use of general budget support. It was signed by 19 donors,2 of
which some had never participated in similar ventures before.
Focus on harmonisation and alignment
The strong lead taken by the government of Tanzania at the time of the implementation of JAST, together with the donors’ interest in “piloting” and honouring the commitments made in the Paris Declaration, led to a situation in which
1. The Paris Declaration (2005) adopted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) is a practical, action-oriented roadmap to improve the quality
of aid and its impact on development. It gives a series of specific implementation measures
and establishes a monitoring system to assess progress and ensure that donors and recipients hold each other accountable for their commitments. The Paris Declaration outlines
the following five fundamental principles for making aid more effective: Ownership: Developing countries set their own strategies for poverty reduction, improve their institutions
and tackle corruption. Alignment: Donor countries align behind these objectives and use
local systems. Harmonisation: Donor countries coordinate, simplify procedures and share
information to avoid duplication. Results: Developing countries and donors shift focus to
development results and results get measured. Mutual accountability: Donors and partners
are accountable for development results.
2. African Development Bank, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland,
United Kingdom, United Nations, United States and the World Bank.
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development cooperation with Tanzania became more aligned and harmonised
than it had been at any previous time.
The MKUKUTA strategy formed the point of departure for most development cooperation. It required donors to get together with the Tanzanian government to discuss priority areas and sectors for each intervention, an exercise
that drastically cut the number of donor-funded projects. The result was not
only fewer donor interventions, but also larger commitments, and this in turn
led to more general budget support, sector support and basket funding.
The donors were also working together more closely when operating in a specific sector. For each joint activity, a special group was created under government
leadership and agreed on all the necessary details from content to reporting
procedures. Disbursements were generally triggered by a set of quantifiable indicators that were based as far as possible on the MKUKUTA strategy. All this
led to a high degree of alignment. Moreover, the interventions were to a larger
extent channelled through the government budget system and were reported
jointly, in accordance with the reporting and accounting system adopted by the
Tanzanian government.
Harmonisation was reflected in a proliferation of donor working groups.
Every individual donor was involved in fewer sectors. The number of donors
providing general budget support also increased. The prominence of aid modalities such as budget support and basket funds, including sector-wide approaches
(SWAPs), made it more important for donors to participate in the Tanzanian
Public Expenditure Review (PER), since this gave them an insight into and a
degree of informal influence on the budget process and on Poverty Reduction
Strategy implementation. It also meant that they had substantial information on
the effectiveness of public funds in the Tanzanian priority sectors.
The aim of the PER was to provide input for the preparation of the government budget and enable assessment of its implementation. The PER assessed
overall fiscal discipline, analysed government resources and spending on key
priority areas, and acted as a check on whether the government’s strategic priorities were in line with the country’s overall macroeconomic and fiscal situation
(Odén and Tinnes 2003). After a couple of years the PER process slowed down,
but in 2012 the government and the main donors decided to revitalise it.
General budget support
The Tanzanian government made it clear that it found project support the most
challenging modality in terms of management, as it tended to create parallel
systems, raise transaction costs and drain government capacity.
General budget support (GBS), on the other hand, was the Tanzanian government’s preferred aid modality. It enhanced the predictability of resources,
national planning, the use of government systems, national ownership, account80
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
ability and transparency. GBS first started to be used in its present form in 2001
and was facilitated by a common performance assessment framework, whose
reviews were undertaken annually prior to each financial year. During its peak
period, 14–15 donors were providing GBS.
GBS changed government/donor relations and working habits considerably,
and detailed project discussions gave way to macro dialogue on economic and
political matters. However, after a few years of implementation, major questions
were raised both about procedural matters and the dialogue as such. On procedure, the way in which the annual review was implemented was questioned
by both sides. On the dialogue, concern was raised about the structure, level of
participation by government and the content of the dialogue, which was more
process- than results oriented.
Both donors and government were blamed for this development. A major
problem on the donor side was the different criteria used for finally releasing
funds, in particular the variable tranches after the joint decision had been made
in the annual review process. The reasons for this were manifold but most of
them stemmed from the considerable scepticism with which GBS was viewed
in donor countries. On the government side, the handling of difficult political
questions related to political and economic development complicated the dialogue. GBS as a government policy is also more susceptible to media criticism in
donor countries. In particular, this is true of serious cases of mismanagement,
including corruption. More recently, the government side’s enthusiasm for GBS
has also declined (see below).
Basket funding, which also increased, is based on the principle of donors and
the Tanzanian government pooling resources for a specific sector or thematic
area, and is normally specified in a memorandum of understanding. At their
peak, there were 10–15 such funds operating in various areas and sectors, such
as the Primary School Programme and Legal Sector Reform Programme (Government of Tanzania 2006).
As donor concerns regarding the potential of GBS funding gradually increased, more attention was given to the effectiveness of basket funding, including SWAPS, and donor interventions using this modality increased. Concerns
about “projectisation” of this modality were raised, in particular because of the
many new factors involved, such as vertical funds (funds in a specialised field,
often operating outside the government administration).
A second issue which emerged was that the joint working groups formed to
overview the implementation of the baskets worked slowly and in much detail
(micromanagement). As a result, the basket funding often had not been agreed
upon in time to be included in the government’s budget. This led to difficulties
in the implementation of important reform measures after agreement on them
had finally been reached.
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Project assistance. During the period of strong support for GBS very little
thought was given to making project aid more effective and in line with the
Paris Agenda. The subsequent reduction of GBS gave rise to a situation in which
project aid again became the dominating aid modality.
Capacity development
For Tanzania, improvement of domestic capacity has always been a key issue.
The aim was that staff responsible for implementing and coordinating the budget should be sufficiently competent to comply with all the new obligations and
live up to all expectations.
Increased ownership, harmonisation and alignment, plus the emergence of
new aid modalities, underscored the importance of effective institutions and
regulations. The government enacted a number of important new laws and regulations. A Presidential Commission Against Corruption presented in December 1996 an agenda for eradicating corruption. One of the most encouraging
developments was the introduction of a new integrated financial management
system for recording and managing spending. By 2010, this system was considered successful. Other new laws were passed on public procurement and the
budget process.
Donors also supported the improvement of capacity in Tanzania. A number
of basket fund programmes to develop capacity in the government sector have
been launched. These include reform programmes for each of the civil service,
legal sector and private sector. A major problem is how technical assistance can
be more effectively provided in the new aid architecture.
For donors, one important problem was – and still is – the lack of continuity
among staff responsible for maintaining the dialogue and the different perspectives of field and home offices.
Dialogue structure and transaction costs. The dialogue structure developed
during the implementation of TAS was further refined during the first years of
JAST and was again revised in 2009. It comprised a large number of working
groups at different levels and became so complicated that it became difficult to
oversee. There were too many meetings and there was too much concentration
on process rather than on substance. In many cases, the joint meetings did not
seem to function.
The reasons for the problems on both sides were manifold. Among them, the
most commonly cited was the fact that limited government capacity reduced
the possibility of taking ownership. Donors also found that the level of government representation was not always appropriate to the questions to be discussed.
Concern was also raised over the lack of meetings on overarching subjects. The
dialogue on GBS was considered good and a similar calibre of dialogue was
considered necessary for other modalities.
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
Transaction costs seemed to be higher than had been expected after all the years
of harmonisation and alignment and the increased share of programme aid. This
was particularly so on the government side, especially the Ministry of Finance.
However, no study has compared transaction costs over time. Most probably, they
were lowered. They were also concentrated on fewer actors, who therefore felt an
increased burden. Simultaneously, the absolute amount of aid has increased substantially, new actors have entered the scene and latterly the share of projects has
again increased, which in turn has counteracted any savings.
Most recent developments. The movement away from the Paris Agenda principles has continued during the most recent years. The government’s enthusiasm
for GBS has cooled and the dialogue platforms associated with it are not very
The government has also introduced parallel structures in its own budget,
the main one being the Big Results Now initiative of 2013, originally covering
six sectors (energy, education, transport/harbours, water, agriculture3 and resource mobilisation). Recently, two more sectors have been added (private sector
environment and health). The number of GBS providers declined to 11 in early
2015, and a few more are considering abandoning this modality. An increasing
number of programmes are using special accounts to channel external funds.
Concluding comments
According to the Tanzanian analyst Samuel Wangwe, by 2005 the government
had become more assertive, better organised and made better preparations for
dialogue with development partners. Progress had been made in terms of leadership and ownership, as seen in the second national Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Wangwe’s overall assessment was that “Government of Tanzania leadership and
ownership of the development agenda, its content and implementation, has indeed been strengthened during the first half of the 2000 decade” (Wangwe
Nonetheless, ownership was still rather narrowly based in the government,
with many sector ministries showing little interest in it. Wangwe raised four
specific concerns that needed to be addressed: 1) The number of active change
agents within the government was still quite small, making the process rather
fragile. 2) The spread of the government leadership was still narrow. Some ministries had a low level of awareness and capacity to play their role as leaders
in policy dialogue. 3) The incentive structure should be improved to underpin
efforts at enhancing harmonisation and ownership. That should include pay reform and how to deal with the power and resources that are often associated
3. See also Coulson, in this volume.
Bertil Odén
with projects and parallel programmes. 4) The policy coordination system between the two parts of the Union (between the Mainland and Zanzibar) had
not been functioning.
Dialogue institutions and rules to improve harmonisation and coordination
were included in JAST, which expired in 2012. Since then, there have been attempts to replace JAST with a Development Cooperation Framework, DCF.
This was supposed to be based on the principles adopted at the International
High-level Meeting in Busan in late 2011. By early 2015, an agreement on DCF
had still not been reached.
Problems related to the dialogue structure have deteriorated further. The dialogue and the ownership shown by the Tanzanian government have often been
considered weak by donors. The harmonisation processes among OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors have declined and some major donors seem to have lost interest in this activity and in the principle of ownership.
There is also a trend among major donors within the EU group and more widely
to move ahead with individual agendas. Nor has coordination between traditional and emerging DAC donors really been achieved to date. The practice of
using Tanzania’s own budget, reporting, monitoring and procurement systems
has slowly eroded, and a larger share of aid therefore flows beyond the control of
the Tanzanian government.
The basic factor behind this is a further decline in the trust between many
traditional donor agencies and the government. This trend has been accentuated by the government’s weak attempts to implement accountability principles,
resulting in a number of corruption cases or what donors regard as bad governance. On the other side, the government has encountered increased micromanagement by donor agencies as well as increased unwillingness by donors to abide
by their disbursement pledges.
Thus, overall donor-government relations are beginning to resemble the situation of 20 years ago, while the economic, social and political contexts within
Tanzania and globally have altered significantly.
Tanzania is today much less dependent on aid flows from DAC donors.
However, the government is still to a degree dependent on such aid to further
improve social services, infrastructure and government institutions. For as long
as the level of trust is not restored, such initiatives will face an uphill struggle.
A revival of the process that emerged during the first years of the millennium
would be very helpful in this regard.
Most recently, some general trends within the donor group have been:
• A clear shift of interest towards growth sectors such as energy, agriculture,
private sector development, which may increase competition between donors.
• A return to more short-term projects and programmes and increased fragmentation of donor portfolios.
The rise and fall of the Paris Agenda in Tanzania
• Stronger emphasis on visible results directly linked to specific donor interventions.
Discussions occur within the EU group about how to improve cooperation
in a functional and pragmatic way, even though most member states are moving
towards country strategies for which the sectors and focus are decided a number
of years ahead. China and other emerging countries are investing substantially
in Tanzania, but normally do not participate in DAC coordination forums. The
Tanzanian government’s responsibility for development issues ‒overseas development aid (ODA) financed or not ‒ has become more fragmented, which in
turn reduces the potential for accountability.
Present trends are likely to increase aid fragmentation and transaction costs.
They may also contribute to a less focused policy agenda and policy dialogue.
Alleged corruption cases have also contributed to a weakening of trust between
cooperating partners and to the climate of cooperation. A spectacular example
from 2014 is the alleged corruption case involving Independent Power Tanzania,
Ltd (IPTL), which is believed to have high-level links with the political sphere.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee was published in the autumn of
2014 and by the end of November parliament had made recommendations to
government on how to handle the matter. However, by April 2015 government
had still published no decision on the issue.
Pending a government move on the IPTL affair, including legal action
against the culprits, donors have frozen the disbursements committed for fiscal
year 2014/15, a total of US$ 558 million. Only US$ 84 million were disbursed
at the end of 2014. The remainder was put on hold. However, in an update meeting between donors and government in March 2015, during which the government provided more information on the actions to be taken, some donors agreed
to disburse another US$ 44 million. Even so, most of the committed GBS for
2014/15 remains undisbursed (Development Today 2015).
It could be assumed that reduced aid dependence would improve the conditions for increased ownership, clearer accountability and the potential to require
aid agencies to use Tanzania’s budget structure and other institutions for channelling aid. As already noted, the main obstacles to such outcome are the current
lack of trust between the development partners.
As important are the changing priorities on both sides. Donor agencies, for
instance, are fully preoccupied in preparing for three high-level international
meetings in 2015: the UN global sustainable development goals, to replace the
millennium development goals in New York in September; the conference on
sustainable development in Addis Ababa in July; and the high level climate
meeting in Paris in December. These international meetings reduce the incentives to implement in Tanzania and more generally the aid effectiveness principles decided at Busan in late 2011, aimed at updating the Paris Agenda.
Bertil Odén
It may also be assumed that global challenges such as increased armed conflicts, failed states, climate change, environmental problems, access to water,
arable land for food production and international tax evasion may also divert
international aid resources into global or international responses, programmes
and processes. This would further reduce the scope for long-term bilateral cooperation.
Still, such cooperation with countries like Tanzania will continue to be an
important complement, even in the new global political economy. However, the
principles and modalities will have to be adapted to a new situation, and this can
only be done through open-minded discussion between concerned partners. The
result will not be a literal revival of the Paris Agenda. Instead, development cooperation will become much broader than the present ODA, and old structures
will need to be replaced by more suitable ones, with fewer distorting side-effects.
Still, to be sustainable, cooperation will have to be based on ownership, alignment, harmonisation, mutual accountability and trust.
Boesen, J., K. Havnevik, J. Koponen and R. Odgaard (eds) (1986) Tanzania – crisis
and struggle for survival. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies.
Development Today (2015) “Donors continue to withhold Tanzania budget support,”
No. 3.
Government of Tanzania (2006) “Practical Experience on how Aid works in Tanzania,”
Dar es Salaam: Ministry of Finance.
IMG (Independent Monitoring Group), Tanzania (2002) Enhancing Aid Relationships
in Tanzania: Report of the Independent Monitoring Group. Dar es Salaam: Economic
and Social Research Foundation.
IMG, Tanzania (2010) Assessment of Effectiveness of Development Cooperation. External
Resources and Partnership Principles in Context of the Mkukuta/Mkuza Review. Dar es
Salaam: Economic and Social Research Foundation.
Odén, B. and T. Tinnes (2003) Tanzania: New Aid modalities and donor harmonization.
Norad Report 8/2003.
Wangwe, S. (1987) “Impact of the IMF/World Bank Philosophy, the Case of
Tanzania.” In Havnevik, K. (ed.) The IMF and the World Bank in Africa. Seminar
Proceeding No. 18, Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies.
Wangwe, S. (2010) “Changing aid modalities and Tanzanian development assistance
partnerships.” In Havnevik, K. and A. Isinika (eds) Tanzania in Transition. From
Nyerere to Mkapa. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute in cooperation with Mkuki na
Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam and Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro.
Promoting gender equality on land issues in Tanzania:
How far have we come?
Aida C. Isinika and Anna Kikwa
Since independence, there have been various efforts to promote equality between women and men in different spheres of life, including political representation, education and healthcare, and with different levels of success. There
is general consensus, however, that efforts to promote gender equality in land
matters have achieved only limited gains. This conclusion stems from the manner in which the gender debate has been contextualised and strategised within
the wider debate on land tenure reform in Tanzania and also in Africa at large.
Land tenure has commonly been defined according to evolutionary theories
of land ownership as a bundle of rights a person possesses over a piece of land.1
These rights prescribe what the person can or cannot do on the land, and include
rights of access, disposal and exclusion. Restrictions on these rights impinge on
one’s security of tenure, while unrestricted, continuous use and disposal rights
enhance tenure security. As pointed out by Place, Roth and Hazell (1994), security of land tenure is not discretely observable. However, one may use indicators
to monitor variables as tenure evolves in response to changing economic, political, institutional and technological conditions. Insecurity of tenure arises from
inadequate or poorly defined property rights, inadequate duration of any of the
rights, lack of assurance in asserting those rights, and the high cost of enforcing
the rights (Isinika and Mutabazi 2010; Van Donge 1993).
In the African context, the evolutionary theory of land tenure is viewed as
progressively evolving over time from a predominantly communal/customary
system towards individualised tenure as land markets become more dominant.
This is consistent with modernisation discourse. Such evolution is driven by
population pressure and agricultural commercialisation, both of which lead to
rising demand for individualised land access. It is on the basis of such arguments
that many African states (including Tanzania) have embarked on land reform
programmes that involve the demarcation and registration of land.
It is important to note that under the evolutionary theory of land tenure,
there is little discussion of the gender dimension: indeed, gender as an analytical tool is lacking (Yngstrom 2002). Mbilinyi and Shechambo (2009), therefore
recommend the need for conceptual clarity in analysing land and gender issues.
1. See the article by Opira and Ståhl, in this volume, for a general discussion on land tenure
in East Africa.
Aida C. Isinika and Anna Kikwa
In Africa, women’s rights to land are subsumed under their customary position
within the household as wives, daughters, sisters or under their position within
the community or clan. While the literature on women’s land rights claims that
individualised tenure would provide more security to landowners, including
women, this argument, it has been asserted, is based on a shallow understanding of African customary land tenure and the relative position of women (Manji
1998; Whitehead and Tsikata 2003).
It is true that under customary tenure, women get derivative rights to access
land as wives, daughters and sisters (Yngstrom 2002). Studies have shown that
such rights are quite robust, even in the face of evolving unregistered land markets, because African systems of land access are socially embedded and created
by negotiation. For instance, Isinika and Mutabazi (2010) cited examples from
Koda (2000) and BACAS (1999) wherein parents and grandparents increasingly
opt to bequeath land to their daughters, sometimes disguised as gifts, to prevent
such inheritance being challenged by other clan or family members. Women’s
claims to land are therefore stronger and more diverse than is usually presented
in the literature (Whitehead and Tsikata 2003). Several studies across Africa
(Daley and Englert 2010) and even in Tanzania (Koda 2000; Isinika and Mutabazi 2010) have actually established that a majority of women do not perceive
their land rights to be insecure as long as their households remain stable. However, such security erodes with widowhood or divorce, especially if the woman
has not given birth to children.
Meanwhile, there is ample evidence that economic changes, which are cited
as strong arguments to justify land reform in the direction of individualised
ownership, have reduced women’s access to land because of the skewed distribution of resources within many communities and families. Women often lack
capital and therefore cultivate less land, use fewer inputs and have less access to
extension services and credit. Moreover, simple titling and registration does not
transform land held under customary tenure into economically viable pieces of
leasehold or freehold land. To improve agricultural productivity, there must be
other changes that occur concurrently with or subsequent to land reform. It is
on the basis of this background relating to land ownership that the land tenure
reform process in Tanzania is discussed from a gender perspective.
Gender perspective of land tenure reform in Tanzania
The history of land tenure reform in Tanzania is rather short. Most of it was
gender-blind until gender was brought into land reform discourse in the last
two decades. The Land Tenure Ordinance of 1923 is cited as the basis of all
land laws in mainland Tanzania. This ordinance established the prevailing dual
land tenure system, which recognises granted or statutory rights of occupancy
Promoting gender equality on land issues in Tanzania: How far have we come?
and deemed rights of occupancy. Before independence statutory rights were
supported by documentary evidence while customary or deemed rights were
claimed on the basis of occupation and use (URT 1994). The radical title to land
both occupied and unoccupied was vested in the governor who held all land in
trust for the people (URT 1994). In the event, customary land was subjected
to continuous alienation to the foreigners who applied for statutory land rights,
mostly for agricultural development.
After 1923, reform efforts to recognise customary land tenure were limited
to providing statutory recognition in 1928 and to adding provisions to the law
in 1950 regarding consultation with native authorities. Efforts in 1958 to promote individual land ownership according to the recommendations of the East
African Royal Commission failed due to the strong opposition of the natives
through political forums (URT 1994; Sungusia 2003). When communities lost
land through alienation, both men and women were affected, but there is no
evidence that there were any efforts to address the impacts on women separately
or specifically.
In 1962, after independence, only minimal changes were made to the land
ordinance: the radical title was transferred to the president; all freehold titles
were converted to leasehold titles of up to 99 years, and in 1967 leasehold was
converted to granted rights of occupancy (Sungusia 2003; Gondwe 1986). The
reforms of 1962 also abolished the semi-feudal nyalubanja system in northwestern Tanzania (Kagera Region). Through the radical title, alienation of land in
the public interest continued to provide land for national parks and game reserves, which occupy over 40 per cent of the land, as well as for other public
purposes. Despite all these land reforms, there is no evidence that there was
any analysis of their likely impacts on affected communities, women and men
included. As long as the land frontier was still open, communities sought alternative land, to which women and men had uninhibited access for subsistence
use under customary law. In areas such as Kilimanjaro, Kagera and Rungwe,
however, population pressure was already high, agricultural intensification was
on the rise and the vulnerability of divorced and widowed women in terms of
land access was becoming more evident (Whitehead and Tsikata 2003).
There were other government policies and programmes implemented after
independence that had a bearing on land tenure – though unintended. The villagisation programme relocated rural Tanzanians from their customary lands to
new locations, in the process alienating customary land in many communities.
Villagisation also gave power to elected leaders of village governments to serve as
land administrators and in that capacity to allocate village land. The village land
committee was also the first level of land adjudication. It was expected that the
village government would provide equal access to land to women and men, but
as land became scarcer the rights of women were marginalised under the influ89
Aida C. Isinika and Anna Kikwa
ence of customary norms and practices. Village leaders have by no means been
invariable saints. They have also been associated with corruption and nepotism
in land allocation. Two examples illustrate this point.
During the villagization programme in Uhekule village, Njombe district, single
(unmarried) women had been granted equal rights to apply for land that was
allocated by the village government. This right was however withdrawn later on
the pretext of protecting the village women from opportunistic men who courted and married women who had acquired land from the village as a strategy to
secure land rights in the village through marriage, only to divorce the women
later. The village had enacted a bylaw prohibiting non-villagers from acquiring
land in the village by allocation. After a couple of divorce incidents involving
such women, the village enacted another bylaw, prohibiting single women from
being allocated village land (Isinika and Mdoe 2001, p. 22).
While the decision to ban allocations of land to single women was made on the
pretext of “protecting” those women, the action violated their basic human right
as enshrined in the constitution, in terms of which all human beings are equal.
Specifically, articles 12 and 13 prohibit gender discrimination.
Another example is cited by Mwanda (2001). Young women in a village in
Ruvuma Region were allocated less land than their male counterparts on the
grounds that they would marry and could use land held by their husbands’
families. What, however, about women who never marry? By having less land,
such women were condemned to a lower standard of living, which is likely to
affect them for the rest of their lives and their offspring thereafter.
Land reform and a market economy
Since 1986, Tanzania has been shifting towards a market economy. This has
entailed changes to various aspects of the economy, including land tenure institutions and organisations.
In response to the land conflicts that had escalated across the country, a
Land Commission was appointed in 1991 to look at various aspects of land
policy in Tanzania. It submitted a report to government in 19942 . A land policy
followed in 1995.
The stated objective of land reform in Tanzania included providing tenure
security to smallholders, promoting private sector investment and freeing up
the land market (URT 1994; Havnevik 1995). Subsequently, the Land Acts of
1999 were enacted – Act Number 4 for public land and Act Number 5 for village land.
2. “The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters” was led by Professor Issa
Shivji (University of Dar es Salaam). Its work led to the publication of several reports including the widely known “Shivji Report”, published later in 2 volumes. See also Bryceson,
in this volume, for a discussion of the work of the commission.
Promoting gender equality on land issues in Tanzania: How far have we come?
The land policy did not incorporate many of the Land Commission’s substantive recommendations, such as vesting radical title in the village assembly.
Nonetheless, the publicity surrounding land issues raised awareness and
prompted debate on various aspects of land, including those related to gender.
The period leading up to the approval of the land policy and the land laws witnessed rekindled activity among various organisations and interest groups in
assessing and discussing the proposed land policy and instruments through the
prism of gender. A coalition of NGOs, the Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA),
was established to form a common front and collectively lobby for favourable
reforms in terms of gender equality and improved democratic processes and
governance. TALA was part of a larger coalition, Feminist Action Coalition
(FemAct). In terms of gender, the agenda was to foster equal access to land for
women in their own right as individuals within families and communities.
While TALA failed to secure a bottom-up land administration and adjudication framework ‒ particularly the proposal to vest the radical title in the village
assembly ‒ some milestones were achieved in relation to gender. First, customary tenure, which governs more than 70 per cent of the land in Tanzania, was
given legal recognition. Second, Part IV section 161 (1) of the Land Act (Cap
113) stipulates that “the title for land jointly owned by husbands and wives shall
bear the names of both.” Part IV section 36 (1)(i) of the Village Land Act (Cap
114) gives priority to wives as beneficiaries when a man (husband) surrenders his
customary rights of occupancy. It has, however, been argued by some analysts
that this clause is diluted by Part II clause 10 (b) and 25 (d) recognising marriage under customary law and hence land inheritance under customary tenure,
which is perceived to undermine women’s land rights (Rwebangira 1996, 1999).
The inheritance law similarly undermines women’s rights to land inheritance.
Under the Local Customary Law Declaration Order, No. 4 (1963) males inherit
movable and immovable properties absolutely, but females inherit immovable
property only for their use during their lifetime. They cannot sell such immovable property unless there are no male members in the family. Daughters are
placed in the third degree of inheritance after the oldest son (first degree) followed by other younger sons who fall in the second degree. According to this
law, daughters of a deceased can only inherit land if they are the only surviving
member of the family. To manoeuvre around this law, parents increasingly bequeath land to their daughters before their death, sometimes disguised as gifts
(Isinika and Mutabazi, 2010; Koda 2000).
Some researchers have argued that the gender dimension of land reform was
marginalised by the Land Commission in the first place (Manji 1998; Daley and
Englert 2010), because it did not consider the land problems faced by women
as being capable of explicit analysis. To the extent that the Commission undertook an analysis, it focused only on succession, which is more informed by the
Aida C. Isinika and Anna Kikwa
Marriage Act and the Law of Inheritance. The Commission’s report, in turn,
influenced subsequent analysis and discussion, which was likewise shallow and
focused only on succession rather than on the wider context of land use and
agricultural production systems. According to Daley and Englert (2010), NGOs
and women’s advocacy groups in Tanzania did not effectively challenge the marginalisation of gender issues in the land reform process because they failed to
engage in the debate, and their arguments were not based on in-depth analysis
of how women relate to land both as owners and as users of land for productive and social purposes. According to Manji (1998), the Commission failed to
capture the multitude of ways in which women interact with land in their role
as food producers and producers for the market, and the complex nature of the
discrimination they face in relation to land.
Manji presents four arguments to show why the agenda of women was marginalised or why efforts by feminists and other activities groups failed to have
an impact on the land reform debates and other processes. First, he argues that
women’s movements, including the Tanzania Gender Network Programme
(TGNP), as well as feminist literature had focused on employment rather than
on land ownership as a significant factor affecting women’s position in society.
Second, the Tanzania land debate lacks theorisation on how the proposed reforms affect women: there is no independent policy position regarding women’s
relationship with land. Feminists, activist groups and even researchers have reacted to government proposals, often proposing simplistic legalistic solutions.
Third, the women’s movement in Tanzania has an inherently urban bias, and is
therefore slow to react to rural concerns. Fourth, the land-gender debate highlights class differences among women, with middle class women standing to
benefit by legislation that enhances their statutory land ownership rights, since
they can afford to acquire land on the market and also the cost of litigation related to land contestation. Most feminist and activist groups are middle class, and
middle class women are likely to face conflicts of interest in land reform debates.
Manji (1998) continues his critique of subsequent literature by pointing to
the narrow focus of the arguments regarding the purpose of land reform as between the state and the people, and to the failure to address the implications of
the multifaceted relations between women and men, as if the society and households were undifferentiated. From the government perspective, the reforms created a conducive environment for investment in land by large-scale buyers and
set up an efficient market in land. It is on this basis that the Land Act 4 of 1999
was amended in 2002 and 2004 to facilitate investment in large-scale farming,
ranching and tourism and the use of land for mortgage (Katundu, Makungu
and Mteti 2013).
In retrospect, as if to amend the shortcomings of the Commission’s report
in relation to gender, Shivji (2009) presented a reflection on the issue of women
Promoting gender equality on land issues in Tanzania: How far have we come?
and land. He clarifies that gender issues cannot be simply subsumed under the
larger context. Instead, he presents a contextual analysis distinguishing between
different levels of analysis (family and the larger clan) and identifying the following land problems: (i) ownership and access (ii) control of the fruits of the
land, (iii) participation in decision-making and (iv) inheritance and divorce.
Land ownership is said to encompass several aspects, including transferability
or negotiability, security and a clear definition of interests. For Shivji (2010)
and Whitehead and Tsikata (2003), land ownership under customary tenure
does not mean exclusive access and the ability to dispose. Rather clansmen and
family elders play a key role in matters related to land disposal and inheritance,
and they may from time to time be biased against women. Village government
leaders have also been found to be corruptible. While the Village Land Act
(1999) provides for equal opportunity for representation of women and men on
Land Committees (Part IV 53 (2)), women are often not effectively and actively
involved in land administration and management. Village assembly meetings
are also dominated by men.
The above discussion has raised a number of issues, including the argument
that while reform that takes land away from customary tenure towards individualised ownership will continue, titling is not a magic wand for all land tenure problems. In particular, studies from Kenya and elsewhere (Whitehead and
Tsikata 2003; Manji 1998; Yngstrom 2002) offer a number of lessons suggesting
that titling and land registration should be handled cautiously. Some of those
lessons are that such practices:
• open new possibilities for conflict and enhance the possibility of land grabbing
• have often resulted in greater insecurity for landowners
• have not improved the efficiency of production systems or had discernible effects on investment on agricultural land
• have been said to serve as a means to transfer wealth in favour of educated
economic and political elites
• do not extinguish customary claims on land; and
• did not transform land tenure from customary to freehold title.
In addition, sometimes the law in relation to land may be favourable to women,
but they may not benefit either because those women lack awareness or the laws
are not enforced. Moreover, women often lack the resources to pursue litigation,
or may wish to avoid exposure and humiliation (Isinika and Mutabazi 2010).
Finally, land registration in the name of the household head gives men exclusive
rights to the land.
Meanwhile, the fact that various studies have shown that women do not perceive their land rights as insecure as long as relations within the household and
Aida C. Isinika and Anna Kikwa
community remain stable (Leonard and Toulmin 2000), has led some researchers
and activists to reconsider the option of improving the customary tenure system.
Arguments have been made by Whitehead and Tsikata (2003), for example, that
there is a developing consensus among non-gender specialists in favour of the
evolution of customary practices in order to deal with conflict and disputes over
land access. They argue further that, since land markets do not require formalised
property rights, returning to customary tenure would not impede their growth.
However, such arguments are countered by legalistic feminists and activists
on the grounds that women’s security of tenure continues to be jeopardised by
customary inheritance practices, inadequate legislation and failure to observe
legal measures intended to protect women. Other limitations include the male
dominance of local land administration institutions. All of these factors imply
that a return to customary tenure would pose challenges. For these reasons, this
group sees the law as a better avenue for securing women’s land rights (Whitehead and Tsikata 2003). In a study based on court cases involving land litigation
and a survey, Isinika and Mutabazi (2010) established that over 60 per cent of
respondents, especially women, were unaware of the ongoing land reforms, and
that less than 25 per cent of male respondents and none of the female respondents perceived that titling and registration would enhance their tenure security.
The analysis presented in this study has shown that while titling is often chosen
by governments as an important step in land reform, empirical evidence from
other African countries indicates that most of the expected positive impacts of
such land reform programmes have been negative, while some of the expected
positive results have not materialised. The different acts governing access to land
and subsequent rights to use and transfer land are contradictory, since the land
laws are interpreted against the background of customary law and religious
practices, which have provisions that undermine women’s rights.
Many of the recommendations in the papers reviewed are based on limited
empirical studies and often lack a gender-based analytical framework. Gender
and land activists should therefore develop an analytical framework for land
that takes specific account of gender. The framework would involve setting and
monitoring the goals and milestones to be achieved. Expanding awareness and
knowledge among villagers through training and other related activities would
also help the target audience to make informed decisions before and after land
titling and registration initiatives. Training and education in their legal rights
would also enhance the ability of women and men to avoid deals that undermine their land rights. As more land is transferred from customary to statutory
tenure, it is prudent to set up mechanisms to monitor unregistered land markets,
which exist with regard to customary land. This will reduce the potential of land
Promoting gender equality on land issues in Tanzania: How far have we come?
being concentrated in the hands of fewer people, a trend that is very likely to
affect women more than men.
BACAS (1999) Production systems in Kigoma region. Vol. II, a report for UNDP
coordination and micro-projects in Kigoma region.
Daley, E. and B. Englert (2010) “Securing land rights for women.” Journal of Eastern
African Studies 4(1): 91–113.
Gondwe, Z.S. (1986) “Agricultural policy in Tanzania at the crossroads.” Land Use
Policy 3(1): 31–6.
Havnevik, K., (1995) “Pressing land tenure issues in Tanzania in light of experiences
from other Sub-Saharan African countries.” Forum for Development Studies 2(2):
Isinika, A. C. and M. Mutabazi (2010) “Gender dimension of land conflicts: Examples
from Njombe and Maswa Districts in Tanzania.” In Havnevik, K. and A. Isinika
(eds) Tanzania in Transition: From Nyerere to Mkapa. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na
Nyota, pp. 131–57.
Isinika, A. C. and N. S. Y. Mdoe (2001) Improving farm management skills for poverty
alleviation: The case of Njombe district. REPOA research report No. 01.1.
Katundu, M., I. M.A. Makungu and S. H. Mteti (2013) “Nature and magnitude of
land acquisition: Analyzing role of different actors, key trends and drivers in land
acquisitions.” Paper presented at international conference organised by Future
Agricultural Consortium on the Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa,
Pretoria, South Africa, 18–20 March.
Koda, B. O. (2000) The gender dimension of land rights in Tanzania. A case study of
Mshindo village, Same district. PhD thesis (Development Studies), University of Dar
es Salaam.
Leonard, R. and C. Toulmin, (2000) ‘Women and Land Tenure’. Mimeo. IIED
Drylands, Programme, UK.
Manji, A. (1998) “Gender and the politics of the land reform process in Tanzania.”
Journal of Modern African Studies 36(4): 645–67.
Mwanda, N. (2001) “The place of customary land rights in the Village Land Act the
Land Act of 1999.” Third year research paper in partial fulfilment of a LLB degree,
University of Dar es Salaam.
Mbilinyi, M. and G. Shechambo (2009) “Struggles over land reforms of the Tanzania
Gender Network Programme and Feminist Action Coalition.” Available at http://
www.google.co.tz/...profile_mbilinyi_shechambo.pdf&ei. Accessed 3 May 2015.
Place, F., M. Roth and P. Hazell (1994) “Land tenure security and agricultural
performance in Africa – Overview of research methodology.” In Bruce, J. and
S.E. Migot-Adholla (eds), Searching for Land Tenure Security in Africa. Dubuque,
Kendall/Hunt Publishers, pp. 15–40.
Aida C. Isinika and Anna Kikwa
Rwebangira, M. K. (1996) The legal status of women and poverty in Tanzania. Research
report No. 100. Uppsala: Nordic African Institute.
Rwebangira, M.K. (1999) “Gender and the land registration in Tanzania with
particular reference to the land bills of 1998.” Paper presented at a workshop
organised by the Forest Trees and People programme of the Department of Forestry
Economics, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, 19-20 February.
Shivji, I. (2009) Where is Uhuru? Reflections on the Struggle for Democracy in Africa.
Edited by Godwin R. Murunga. Dar-es-Salaam, Cape Town, Dakar and Oxford:
E&D Vision Publishing and Pambazuka Press.
Sungusia H.G. (2003) “The Nyerere Doctrine of land value and the enactment of the
Land Act (1999).” Unpublished research paper, University of Dar es Salaam.
United Republic of Tanzania (URT) (1994) Report of the Presidential Commission of
Inquiry into Land Matters, Vol. I. Dar es Salaam: Ministry of Lands, Housing and
Urban Development (in cooperation with the Scandinavian Institute of African
Whitehead, A. and D. Tsikata (2003) “Policy discourses on women’s land rights in SubSaharan Africa: The implication of return to the customary.” Journal of Agrarian
Change 3(1 and 2): 67–112.
Van Donge, J. K. (1993) “Legal insecurity and land conflicts in Mgeta, Uluguru
Mountains, Tanzania.” Africa 63 (2): 197–218.
Yngstrom, I. (2002) “Women, wives and land rights in Africa: Situating gender beyond
the household in the debate over land policy and changing tenure systems.” Oxford
Development Studies 30(1): 21–40.
Land grabbing in Africa
– a variety of primitive accumulation
Rune Skarstein
In the last 10 to 15 years an apparently new phenomenon has arisen in Africa,
variously called land grabbing, land acquisition or land deals. Foreign corporations, local investors or even governments themselves occupy large areas of land
for commercial agriculture, biofuel production, mining, hydropower construction etc., or for merely speculative purposes in the expectation of future rises
in land prices. Several studies have argued that in this process large numbers
of agricultural smallholders will be evicted from their land and in most cases
left without alternative means of livelihood (cf. Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene
The purpose of this chapter is to put the phenomenon of contemporary land
grabbing in Africa into the broader historical perspective of capitalist development by applying Marx’s notion of “primitive accumulation.” In the first part,
the process of land grabbing is discussed, with emphasis on its consequences
for agricultural smallholders. A presentation and discussion of Marx’s analysis
of primitive accumulation follows. The third section discusses Marx’s changing
view of history, which started with a type of optimism about the capitalist mode
of production and ended with a sceptical view that capitalist expansion into precapitalist societies would play only a destructive and non-progressive role, even
for capitalism itself. In this latter view, land grabbing in Africa can be seen as
mere vandalism without any progressive effects, even in the longer term.
Land grabbing in contemporary Africa
Africa has a bloody history of external colonisation, including land theft by
European settlers for plantations and mines. Even today this continent of rich
natural resources is being exploited by transnational corporations hunting for
oil, copper, diamonds, uranium and gold. And still local people are losing land
or are being displaced, for example for extraction of oil in the Niger Delta or for
gold mining in North Mara (Tanzania).1 Mostly these activities take place in
close collaboration with local elites. Here I discuss the more recent phenomenon
1. On gold mining in North Mara, see Lugoe (2011). Sometimes the resistance to destructive projects succeeds. One example is the impeded Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project in
Tanzania, which would have destroyed the livelihoods of numerous rice cultivating smallholders and fishermen in the Lower Rufiji Basin. Cf. Havnevik (1993: 76-81, 263-83).
Rune Skarstein
already noted, the grabbing of the land of smallholders by transnational and local corporations, with the support of state and even local authorities, to establish
large farms for the production of food or biofuel feedstock.
Land acquisitions by capitalist corporations are taking place not only in Africa. According to the Land Matrix, formal contracts with private corporations
on acquisitions of 39.6 million hectares (396,000 sq. kilometres) in the world
had been completed by the end of 2014. That is an area considerably larger than
the whole of Germany (349,000 sq. kilometres). In addition, contracts for about
16 million hectares were under negotiation (Table 1).2
Table 1: Formally concluded land acquisition contracts by end of 2014.
Transnational contracts
ha. (thousand)
Per cent
Domestic contracts
ha (thousand)
ha. (thousand)
Per cent
Source: http://landmatrix.org/en/get-the-idea/agricultural-drivers/ Retrieved 25 Feb 2015.
Africa, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, appears to be in the forefront of the
new wave of land acquisitions. However, the exact scale of land grabbing in
Africa is difficult to estimate. The main reason for this is the lack of transparency surrounding these transfers and the reluctance of “host governments”
as well as foreign investors to publish the content of contracts on land deals
(Cotula 2011: 1–3, 18; Mousseau and Mittal 2011: 16). The World Bank notes
that, “instead of relying on publicity of relevant documents, and independent
third-party verification, agreements are surrounded by an air of secrecy that
makes public reporting and monitoring near impossible” (World Bank 2011:
71). Among researchers there seems to be broad agreement that land grabbing
is largely underreported. The Land Matrix points out that particularly domestic
land acquisition contracts are strongly underreported.
According to information collected by the World Bank for the period 1 October 2008 to 31 August 2009, 48 per cent of the registered projects and 70 per
cent (39.7 million hectares) of the acquired area worldwide was in sub-Saharan
Africa (World Bank 2011: 51). A report from 2010 that reviewed the literature estimated that between 51 and 63 million hectares of land in Africa had
been transferred to foreign investors (Friis and Reenberg 2010: 11–12). For some
Cf. Land Matrix – February 2015: www.landmatrix.org. The Land Matrix is a cooperative
venture involving several research institutions and NGOs.
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
countries, the World Bank reports substantially lower figures than do Friis and
Reenberg, while other studies report higher figures.3 A report from the GRAIN
organisation (GRAIN 2012) indicates that land deals in Tanzania amounted
to more than 1 million hectares by January 2012. Of these deals, contracts for
542,400 hectares were classified as “done,” which is almost twice the area of
concluded contracts reported by the Land Matrix (Table 2).
Table 2: Land resources and known concluded land acquisition contracts in East Africa by
the end of 2014
Estimated agricultural
area (million ha.)
Number of
Total contracted
land area. ‘000 ha
Contracted land as per cent of
total agricultural area
Source: http://www.landmatrix.org/en/get-the-detail/by-target-region/eastern-africa/ Data on
agricultural area: FAOstat land resource database, http://faostat3.fao.org/download/R/RL/E
Note: Agricultural area is defined as potentially cultivable land, not land that is actually cultivated.
For seven contracts, corporations are not reported or the contract company is
domestic. The remaining 201 contracts (97 per cent) are signed by foreign corporations. Nine contracts in which the land area is not reported, are not included in the table.
Data from the Land Matrix database indicate considerably lower figures than
most other reports. That database provides information on formally concluded
contracts for a total of 18 million hectares of land in the whole of Africa, and
formally concluded contracts of 5 million hectares of land in East Africa (Tables
1 and 2). Even so, Africa is in the forefront of global land grabbing, accounting
The World Bank estimates that between 2004 and 2009, total land acquisitions in Ethiopia amounted to 1,190 thousand hectares, and in Mozambique 2,670 thousand hectares
(World Bank 2011: 62). On the other hand, Katundu et al. (2013: 21, 28) report that in
Tanzania 117 companies have acquired more than 2 million hectares of land corresponding to 5.9 per cent of the country’s agricultural area. By contrast, Mousseau et al. (2011:
16) report that, with regard to foreign investors, “data obtained from national government
officials suggests that less than 70,000 hectares had actually been formally leased as of
December 2010.”
Rune Skarstein
for nearly 46 per cent of all concluded contracts and up to 53 per cent of all
transnational contracts measured by land area (Table 1).
In East Africa, almost all land acquisitions are based on contracts between
the “host country” and foreign corporations. As a share of the potentially cultivable agricultural area, the contracted land varies from almost nil (Uganda)
to more than 10 per cent (Malawi), with an average of 2 per cent (Table 2).
However, the potentially cultivable area is generally many times larger than the
actual cultivated area. For example, in Tanzania an estimated area of 14.7 million hectares of land is cultivated (URT 2013: 46–8). Thus the contracted land
area reported in Table 2 represents 1.9 per cent of the cultivated area.
There are five important drivers of the new “scramble for land” in Africa.
First, the global economic crisis since 2008 has made international capital investments outside the US and Europe more attractive. Second, the price hike
of food (maize, wheat, rice) in 2008–09, to a large extent caused by speculation, prompted investment in land for food production (World Bank 2011: 51).4
Third, rising oil prices and fear of the future scarcity of fossil fuels, combined
with policies to avert climate change, stimulated international investments in
land for biofuel feedstock production, especially sugarcane, maize, jatropha and
oil palms (Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene 2011).
Fourth, many governments in Africa consider smallholder agriculture an
impediment to economic development, implicitly claiming that a transition to
large-scale commercial agriculture is necessary in order to achieve higher agricultural productivity and exports, especially of food crops. This view prevails
among the political class even in Tanzania, where smallholders probably enjoy
better legal protection than in any other African country. In its draft biofuel
guidelines of 2008, the government states that “smallholder farmers responsible
for 90% of all farm produce underutilize arable land, as production systems
remain archaic in tillage, storage and processing.”5
This is consistent with the Tanzanian government’s Agricultural Sector Development Strategy of 2001, which emphasises that, “Government will work towards creating an enabling environment for medium and large-scale investors to
make use of the abundant land resource in the country” (URT 2001, not paginated, italics in original). This was followed up in the Kilimo Kwanza (agriculture
4. The World Bank reports a strong increase in foreign land acquisitions concomitant with
the sudden rise in food prices. From 1 October 2008 to 31 August 2009, 464 projects involving a total of 56.6 million hectares were registered. As much as 70 per cent of this area
(39.7 million ha) was acquired in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 2011: 51). These figures
are much higher than those reported by the Land Matrix. The reason may be that the Land
Matrix coverage is low, or that many of the projects the World Bank reported in 2011 have
5. URT, Guidelines for Sustainable Liquid Biofuels Investments and Development in Tanzania (draft), Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Dar es Salaam 2008. Here quoted from Sulle
and Nelson (2009: 36).
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
first) strategy launched in 2009 to modernise agriculture. One “pillar” of the
strategy is making more land available to investors in order to increase capital
flows to the sector.
It should be noted that governments in other sub-Saharan countries are also
sceptical about the possibilities of improving smallholder agriculture. On Mozambique, Timothy Wise (of Tufts University) reports the following conversation with the economic advisor to the minister of agriculture, Luis Sitoe, about
the huge and largely unsuccessful ProSavana land acquisition project, “the largest land grab in Africa”:
I asked Mr. Sitoe … if the lesson of ProSavana was that agricultural development needed to be based on Mozambique’s three million small-scale food producers. He smirked again. No, he assured me, the government is committed to
foreign investment, with its capital and technology, as the path to agricultural
development (Wise 2015: 4).
A fifth driver is the wrongly perceived abundance of land, which has encouraged
international investors to target sub-Saharan Africa.6 For example, in Tanzania,
which is considered one of the most land-abundant countries in Africa, the
government has stated that: “Unlike its neighbours, Tanzania has comparatively
abundant land resources. Even though there are substantial areas under various
forms of protection, and other areas infested with tsetse fly, there is still land
available for expansion of cultivation” (URT 2000: 3).7
It is not only many African governments that apparently believe there is land
abundance in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank claims that the potentially
cultivable land area is 201 million hectares, corresponding to more than 45 per
cent of total potentially cultivable land in the world (World Bank 2011: xxxiv).8
This optimism ignores the fact that Africa’s numerous smallholder families survive on very small holdings. For example, for mainland Tanzania, the National
Land Policy of 1995 estimated arable land at 48.7 million hectares (NLP 1997:
4). However, the great majority of the more than 30 million people (almost 80
per cent of the population) involved in crop agriculture are members of 5.7 million smallholder families cultivating about 14.7 million hectares of land. The
average land per household is 2.5 hectares. Mainly owing to cultivation with
fallowing, an average of only 1.6 hectares is planted with annual crops (URT
6. For an example of the belief in land abundance, see Purdon (2013). For criticisms of this
belief, see Andrew Coulson’s chapter (in this volume), as well as Lugoe (2010) and Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene (2011): 7–10.
7. According to official estimates, about 12.9 million hectares, that is, 26 per cent of pastoral areas, are affected by tsetse fly and cannot be used for grazing (URT 2000: 28).
8. It appears from Table 2 that the FAO is even more optimistic, estimating that potentially cultivable land in East Africa alone amounts to 257.6 million hectares.
Rune Skarstein
2013: 46, 48). Most of these households also need additional land for collecting
Moreover, there is a considerable population of pastoralists needing large
grazing lands for their animals. Official figures indicate that Tanzania is made
up of about 61 million hectares of pasture or grazing land, of which only 37
million hectares is permanent pasture. However, the aggregate figure of actually
used pasture is about 44 million hectares (NLP 1997: 4). This means that a “sizable portion of grazing” is undertaken on about 7 million hectares of non-permanent pasture, which, “as experience has shown, is vulnerable to harsh weather
and climatic conditions” (Lugoe 2010: 6).
In other words, under present conditions in Tanzania there is a large deficit
of land for permanent pasture in livestock agriculture, while cultivating smallholders are in great need of more acreage. Land abundance turns out to be an
illusion.9 It should be added that more than 30 per cent of the land surface in
Tanzania is protected, meaning that cultivation there is prohibited and grazing
strongly restricted (USAID 2012: 25–8). A considerable increase in the area for
large-scale commercial agriculture may lead to serious conflicts with cultivators
and pastoralists, as well as hostilities between these groups, and have grave ecological consequences (USAID 2012: 56).10
In most of sub-Saharan Africa, land tenure has for generations been based
on customary law, in terms of which the chief or the elders of the community
allocate land to members. However, most states have superimposed national
land laws on customary law. Even in countries where customary land rights
enjoy legal protection, such as in Mali or Tanzania, national law considers most
rural people as having qualified use rights to land “vested” by the (head of) state
(Shivji 1998). Cotula summarises the situation as follows:
The problem is that the customary rights of local people may have no or little recognition under national law. This circumstance is historically rooted in
the colonial experience, when colonisers treated conquered lands without visible developments as being empty (terres vacantes et sans maître, in French) and
brought them under the state ownership, and in decades of post-independence
law-making shaped by single-party regimes or military dictatorships … Virtually all countries have legislation that enables government compulsorily to take
[land] rights if it is in the public interest to do so (Cotula 2011: 17, 33).
9. Thus, Lugoe’s comment appears to be highly relevant: “Statements floating around with
regard to land abundance in Tanzania should be based on reality and not wishes as is currently the case” (Lugoe 2010: 7).
10. In the National Land Policy of 1995, this problem seems to be acknowledged: “There are
growing social conflicts, environmental concerns and land use conflicts due to haphazard
alienation of rangeland for large scale agriculture” (NLP 1997: 35).
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
We have noted that smallholders in Tanzania probably enjoy more secure land
rights than smallholders in most other African countries. However, even in Tanzania customary law represents no guarantee of secure land rights. Following
the abolition of a colonial act in 1963, the executive power of chiefs, headmen and elders in land administration based on customary law was replaced by
elected village councils and assemblies. Customary law survived in reality, if not
formally. This fact was recognised by the Shivji Commission (1992)11, which
recommended two forms of land tenure with equal legal status, namely “granted
right of occupancy” and “customary right of occupancy.” These two forms of
tenure were upheld in the National Land Policy (NLP 1997) of 1995, as well
as in the Village Land Act (VLA) of 1999. According to official estimates, 69.5
per cent the land area in mainland Tanzania is under customary law, whereas
15.8 per cent is land “owned by buying” and 5.5 per cent is land “under official
land titles” (URT 2013: 46). However, customary tenure does not only apply to
village land, but also to to “general land” and some “reserved land,” as well as
urban land and peri-urban areas (cf. Lugoe 2010).
According to the NLP and VLA, all land in Tanzania is public land and
“vested in the President as trustee on behalf of all citizens.” The legislation defines three categories of land: (i) village land within the demarcated boundaries
of villages, which comprises customary, communal and vacant land; (ii) reserved
land (about 30 per cent of Tanzania’s total land area), which is set aside as protected areas for wildlife, forests and marine and coastal protection; and (iii), general land, which is neither village land nor reserved land and may also include
unused or unoccupied village land.
Investors can acquire land in Tanzania only by obtaining a “granted right of
occupancy.” The transfer of customary land rights by citizens to non-citizens is
prohibited (NLP 1997: 11). However, the president has the authority to “transfer
any area of village land to general or reserved land for public interest,” which includes “investments of national interest” (VLA, Part III, p. 26; NLP 1997: 15).
If a company or a person wishes to invest in village land, the president must first
convert that land to general land. Village land converted to general land falls
under the administration of the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), which, acting as a “land bank,” will lease it out to domestic or foreign investors by granting them so-called “derivative rights of occupancy.”12 The NLP (1997: 9) states
that “consultation and consent of a Village Council will be required whenever
alienation of Village lands is necessary.” However, several reports argue that this
requirement is not always followed. One study states that “the whole process
happens at government level, from introduction of business idea to the TIC,
11. Cf. the articles by Bryceson and by Isinika andKikwa in this volume.
12. The leases are long term, 50 years and even 99 years.
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finding of appropriate general land, approving of land by the Ministry of Agriculture and finally application for derivative right of occupancy from the TIC”
(Theting and Brekke 2010: 5).
An additional aspect is that the great majority of villages cannot protect
their interests by referring to official documents demarcating the village borders.
The World Bank notes that, “more than a decade after passage of Tanzania’s
Land Acts, only 753, or 7 percent, of the country’s 10,397 registered villages
have received a certificate of village land. Even where such certificates were issued, pastoralist rights continue to be neglected” (World Bank 2011: 102). The
World Bank points out that in this regard Tanzania is not an exception. In
Mozambique, only some 12 per cent of the 70 million hectares estimated to be
controlled by communities have been mapped (World Bank 2011: 102).
Another general aspect is that after leasing the land, the investor quite often
does not implement the proposed project. The World Bank study found that
“investors acquired land in quantities much larger than they could use, at least
initially” (World Bank 2011: 63). The general picture is that “actual farming has
so far started on only 20 percent of the announced deals, indicating that there
is a large gap between plans and implementation” (World Bank 2011: xxxii).
For example, in Mozambique an enormous area of 2.7 million hectares was
transferred to investors in the period 2004–09.13 However, a land audit in 2009
found that more than 50 per cent of the projects had either not started or lagged
significantly behind their development plans. In the Amhara region of Ethiopia,
only 16 of 46 large-scale agricultural projects were being used as intended. In
other projects, the land was either put to other purposes or simply rented out to
smallholders “in explicit contravention of contract” (World Bank 2011: 62, 118).
A similar pattern was found in other countries, including Tanzania (Katundu ,
Makungo and Mteti 2013: 21–7).
The reasons for acquiring more land than “needed” may be to take advantage
of (too) favourable lease terms, eliminate future competition from other investors and profit from expected land price rises or from higher prices for food and
biofuels in the future.14 In any event, the World Bank concludes that “many investments, not always by foreigners, failed to live up to expectations and, instead
of generating sustainable benefits, contributed to [smallholder] asset loss and
left local people worse off than they would have been without the investment”
(World Bank 2011: 71).
Especially biofuel projects demand not only land, but enormous quantities of
water. Water is therefore one potential source of conflict between biofuel inves13. Note that this figure is considerably higher than the 2.2 million hectares of concluded
contracts reported by the Land Matrix (Table 2).
14. One study suggests that the cost of land acquisition in Africa is only about USD 50 per
hectare (Mitchell 2011: 64–5).
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
tors and smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa. Even more than in other sectors
of agribusiness, corporate profit in the production of biofuel feedstock is best
assured when plantations are on the most fertile lands and have ample water
supplies, especially for sugarcane production, and are close to major transport
routes. However, millions of smallholders in Africa already occupy these lands
and they have become the main obstacles to the biofuel rush. It is becoming
clear that when biofuel crops are on the agenda, the pressure on smallholders to
leave their land intensifies (cf. Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene. 2011).
Although Africa’s wetlands cover only 4 per cent of its total landmass, they
store more than half of the world’s liquid fresh water (Sielhorst, Molenaar and
Offermans 2008: 3). The most popular biofuel crops require large volumes of
water. One litre of ethanol produced from sugarcane requires 4,000 litres of
water, while maize needs 2,500 litres. On the other hand, the normal ethanol
yield per hectare of land is 8,900 litres for sugarcane and 3,200 litres for maize,
which makes sugarcane the crop preferred by international investors (Sielhorst,
Molenaar and Offermans 2008: 31–2). Consequently, biofuel feedstock production may have a negative impact on both the water and land available to local
smallholders in wetlands. For biofuel production to expand, smallholders will
be forced to move to poorer lands and local food production may also be affected by the decreased availability of water, which is already a limiting factor
in agriculture in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa (Sielhorst et al. 2008: 35–6;
Matondi et al. 2011).
From India we know that the establishment of corporate-led hydropower
plants and mining, highway construction, Special Economic Zone (SEZ) industrial projects, as well as commercial agriculture and forestry projects result in the
forced displacement of very large numbers of people. These internally displaced
persons (IDPs) and project-affected persons (PAPs), dispossessed of livelihood
and habitat, are the true victims of land acquisitions. According to one estimate,
the acquisition of 25 million hectares of land for industrial sites, hydropower
plants, mines and highways resulted in around 60 million IDPs/PAPs by 2004,
that is, before the SEZ Acts (2005/2007) facilitating more effective displacements for “public purposes” came into effect. This land area included 7 million
hectares of forest and 6 million hectares of other common property resources
(Fernandes 2011: 303).
In addition to destroying the livelihood of large numbers of “tribal” and
lower-caste people (adivasis and dalits), accounting for about 25 per cent of the
total population of India, the acquisition of land causes distress to small farmers,
who are very often displaced to less fertile land. The ratio of landless agricultural
workers to total agricultural working population has risen markedly. In 1951,
about 72 per cent were cultivators and 28 per cent landless agricultural workers.
In 2011, 45 per cent were cultivators and 55 per cent landless workers (Bhaduri
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2015: 18, note 8). As Fernandes (2011: 309) points out: “An obvious result of
landlessness is joblessness, because the land the IDPs/PAPs lose to the project is
their sustenance, both in the form of food and work. So its loss deprives them
of both.” Hence landlessness equates with impoverishment, and impoverishment forces many IDPs/PAPs into debt or labour bondage, or into child labour,
prostitution and crime. Displacement also leads to increased pressure on the
remaining non-privatised land (Fernandes 2011: 310–11).
In Africa, too, forced displacement of large numbers of smallholders is becoming a reality. For example, an environmental and social impact assessment
of a sugar plantation project in Mali concluded that land acquisitions will have
a negative impact on local food security and pastoralists’ access to grazing. The
Resettlement Action Plan for the project estimated that 1,718 people would be
directly affected, and that, among these, 1,644 people from 128 households
would be physically displaced (Cotula 2011: 32). A study of five regions in Tanzania shows the same pattern. In Mvomero District, Morogoro Region, 247
smallholder farmers were displaced and dispossessed of their land to make way
for land acquisition by foreign investors. The same happened to 14 smallholder
farmers in Kisarawe, Coast Region, and eight smallholders in Kilolo, Iringa
Region (Katundu, Makungo and Mteti 2013: 21).15 These forced displacements
not only mean economic ruin for many smallholders, but also destruction of
their culture.
Marx on primitive accumulation
Karl Marx emphasised that a basic characteristic of emerging capitalism was
that land (as a collective term for all natural resources) and labour are commodified.16 Referring to the rise of capitalism in England – in Chapters 26–28 of the
first volume of Capital – he analyses the process of commodification of land and
labour, which he, alluding to Adam Smith, calls “so-called primitive accumulation” (Marx [1867]1976: 873–904).17 He notes that primitive accumulation is
a process that “precedes capitalist accumulation; an accumulation which is not
the result of the capitalist mode of production but its point of departure” (Marx
[1867]1976: 873). The “point of departure” of capitalism is theft from the immediate producers of their means of production and livelihoods ‒ of the land, forests, water and other resources ‒ forcing them to become vagabonds and beggars
or, at best, people dependent on selling their labour power: “In actual history, it
15. Mainland Tanzania has 21 regions. The five regions of the study are Arusha, Iringa, Dar es
Salaam, Morogoro and Pwani.
16. Of course, several other theorists share the view of Marx on this particular issue, e.g., Karl
Polanyi (1957) and Max Weber ([1923]1991).
17. In the original German edition Marx, uses the expression “ursprüngliche Akkumulation”
– ”original accumulation” – which I think is a more accurate term.
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
is a notorious fact that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, in short, force,
play the greatest part … As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic” (Marx [1867]1976: 874).
In short, the basic feature of primitive accumulation is twofold. One aspect
is the expropriation from the immediate precapitalist producers of their means
of production and livelihood, thereby transforming land and other natural resources, as well as labour, into commodities that will serve as objects for capital
accumulation. The other aspect is that the expropriated populations will have
“nothing to sell but their labour power,” and they are thus made ready to be
exploited by capital as wage labourers. Marx’s message is that for the capitalist
mode of production to expand, land, natural resources in general and labour
power have to submit to capital, that is, be made into material and human resources for the accumulation of capital. This process will be repeated whenever
capitalism conquers and destroys precapitalist modes of production. Precisely
because primitive accumulation takes place outside the circuit of capital, conquering land and labour for the accumulation of capital, “conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, in short, force, play the greatest part.” Therefore, primitive accumulation is a deeply political process. As long as the “never-ending
circle of capital” does not encompass all natural resources and all labour power,
there is scope for further expansion of the capitalist mode of production, implying industrialisation and “modernisation.”18
Marx restricted his analysis of the history of primitive accumulation to England, noting that, “only in England, which we therefore take as our example, has
it [primitive accumulation] the classical form.” The broad aspects of his analysis
have later been confirmed by several historical studies of the enclosure movements in England. I summarise some of their main points.
The first wave of enclosures (ca. 1400–1520) was in the aftermath of the
Black Death (ca. 1350) and the subsequent outbreaks of the plague. At times of
conflict with the Crown, big landlords, including the church and monasteries,
enclosed vast areas of abandoned as well as still cultivated holdings, and also
some common land. The enclosed land was turned into less labour-intensive
sheep pasture, and wage labourers were hired as herdsmen and fence-builders.
In this way, the landlords mitigated the lack of peasant serfs and succeeded
in maintaining control over their land and reinforcing their property rights.
Through wool exports to the Flemish market, landlords, as capitalists-to-be,
established close networks with the urban bourgeoisie, which represented an
important step towards a capitalist agriculture (Tawney [1912] 1967: 187–8).
Gradually, the process which started with the enclosure of abandoned holdings
18. When Marx uses the term “so-called original accumulation,” my understanding is that
it was not original in the sense of taking place back in history, which is David Harvey’s
interpretation (Harvey 2005: 144–5).
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led to displacements of numerous small peasants from their plots of cultivated
land, and even from their pastures and from firewood resources in the commons. This process was so comprehensive that, between ca. 1450 and 1525,
about 10 per cent of the villages in the southern part of the Midlands were
destroyed (Allen 1992: 66, 163–7).
The second wave of enclosures (from about 1660 to the late 1700s) is often
called the “parliamentary enclosures,” because it was backed by law enacted by
the parliament, in which only the landed nobility was represented. The main
aspect of that wave was enclosure of the remaining open fields and amalgamation of the small peasant holdings into large farms, to be rented out to tenants
for cultivation using wage labour. Enclosure of commons reduced access to pasture and firewood was probably the main reason for the landlords’ success in
purchasing virtually all land from the free tenants in the period ca. 1690–1780
(Allen 1992: 95–6). Under the pressure of competition and landlords’ rent hunger, tenant farmers sought to reduce costs through the typical capitalist ploy of
technical change, namely labour-saving innovations. An important aspect of
these innovations was the rapidly increasing use of horses for traction and transport both in the countryside and in towns (Wrigley 2004: 73–7). Oxen as draft
animals, as well as human labour, were replaced by horses. A horse’s traction
speed is on average 50 per cent higher than that of an ox, and the work carried
out by a horse per hour is roughly equivalent to six hours of work by a man (Bairoch 1973: 465; Wrigley 2006: 461). Thus, the increasing use of horses resulted
in a large increase in labour productivity in agriculture. In this process, many
more peasants were evicted from their holdings, and the number of employed
per acre fell to about half of what it was in 1600 (Wrigley 2004: 43). As a consequence, numerous displaced peasants were turned “from decent husbandmen
into a mob of beggars and thieves” (Polanyi 1957: 34–5).19 A large “industrial
reserve army” (Marx) was created.
Robert Allen provides several examples of how the amalgamation of holdings into large farms implied a “social revolution” that actually represented the
rise of agrarian capitalism. He concludes that:
Not only were most rural people becoming exclusively dependent on wage income, but the demand for that labour was falling. Enclosures and large farms
were the cause of the rise in productivity, but they also caused low wages and
unemployment for the majority of the population, and high rents for the rich
minority. Inequality and productivity growth were inextricably linked … The conclusion is unavoidable – most English men and women would have been better
off had the landlords’ revolution never occurred (Allen 1992: 8, 21, my italics).
19. See also Hill (1991: 39–56).
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
So far, the modern accounts confirm Marx’s analysis of primitive accumulation
in England. However, although Marx used England for his historical analysis,
he also stressed that primitive accumulation is an ongoing process of capitalist
In Western Europe, the homeland of political economy, the process of primitive
accumulation has more or less been accomplished … It is otherwise in the colonies. There the capitalist regime constantly comes up against the obstacle presented by the producer, who, as owner of his own conditions of labour, employs
that labour to enrich himself instead of the capitalist … Where the capitalist has
behind him the power of the mother country, he tries to use force to clear out of
the way the modes of production and appropriation which rest on the personal
labour of the independent producer. (Marx [1867]1976: 931)
Marx’s changing view of history
Until about 1870, Marx held the view that there is no such thing as “capitalist
underdevelopment.” On the contrary, he considered all precapitalist social formations as “backward” or “barbarian,” that is, underdeveloped. In his writings up to
the end of the 1850s, he even insisted on the Hegelian perspective that capitalist
society is universalistic in its urges, drawing all, “even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation.” Obviously, he meant that the injustices and cruelties of
primitive accumulation are the necessary cost of economic and social progress.
In his writings on India, he elaborated this perspective in more detail. In 1853
he wrote: “England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the
other regenerating − the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying of the
material foundation of Western society in Asia” (cited in Avineri 1969: 132–3).
He went on to argue that, “English interference ... dissolved these small
semi-barbarian, semi-civilized communities [in India], by blowing up their economical basis, and thus produced the greatest, and, to speak the truth, the only
social revolution ever heard of in Asia” (cited in Avineri 1969: 93). At that time,
he considered the extension of the railway system throughout India as a major
vehicle for this revolution (Avineri 1969: 136).
There is no indication that Marx had abandoned his 1853 view of Indian
society in the first volume of his magnum opus, Capital (1867). On the contrary,
he reiterated his view that Indian society and Asiatic societies in general were
fundamentally static, and that the intrusion of capitalism represented historical progress (Marx [1867]1976: 479). In other words, the process of capitalist
colonisation would bring about a rapid development of productive forces even
in those “backward” areas.
On this latter point, however, he obviously changed his mind as time went
by. It was quite evident to Marx that the initial form of capitalist expansion in
colonial areas at his time would be the expansion of commercial capital. In a
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theoretical discussion in the third volume of Capital, he emphasised that the
intrusion of merchant capital into colonial areas did not necessarily imply that
the precapitalist modes of production in those areas would dissolve or capitalist
relations of production emerge:
Trade always has, to a greater or lesser degree, a solvent effect on the pre-existing
organizations of production, which in all their various forms are principally
oriented to use-value. But how far it leads to the dissolution of the old mode
of production depends first and foremost on the solidity and inner articulation
of this mode of production itself. And what comes out of this process of dissolution, i.e. what new mode of production arises in place of the old, does not
depend on trade, but rather on the character of the old mode of production itself
(Marx [1894] 1981: 449).
He referred to the British colonisation of India as one of the examples that
proved his point:
The obstacles that the internal solidity and articulation of pre-capitalist national
modes of production oppose to the solvent effect of trade are strikingly apparent in the English commerce with India and China. There the broad basis of
the mode of production is formed by the union between small-scale agriculture
and domestic industry, on top of which we have in the Indian case the form of
village communities based on common property in the soil, which was also the
original form in China (Marx [1894] 1981: 451).
He went on to argue that in India:
… the English applied their direct political and economic power, as masters and
landlords, to destroying these small economic communities. In so far as English
trade has had a revolutionary effect on the mode of production in India, this is
simply to the extent that it has destroyed spinning and weaving, which form an
age-old and integral part of this unity of industrial and agricultural production
... In this way it has torn the communities to pieces (Marx [1894] 1981: 451–2).
In the third draft of his letter of March 1881 to Vera Zasulich, he repeated this
view, pointing out that, “the violent abolition of common property in the soil
[in India] was only an act of English vandalism which pushed the indigenous
people not forward but backward ... they [the English] have only succeeded in
ruining domestic agriculture and redoubling the number and intensity of famines” (Marx/Engels 1972: 402, 405, my translation).
In other words, Marx became increasingly sceptical about the role of primitive accumulation and the potential for capitalist development in non-European
precapitalist social formations. Eventually, he considered English colonialism in
India as mere vandalism without any regenerating function. In accordance with
this view, he also rejected Hegel’s general philosophy of history, which in his
Land grabbing in Africa – a variety of primitive accumulation
famous letter of 1877 (which was never sent) to the editors of the Otetschestwennyje Sapiski, he characterised as “a master-key of a general philosophy of history,
the greatest advantage of which is to be ahistorical” (Marx und Engels 1972:112,
my translation).
Concluding remarks
The conclusion that the process of land grabbing in contemporary Africa is a variety of primitive accumulation is obvious. That this process causes injustice and
suffering for large numbers of people, as well as explosive social conflicts, is also
obvious. By contrast, it is not obvious that land grabbing will lead to economic
and social progress in the long term. In this regard, I think it wise to share
the scepticism of the older Karl Marx. African smallholder agriculture is truly
stricken with problems. However, that does not mean that capitalist agriculture
is the solution. In Europe, only England experienced the long-term “success”
of capitalist agriculture, albeit at great social cost. An important condition for
that “success” was the concomitant and rapid growth of demand for industrial
labour, which eventually absorbed a large part of the population squeezed out
of agriculture. In much of the rest of Europe, agriculture did not turn capitalist. Instead, smallholdings were moderately consolidated and transformed and
relieved of surplus labour through rising demand for industrial labour and emigration to America. Agriculture remained characterised by family holdings enjoying allodial rights. This experience contradicts the presently dominant neoliberal dogma that the only route to economic progress is through the overall
destruction of precapitalist modes of production in order to give the upper hand
to free-market capitalism.
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Adjust or change?
The debate on African economic structures
Mats Hårsmar
A few years before the turn of the millennium, Kjell Havnevik was travelling
through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. At the immigration counter he was asked to declare his occupation.
”I am a professor of development studies,” he conscientiously answered.
”You study development, huh? Then, what are you doing in this part of the
world?” the officer replied. “Can you see any development taking place here?”
During the preceding decades economic growth had been faltering across
sub-Saharan Africa, not least in the East African countries. The rapid growth of
the immediate post-independence years had slowed and turned into recession.
Foreign debt burdens had been piling up and macroeconomic imbalances were
legion. The 1980s and 1990s were even seen as lost decades (Eriksen 2012:127).
In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as a whole, real per capita GDP growth rates had
been above 3 per cent from the early 1960s up until 1973. Following the first oil
crisis in that year, real per capita GDP stagnated, wobbled but remained relatively unchanged until 1980, when it started to decline for more than a decade
until the mid-1990s (Havnevik 1987:85; World Development Indicators 2015).
The external environment had been hostile, with high oil prices, rapidly increasing interest rates, minimal or absent foreign investments and worsening termsof-trade. Domestic African economic policies were often as bad, with overvalued exchange rates, galloping inflation and major unproductive investments.
In response to this dismal situation, the international financial institutions
– the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank – shifted their
style of intervention on the continent in the early 1980s. The World Bank turned
from projects to policy-accompanied programme and sector lending, while the
IMF shifted focus from advisory services to more hard-nosed stabilisation lending. Thus, economic policy conditionality became a new element – and a hotly
debated issue during the era known as the “structural adjustment period.” Proponents argued that orderly adjustment was always a lesser evil than the spontaneous adjustment that was the only realistic alternative. Critics argued that
the Fund and the Bank supported class-biased adjustment that hit the poor
especially hard, that reforms were ideologically driven and that the harsh conditionalities that accompanied lending were an intrusion into young nations’
Havnevik was both instrumental to, and took part in, such critical discus114
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
sions, not least by organising a seminar in January 1987 at the Scandinavian
Institute of African Studies on the roles of “The World Bank and the IMF in Africa.” The proceedings were later turned into a book, edited by Havnevik (1987).
At the heart of the discussion were two major issues. One concerned the
distinction and tensions between economic growth and broader social development. The structural reforms promoted by the international financial institutions
aimed at limiting the economic role of the state, privatising state-owned companies and deregulating markets. Critics claimed that this hampered the state’s
abilities to provide social services and drive social development more broadly
(see e.g. Olukoshi 1998). Even critics from within the UN system argued that
adjustment processes needed a more “human face” (Cornia et al. 1987).
The other major issue concerned the role of external factors and external
agency in relation to national political sovereignty and human dignity. Reforms
implemented as conditions set by international financial institutions and other
outside agencies increased dramatically. Critics claimed that African governments instead needed greater “political space” (Olukoshi 2002).
These and related issues have been part and parcel of Havnevik’s work ever
since. This chapter will dwell on the current debate on structural change in
African economies, but also make reference to how the debate – and African
realities – have evolved since the 1980s.
Current economic situation
The debate about economic growth versus social development is still very much
alive. Over the last two decades, rapid economic growth in several African
countries has set “Afro-optimists” against “Afro-realists,” positions that to a significant extent reflect the dispute over the primacy of economic growth or social
development. One narrative claims that the rapid growth we currently see leads
to reduced poverty and eventually will cause low-income African countries to
catch up with richer countries (Devarajan and Fengler 2012). A competing story
claims that poverty is sustained and even increased by rapidly rising inequalities
brought about by the current character of economic growth. African countries
may as a result be pushed even further into commodity-export dependency,
sustaining poverty traps (Sindzingre 2013; Akyüs 2012).
It is generally acknowledged that current economic growth in SSA is mainly
driven by the export of energy, minerals and other commodities together with
growth in the service sector, in particular information and communications
technology (ICT) and retailing. The factors underlying such growth include
high commodity prices on the world market, the emergence of a new African
generation of reform-oriented leaders, improved macroeconomic policies and
a growing “middle” or “consumer class.” A further factor is rapidly improving
external balances as a result of international debt renegotiations and write-offs
Mats Hårsmar
of African foreign debts (UNECA 2013). An increasing number of democratic
elections add to the general optimism, although the links between democratic
evolution and economic development are unclear.
Despite such seemingly good news, poverty is still widespread on the continent. The UN Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty by half by 2015
– which would imply that 29 per cent of the population live below USD1.25 a
day – will not be met. Even though reliable statistics are not yet available, reduction is off-track and in practice the objective is unreachable within the given
timeframe. In 2008, 49.7 per cent of the SSA population survived on less than
USD1.25 a day, a share that had shrunk to 46.8 per cent in 2011, according to
the latest available statistics. Extrapolations indicate that around 43–44 per cent
of the SSA population still lives below the USD1.25 per day threshold during
2015 (UNDP 2012; Povcal.net 2015). Of all the regions in the world, economic
growth is least able to reduce poverty in SSA (Fosu 2011). Inequalities are rapidly increasing, due to Africa’s strong dependence on commodity exports. Hence,
there is no single representative image to describe the continent. Economies in
SSA run on at least two separate speeds. This is why the two competing stories
tend to persist.
However, the dividing lines are not the same as they used to be. The heated
and often ideological debates of the 1980s over the character of economic reforms have been replaced by a fairly wide consensus that socioeconomic development in low-income African countries requires structural transformation and
increased economic diversification. Since Africa’s economic growth is mainly
driven by energy and mineral exports, there is wide agreement on the challenge
of creating jobs and promoting much more inclusive economic growth. Today’s
discussion rather concerns what the options are for reaching such much needed
structural transformations. Can the current growth pattern become more labour intensive? Is industrialisation a realistic option, and if so, what are the key
policy interventions needed to arrive at it? Put simply: in what economic sectors
can jobs be created? What are the signs of structural change taking place?
We will, in the following sections, describe measures of structural change
and how these play out in various countries. Following that we will move on to
describe and discuss what the options are for job creation in various economic
sectors from a continent-wide perspective. The issue of preconditions for structural change will then be dealt with by measuring economic vulnerability.
Structural change
It is often rightly claimed that structural factors work to the detriment of African economies. However, there are also structural factors that are beneficial.
We will here mention two such factors. One of them reflects a positive future
potential, the other is a current reality.
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
Table 1: Africa’s international trade
Non-OECD (%)
OECD (%)
Total value (US$ billion)
Non-OECD (%)
OECD (%)
Total value (US$ billion)
Source: UNCTAD (2012)
The first beneficial factor is the “demographic dividend.” The age structure
of its population provides SSA with an enormous economic potential in international comparison. While the populations in Asia are growing older and population pyramids on that continent become increasingly similar to those of OECD
countries, a majority in African countries is below 20 years of age. When SSA’s
youth and children reach productive ages, the potential for economic growth
will be massive.1
The other beneficial structural factor concerns the rapid economic growth
occurring in the populous Asian middle-income countries. Economic growth
in these countries, as well as in Latin American middle-income counties, has
among other things contributed to a “super cycle” of high commodity prices. A
clear indicator that such increased demand has benefited African economies is
the rapid expansion of international trade between the regions (see Table 1). Africa’s international trade has increased fivefold during the last decade and most
of this pertains to economies south of the Sahara. Outside partners whose trading shares have increased most rapidly include emerging economies like China,
India, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey. Traditional trading partners, such as the
EU and the US, still represent the largest shares of trade with Africa, but in
particular the shares of EU countries are decreasing (UNECA 2013).
Export from most SSA countries is dominated by very few products, and in
many cases 80 per cent and more consists of oil, with minerals in second place.
Among the few exceptions are South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. Such dependency has been reinforced in recent years as the African index of export concentration has increased from 0.24 in 1995 to 0.43 in 2011 (UNECA 2013:78).
These figures can be compared to the 2011 average for Asian countries (0.12)
and for OECD countries (0.06) (Sindzingre 2013).
1. However, there are also potentially major risks with rapidly increasing populations, especially if those people are not put to productive work. Refer, for instance, to Oestigaard
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Another indicator of how much Asian and Latin American growth benefits
Africa is the evolution of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). The FDI inflows
into SSA peaked in 2008 and again in 2011, reaching a value of about USD 37
billion annually. Increasing shares of this inward FDI originate in emerging
economies, mainly in Asia. Their share of new (‘‘greenfield” as distinct from
mergers and acquisitions) investments increased from 45 per cent in 2010 to 53
per cent in 2011 (Sindzingre 2013).
Most of the 2011 FDI inflows reached seven sub-Saharan African countries
(South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan, the Democratic Republic
of the Congo, and the Congo), each receiving investment values above USD 2
billion. Fifteen countries received investments worth between USD 500 million and USD 2 billion, while the remaining SSA countries received investments lower than USD 400 million (UNCTAD 2014).2 Greenfield investments
are evenly distributed among economic sectors. In 2010, 23 per cent went to
the primary sector (mining, agriculture), 33 per cent to services (banking, finance, ICT) and 44 per cent to industry, mainly energy plants and breweries
­(UNCTAD 2012:39f).
Increased trade, investments and other cooperation with middle-income
countries such as China, India, Brazil and Turkey have strongly contributed
to widening the “political space” that critics were so intensely arguing about
in the 1980s and 1990s. African countries have, following the Cold War and
especially during the last decade, had an increasing number of international
partners to choose from for economic and other relations. Massive reductions in
foreign debts have also contributed to the widening policy space. It is possible
to argue that international trade, investment and finance regulation still place
constraints on African governments. However, compared to the situation in the
1980s, their policy space is larger today. What impact this has had on African
economies and societies is still an open question, though.
The larger trade flows and inflows of FDI obviously contribute to increased
economic growth. However, there are risks when such developments come with
a high, and possibly increasing, dependency on commodity exports (Sindzingre
2013; Akyüs 2012; Castaldi, Cimoli, Correa and Dosi. 2009). Historically,
commodity prices have been falling over several decades, causing terms-of-trade
to fall for commodity-exporting countries. Although experts talk of a fourth
“super cycle” of high commodity prices, real values of most commodities are
still lower than they were in the 1970s, and may have started to fall again. Another risk associated with high commodity export dependency is price volatility, making long-term planning difficult or even impossible. Furthermore, as
2. Countries that received FDI worth between USD500 million and USD 2 billion were
Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, Mauritania, Uganda, Liberia, Ethiopia, Gabon,
Madagascar, Namibia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Chad and Kenya.
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
revenues from a booming commodity sector are spent, demand and prices for
non-tradable goods will rise, which causes the real exchange rate to appreciate.
Such “Dutch disease” makes other export sectors less competitive. On top of
this, windfall gains floating in from commodity exports tend to make governments and political leaders less willing to take on the political risks involved
in promoting structural transformation and economic diversification. Hence,
there are obvious risks that economies get stuck in commodity export and eventually – when commodity prices dip –find themselves back in poverty traps
(Sindzingre 2013).
But risks are not natural laws. There are as well historical examples of countries that have succeeded in diversifying their economies despite high commodity export dependency (Gylfason 1999; Findlay and Lundahl 1999). To achieve
this, well-functioning institutions, high quality governments and clear development visions are needed in order to transform mining industry expansion into
broader social development. Recent growth has been extremely rapid in the sector. While 38 of 53 African countries are net oil importers, new oil- and natural
gas fields have recently been found and exploited in countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Mozambique, to be added to already established fields in Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, the Congo and Gabon. Over the last 20 years, oil reserves
in Africa have grown by 25 per cent, while gas reserves grew by more than 100
per cent (AfDB/AU 2009). Supplies of minerals and metals in SSA are mainly
focused on Central and Southern Africa. In many cases, SSA shares represent a
quarter or more of global supplies. Hence, the challenge is to transform growth
within these sectors into inclusive, employment-creating and sustained growth.
Sector-based analysis
How do SSA countries succeed in transforming their economies and in translating the increased trade and investment into job creation? This question is so
essential that almost all of the flagship reports of international organisations
published since 2011 and dealing with the continent’s economy have focused
on the challenge of job creation.3 One of these reports is the McKinsey Global
Institute’s “Africa at Work” (2012). The findings of this report are especially
interesting, since they concern prospects for job creation in various economic
sectors, estimated at continental level. For the estimations the growth of the
“consumption class” plays a key role. This class is defined as households earning
more than USD5,000 purchasing power parity (PPP) a year, and it has grown
from 60 to 90 million over the last decade. At times referred to as the “middle
class,” it is important to note that this category is defined by a lower threshold
3. Examples are McKinsey (2012); Africa Progress Panel Report (2012); UNECA (2012)
(2013); Filmer et al. (2014).
Mats Hårsmar
that amounts to USD2.5 /day/ person, which is just above poverty levels. In
other parts of the world, most definitions of the “middle class” use USD10 a day
as a lower limit. Furthermore, the “middle class” understood as a sociological
term forms and expresses expectations, organises politically and becomes an
important pressure group in society. The “middle class” in African countries is
small in size, but increasing. Hence, it is motivated to critically discuss the McKinsey report estimations about job creation.
Projections of the increase in the African labour force are relatively straightforward. During the period 2011-20 an additional 122 million persons will join
the workforce, according to the report. For the same period, the estimations
are that 72 million new jobs can be created in the formal sectors of agriculture,
services, retailing and manufacturing. This will leave an additional 50 million
people to be added to those who lack formal employment. However, as hinted,
even these estimations turn out to be overly optimistic for SSA countries.4
In the agricultural sector, the McKinsey report claims that most of the additional 14 million agricultural jobs they project will come from large-scale land
investments. At the time when the report was written, there was a surge in
demand for agricultural land, which was intensely discussed, mainly under the
label “land grabbing.” However, the planned large-scale land investments have
not been implemented at the speed suggested by the McKinsey report. A large
number of previously announced deals are being delayed or cancelled, slowing
down job creation. Cumbersome and prolonged processes for acquiring land,
weak or missing infrastructure together with changing market outlooks for
agrofuels contribute to lower profitability and increased risk. This pattern has
emerged in countries such as Tanzania, Ethiopia and Liberia (Engström 2013;
Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene 2011).
It has also been argued that large-scale agriculture may be less labour-intensive than small-scale agriculture, which implies that the single focus on
large-scale investments may be a false start (Havnevik forthcoming; Coulson
2013). There are major opportunities in agricultural development, not least if
increased access can be gained to global value chains in commodities such as
cocoa, coffee, tea and vegetables. But smallholders have long struggled with low
productivity, and they generally lack resources for investments. Changes to this
situation are possible and due, but they will require concerted efforts by private
4. This over-optimism emerges primarily because the McKinsey study discusses the whole
continent and uses a sample where North African and middle income countries are overrepresented (McKinsey, 2012, p. 4, footnotes). We will in the following not discuss the exact numbers provided, but rather to what extent the order of magnitude in the estimations
made in the McKinsey study are relevant for sub-Saharan Africa.
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
and public agents. This will take longer than envisaged by the McKinsey report.
Hence, employment opportunities – other than continued production at near
subsistence level – will not emerge as quickly as projected.
Agricultural potentials in SSA depend on continued access to land and water
and on more productive use of the large peasant-farming labour force (Hazell
2006). Magnusson et al. (2012) describe four scenarios for African agriculture
in 2050. These scenarios are based on analysis of economic, political, social,
cultural, demographic and natural resource conditions. What emerges as critical
to increased agricultural production is the increased and more productive use
of marginal lands and drylands, along with the restoration of lands, increased
use of livestock and aquaculture and more sustainable and productive farming
systems. It will also be necessary to improve systems for risk management and
investment, as well as for innovation and technology adoption. At the aggregated level, governance and market development are key.
To reduce poverty in poor countries, the focus will have to be on the development of small-scale agriculture. The largest gains in poverty reduction are
achieved when labour starts to move out of agriculture into rural industries or
non-farm service sectors. However, this is no easy task. Increasing productivity in small-scale farming involves many challenges, such as improved natural
resource management, improving farming systems, infrastructure, credit provision, factor and product market functions, as well as innovation, among others
(Hårsmar 2006, 2013).
Given its focus on the growing the “consumption class,” the McKinsey report
estimates that 13 million new jobs will come from retailing and “hospitality”
(hotels, restaurants). Rapid urbanisation, quick economic growth and changing
consumption patterns will lead to vast numbers of shopping malls emerging
on the continent. However, a negative side of this is that as more formal jobs
are created, informal street vendors are chased away from city streets and lose
market share. Labour productivity will increase with such a process. The net
short-term employment effect may even be negative (Teppo, personal comm.).
Public sector
The largest provider of formal employment in SSA is the public sector. McKinsey estimates that another 15 million new jobs can be created there. However,
for this to happen there is a need to increase taxation and widen tax bases. Most
African countries are trying hard to do this by replacing trade taxes with Value
Added Tax (VAT) and increasing income tax. Still the latter account for a mere
4 per cent of GDP on average. Revenue from the mining sector also remains
weak (Lundstol, Raballand and Nyirongo 2013).
2006 48.9 35 2009 46.8 36 2012 41.4 33 Source: Own calculations based on UN (2013) 23 23 16 15 9 5 Mats Hårsmar
Figure 1: Industry sectors’ contribution to GDP (%) (Africa) Figure 1: Industry sectors’ contribution to GDP (%) (Africa)
Source: UNCTAD/UNIDO (2011).
Source: UNCTAD/UNIDO (2011): Figure 2: Economic vulnerability index, SSA Taxation can improve the legitimacy of the state in ways that oil revenues or
aid cannot. For this to happen, the state has to increase its capacity to deliver
services, act in accountable and transparent ways and function efficiently. If the
state does not succeed in this, efforts at raising taxes will most likely be in vain.
Enormous tax evasion challenges remain for African countries. A World Bank
study using Malawi and Namibia as examples estimates that tax evasion in those
countries is the equivalent of 8 to 12 per cent of GDP. Corruption, in turn, is estimated at around 5 per cent of GDP (Yikona et al. 2011). Comparable countries
are believed to have comparable problems. In the Transparency International
Corruption Perception Index for 2012, 20 SSA countries are found among the
50 countries with the highest corruption levels. Only four SSA states are among
the 50 least corrupt countries (Transparency International 2013).
Hence, we note relatively bleak employment prospects in all three sectors discussed. What about the manufacturing sector, 16 then? The McKinsey report
estimates that 15 million new manufacturing jobs will be created. However,
this would imply a radical turn-around. Since 1990, there has been a constant
decrease in manufacturing in Africa in general and SSA in particular. This deindustrialisation has occurred against the backdrop of an already low level of
industrialisation. The drop in labour-intensive manufacturing has been largest
in textiles, for which changed WTO regulations may be one factor (UNCTAD/UNIDO 2011). It is true that increased investments have occurred in
the mining and utilities sectors. However, these sectors create very few jobs.
A perhaps extreme example is the Mozal aluminium smelter in Mozambique,
which contributes 30 per cent of the country’s GDP, but employs no more than
1,100 persons directly and some additional 1,600 as subcontractors (Mitsubishi
Corporation 2006).
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
African countries differ significantly in their degree of industrialisation, although very few of them have reached any significant level. UNCTAD/UNIDO has divided countries into five separate categories.5 A key challenge for future African industrialisation is the comparatively high labour costs. Industrial
labour costs in 12 SSA countries are on average about 50 per cent higher than
in a set of comparable low-income countries, such as Vietnam or the Philippines
(Gelb, Meyer and Ramachandran 2013). Similar results had earlier been obtained by Söderbom and Teal (2004) for industries in Ghana. Badly functioning labour markets due, for instance, to regulation or missing institutions; high
infrastructure costs limiting productivity increases; and highly valued exchange
rates are some possible reasons, according to Gelb et al.
Some of these costs may be brought down by locating industries in clusters
around “growth poles.” Another important policy reform area concerns regional
collaboration. African competitive positions versus other low-income countries
would be improved if African countries achieved economies of certain size. Production may be organised more efficiently with subcontractors nearby, and possibilities for building stronger innovation systems would also increase.
In 2007, the African Union (AU) agreed on a joint Action Plan for the Advancement of Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA). The strategy outlined
policy recommendations in seven separate fields – industrial policies; increased
capacity in production and trade; infrastructure and energy; human resource
development for industrialisation; research and technology development; finance and resource mobilisation; and sustainable development. But the strategy
has so far not been very successful, partly because of political manoeuvring.
The implementation and coordination unit, which is key to both financial and
resource mobilisation and project implementation, has neither been funded nor
started. There is, in addition, a severe lack of capacity within the AU. Most of
the work has in practice been done by UNIDO (Matambalya 2014).
In 2012 another AU agreement was reached concerning a Continental Free
Trade Area (CFTA) to be implemented by 2017 (UNECA 2013). This is important since intra-regional trade contains much larger shares of manufacturing
and capital goods than Africa’s intercontinental trade does. Currently, the share
of intra-African trade is 10–12 per cent of total trade. Increased intra-regional
trade would open possibilities for increased manufacturing. For this trade to increase, local productive capacity needs to improve, together with the expansion
of infrastructure, among other factors.
5. The categories are Forerunners: Namibia (gemstones, uranium), the Seychelles, Tunisia, Egypt; Acheivers: South Africa, Libya, Mauritius, Swaziland; Catching-up: Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Uganda; Falling-behind: Kenya, Senegal, Cameroon, Cote
D’Ivoire, Zimbabwe; and Infant stage: Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea among others.
Mats Hårsmar
However, even if this happens, the problem with high labour costs is likely
to remain. Against this backdrop, UNECA as well as the Africa Mining Vision
discusses possibilities of creating back-, forward- and horizontal linkages in order to industrialise based on existing extractive industries. As the productivity
in this sector is high, labour costs could more easily be accommodated. Even if
mining activities in themselves do not create many jobs, it is argued that such
subsidiary industries can create considerable employment (UNECA 2013).
Strategies for commodity-based industrialisation have to be country-specific.
There is no single policy proven to be effective, and conditions vary depending on what commodity is exported. “Soft commodities” (agriculture) usually
demand wider networks of infrastructure. However, there are often gains to be
made by moving just a few steps up the processing ladder when exporting cocoa,
tea or coffee. As regards the coffee value chain, around 90 per cent of total income ends up in consumer countries. This share has even increased considerably
over the last decades (UNECA 2013).
In sum, African economies should try to compete both with low prices in
manufacturing and increase their degree of processing. This demands improved
international competitiveness, which is possible to achieve from positions within
global value chains. Such chains may be governed in various ways. The common
denominator is enhanced efficiency through the organisation of inputs, services,
production, design, marketing and distribution in chains (UNECA 2013:11).
Manufacturing is a sector where gains can be made, making the McKinsey
estimations less unrealistic, if only they are initiated and other reforms can gain
speed and political energy.
ICT Services
The service sector is perhaps the sector with the largest job-creating potential.
The world’s fastest growing markets for mobile phones are currently in Africa.
The number of mobile phone users increased from 16 to 500 million from the
year 2000 to 2010, and network coverage is high – more than 60 per cent of the
population is covered. In addition, new financial and market-supportive services
can be offered through ICT (information and communications technology), not
least in rural areas, where demand is high. Only one in five African households
has access to formal financial services. The “M-pesa” payment system in Kenya
and other parts of East Africa is spreading rapidly, and uses mobile phones for
money transfers. Users with an ID document may deposit, withdraw and transfer money in local shops. However, in countries where identity systems are weak
or absent, it is difficult to reach out with ICT services.
ICT is also important in sectors such as healthcare and agriculture. For instance, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) uses ICT to increase the
efficiency of markets. The model is built on a few key foundations: national
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
quality standards are defined for the most important crops, a national network
of storage facilities is built, and prices are set through auctions at the exchange.
As soon as the market price for each crop and each quality changes, peasants are
instantly informed over mobile phones and the Internet about the value of their
harvests. This is an effective way to bypass middlemen and increase the functioning of markets. There are plans to establish similar commodity exchanges in
a number of other African countries (Nyamkye and Array 2012).
This example indicates that the ICT sector provides much needed linkages
between the two different spheres that characterise current African economies –
the fast-growing commodity export sectors and the often stagnant agricultural
sector. These economic sectors need to be linked. Sustained and inclusive economic growth in SSA countries requires increased productivity in small-scale
agriculture, while rural-based industry and services also need to emerge. The
demand that could drive further industrialisation would come from increased
incomes for the large proportion of the population that is currently active in
small-scale agriculture. It is also well known that the greatest poverty reduction will come when smallholder labour is released to start working in activities
linked to agricultural sectors with increased productivity (Christiaensen, Demery and Kuhl 2010).
Function-based analysis
The sector-based discussion above shows that great challenges remain for the
creation of jobs, and thus for more inclusive growth. However, the options for
structural change in SSA economies may also be analysed from a different angle,
where key components of structural change are measured. The African Centre
for Economic Transformation (ACET 2014) has recently analysed structural
change in African economies with the help of a specially developed index called
“DEPTH.” This index measures: Diversification of production and exports; Export competitiveness and gains; Productivity increases; Technology upgrading;
and improvements in Human economic well-being. Diversification is needed in
order for countries to develop a wider set of economic activities to choose from
for their subsequent specialisation, as well as for increased economic stability.
Increased export competitiveness enables countries to better exploit their comparative advantages, earn foreign exchange and higher incomes. Productivity
increases are needed to enlarge domestic markets, particularly in agriculture,
where the challenge is also to enable labour to transfer to other economic sectors. Technology upgrading is necessary to sustain continued productivity increases and to bring the economy on to a higher level of knowledge content and
enhanced learning (ACET 2014; Stiglitz and Greenwald 2015; Reinert 2008).
The DEPTH measures are summarised in an index measuring how far countries have come in terms of transforming their economies – the African Trans125
Mats Hårsmar
formation Index (ATI). Of the 21 countries for which data are available, the
vast majority remain in the 11–35 point range out of 100 possible. Only South
Africa and Mauritius stand out as transformed economies with values above
50, reaching 66 and 73 points respectively. The weakest results were found in
the areas of human economic well-being, productivity increases and technology
upgrading (ACET 2014). Even though changes are occurring, many SSA countries are lagging in areas key to building more inclusive and hence sustainable
economic growth. Not much economic transformation has occurred – despite
rapid economic growth.
In a specific study, 15 selected African economies were traced on the DEPTH
variables for the period from 1970 until today. The averages for these countries
were compared with the average for SSA and with a group of transforming
countries outside Africa. These comparisons showed that very little progress
has been made in most areas, and that the transforming 15 differed very little
from the SSA average. However, the comparative group outside Africa had made
much better progress during their transformative periods (ACET 2014: 28ff).
Does this imply that critics are right in claiming that lack of structural
change pushes SSA countries deeper into one-sided commodity-export dependency and hence poverty traps? Not necessarily. A key to that argument is that
commodity-export dependency causes increased economic vulnerability, which
in turn hinders inclusive growth and broader social development.
A closer look at how economic vulnerability has evolved over the last decade
provides more positive signals. When studying what can be seen as preconditions
for structural change, the picture is not as gloomy. Economic vulnerability may
be studied with the help of the approach used in the UN’s classification of “least
developed countries” (LDC). Most LDC countries happen to be sub-Saharan.
The classification of countries into the LDC category is based on several criteria,
with economic vulnerability playing a key and critical role (see Appendix 1).
Economic vulnerability is measured by the economic vulnerability index (EVI).
Guillaumont (2009) defines “vulnerability” as the risk of being negatively affected by exogenous shocks. Hence, structural economic vulnerability depends on
the size and probability of shocks that countries are exposed to, as well as their
resilience to such shocks. Both natural/environmental and economic shocks are
included, while an important distinction is made between shocks that are truly
external and those that can be influenced through political action.
Figure 2 shows how economic vulnerability has evolved in SSA over the
last 30 years. The critical value of 42 – which serves as a threshold for the classification of LDCs – has been surpassed ever since the mid-1980s, indicating
high levels of vulnerability. There was a marked decline in economic vulnerability during the 2000s. This finding is also consistent with that of the African
Development Bank (AfDB et al. 2013) that economic structural change in 19
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
Figure 2: Economic vulnerability index (EVI), sub-Saharan Africa
45,00 SSA EVI average 44,00 43,00 42,00 41,00 40,00 39,00 2007 2005 2003 2001 1999 1997 1995 1991 1993 1989 1987 1985 1983 1981 1979 1977 37,00 1975 38,00 Source: Own calculations based on data available from FERDI, University of Clermont-Ferrand,
France. Own calculations based on data available from FERDI, University of Clermont-­‐Ferrand, Source: France. selected African countries was negative during the 1990s, but turned positive in
period 2000–05. “Structural change” is in the AfDB et al. study defined as
labour moving from sectors with lower to higher productivity, most particularly
agriculture to the service sector. EVI data for the period 2006-12 also
confirm that the decrease in economic vulnerability has continued in SSA. The
two datasets are not fully comparable, since recent amendments to the EVI have
included in the later data set, making the averages higher (see Table 2).
Economic vulnerability has thus fallen in most SSA countries. Only 13 of
Appendix 1: Ehave
conomic Vulnerability Index economic vulnerability between 2006
and 2012, with the Gambia, Angola and Zambia worst hit. Two of them – ZamThe EVI contains eight different indicators. Three of the indicators measure the prevalence of bia
and Angola – have, however, simultaneously experienced rapid export-led
exogenous and the remaining five indicators measure the exposure to such shocks. Each commodityshocks growth.
indicator is given a specific The ivulnerability
ndicators add have
up as been
follows: The largest
inweight. economic
experienced by
a diverse group of countries, including some that are emerging from conflict
Size; population (1/8) Soma(Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Côte d’Ivoire,
Sierra Leone,
Table 2: Economic vulnerability in recent years in SSA
Economic 2012
Exposure Index EVI average SSA
# countries above
(1/2) value 42.0
Vulnerability Source:
Own calculations based on UN (2013).
Index # countries above
# countries above
value 44.0
value 56.0
Econ structure; Merchandise export 23
concentration (1/16) /Share of agriculture (1/16)
Environment; share p opulation in low elevated zones (1/8) 127
Remoteness; Location (1/8) Trade shock; instability of exports (1/4) Shock Index (1/2) Mats Hårsmar
lia), others that are small states (Cape Verde, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius) and the rest lacking obvious commonalities (Benin, Botswana, Ghana,
Niger, Togo, Uganda). No correlation is found between economic growth and
economic vulnerability for the period 2006–12. However, an observed regularity is that countries with the most rapidly growing economies are often found
in the middle to higher range of economic vulnerability. This is in line with the
fact that commodity export has been driving much of the recent growth and
that commodity prices usually are highly volatile, and thus contribute to higher
economic vulnerability.
The lowest levels of economic vulnerability are found in the SSA countries
with relatively higher levels of industrialisation, such as Kenya, South Africa and
Côte d’Ivoire. However, industrialisation is not all that matters. Equally industrialised countries with smaller populations and low-lying coastal areas, such as
Namibia or the Seychelles, get higher vulnerability index figures.
Countries with lower average economic vulnerability are almost exclusively
coastal countries, while landlocked countries almost exclusively have economic
vulnerabilities above the LDC threshold of 42. The latter group of economies
are mainly dominated by smallholder rain-fed agriculture, with high production
uncertainties. However, many of these landlocked countries also experienced
decreased economic vulnerability during the period 2006–12.
We have noted that overall economic vulnerability decreased in SSA. Still,
one sub-section of the index – the measure of export concentration – went in the
opposite direction. Average dependency on fewer export goods almost doubled
over 20 years. This is partly explained by increasing commodity prices, because
the export concentration index measures the value, and not the quantity, of
exports. Nevertheless, averages do not truly reflect the structural changes that
have taken place at country level. Countries with rapid increases in export concentration were not always the same as countries that experienced decreased
economic vulnerability. Particularly, coastal African countries have in recent
years experienced fewer and less severe external shocks.
The lower economic vulnerability that the EVI reflects does not in itself
promote economic growth. There is no correlation between levels or changes in
the EVI and economic growth. Rather, what the EVI measures is preconditions,
which open up possibilities for future economic growth. Decreased economic
vulnerability also reduces one of the important risks, namely that dependence
on commodity exports may contribute to poverty traps. Lowered vulnerability
would dampen the risk of the crowding out of investments.
The sometimes ideological debates of the 1980s and 1990s over the primacy of
economic growth or social development have today developed into a discussion
Adjust or change? The debate on African economic structures
about how economic growth should be framed and shaped in order to lead to
social development. Interlinkages between the character of growth and social
development are more strongly pronounced nowadays, implying that the current character of growth in SSA countries is not sustainable. Structural change
is necessary for poverty to be reduced, natural resources and climate to be preserved and growth to be long-term.
We have noted that not much of this structural change has taken place so
far. The indices measured by the ACET in their Africa Transformation Index
clearly show that SSA countries still have long roads to travel. Despite rapidly
growing trade flows and FDI inflows, increased external exposure and linkages
have not contributed much to structural change. Promoting and driving such
change remains the responsibility of African governments and societies. The
“policy space” of those governments has increased, but results in terms of social
development seem elusive.
SSA countries have a huge opportunity in the demographic composition of
their populations, with majorities being very young. When those young people
reach productive age, the economy will grow if these people can find employment. As analysed per economic sector, the challenges in creating jobs in the
region are immense. It has been argued that estimates presented in, for instance,
the McKinsey Global Institute report “Africa at Work” are positively exaggerated. Preconditions for increased employment are less positive than portrayed.
Still, indications are that structural factors have recently improved in SSA.
Despite the increases in export concentration that many African countries, and
those in SSA on average, have experienced over the last decade, arguments about
structural changes point in a more positive direction. A majority of countries
have achieved decreased economic vulnerability over the period 2006–12. Even
though the dependency on exporting a limited set of commodities has increased
in several countries, and even though there are clear risks with commodityexport dependency, the wider picture is that African economies are becoming
less vulnerable. Despite all the challenges African countries face in terms of employment creation, there is thus some basis for assuming that economic growth
may continue in SSA.
What eventually will decide how countries in SSA manage to contend with
the tremendous challenges in the areas of employment and inclusive growth is
how well market-relevant institutions are functioning and how well policies will
be promoted and implemented. Such issues will be discussed and debated continuously. What we have argued here is only that some important preconditions
for inclusive growth have recently improved, while the major challenges remain.
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Appendix: Economic Vulnerability Index
The EVI contains eight different indicators. Three of the indicators measure the
prevalence of exogenous shocks and the remaining five indicators measure the
exposure to such shocks. Each indicator is given a specific weight. The indicators
add up as follows:
Size; population (1/8) Economic Vulnerability Index Exposure Index (1/2) Remoteness; Location (1/8) Econ structure; Merchandise export concentration (1/16) /Share of agriculture (1/16) Environment; share population in low elevated zones (1/8) Shock Index (1/2) Trade shock; instability of exports (1/4) Natural shock; Victims of natural disasters (1/8) Instability of agricultural production (1/8) 133
Private or customary – whither land
tenure in East Africa?
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
Africa rising?
Is Africa rising? Over the past decade Africa has registered remarkable economic
growth measured in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Some countries
have achieved close to double digit growth over consecutive years. This has given
rise to “Afro-optimism” among analysts, who claim that an economic transformation is imminent (Economist 2013). However, critics have argued that the
growth is mainly in the extractive sectors, and little improvement has been noted among the rural and urban poor (Havnevik 2015; Hårsmar in this volume).
If GDP growth is to dynamically modernise African economies, then the
agricultural sector must be transformed as it employs the majority of the population. More is required than handing over large land tracts to farm enterprises for
producing food and fibre for export. Growth must also lift millions and millions
of small-scale farming families out of poverty ‒ but how? Agronomic, technical,
sociocultural and institutional factors are involved.
This chapter discusses land tenure as a factor in agricultural development.
How can land-tenure reform help smallholders secure property rights and how
can it boost agricultural productivity?
Agricultural sector in East Africa
The region1 comprises high mountains, wide plains, wetlands, sprawling towns
as well as vast drylands. It is characterised by diverse ecosystems, tenures as well
as agricultural and rural development potential, including small town development (Allan 1965).
Our discussion is limited to the densely settled regions including virtually all
of Rwanda and Burundi, the western and central highlands of Kenya, western
and southern Uganda, and the Bukoba and Kilimanjaro regions as well as parts
of the northern and southern highlands of Tanzania. Here, the “land frontier” is
about to close: there is very little unused land left where young farmers can establish themselves. Instead, new households are accommodated through the subdivision of parental holdings. Thus, property rights in land are a burning issue.
Agriculture in the region is rain-fed and, under suitable management, reasonably productive (Verschuren, Laird and Cumming 2000). There are great
similarities in agricultural production systems, which share a similar history,
1. Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
political context and socioeconomic structure as well as comparable natural resource endowments. Over the past several decades, croplands have expanded
and today virtually all cultivable land is put to some form of agricultural use.
Farming is mainly small scale and subsistence-oriented, although most households also produce for markets and occasionally get paid jobs away from their
farms. The typical production unit is a household-managed farm consisting of
several, often scattered, fields covering a few hectares. Farm work is performed
with hand tools (in some areas with oxen and ploughs). Productivity is typically
low (cereal crops yield around one metric ton per hectare). As employment outside agriculture is limited, new generations of farm households have to subdivide
existing plots. In the very densely populated highlands, micro-farms of less than
half an hectare have emerged, and these cannot produce surpluses.
The agricultural situation in East Africa remains precarious. Food shortages
persist and segments of the population occasionally face starvation. The population in all five countries almost quadrupled from 1960 to 2000 and the rate of
increase remains high even today (World Bank 2011). Hence, tackling the complex issue of agricultural productivity is of the utmost importance.2
Large-scale land acquisitions are under way in East Africa, promoted by governments and implemented by both international and national corporations and
entrepreneurs including local elites (Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene 2011). This
phenomenon is, however, experienced only marginally in the very densely populated agricultural regions that are the focus of this article. Consequently, “land
grabbing” is not given detailed attention. It is, however, covered extensively in
several other chapters in this volume.
Multifarious tenures
Land tenure involves the relationship between users of the land and those who
claim dominion over it: in other words, the institutional regime under which
land use is controlled by various holders. These relations are legal and political
in nature (Barrows and Roth 2008).
Land can be held under a variety of tenures.3 African customary land tenure
2. Agricultural research and extension is spearheaded by regional organisations such as
the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa
(ASARECA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Comprehensive Africa
Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Although field trials show positive results, sustainable improvement in farm productivity has yet to be achieved.
3. The word tenure derives from the French tenir, to hold. In Roman law, the terms usus, fructus and abusus apply to ownership of land and other real estate. Usus is the right to use a
property; fructus is the right to enjoy its fruits (the harvest and other benefits). The holder
of usus fructus does not necessarily own the land. The right may be limited to a specific
period, sometimes a lifetime. When a landholder also acquires the right to abusus (the right
to dispose of the land, for instance, by selling it) the tenure takes the form of individual
private property rights (Buckland 1936).
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
can be broadly classified as usufructuary rights. Land was owned in common by
the clan, lineage or the like, while heads of households had the right to use the
pieces of land allotted to them and to dispose of its products. Land was claimed,
used and disposed of in accordance with customary regulations. These usufructuary rights were traditionally strong and gave security to landholders (Allan
1965; Huggins and Clover 2005).
European land laws were introduced during the colonial period, but did not
completely displace indigenous traditions (Mamdani 1996). Statutes were enacted confirming the colonial government as the supreme land owner. European
settlers who established farms and plantations were governed by statutory land
laws. Their holdings became private property and were registered as individual
freehold title. The same regime applied to missionary societies (Amanor 2012;
Batungi 2008; Tripp 2004). However, most agricultural land remained under
customary tenure and was cultivated by subsistence households organised in local communities. The colonial government also gazetted certain areas as public
lands, mainly forests, rangelands and other areas not permanently settled by
farmers. However, public land was used by local communities for grazing, hunting, non-permanent farming etc. This kind of land use was not recognised as
true ownership by the colonial authorities.
These authorities encouraged African farmers to grow cash crops. Gradually, and especially after the Second World War, smallholder agriculture became
partly commercialised. Land that was permanently used for cash crops (coffee,
tea, bananas, etc.), acquired a market value and a trend emerged towards buying
and selling such land. For example, in Chaggaland (Tanganyika) and in parts of
Kenya individual rights were strongly asserted, and irredeemable land purchases
between individuals became common during the colonial period (Allan 1965;
Opio-Odongo 1992).
At independence, a variety of customary tenures grounded in local tradition and sustained by communities themselves remained (Batungi 2008). As
Doyle contends (2006), postcolonial East African governments accepted the
customary systems while also acknowledging and amending statutory land laws.
Hence, regularising land ownership through land statutes was seen as part of
modernisation and nation-building and in this process individual freehold came
to be favoured at the expense of customary rules (see also Otto 2013).
Current land tenure in East Africa is thus multifarious and defies ready summary. Indigenous traditions originating long ago and further elaborated during
the colonial period are still (partly) operational, while the state asserts supreme
land rights and individual entitlements can be claimed. In some places, tenure
relationships may be well defined and enforceable either through customary
institutions or in the law courts. In others, the rules governing tenure are vague,
indistinct and open to contestation (Adoko and Levine 2008).
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
Which tenure arrangements best serve agricultural modernisation?
There is a rich body of research investigating the relationship between various
tenure arrangements, degree of tenure security enjoyed by landholders and the
willingness to invest in increased production. Some analysts recommend full
privatisation, while others favour strengthening individual rights through customary arrangements (Huggins and Clover 2005; Toulmin and Quan 2000;
Platteau 1996; Bruce 2012). The debate on this issue is reviewed below.
Privatisation is best
The evolutionary theory of land rights has influenced thinking on land tenure
in Africa (Lund 2001; Lund 2007; Toulmin and Quan 2000; Platteau 1996).
It holds that population increases trigger competition for land. Consequently,
farmers insist on formal rights in order to safeguard their holdings. Gradually,
land tenure changes towards enhanced individualisation of ownership, including the option to buy and sell plots. Individual transactions may or may not be
dependent on the sanction of the kinship group, village or other social community.
The related property rights school argues that a farmer’s propensity to invest
in land depends on how secure his/her control of the land is, i.e. that improved
land rights facilitate investment by the land holder (Feder and Feeney 1991).
A commercial interest in land emerges and land itself becomes a commodity.
The proponents of commercialisation of agriculture usually claim that customary tenures act as impediments and that individualisation of land ownership is
necessary for innovation and investment. The corollary is that private property
is the best guarantee of security. Policy advice arising from this thinking is that
the tenure regime should shift towards private property rights, because only this
ensures security and thus promotes a willingness to invest labour and money in
agricultural development.
An inherent assumption in the property rights school is that African farmers
think of, and behave as if, their land were a commodity among other commodities and that they want to get the highest monetary value out of it. A concrete
example of this thinking is the structural adjustment policies for agriculture
that were implemented in Tanzania. The International Monetary Fund claimed
that once the oppressive hand of African government institutions was removed
from agriculture, the free market would “get the prices right.” Farmers would respond to the “appropriate pricing signals” and reorient their production towards
the crop mixture that gave the best prices (IMF 1986). However, farmers’ actual
behaviour did not significantly change after structural adjustment policies were
introduced in Tanzania and the state gradually withdrew from direct control of
the agricultural sector although it did not relinquish influence over land issues.
The assumption proved to be erroneous, and the explanation offered was that
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
the local societies in which farmers live and work were still permeated by values of reciprocity and redistribution rather than profit maximisation (Skarstein
Can customary systems be modernised?
The enthusiasm for wholesale introduction of private land rights waned when
the costs were considered. In East Africa there are an estimated 20 million-plus
small farming holdings. Farm households typically work several tiny and scattered plots. To survey, adjudicate, consolidate, register and issue title deeds to
all of them would require massive amounts of expertise, sophisticated technical
equipment and funds. Moreover, an all-out push to replace current tenures in
favour of individual freehold would generate confusion and resistance among
much of the population, including in countries that had experienced violent
internal conflict. Experience from the Kenyan titling programme (see below)
revealed shortcomings and limitations. Land tenure reform is, despite its seemingly technical and legal nature, a highly political issue.
Yes, they can!
As noted above, in customary land tenure land ownership is not regularised
through written formal title deeds enforceable in law. In the 1990s the World
Bank, the leading advocate of the individualisation of land rights, moderated
its position that customary rights inhibit smallholder agricultural growth. Field
research sponsored by the World Bank showed that individual private property
was not necessarily the most efficient form of tenure in Africa (Migot-Adholla,
Hazell, Blorel and Place 1991). Customary arrangements began to be re-evaluated with a view of modifying them and giving them legal recognition. The
Bank’s position since then has favoured legal registration of customary rights.
This, it is argued, would be a cheaper and more acceptable approach and would
gradually vest landholders with certificates conferring legal and economic rights
similar to those enjoyed by private property holders. An interest arose in exploring how customary tenures could be developed, modified and administered by
formal government bodies (e.g., land boards) operating at the local level (Udry
2010). Recognition of customary land rights within the overarching framework
of statutory land law is now mainstream among government planners and donors involved in the agricultural sector (FAO 2010).
No, they are fraught with problems!
Customary land management and tenure have been assessed in different ways.
Sometimes, they are considered to embody the wisdom and justice of traditional
society in that they stress solidarity, equity and spirituality, while also being in
harmony with the physical environment. Such descriptions capture important
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
characteristics, but they may also tilt towards romanticism and ignore crucial
complexities (Adoko and Levine 2008; Udry 2010).
The alternative view is that customary institutions are expressions of power
and privilege and involve different actors in the community (chiefs, household
heads with varying resources and degrees of influence as well as underprivileged
and excluded landless individuals). Customary arrangements as we know them
today emerged in the early 20th century when the colonial authorities and traditional elites (chiefs, headmen) entered into power-sharing arrangements (Mamdani 1996). Current customary land tenure principles in a community should
therefore not be interpreted as the remnants of an ancient past. Although their
origin is precolonial, they have evolved and are continually modified to meet
challenges and opportunities and they reflect the power structure in the community (Berry 1993; Delville 2000).
Thus, any analysis of the potential of customary land tenure in modernising
African agriculture depends on the point of departure. The enthusiasm about
the potential of customary relations widely prevalent among non-governmental
organisations, donors and planners flows from a belief that customary authority is just and protective of all members. However, if one’s point of departure
is based on notions of community power relations, social stratification and inequality, then one is bound to take a different view. Studies show that land
tenure modernisation within a customary framework may reproduce hierarchy,
favouritism, inequalities, differential access to resources and exclusion of weaker
individuals and groups (women, secondary wives, youth and tenants) (Toulmin
and Quang 2000).
The shortcomings of customary tenures can be expected to be most pronounced when land pressure is marked and increasing, and when few alternative
income-earning possibilities (such as out-migration to industrial towns) exist. In
such situations, more powerful individuals and groups may manipulate customary practices to their advantage so that land is acquired through the dispossession of individuals/households with weaker claims, with attendant disappointment and conflict within the community. In this process, the very institution
of customary tenure may be questioned. Some researchers claim that customary
tenures have by now eroded significantly and cause great stress among rural
populations. Farmers in East Africa typically face a situation akin to “anarchy”
in their use of resources: they lack the written documents to prove the land
they till is their own; traditional authorities in their community have declined
and cannot be trusted to support their customary rights; appointed officials
assume decision-making authority; and private entrepreneurs with contacts to
higher echelons encroach on their land (Kohlhagen 2011; Magharibi, Lokina
and Senga 2011).
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
Mixed experiences in Kenya
Major land tenure reform was initiated in Kenya as the colonial era closed. The
Swynnerton Plan aimed at creating a prosperous class of landed African farmers who would produce cash crops.4 At independence, the Kenya government
endorsed the plan, took over the colonial legal framework for land tenure and
amended it gradually. The plan was implemented throughout the 1960s, first
in the central and western highlands and subsequently in other areas, where its
implementation is still under way. The first generation of post-independence
Kenyan politicians, civil servants and businesspeople regarded land investment
as a proper form of accumulation, either by way of agricultural production, construction or for speculation. Individualisation of land tenure provided the legal
framework for the elite to build up assets (Wanjala ed. 2000a).
The essential aim of land tenure reform was the streamlining of private property rights by providing individual titles to every landholder. A short summary
of the technicalities involved is given in the box.
In each area selected for implementation, a land adjudication officer was appointed and a local land committee established. Provision of title deeds proceeded as follows. An individual
claimant showed the officer the plots of land cultivated by the household, which were then
demarcated. The claim was open to public scrutiny for a prescribed time. Then the parcels of
land were consolidated into one piece. This land was documented in the adjudication register
and was thereafter entered into the land register, which was to be kept in a public office. On
the basis of this documentation, the claimant (usually the household head) obtained written
Source: Wanjala ed. 2000a.
Settlement schemes were important in the institutionalisation of individual
land rights. Backed financially by donors, the Kenyan government purchased
large estates from those settlers who had decided to leave Kenya. “Million Acre
Schemes” were implemented and more than a million households obtained land
in this way. Some settler farms were sold directly to individuals, while others
remained in settler hands for generations. Settlement scheme land was subdivided into plots (from 25 to 40 hectares). Recipients included not only landless
people but also urban workers, traders, civil servants and politicians. The terms
of settlement included a government loan to the recipient. Individual title deeds
were granted only after the loan had been repaid. The frequent result was that
poor, truly needy settlers could not repay their loans and their plots were taken
over by better-to-do neighbours. Settlement schemes therefore not only provid4. The ”Plan to Intensify Development of African Agriculture in Kenya” was named after
the Assistant Director of Agriculture, R.J.M. Swynnerton, who drafted the programme.
A detailed account of the evolution of the colonial land policies in Kenya is provided in
Wanjala ed. (2000a).
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
ed land but also served as instruments for building-up large holdings (Wanjala
ed. 2000a).
The reform measures were popular among several categories of farmers, including those who invested in cash cropping and appreciated title deeds as an
insurance against other claimants. Title-holder security improved and so did
title-holder status. Adjudication and titling clarified and confirmed who owned
what in the community. Of course, there were winners and losers. Locally influential people with contacts among the public authorities were able to access
more land than other people. The result was a far-from-even division of land.
In later generations, the discrepancies in land ownership widened. Indirectly,
land tenure reform promoted inequality within communities, diminished land
availability for those who failed to secure title deeds and (often) disadvantaged
women’s land rights (Okoth Owiti and Kitevu 2000).
However, land tenure reform did not do away with customary practices.
Transfers of title deeds to the descendants of the original holders have been irregular and unsystematic (Wanjala ed. 2000a). Since the 1960s, titled holdings
have been subdivided, transferred, sold and bought several times over as new
generations within the household come of age or through deals with outsiders.
In addition, the heirs of first generation titleholders have often neglected to visit
the office where the land register is kept to have their names entered into it.
Hence, land records do not reflect the ownership pattern on the ground (Okoth
Owiti and Kitevu 2000).
Another reason for this is that the Kenyan government has limited ‒ and
poorly coordinated ‒ administrative capacity to systematically register and
follow up on all transactions. It is also claimed that Kenyan farmers are not
particularly keen to collect written evidence, as they do not always consider
it necessary for security. Titleholders continue to be influenced by customary
traditions (Wily 2006). A further illustration of the persistence of customary
attitudes is that even though a business transaction involving a piece of land legally involves the seller and buyer alone, prospective sellers tend to consult elders
or similar informal authorities in connection with the proposed sale. Hence,
customary practices appear to have crept back into transfers of land (Platteau
1996; Wily 2006).
What of agricultural productivity? An oft-quoted study compared Kenyan
smallholder farms with freehold titles and those without in terms of agricultural
productivity and crop sales (Carter, Wiebe, Blarel and Bruce 1994). It showed
that the effect of formal land title was eclipsed by other factors, mainly access
to markets and size of farm. The conclusion reached was that efforts to enhance
smallholder productivity via land tenure reform were likely to prove ineffective if
undertaken in a vacuum. Title was less important in determining farm productivity than mediating factors such as access to markets, non-farm income and wealth.
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
Kenyan development strategy has involved economic diversification into industry and services. It has managed to create an economy whose size and dynamism is unmatched in the region. Nevertheless, population growth outstrips
job creation. This is the background to the phenomenon of squatting. Squatters
are spontaneous settlers who occupy land to which they have no legal right
or even customary affiliation. The areas “invaded” can be national parks and
other protected habitats, as well as large farms. The squatters are landless, unemployed people who take up squatting as a desperate means of survival. Squatting
can therefore be seen as a social failure and as reflecting the breakdown of the
national land tenure system (Kibwana 2000). For example, the protected forest along the Mau Escarpment has a squatter population of more than 30,000
families, of whom and only 2,000 have title deeds. There have been prolonged
negotiations between the squatters and authorities, with repeated threats of forcible expulsion (The Guardian 2009).
The vast tracts of public land set aside by the colonial authorities as Crown
land were transferred to the government of Kenya at independence. They include national parks, water and forest reserves, road and railway reserves,
“wastelands,” etc. The president has the power to make grants from public land
to institutions and individuals. This prerogative has been used since the 1960s
to reward political supporters. As a result, public land is constantly diminishing,
while individual land possessions are increasing (Wanjala 2000b).
The following observations emerge from the Kenyan experience:
• Several million farmers have received title deeds, and have hence increased
their security of tenure.
• The administrative capacity to systematically register and follow up on all
transactions is limited and not well coordinated.
• Despite half a century of implementing the land titling programme, customary traditions still persist and in varying degree influence buying and selling
• There is no evidence that individualisation of title leads to increased crop
yields or agricultural productivity.
• The multiplicity of tenures (customary, individual, public) has been manipulated by political elites to build up land resources for their private use.
Customary or private – does it matter for women’s access to land?
It is obvious from the preceding sections that customary rights may provide a
high degree of security to landholders as long as competition for land is limited
and a sense of solidarity prevails in the community. However, when land is
scarce and there is competition for it, customary tenure is no guarantee of security. Similarly, formal titling of land rights is very positive for the titleholder.
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
Nevertheless, provision of individual land titles can marginalise those household members whose names do not appear on the certificate.
We now look at land security through a gendered lens. 5
In traditional African agriculture, household members negotiate who is in
charge of specific agricultural activities (hoeing, planting, weeding, harvesting, tending livestock, growing trees, etc.) and who will control the benefits.
Women are not only important in agricultural operations, but possess indispensable skills, control many production processes and can assert rights to land
(Isinika in this volume). In customary tenure systems where land was plentiful,
a gendered division of ownership was not an acute issue. Nevertheless, in the
patriarchal agricultural societies of East Africa customary rules of inheritance
favoured males (Englert and Daley 2008). Researchers are widely agreed that
individualisation of land tenure tends to disadvantage women (Adoko and Levine 2008). Colonial policy strengthened male possession of land and the various
tenure reforms aiming at individualisation made women’s claims to land even
more precarious. The household head is usually a man and he receives the certificate of ownership or the title deed when the land is surveyed, adjudicated and
registered. It is far from common for husband and wife to be jointly registered as
owners (Englert and Daley 2008).
Formal ownership of land as a saleable commodity thus seems to increase the
right and power of the male household head. Wives tend to lose out and can be
dispossessed in the event of divorce or sale of the land. Where the male head of
household dies, the widow and children may be forced off the land by his relatives. Second and third wives in a household are even more insecure. Unmarried daughters are also likely to be losers (Daley and Englert 2010; Isinika and
Mutabazi 2010).
The land laws enacted in East African countries in recent years reflect a consciousness of the gender imbalance and have paragraphs providing equal rights
to men and women in terms of ownership of land, inheritance, decisions on sale
and purchase. For example, Rwandan land law states that wife and husband
have equal rights over land (Ansoms and Holvoet 2008). This is a good start,
but legal recognition of women’s rights to land is only the beginning. Formal
land laws do not replace customary practices overnight. Adherence to the new
law is not automatic and women are typically vulnerable to manipulation of the
legal code. The challenge lies in how laws are implemented. This applies both to
laws introducing individual private property and to laws modifying customary
arrangements (Englert and Daley 2008). The official policy to encourage individual land registration as part of privatisation initiatives can intensify women’s
loss of rights. In circumstances of patrilineal inheritance, men can exploit their
5. The article by Isinika and Kikwa, in this volume, analyses women’s access to land in Tanzania.
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
superior status in the household and community to advance their claims to land
ownership. In cases of contested family land ownership, women have limited
ability to assert their rights in front of a male-dominated local decision-making
body, whether customary or statutory. Examples from Uganda indicate that
although most farm households report that husband and wife hold land jointly,
women are less likely to be listed on the land ownership documents associated
with the land policy, and are excluded in matters of land inheritance (Englert
and Daley 2008).
Did yields increase?
Official policy documents in East African countries justify promotion of individual title and private property in land in terms of agricultural productivity. The argument is that customary tenures check productivity increases. For
example, land tenure reforms were promoted in Uganda on the grounds that
customary tenures are inefficient and generate conflict, since customary rules are
imprecise and detrimental to investment (Republic of Uganda 2010).
The Kenyan individual titling programme reviewed above was motivated
by assumptions that productivity would increase. The Land Use Consolidation programme in Rwanda is meant to promote efficient agriculture and boost
productivity (Musahara in this volume). The official policy in Burundi is that
farmers can secure their land rights by registering them under the formal titling
system (Kohlhagen 2011).
While the policy statements are clear, the evidence of productivity increases
related to individualisation of tenure is ambiguous. As noted above, the evidence from Kenya is mixed. In Uganda, field research reports show there is no
significant difference in agricultural productivity between farms operated under
customary versus freehold rights. The reason advanced is that farmers with individual titles also lack access to rural credit, agricultural inputs, etc. (LastarriaCornhiel 2003).
The most depressing evidence comes from Burundi, where lukewarm attempts to transform customary tenures into individual title have contributed to
anarchy in land tenure and stagnant production. The formal titling system does
not work. Customary land tenure arrangements are in a state of confusion since
the traditional authorities (chiefs and king) have been abolished. Farmers are
left in an institutional vacuum. Land disputes abound, partly due to the political situation, which encourages resettlement, and partly due to demographics.
Land conflicts are becoming more violent even within households, with the
older generation pitted against grown-up children and brothers and sisters set
against each other (Kohlhagen 2011). Hence, the propensity to invest in land for
increased productivity is not at hand.
These examples could be multiplied. It is no exaggeration to conclude that
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
land tenure is not the sole decisive factor in agricultural development. Productivity increases can be achieved under both customary and private tenures if they
provide security for landholders and are supplemented with technical improvements, marketing and credits. At the same time, nothing is more disastrous to
productivity increases than land tenure systems that are vague, blurred and open
to different interpretations.
How many farmers can the land feed?
Land tenure policy must also be seen from a demographic and socioeconomic
perspective. Experiences from Rwanda illustrate the situation prevailing in all
the densely settled agricultural regions of East Africa.
The Rwandan population grew from 1.5 million in the mid-1930s to more
than 8 million in the mid-2000s. The land frontier closed in the last decades of
the 20th century (only national parks and mountains were not cultivated). In
the early 1960s, the family farm averaged 2 hectares, in the early 1980s it had
shrunk to 1.2 hectares while another two decades later close to 60 per cent of
households had farm holdings of less than 0.5 hectares (Ohlsson 1999). Until
the early 1980s, food production grew at a pace slightly above population increase. Thereafter, production in absolute terms grew more slowly due to soil
exhaustion and erosion, while per capita food supply decreased (Ohlsson 1999).
The burgeoning population remained dependent on small-scale agriculture in
the absence of a developing urban and industrial sector. Land was thus the sole
means of subsistence for more than nine-tenths of the population (Musahara
in this volume). Despite the fact that land was in theory state-owned, informal
markets in land emerged and transactions were documented in written titles
(Ansoms and Holvoet 2008). Nevertheless, land conflicts were aggravated by the
extreme land scarcity resulting from the population increase. Disputes proliferated within local communities and within households, especially when young
adults demanded land from their parents. Extreme fragmentation of holdings
resulted in the emergence of quasi-landless households (owning less than 0.25
hectares). Many people had to turn to intermittent casual labour, petty theft
or prostitution. The 1994 genocide has in part been analysed in terms of land
scarcity. During the four month period when about one million people – mainly
Tutsis - were murdered, often by their neighbours, the prospect of taking over
Tutsi-owned farms was one of the drivers (Ohlsson 1999).
Population pressure in Burundi and in parts of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is approaching the level evident in Rwanda. The region is undergoing dramatic demographic change, and population growth fuels environmental change
and natural resource degradation. Competition for land is on the increase and
brings with it disputes and conflicts.
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
Summary of observations
The following issues stand out from our review:
• Privatisation of land ownership is promoted by the governments in varying
degree and with varying levels of determination. Overall, individual land tenure is gaining ground while customary tenure is losing it.
• The process is driven by land scarcity and the dearth of alternative livelihood
options for the rural population.
• Privatisation creates winners and losers. It is welcomed by commercially oriented farmers (including smallholders), rural entrepreneurs and agricultural
corporations. The disadvantaged typically include the near landless, tenants
and marginal members of the household.
• On the ground, the situation is complex. A multiplicity of tenures coexist
because customary practices linger. This contributes to confusion and insecurity. It creates the opportunity for individuals to promote their land claims
either through enacted law or through customary practices, or a combination
of the two, depending on the local political situation.
• From landholders’ perspective, the ultimate object of tenure reform is enhancement of their security against disputes and threats of dispossession
through arbitrary claims. Such security can, in theory, be guaranteed by private ownership protected by law or by registration of customary claims given
protection by law.
• Inefficient handling of land registration and corrupt practices diminish people’s
confidence in reform. Digitised technology (of land registers, etc.) managed by
professionals could improve administrative performance. A different question is
whether administrative measures are sufficient to improve popular confidence.
• Tenure reform establishing individual land ownership does not of itself lead
to increased agricultural productivity. This requires a set of different inputs
such as improved germplasm, land and water management, machinery, market information, etc., which could in theory be combined with different
forms of land tenure.
• Tenure reforms that favour individual ownership are not a path to poverty
reduction, even if they include individual smallholdings. With current population growth rates, by the 2020s many rural inhabitants in East Africa will
be landless. The decisive issue is how to provide constructive livelihood opportunities for them.
Agrarian transition in East Africa?
As one looks to the future, it is useful to place the discussion of land tenure
in the context of land use. Agriculture must become much more productive
(both in terms of increased harvests per area unit and of increases in production
Private or customary – whither land tenure in East Africa
per smallholder). Under what agricultural arrangements (labour, technology,
inputs, infrastructure, market, ownership) can this be achieved? There are different views on which pathway agricultural change should take.6 In the 2020s,
agriculture in East Africa could in theory involve:
• millions of smallholders within an egalitarian structure, possibly featuring
collective farming
• a stratified structure in which mid- and large-sized commercial farmers-led
agricultural modernisation while smallholders increasingly sell off their land
and work as day labourers or drift off to towns and;
• fully mechanised large-scale farm/plantation enterprises operated by specialists and employing varying numbers of seasonal labourers.
The first scenario is embraced by the ecological lobby, numerous NGOs and
academics with influence in donor organisations. The second scenario used to be
advocated by the World Bank, although it has moved towards the first scenario
in recent years. The third scenario is advocated by national entrepreneurs, international corporations and enterprises that wish to invest in Africa for their own
food and energy requirements.
Where do East African governments stand? All of them give lip service to
the importance of smallholders. However, resources for peasant agriculture have
mainly come from international donors rather than from national budgets. Only
in Rwanda do we see a serious and systematic government-led agricultural transformation programme that incorporates a substantial number of smallholders
and has resulted in drastically increased crop production (Musahara, this volume). The current trend among many African governments is to favour largescale investments in agriculture by granting leases to international and domestic
entrepreneurs. Public land has been alienated (long-term leases to corporations)
and in the process customary (including pastoralist) tenures have typically been
disregarded (Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene 2011). However, there is little evidence that the large-scale farming enterprises that have emerged in Africa over
the past decade are the key to productivity increases. Numerous investigations
show that many of these enterprises are still struggling to get started.7
From an agronomic/technical point of view, it is unlikely that a new generation of subsistence farming households in the 2020s, each cultivating ever
smaller plots of land, could produce surpluses. Agronomic experts claim that
when agricultural holdings operating with the current means of production are
reduced to tiny parcels amounting to less than a hectare, bare subsistence is the
most a household can hope for (Djurfeldt, Jirström and Holmen 2008). If this
6. For a review of different schools of thought on the prospects and problems of African
peasant farming in the light of the Marxist debate on the “agrarian question,” see Mueller
7. See articles in this volume by Beyene, Bryceson, Coulson, Holmqvist as well as Skarstein.
Opira Otto and Michael Ståhl
assumption is correct, it would indeed be an argument in favour of consolidation
of holdings, selective mechanisation, crop and livestock specialisation for commercial purposes and differentiation of the agricultural workforce, including
rural exodus. The policy question is: what are the exit solutions for the “surplus”
population? Constructive solutions would be found in the context of structural
transformation of the societies, including labour-absorptive industrialisation. If,
however, the only option for the rural population remains eking out a living
from low-productive agriculture or joining the urban unemployed, then disintegrative processes may set in. Hence, it is not sufficient to look for the perfect
land tenure arrangement. Combinations of private and customary tenures need
to be considered in the overall context of economic growth and transformation,
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Consolidating land use in Rwanda:
Inclusive and sustainable rural development
and lessons from Tanzania
Herman Musahara
Agriculture remains the mainstay of most of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has a predominantly agricultural economy. The preoccupation of
most scholars over the decades has been analysing agriculture and rural development dynamics with the aim of uncovering the barriers to agricultural transformation, barriers that inhibit the long-term improvement of people’s lives. Indeed
since the achievement of independence in Africa in the 1960s, several agricultural and rural development schemes have been tried, some of them achieving
admirable but short-lived successes. Large-scale agriculture promoted by the
state or run by private investors with support from governments has been the
most ubiquitous approach. In this chapter, one such scheme, Land Use Consolidation (LUC) in Rwanda, is revisited. It is analysed in relation to its potential
to achieve food security and agricultural transformation in Rwanda. The chapter uses data from a micro-level study and secondary information to assess the
concepts of inclusive and sustainable development. It also draws on the broad
knowledge built up over four decades of rural development discourse in Tanzania. The question is what has the LUC achieved in Rwanda? Which micro-level
indicators point to deficits in inclusive and sustainable development? How do
these link to the overall inclusive and sustainable development discourse? What
can LUC learn from other schemes tried elsewhere, specifically in Tanzania?
This chapter is derived from the write-up of data collected in Rwanda in
2013 and 2014. The original data sets could not be used directly as they are still
the property of USAID. The findings from the study were based on feedback
from 742 households from different areas in Rwanda that had experienced LUC
for various crops.
The background section sets LUC within the context of Rwandan agricultural development and land dynamics. It describes the LUC scheme and the
current appreciation of its contribution to agricultural transformation. The third
section outlines the outcomes of LUC, while the fourth raises a number of issues with regard to inclusive and sustainable development. The following section
looks at the Rwandan scenario in light of what happened in Tanzania, and the
final section contains the conclusion.
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
LUC is set in the context of Rwandan land use and political economy. Rwanda
has a land area of 26,388 square kilometres and a population of over 11 million.
The population density of over 430 per square kilometre is the highest in subSaharan Africa. Agriculture accounts for 34 per cent of GDP and 80 per cent
of employment in Rwanda (GoR 2013). Agriculture is still predominantly traditional, with low productivity and limited application of technology. Unlike in
other parts of Africa, agriculture can only produce greater yields through intensification and the application of modern inputs. Average land area per household
in Rwanda is less than one hectare. Virtually no uncultivated areas are available
in Northern and Southern Rwanda. Some uncultivated land is still available to
the East such as Akagera National Park which was partially opened for settlement after 1994. The concepts of rotation farming, opening new farmland or
the tropical methods of bush fallowing and shifting cultivation no longer exist
in Rwanda. The major aim of agricultural intensification has been food security
and also monetisation of the economy (Muhinda 2013).
In late 1980s, Rwanda, like several other African economies, was affected
equally by external economic shocks and regressive reforms that affected agriculture (Storey 1999). Agricultural production declined and there were rampant
food crises in most rural areas. In June 1990, Rwanda joined the ranks of those
countries that were advised to adopt a Structural Adjustment Programme. The
same year, in October, a civil war started. It was to last for three years and ended
in the genocide of April-June 1994. The economy was shattered and agricultural
production and productivity collapsed (Storey 2002). An immediate response by
the state after the genocide was to conceive policy reforms that would lead to recovery. These were introduced sequentially and intensively. An important policy
that had been devised earlier on paper, the Crop Intensification Programme
(CIP), was put into action in 2007. CIP was seen as part of the Strategic Plan
for Agricultural Transformation that operated from 2007 to 2013 (GOR 2008).
The primary aim of the programme was to increase agricultural productivity, especially in relation to food crops with high potential, and to ensure that Rwanda
achieved greater food security and self-sufficiency. LUC was an element of the
CIP, and was introduced in 2008, although it had been mentioned as a concept
in earlier land policy (GOR 2004), law (GOR 2005) and poverty-reduction
strategy papers (GOR 2002; GOR 2007).
Land consolidation is a common land planning concept. However, in Rwanda it was defined in a different way and given a content that linked agriculture
and land use. In principle, it was to shape settlement patterns consistent with the
optimal use of scarce land. It is embodied in the land policy of 2004, land law
of 2005 and revised land law of 2013. Land Law No. 08/2005 of 14 July 2005
Herman Musahara
defined LUC as “a procedure of putting together small plots of land in order to
manage the land and use it in an efficient manner so that the land may give more
productivity” (GoR 2005). The provision on Land Use Consolidation can be
found also in Article 30 of the current revised law (GOR 2013). Unlike in other
reforms, farmers retain ownership of their parcels in the consolidated land and
accept advice from government experts on cultivating one crop from among the
priority crops identified by the programme. Small adjoining farms are consolidated to enable economies of large-scale farming and to be able to benefit from
government support for using modern farming methods. In the law, the scheme
is regarded as a pathway to the commercialisation of agriculture as well.
The Ministry of Agriculture oversees the programme on behalf of the government, while the Rwanda Agricultural Board, a semi-autonomous government agency, is responsible for implementing it. Local leaders participate in site
selection and in mobilising people to join the scheme. For a plot of land to be
covered by LUC, it has to have a minimum of five hectares. Besides achieving
economies of scale, the scheme is meant to promote efficient agricultural production; boost productivity, rural livelihoods and food security; and achieve
a more equitable distribution of land resources. Priority crops include beans,
maize, Irish potatoes, cassava, wheat, rice, soy and bananas. Farmers are supplied with improved seeds, subsidised fertiliser coupons, extension advice and,
in some cases, post-harvest services such as storage, processing and marketing
(GOR 2013). In short, LUC is part of a state-led agricultural production and
transformation scheme.
LUC and changes in production and food security
LUC has ostensibly raised the yield of major food crops in Rwanda. The area
under LUC has expanded from 28,016 hectares in 2008 to more than 602,000
in 2012 (Mbonigaba 2013) and the target is to cover 70 per cent of the population by 2017 (GOR 2011). As mentioned, the scheme is meant to ensure food security but is also linked to commercialisation and the resettlement of Rwandan
households. So far, increases in productivity have been dramatic. From 2008 to
2013, the yield of maize increased fivefold; wheat and cassava threefold; Irish
potatoes, soybeans and beans twofold; and rice by 30 per cent.
From Map 1 it is clear that LUC has been implemented variably across the
provinces of Rwanda. Tables 1 and 2 imply there are still households and crops
that have not been covered. However, from Figure 1 below it is clear that LUC
has dramatically raised production of major food crops. According to the government, food security needs have been met by the programme (Mbonigaba
2013). What is challenging now is how to handle the surplus (Kathiresan 2012).
Taking maize as an example of one of the crops that has thrived well and
has been supported extensively under LUC, Figure 1 shows the trends in output
Rwandan households. So far, increases in productivity have been dramatic. From 2008 to 2013
the yield of maize increased fivefold; wheat and cassava threefold; Irish potatoes, soybeans and
beans twofold; and rice by 30 per cent.
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
Map 1: Hectares under LUC by province
Map 1. Hectares under LUC by province
Source: Adopted from LUC/USAID report 2014.
Source: Adopted from LUC/USAID report 2014 Table 1: Topography and LUC hectares by crops
2008 A 2009 A 2010 A 2010B
17,808 35,000 83,427 29,474.29 138,490.35
5,000 36,420 2,728.71 37,183.00
9,448 10,000 5,748
102,528.00 Uphill
10,000 7,340
Valley wetland
Soya bean 0
105,580 n/a
28,016 66,000 250,788 42,824.00 502,916.55 524,185.95
254,011.00 237,745.25 Uphill/Lowland
Source: GOR 2013 and own classification of topography.
N.B. A refers to Season A in Rwanda which is roughly the months of September to January. B
refers to Season B i.e. the period February to June.
Table 2: Coverage of LUC
LUC ha.
Districts covered
CIP outreach by
2011 B
Source: GOR 2013 * asterisk means estimate and Season A and B as above in Table 1.
A majority of farmers (76 per cent) stated that they joined LUC voluntarily, while 56 per cent
The discussion of the macroeconomic level outcomes that follows draws on both the quantitative
and qualitative results contained in the write-up on which this chapter draws (Musahara et al.
Source: athiresan 2011;
2011; Muhinda 2013. Figure
1: Trends
Trends ininmaize
priority crops are not very different and are also available (Kathiresan 2011). It is not difficult to
note that the scheme has resulted in a remarkable change in productivity.
Herman Musahara
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
and yield. The trends for the other priority crops are not very different and are
also available (Kathiresan 2011). It is not difficult to note that the scheme has
resulted in a remarkable change in productivity.
The discussion of the macroeconomic level outcomes that follows draws on
both the quantitative and qualitative results contained in the write-up on which
this chapter draws (Musahara et al. 2014).
A majority of farmers (76 per cent) stated that they joined LUC voluntarily,
while 56 per cent say there was no resistance to the programme. What has been
noted is that 24 per cent felt it was not voluntary and 44 per cent must have
known some resistance to the programme. Some 66 per cent of respondents felt
satisfied with the LUC. About 70 per cent noted that yield had risen as a result
of the initiative. Asked who made the decision about LUC, 33 per cent thought
it was local leaders, 39 per cent thought it was the farmers themselves, 21 per
cent the Agricultural Board and 7 per cent the central government. This indicates that it is perhaps exaggerated to think that although LUC was a top down
decision every decision was made at Ministerial level.
More than 63 per cent of the households perceived that LUC had improved
food security. Even so, over 50 per cent of respondents had experienced food
shortages seven days before the survey. About 67 per cent mentioned they had
two meals a day and 23 per cent could afford one meal a day only.
Of the 742 households surveyed, 69 per cent pointed out that their living
conditions had improved. Indeed, the possession of various household assets
has been used as one indicator of improved earnings and livelihoods. However,
there seem to be challenges in storing and processing harvested crops: about 84
per cent indicated they had no storage facilities and about 90 per cent indicated
lack of processing of their harvests.
From the survey, and from other studies of Rwanda, there are many other
findings related to LUC (Musahara et al. 2014). Taken together, they indicate
that LUC is a success story. Yet by using existing information and the residue of
the percentages reported above, it is possible to raise a number of issues regarding inclusive and sustainable development. To this we now turn.
LUC and inclusiveness and sustainability
Inclusive development
Inclusiveness is a complex term that roughly means development that does not
“leave anyone behind” (UNSDSN 2015). On the other hand, there is also the
question of whether it is owned by farmers and involves their participation in
decision-making. Currently in development discourse, inclusive development
evokes issues of pro-poor growth, poverty and inequality reduction and social
inclusion (Kanbur and Reynar 2009).
Herman Musahara
LUC is based on agriculture, in which field the majority of the poor labour,
so ideally it is a pro-poor programme (ATD 2015). The question is whether
the poor under the programme are reduced by numbers at a greater rate than
yield is increased under it. Another test would be the degree to which poor and
non-poor benefit from the scheme. If non-poor households benefit more than
poor farmers do, then not only does the scheme question its pro-poor growth
character, but it also increases inequality between the two groups. According
to our analysis below, LUC does have therefore more room to be pro-poor in
promoting economic growth.
In this regard, LUC would ideally have to include all poor households and
all regions. In fact, the programme involves 40 per cent of households nationally, 13 per cent of the land area and is expected to be scaled up to 70 per cent
of households by 2017. Thus, the mere fact that yield has been increased and
food security enhanced is not in itself a detailed enough finding, as surely there
must be many more poor households that have not been touched by the windfall
gains from the programme1.
But inclusiveness entails an element of participation as well. At a theoretical level, it has been argued that large-scale consolidation hardly ever involves
voluntary participation (Zhou 1999). Two responses by participants in the study
mentioned above were interesting, namely whether the scheme was voluntary
and whether farmers participated in the programme. About 76 per cent responded that it was voluntary and 65 per cent answered in the affirmative that
it was participatory. However, some people felt there was some sort of “carrot
and stick” in the process. For instance, if one did not want to participate in the
scheme, then one would not get government support for fertilisers, extension
services and other benefits under CIP. It is also clear that in many cases the
choice of crop was based more on agronomic expertise than farmer preference.
As noted previously, only 39 per cent of respondents thought the decision about
LUC activities involved the farmers themselves.
In the jargon of inclusiveness, gender and youth participation is important.
The question here is twofold. Women are known to play a disproportionately
1. Agricultural productivity can be decomposed in two different types of productivity, labour
productivity and area productivity, i.e the increase in output of crops from a certain area,
often denoted yields. Whereas an increase in yield signifies that production per unit of
area is increasing it does not imply that labour productivity, i.e. increase in production
per unit of manpower employed. In fact yields can increase without any increase in labour
productivity. Labour productivity (production over labour) equals area productivity (yield,
which is production over area) multiplied by the quotient area over labour. Hence increased
labour productivity in agriculture, which refers to increasing surplus production in agriculture, can grow by an increase in yield only if the quotient area over labour exceeds one (see
Bhaduri and Skarstein 1997). The fact that food security has been enhanced in the area
implies that not only have yields increased but improvements have also taken place terms
of labour productivity, implying increased food surpluses.
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
large role in African agriculture. There is no study yet that establishes whether
the programme has succeeded in bringing about fairer participation and has improved the lot of women. Based on available documentation, no provision was
made for a gender role in the programme. On the other hand, perhaps it is still
too early to attempt such a determination: there is no indication that commercialisation has taken place to a level where it can provide alternative employment
to the youth and rural populations. This may imply that the surplus production
in LUC is still limited, in spite that yields may be improving.
Indeed, this is the major challenge. Inclusive development means a pro-poor
growth pathway. The very fact that LUC is based on the agricultural sector in
which most poor work better qualifies the scheme as being more inclusive than
any other outside the sector. However, as has been noted in many countries,
such an approach may be necessary but is not sufficient. Pro-poor growth needs
to reduce poverty and inequality in addition to focusing on sectors where the
poor preponderate or on activities that involve the poor themselves (Kanbur and
Raynaur 2009).
The responses from the households indicated that a majority ‒ but, importantly, not all ‒ had moved out of poverty. In qualitative interviews, a number
of households indicated that farmers have different sizes of plots under LUC and
as a result increases in yield have been experienced differently across households.
To obtain support by way of fertiliser and other inputs one has to have a plot of
more than one hectare. In many households, plots are less than that. Informal
arrangements have been adopted by farmers to pool their plots under one name
in order to get the support. Nonetheless, the end result is that there is differentiation in terms of the benefits accruing to participants.
Another observation relates to the different levels of support for different
crops (Musahara et al. 2014). Maize, rice and cassava seem to have been given
more direct support than soybeans, potatoes and wheat. An exception is Irish
potatoes, in respect of which it was noted that a significant level of commercialisation had been achieved so that farmers can afford to purchase inputs on their
The choice of crops and the selected areas also differed by altitude (see Table
1 above). Rice has been introduced in wetlands, maize in lowlands and valleys
and most other crops have been grown on hillsides. The most successful crops
are those in the lowlands. Rice and maize growers have thus benefited more
from the scheme than the growers of other crops. Thus, farmers cultivating the
most favoured crop are given more attention and support by government than
These features help to explain the problem of inclusive development. LUC,
like any other large-scale agricultural scheme, can be seen to raise yields several
fold. As a government-led activity, the indicators of success are quantified and
Herman Musahara
visible, but in reality income and benefits vary from place to place, by categories
of people and by the degree of support each element in the scheme receives.
Thus, there is no doubt that the numbers indicating that food availability has
been addressed by the scheme are a fair indication of success.
However, another question is whether LUC has transformed rural production techniques. First, it is still a programme that has yet to cover the whole
economy, country and crop spectrum. Second, and contrary to what many people believe, the programme is still something of a side economic activity, because
most cash and other crops are produced by smallholder farmers away from the
consolidated land. The gain in yield has not registered as a transformative shift
in the agricultural systems or the economy. The issue is perhaps not the one
some tended to state when the project was started, namely supporting small
farmers where they are. Rather, it is how to make the windfall gains change the
livelihoods of most households and transform economic and social livelihoods.
While the large-scale scheme has provided a sound basis for boosting food security, there is no evidence yet of a substantially transformed agriculture. It is
perhaps too early to make any definitive judgement as the government itself had
set to evaluate the entire programme after five years (Kathiresan 2011).
Sustainability is a fashionable word that is as loaded as inclusive development.
The simplest meaning of sustainable agriculture is that it takes into consideration the environment. At that level, large-scale agricultural schemes are indeed
looked at in relation to their impact on the environment (www.sustainableagriculture.org). At another level, there is the evolving discourse on climate-smart
agriculture. A scheme should not just be looked at in terms of being friendly to
the current ecosystem, but also be forward-looking in terms of mitigating the
effects of climate change. In this section, the concept is also taken to include the
ability of smallholders to continue existing and to develop on their own under
market conditions and with minimum support from government.
The study from which this chapter is derived included the environment in its
terms of reference. However, the outcomes were based more on the perceptions
of the farmers, and these were generally positive. Farmers indicated that government intervention and support has made water more available for irrigation and
fertilisers have made formerly unproductive pieces of land produce more. No
water pollution is perceived. The study, however, concluded that more needs to
be done on the environmental side for a number of reasons.
First, when the scheme was introduced, no base-line environmental impact
assessment was undertaken. Thus it is not possible to assess the impact of LUC
farming on selected environmental indicators. But secondly, environmental indicators and impacts are often quite scientific and the responses of farmers on
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
the environment do not provide a credible answer. One particular case here is
the debate on the use of chemical fertilisers. As long as water downstream still
looks clear and colourless to the farmers, to them this is an indication that there
is no pollution. Yet, for example, the presence of heavy metals in water as a result of the application of chemical fertilisers and runoff can only be discerned
through sophisticated scientific studies, and such studies have not been undertaken in relation to LUC (Musahara et al. 2013). And this is a major point of
contention in considering the sustainability of large-scale agricultural schemes.
In all known schemes of this sort, boosts in yields have been achieved by
applying a greater weight of various chemical fertilisers per hectare to different
types of crops. Fertilisers are commonly nitrogen-based. Nitrogen is said to be
a major source of nitrous oxide, one of the greenhouse gases usually identified
with climate change. The question then is how long the large-scale application
of fertilisers can go on without contributing to environmental damage. The argument has been made that the amounts applied are still very low per hectare
and the yield in tonnes per head low compared to other areas. Hence, it is unrealistic to expect that agriculture will be transformed and modernised without their use. Moreover, climate-smart agriculture is broader than the fertiliser
debate. Large-scale agriculture can lead to forms of land degradation which in
themselves are not friendly in terms of climate change.
As noted earlier LUC is a critical component of the Crop Intensification Programme (CIP). The CIP includes programmes on fertilizer and input provision,
extension and marketing support and post-harvest services. CIP is part of the
Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture Phase III and has among
other strategic goals seed development, irrigation and water management, and
agricultural mechanization. CIP and LUC are driven by the aim to shift agriculture from producing for subsistence to producing a surplus i.e. increasing the
labour productivty. But it can be said that agriculture under LUC still depends
on human muscular power (Kathiresan 2011). Moreover, it depends largely on
family labour of which two-thirds is provided by women. Village Service Centres for technology acquisition and training have been proposed, but the survey shows that very limited application of technology has taken place. As an
indication a modest allocation of less than USD 300,000 was put aside for the
particular agricultural mechanisation goal alone compared to millions allocated
to other goals. The strategy is to encourage Villages Service Centres to be crop
related and provide required technologies such as pumps, diesel engines and
equipment for irrigation and provision of equitable access to water. Technology
is expected to be accelerated in post-harvest activities of drying and cleaning
and storage. To the east of the country where the land is flatter the use of small
tractors and drought animals has been initiated. It is noteworthy that the LUC
programme encompasses a limited number of households and also a limited
Herman Musahara
amount of the total household labour. About 60 per cent of the family labour is
still used for subsistence agriculture outside the LUC programme. Under LUC
the only difference with subsistence farming is the adjoining of the plots. The
small farmers (in particular the women) continue tilling, planting, weeding and
harvesting by hand.
To the farmers, however, the real problem is the availability and cost of fertilisers. So far, the government has subsidised the purchase of fertilisers and
improved seeds. The challenge is whether the farmers, especially given the differentiated incomes gained from the scheme, can sustain these purchases when
the government withdraws its support (Musahara et al. 2013). This may need to
be studied, and it is true that this capability may vary from crop to crop and thus
from area to area. The study recognised that potato growers have now realised
the importance of fertiliser for yield and use part of their incomes to purchase
their own chemical fertilisers, pesticides and improved seeds. Improvement can
also be expected from demonstration effects and extension services. The latter
have been found to be strongly correlated with expressed satisfaction with the
LUC scheme.
From another angle, sustainability will depend on whether the private sector
can be attracted to collaborate with farmers in the scheme. Private suppliers of
fertiliser contracted by the government have shown no enthusiasm for providing
their services if prices are not attractive (Musahara et al. 2013). However, the
higher the price, the lower the possibility that farmers will purchase the chemicals from the market, especially the smallest farmers, whose input costs are not
matched by improved profit margins.
Withdrawal by the government should not mean a change of organisation.
There is the possibility that private investors can do as well in Rwanda in largescale agriculture and crop production as in other parts of Africa. So far, government intervention under LUC has minimised this private-investor role. In one
sense, LUC may not qualify as large-scale farming, since the farmers still own
their small plots. However, the scale is by use, not by ownership.
One question regarding the sustainability of LUC relates to the emerging
debate on its impact on food security. On one hand, the government, with a
good statistical base, shows that food insecurity is no longer a problem in Rwanda. The responses of the farmers themselves supported this conclusion. On the
other, there is evidence of food shortages in parts of the country at certain times.
Despite macro-level indicators of food security, the study indicated that food
security is still an inter- and intra-household concern (Musahara et al. 2013).
On another level, food security is a question of the availability of and access
to different types of foodstuffs. While there is now national food security, there
are still concerns about under- and malnutrition among infants and children.
Thus, success in producing enough food crops such as cereals is no guarantee of
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
self-sufficiency in nutrition. A bumper cassava harvest should ideally make milk
and proteins more available to those vulnerable at household level.
It was also noted that food availability may be higher during some seasons
than during others. Large harvests cannot be kept for long. Post-harvest services
and processing are needed to stabilise food supplies over the whole year. Detailed information on food availability is needed in order to indicate in which
locations there are food deficits and where food supplies are plentiful.
The question of the sustainability of LUC also has to do with change in the
culture of production and consumption, the degree of technological adoption,
the rate of commercialisation and the processing of agricultural produce for
value addition. A good example is maize. This was grown in Rwanda mainly as
an appetiser or as a treat, to be roasted on charcoal. Many households are used to
bananas, beans and roots. Use of maize as porridge (ugali) has been common in
households that have an East African background or have lived in group settings
such as schools and prisons. There are no reports that bumper maize harvests in
Rwanda have been consistent with higher domestic consumption of maize flour.
Indeed, maize flour mills have just started to appear in Rwanda (Kathiresan
2011). A major challenge for maize production under LUC has been the high
prices on the input markets and the difficulty of accessing the output markets
for the sale of bumper harvests (Ekise et al. 2013). When maize mills make it
possible for households to process their maize harvests, sell off the surplus and
ensure that they have sufficient money to buy other goods and food enough for
the rest of the year, then LUC will have improved the production and consumption capabilities of maize-producing households.
Lessons from studies on Tanzania
Rwanda and Tanzania are by any measure two different political and geographical entities. It is, however, possible to draw lessons from Tanzania that are readily
applicable to Rwanda. Empirical and policy lessons applicable to both Rwanda
and Tanzania do not suggest one country is doing better than the other. Unlike
Rwanda, Tanzania is a large agro-ecological mass with access to the sea and a
relatively peaceful background. Like Rwanda, Tanzania is agrarian and depends
on agriculture for the livelihoods of a majority of its people. Both face similar
challenges of agricultural transformation to bring about inclusive and sustainable development.
From the 1970s, Scandinavian scholars, and Prof. Kjell Havnevik in particular, have extensively studied rural development dynamics in Tanzania and other
areas. The result is an admirable body of knowledge which, four decades later,
can shed light on current questions of inclusive development and sustainability. Here, we point to a few select issues which can provide lessons and update
knowledge harvesting processes in Rwanda.
Herman Musahara
There are limits to development from above. The internal and external policy environments greatly shape rural development initiatives. In Tanzania the
Ujamaa programme (based on the vague concept of ‘African socialism’) greatly
influenced the agricultural sector. Villagisation programmes in Tanzania and
the state’s attempts to induce agricultural transformation are not dissimilar to
LUC in a number of ways. Both are programmes from above. LUC was set in the
political economy of human settlements (imidugudu) and land use. One question drawn from Tanzanian experience relevant to the prospects of villagisation
in Rwanda over the last two decades is the limits of development from above
(Havnevik 1993). It has been noted that substantial change in different parts of
the world has involved ostensible developmental state intervention. However,
one of the limitations of top-to-bottom initiatives elsewhere has been their sustainability. The Ujamaa programme for large-scale agricultural transformation
was well-intentioned but could not withstand pressure from the external environment, especially the wave of liberalisation. It failed as a forced policy, and
ownership of it by ordinary farmers was easily eroded and peasants went back
to small-scale household farming. Informative for Rwanda is the analysis of
Rufiji District, the Stiegler’s Gorge project and the overall Ujamaa model and
the effect of liberalisation on the agricultural sector. Studies on Tanzania confirm the wisdom that development is not about growth and numbers. They also
demonstrate that state intervention alone, without robust farmers’ participation,
is vulnerable to policy changes and often ends up, as in the case of Tanzania’s
Ujamaa collective farms, by being unsustainable.
The second lesson has been the tension between productivity and size of
farm. It has been noted that there is an inverse relationship between the two. For
Ujamaa and large-scale farms which in the Ujamaa model should be attained
through developing large scale collective plots or by making smallholder plots
contiguous in order to use advanced agricultural techniques, a major agronomic
argument is large-scale economies. Yield has been shown to go up per unit of
input such as fertiliser and free extension services. But these schemes, for various
reasons, did not lead to transformation in production techniques and relations.
In Rwanda, for example, it was noted that yields have gone up tremendously in
the last five years. The question for which there are no empirical data is whether
increasing yields have translated into increased surplus production and changes
in household consumption dynamics. Even more challenging is how such windfall gains translate into economic transformation at the macro level.
Ujamaa and villagisation schemes in Tanzania were about the advantages of
large-scale collective farms (as explained above). By the early 1980s, the Ujamaa
rural development model was abandoned partly because of the changing global
political environment, but also because of constraints related to the Ujamaa
agricultural model which aimed for collective farming or the amalgamation of
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
smallholder farms in contiguous large scale agricultural production. Narratives
of this experience are plentiful, such as the Katoro-Buseresere village (Bryceson
2010). Individual based small-scale agricultural units, though providing no firm
evidence of macro-level transformation, build on longstanding practices that
take care of rural households and livelihoods. An inclusive development model
should therefore not ignore the rural development dynamics based on individual farming households.
Large-scale agricultural schemes, whether in the form of Ujamaa in Tanzania or in other types, have serious inclusive and sustainability problems. The
ending of the Ujamaa rural development model in Tanzania in the early 1980s
was not, however, the end of the desire of the government to try launch largescale agriculture. Such schemes have emerged in Tanzania in different ways during the last decade and mainly through private investment. While this augurs
well for the open and liberal attraction of foreign investments, the important
question is whether this type of agriculture has the ability to generate inclusive
and sustainable development for a predominantly agrarian population. Evidence
so far indicate that such large scale schemes neither contribute to food security
nor provide adequate rural employment. They have not served as a viable agricultural model and have often given rise to land conflict. Indeed, another result
has been land grabbing not only by foreign investors but also by local elites, who
have exploited the commodification of land rights through new land markets.
At times, crops for biofuels may be supported in the name of sustaining the
environment, but in disregard of the food security of the rural peasantry (FAO
2013b; Abdallah, Engström, Havnevik and Salomonsson 2014).
In Rwanda, LUC cannot be said to be related to foreign direct investment.
However, the provision of inputs is supposed to be by private companies. The
question that arises from Tanzanian experience is whether in the long run farmers’ livelihoods are improved permanently and whether the economy undergoes dynamic transformation. That said, there are studies indicating large-scale
farming of biofuels (Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene 2011). Obviously there are
physical limits to how much sugarcane or jatropha plantations can be grown
on arable land (Huggins 2012). It is also not clear what would happen if the
government ceased supporting LUC and let private large-scale investment take
over. What has been witnessed in the rest of East Africa could happen even more
quickly in Rwanda, given its recent record of opening up to foreign investment.
Food security is one of the basic elements of poverty reduction, but it is not
the only one. Access to basic needs, social inclusion and empowerment have
come forward as important elements in sustainable development. Reduction of
horizontal and vertical inequality and gender imbalances are also important in
an ideal sense of development (UNSDSN 2015). LUC has been shown to offer an answer to food security, even if food security is still a concern in various
Herman Musahara
ways. There are seasonal variations in food availability and constraints on food
security for a significant number of households. The issue of food security has
implications for nutrition, especially within the household and for infants. Malnutrition is still a challenge in Rwanda, despite the dramatic rise in food crop
yields (FAO 2013a).
The developmental state and the emergence of Africa are key words in the
race for investment and growth. They have prompted concepts such as a “rising Africa” and “Afro-optimism” (Economist 2011). The real question from our
discussion above is whether investment and growth are inclusive and sustainable. Have all the gains in production and growth resulted in similar rates of
poverty reduction. If poverty reduction has been considerable, are levels of inequality in the country reduced? Above all these are quantitative and qualitative
changes. Has the level of social inclusion by race, gender, religion and location
improved? Now, because poverty is still a concern and rural areas are still nests
of backwardness and need, inequality remains a question, as do all sorts of social
exclusion. In practice, there is still a gap in the evidence on and knowledge of
how to make micro- and meso-level schemes, as well as macroeconomic policy
frameworks, more inclusive and sustainable.
Many studies on Rwanda start with post-genocide recovery. LUC is one of the
post-genocide policy responses and was born of the land policy of 2004 and the
land law of 2005. But the apparent success of LUC in the past six years is quite
similar to the experience in other sub-Saharan countries with postcolonial efforts in agriculture. Specifically, are the recorded successes consistent with the
desire to achieve inclusive and sustainable development?
There are general indicators from micro-level studies that growth from largescale schemes such as LUC is most likely not leading to inclusive development.
Rwanda has been registering admirable rates of economic growth, but apparently pro-poor growth has not reduced poverty and inequality. The end result is
that there are still a large number of poor and high levels of inequality.
Sustainability is not only a question of addressing issues related to the environment. A top-down policy intervention that has not permitted participation
and included the local institutional framework is not likely to last forever, no
matter how good it was from an environmental point of view. This is exemplified by such as the Ujamaa experiment of Tanzania. Villagisation and Ujamaa
rural development was not a voluntary scheme. LUC, like Ujamaa, is based on
the logic that means justifying the ends and ‘we must run while others walk’.
The justification these days comes from the successes of East Asian developmental states. It is true that countries like Singapore and South Korea have
proved that state interventionism with the right developmental ideology and
Consolidating land use in Rwanda
discipline can make a durable change. But it is also true that state intervention
fails to provide everything. It is thus important that research continues into how
policies and programmes at all levels can support more inclusive and sustainable
ATD (All Together in Dignity) Fourth World (2015) Challenge 2015.Towards
Sustainable Development that leaves no one behind. Paris.
Abdallah, J., L. Engström, K. Havnevik and L. Salomonsson (2014) ”Large-scale land
acquisitions in Tanzania: A Critical Analysis of Practices and Dynamics”, in Kaag,
M. and A. Zoomers (eds), The Global Land Grab – Beyond the Hype. London and
New York: Zed Books.
Bhaduri, A. and R. Skarstein (1997), Economic Development and Agricultural
Productivity. Edward Elgar Publisher.
Bryceson, D. F. (2010) “Agrarian Fundamentalism or Foresight? Revisiting Nyerere’s
Vision for Rural Tanzania”. In Havnevik and Isinika (eds) (2010) From Nyerere to
Mkapa. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota.
Economist (December 2011) “Africa Rising”.
Ekise, L., A. Nahayo, J.D. Mirukiro and B. Mukamugema (2013) “Impact of land use
consolidation on maize production. Case study of Nyabihu districts in Western
Rwanda.” Nature and Science 11(12): 21–7.
FAO (2013a) CAADP Rwanda. Nutrition Country Paper. Rome: FAO.
FAO (2013b), Trends and Impacts of Foreign Investment in Developing Country
Agriculture: Evidence from Case Studies. Rome: FAO.
GOR (Government of Rwanda) (2002) Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Kigali:
Ministry of Finance.
GOR (2004) Land Policy. Kigali: Ministry of Land and Natural Resources.
GOR (2005) Organic Law N° 08/2005 of 14/07/2005 Determining the Use and
Management of Land In Rwanda.Kigali.
GOR (2007) Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2008-2012. Kigali:
Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
GOR (2008) 2007 Annual Report. Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Kigali:
GOR (2009) Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda – Phase II
(PSTA II). Final Report. Kigali: MINAGRI.
GOR (2009) Joint Sector Review report for Agriculture. Kigali: MINAGRI.
GOR (2011) Strategies for sustainable crop intensification shifting focus from producing
enough to producing surplus. Kigali: MINAGRI.
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GOR (2012) Rwanda agricultural trends and outlook. Kigali: MINAGRI http://www.
Trends_and_Outlook_Report_2012.pdf. Downloaded on 25 April 2015.
GOR (2013) Annual Report. Kigali: MINAGRI.
Havnevik K. (1993) Tanzania the Limits to Development from above. Dar es Salaam:
Mkuki na Nyota.
Havnevik K. and M. Hårsmar (1999) The diversified future. An institutional approach
to rural development in Tanzania. Uppsala: Swedish University of Agriculture.
Havnevik K. and A. Isinika (eds) (2010) From Nyerere to Mkapa. Dar es Salaam:
Mkuki na Nyota Publishers in cooperation with the Nordic Africa Institute and
Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania.
Kanbur, R and G. Rauniyar (2009) Inclusive Growth and Inclusive Development. African
Development Bank, Occasional Paper No. 8.
Kathiresan, A. (2011) Strategies for Sustainable Crop Intensification in Rwanda. Shifting
focus from producing enough to producing surplus. Kigali: MINAGRI.
Huggins, C. (2010) Consolidating land, consolidating control. Land Deal Political
Initiatives (LDPI) Paper, Cape Town.
Matondi, P., K. Havnevik and A. Beyene (eds) (2011) Biofuels, land grabbing and food
security in Africa. London: Zed Books and Nordic Africa Institute.
Muhinda, J.M. (2013) Rwanda agricultural sector and its impact on food security and
economy. Presentation on Asian lessons on agricultural transformation. Kigali.
Musahara, H. (2006) Improving Tenure Security for the Rural Poor Rwanda – Country
Case Study. Legal Empowerment of the Poor (LEP). Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO).
Musahara, H. (2009) Water resource availability and use in Rwanda. OSSREA Rwanda
Chapter Monograph.
Musahara, H., T. Niyonzima, C. Bizimana and N. Birasa (2013) LUC project reports.
USAID Land Project, Kigali.
Musahara, H., T. Niyonzima, C. Bizimana and N. Birasa (2014) “Land Use
Consolidation and Poverty Reduction in Rwanda”. Paper for the World Bank
Conference on Land and Poverty. World Bank.
Storey, A. (1999) “Economic and ethnic conflict. Structural adjustment in Rwanda”.
Development Policy Review 17(1): 43–63.
UNSDSN (2015) Sustainable Development Solutions Network website. www.unsdsn.
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Rwanda_Update_Spring_Edition_April_2011.pdf Accessed on 25 April 2015.
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World Bank (2014)” Environmental and Social Systems Assessment (ESSA)”.
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Zhou, J.M. (1999) How to Carry Out Land Consolidation. An International Comparison.
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ECO/ WP-Texts/ECO99-1.pdf. / 3.3.2002.
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethiopia:
A comparative perspective
Atakilte Beyene
Both Tanzania and Ethiopia, and for that matter the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, are described as having similar patterns when it comes to current large-scale
land acquisitions.
For instance, both countries have transferred extensive land resources to
various actors generally labelled as investors. These include government corporations, other sovereign states and foreign and domestic investors. The agricultural policies of both Ethiopia and Tanzania emphasise the need for investment,
modernisation of the agricultural sector and the utilisation of rural resources
to achieve economic development. An important element in the policies is the
ambition to promote Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)-driven, export-oriented,
large-scale and commercial agricultural systems. These domestic policies, combined with the global surge in demand for land over the past few years, have
resulted in a dramatic rise in large-scale land and water transfers to and acquisitions by big investors. Both countries are among the top 10 in Africa as sources
of land for investors (Beyene and Sandström 2015).
Similarly, studies also indicate that significant numbers of the planned investments face challenges. Many do not materialise and implemented projects
are few (Abdallah, Engström, Havnevik and Salomonsson 2014). In other cases,
implemented projects face failure due to land conflicts (FAO 2012; De Schutter
2011; Matondi, Havnevik and Beyene 2011). This has generated “new” land dynamics at the local level as well as new sets of management issues related to the
demobilisation of failed investments. These include the complexity and uncertainty of the land, property and environmental issues emerging in the aftermath
of investment failures and withdrawals.
However, the two countries differ significantly in some aspects that are considered important in development and policy issues. Two such aspects that probably distinguish both countries from each other and the rest of Africa are land
tenure systems and the characteristics of the state. Tanzania has been appreciated for promoting and instituting “village” and customary rights of occupancy
in relation to natural resources. This characteristic probably distinguishes Tanzania from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, the Ethiopian
state has been characterised as highly centralised and dominant and it strongly
involves itself in the governance of natural resources and the economy.
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethopia
This chapter attempts to explore why, despite the marked differences in governance systems, some of the large-scale land and water acquisitions in both
countries face similar challenges when implemented. Or are the challenges the
same? What other common and/or differentiating attributes can be identified
to explain the challenges in the current large-scale land and water acquisitions?
In this regard, this chapter attempts to provide some clues beyond the generally reported challenges of large-scale land and water transfers by focusing on
whether there are differences between the countries in their large-scale agricultural investment patterns. To get insights into these questions, differences between the two countries in (average) size of land allocated to investors, trends in
joint foreign-domestic investments and the type/s of products (food or non-food
items) covered by investment projects are explored.
The data sets used to explore the questions are drawn from the Land Matrix
(for Ethiopia) (LM) and published data from the Land Deal Politics Initiative
(for Tanzania) (LDPI). The Land Matrix is a comprehensive compilation, but
the validity of the information is often a challenge, as the sources are diverse
(NGO, government, corporate, etc.). However, the data are comprehensive, regularly updated and available online. The data compiled in the LDPI (by Locher
and Sulle 2013) are updated and critically reviewed.
For the purposes of this study, only land deals by foreign investors and joint
ventures involving nationals and foreigners are considered. The period for the
reported land deals are 2008–2012 for Tanzania and 2008–2014 for Ethiopia.
Agriculture is the nexus
Both Tanzania and Ethiopia are dependent on agriculture and natural resources
in general. In the former, agriculture accounted for 32 per cent of the GDP
in 2013 and provides employment to approximately 75 per cent of all workers
(World Bank 2015). For Ethiopia, the sector is even more important as it accounts for about 50 per cent of GDP and is a major source of employment for
about 80 per cent of the population (GTP 2010).
In both countries, improving food security and creating decent rural employment opportunities are critical issues. The prospects of achieving these objectives depend principally on the performance of the agricultural sector. As
has been widely recognised, improvement in agricultural performance remains
perhaps the single most important determinant of economic growth and poverty reduction (World Bank 2007). Actualising these potentials, however, remains a serious challenge. The question of how agricultural productivity can
be improved in the smallholder sector, where it is most needed continues to be
critical, and smallholder farming continues to face various challenges. Among
them, vulnerability to climate change, rainfall dependency as well as low levels
of productivity and poor access to markets are key (AGRA 2014).
Atakilte Beyene
And yet, the current policy drive to promote and introduce agricultural FDI
and the subsequent allocations of large-scale farmlands to companies have raised
additional uncertainty about the overall relevance and contribution of large-scale
investments vis-à-vis smallholder farmers, and the risk and potential of the investments. Two major issues with regard to the current large-scale commercial
farms are that 1) the product focus of many of the such investments is on nonfood commodities (e.g. biofuels) and the prospect of supplying food products to
local markets is limited; and 2) the farms prefer mechanisation to increase their
profit margins and the potential to create rural employment is generally very
limited. Overshadowing these uncertainties is the potential for land competition
and local land conflicts that the land acquisitions may generate.
The State, land and liberalisation: Brief comparative perspective
To better understand the current large-scale land acquisition deals, a brief account is given below of the role and characteristics of the Tanzanian and Ethiopian states, particularly in relation to the governance of natural resources, especially land, and their overall pursuit of liberalisation policies.
Land tenure systems
After independence, Tanzania embraced socialism as the political ideology of
the country. It strove to create an indigenous socialism, commonly known as
Ujamaa, whereby non-exploitative rural cooperatives were envisaged as the
foundation of social and economic organisation (Raikes 1975). To create these
institutions, resettlement and villagisation programmes were carried out across
rural Tanzania. The villagisation programme was accompanied by a set of laws
that implied the possibility of eliminating customary land rights (Havnevik and
Hårsmar 1999).
Current land tenure systems in Tanzania are guided by the Land Act and
the Village Land Act, which were adopted in 1999 (for details see Wily 2003,
and, in this volume, the chapters by Bryceson and by Isinika and Kikwa). In
terms of these acts, land is categorised into general land, reserve land and village land. General land mainly refers to urban areas, while reserve land refers to
areas placed under environmental protection, such as forest reserves and wildlife
reserves. Both these land categories are governed by the Land Act. Village land,
on the other hand, refers exclusively to land falling under the jurisdiction and
management of a registered village (Woldegiorgis 2015).1 In mainland Tanzania, there are 11,165 villages (URT 2009) and most of the land in the country
is village land. Each village has its own administrative unit known as the vil1. All land in Tanzania, including village land, is public and vested in the president as a trustee for and on the behalf of all the citizens.
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethopia
lage council, which is, among other things, authorised to manage, administer
and define land use in respect of village land (URT 1999). Hence, each village
is responsible for defining the land use categories within its boundaries, these
categories being communal village land, individual and family land and reserve
land (see Wily 2003).
Ethiopia’s land tenure system is by comparison statist. The supreme law of
the land, the Ethiopian Constitution adopted in 1995, stipulates that the “right
to ownership of rural and urban lands, as well as of all natural resources, is
exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia” (for details see
Woldegiorgis 2015). Access to land is basically considered as the right of citizens.
Peasants are entitled to “have the right to obtain land without payments and the
protection against eviction from their possession.” Frequent land redistributions
were carried out, starting with the land reform of 1975. As a result, the distribution of land holdings among sedentary smallholder farmers, often located in the
highlands, is almost homogenous. The lowlands are relatively sparsely populated
and pastoralism is the dominant form of livelihood. According to the constitution, pastoralists have the right to access free land for grazing and cultivation as
well as the right not to be displaced from their own lands. However, while the
majority of smallholders in the highlands have been given certificates of user
rights, such initiatives have not been introduced in the lowlands. Consequently,
in the lowlands land rights are highly problematic, particularly in areas where
populations migrate over expansive territories. Such territories are described as
underutilised and existing land rights may not be recognised. Many of the current large-scale agricultural investments are located in such areas.
By comparison, the Tanzanian tenure system is distinctive in Africa in terms
of the state’s role of “vesting authority and control over land at the local level”
(Wily 2003). This condition gives Tanzanian villagers the potential to manage
their land, including dis/approving land transfers and leases to investors. This
has important implications for the governance of natural resources in general.
For instance, if investors are to acquire village lands, village assemblies (where
all registered villagers above 18 years of age are members) have to give their consent and investors have to negotiate with the village council (which is the executive organ of the village). There are cases where village assemblies and councils
actively exercise their institutional power by voting against the transfer of village lands or scrutinise land deals and even reject those they feel do not meet
their expectations (Beyene, Mungongo, Atteridge and Larsen 2013). However,
the legal rights in land matters of village assemblies and councils are restricted
to land transfers below 250 hectares. This is not, however, to suggest that the
Tanzanian tenure system has reached its full potential. Villagers probably face
increasing threats and insecurity in their lands. Many villages lack the financial
and technical capacity to undertake the land-management required by the Land
Atakilte Beyene
Acts. Instead, other actors, including investors, carry out such activities on their
behalf. Similarly, the government is also putting pressure on villages to identify
land and transfer it to the land bank of the Tanzanian Investment Centre (TIC),
a government organisation (see below). These processes can undermine village
control and ownership of the planning and decision-making processes regarding
village lands.
In the Ethiopian case, the state has much more institutional power to directly decide on land issues. If land is required for public and other activities that
are considered significant for the nation, the government has a constitutional
right to allocate such land. This could lead to violations of local land rights, as
compensation is only paid for properties that are developed on the land, but
not for the land itself. The government thus has the advantage of designating
large areas as being available for investment. According to Rahmato, by 2011,
3.6 million hectares of land had been transferred from the regions to the federal
land bank (Rahmato 2011).
Another difference between the two countries is that in Tanzania, although
all investors are supposed to go through the TIC, in practice seem to have diverse entry points to access land. They can, for instance, enter into direct negotiations with village councils. In other cases, the government directly allocates
land to investors, as in the case of EcoEnergy in Bagamoyo. In Ethiopia, all land
deals involving more than 500 hectares go through the Ethiopian Investment
Agency (EIA), which effectively means through the federal and regional governments. For allocations of less than 500 hectares, regional states are authorised
to make decisions.
Economic liberalisation
As indicated above, both countries are introducing liberalisation policies and
the current large-scale land acquisitions can be considered within the broader
discourse on economic liberalisation.
In Tanzania, the shift from socialism to liberalisation and structural adjustment programmes started in 1983 (Green 2014). Deregulation of investment, financial and foreign exchange systems continued from 1989 to 1992. In
1990, the Investment Promotion Centre was established (now the TIC) (OECD
2013). In Ethiopia, liberalisation started in 1992 following the fall of the military regime in 1991. Gradually, the country’s economy started to shift from state
control to greater market orientation. Rather like the TIC, the EIA, established
in 1992, promotes private investment in general and FDI in particular (EIA
2013). Both agencies aim to serve as a “one-stop shop” and facilitate FDI and
the acquisition by investors of licences and land within a very short period. And
both are active in the current large-scale land acquisitions. They were tasked
with creating mechanisms for transferring land held under different categories
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethopia
of land use (including from local users) and for consolidating such land in their
land banks, and finally with transferring it to potential investors.
However, liberalisation in Ethiopia appears to be selective. Investment sectors
are defined in terms of who may invest in them: potential investors are identified
as the Ethiopian government, Ethiopian nationals and foreigners (EIA 2013,
Investment Proclamation No.769/2012). Thus, investment policy also has some
protectionist strands, as it precludes foreign competition in some key economic
sectors. Furthermore, liberalisation in Ethiopia does not seem to disengage the
state from the economy. Indeed, the state maintains strong involvement in some
economic sectors, including large-scale commercial farming. For instance, the
sugar and ethanol sectors are dominated by a government corporation as a public enterprise: the government-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation planned to
develop some 225,000 hectares of land during the period 2010-15 (EIA 2012).
These differences between the two countries indicated above in a way reflect
the nature of the state. The Ethiopian state is described by some as “Africa’s illiberal state-builder” (Jones, Oliveira and Verhoeven 2013), with the state making
strong and centrally planned interventions. In fact, the government describes
itself as a “democratic developmental state” (De Waal 2012) and argues that the
state should play an active role in the economy while at the same time promoting a free market economy. This ambition also requires a mix of policies that
generate incentives in every form to make success possible.
Embedded in these broad differences are also perhaps differences in state
capacity and in institutional requirements to guide current land investments.
It is beyond the scope of this chapter to demonstrate how the differences in the
character of the states affect investments in certain ways. Now it is time to turn
to the differences in the character of the land investments.
Comparison between large-scale land transfers
Land deal characteristics
In Tanzania, 24 foreign-owned and eight jointly owned companies were granted
a total of 596,818 hectares of land (see Table 1 below for statistics described in
this section). The proportion of land acquired by foreign companies amounted
to about 80 per cent of total land transfers, while the remaining 20 per cent was
allocated to joint ventures. The average size of the land allocated to foreign companies was higher (about 19,000 hectares) than to joint ventures (about 14,000
hectares). This difference is presumably due to foreign investors’ superior access
to capital.
Land status before acquisition is an important indicator of how land is outsourced in current land deals. In Tanzania, village land constitutes about 42 per
cent of the total land transferred to investors. The second most significant source
Atakilte Beyene
Table 1: Characteristics of large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethiopia
Av. size Village
acquired of farm land
Foreign 481,438
Foreign 595,562
Unspeci- General State
fied land Land land
Private Nonland food
(ha) (ha)
19,258 221,938 142,600 81,000 35,500
14,423 26,750
7,000 73,500
18,085 248,688 202,600 85,358 52,772
Both food
and nonfood (ha)
273,709 130,229 77,500
24,272 17,608
7,400 347,209 154,501 95,108
13,235 - - - 595,562 - 155,800 183,463 255,800
30,410 - - - 395,330 - 95,200
17,084 99,0892 251,000 223,563 516,330
40,100 260,530
Source: Data compiled from Locher and Sulle 2013 and the Land Matrix (accessed on 18 March
of land transferred is not specified (34 per cent). General land constitutes 14 per
cent. The other sources of land acquisitions include state land (9 per cent) and
private land, previously under corporate control (1 per cent).
The livelihoods of village residents depend on village land. That the village
lands now have become the major target of land acquisitions suggests that rural
people is becoming insecure both in terms of land access and livelihoods. The
term land is vague and may actually include important resource categories, such
as forest areas and communally owned areas. General land is also known to
include forest, including protected forest, and wildlife reserves.
In Ethiopia, 58 land deals and acquisitions were reported where the total size
of the land was just below one million hectares. The proportion of land acquired
by foreign companies was 60 per cent, with joint ventures accounting for the
rest. The average size of the foreign and jointly acquired farms was about 13,000
hectares and 30,000 hectares respectively.
In the case of Ethiopia, the land status before acquisition is categorised as
state land. Land acquisitions involve leases and concessions, and the deals are
sealed between the state and the investor.
A major difference between the two countries is that in Tanzania the village
land and its village constituency is recognised in the laws and constitution of
the country. Thus, decisions on land transfers up to 250 hectares need village
assembly approval to be valid. Whether the village assemblies and the village
councils (negotiating with investors on behalf of the villages) are effective to
fully utilise this legal status to their advantage is another issue. In some cases village assemblies and village councils have been successful in averting bad deals,
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethopia
but often they lack the insights into the consequences of the land acquisitions
and the capacity to handle negotiations with investors by themselves. With an
increasing size of land acquisitions the jurisdiction over land leases are shifting
from villages to higher administrative levels, i.e. district government authorities,
in particular the Commissioner of Land. Regarding large land acquisitions the
villages and their organs tend to lose influence and control over acquisitions.
There are interesting differences between the two countries as to the prevalence of joint ventures with foreigners. As noted, while 80 per cent of the total
acquired land in Tanzania was obtained by foreigners, the corresponding figure
for Ethiopia was 60 per cent. In short, domestic investors in Ethiopia appear
to enter into joint ventures with foreigners more often than their Tanzanian
The purpose of the land acquisitions varies by product. The distinction between
food and non-food products is critical, as this can indicate whether the food security of the host countries is being considered. This information, however, does
not necessarily confirm that food security is guaranteed. For instance, even if a
company is recognised as food-producing, its product may not directly improve
local nutrition. An example of this is tea plantations. Furthermore, whether the
products are for local or global markets is not clear from the contracts.
With these limitations in mind, the proportion of land brought under food
and non-food production to some extent shows the degree of consideration for
local food security. In Tanzania, 58 per cent of land transferred is land allocated
to non-food products. Land allocated for food production accounted for 26 per
cent, while land allocated for mixed (food and non-food) products accounted
for 16 per cent. In the Ethiopian case, the proportion of land allocated to mixed
products is the most important, accounting for 52 per cent of total land acquisitions. The proportions of land acquired for non-food products and food products were 25 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.
Both countries show differences when it comes to investors’ product preferences. The proportion of land allocated for only-food products was similar in
both countries (26 per cent for Tanzania and 23 per cent for Ethiopia). The major difference between the countries is between non-food and mixed products.
This could probably be due to the relatively higher prevalence of food insecurity
in Ethiopia, which would prompt investors to move into food production.
Inclusion of local producers
In both cases, contract farming and out-grower schemes are very few in number. In Ethiopia, only two of the 58 investments involved contract farming (for
vegetable production), while in Tanzania a few sugarcane investments indicated
Atakilte Beyene
the possibility of out-grower schemes. This suggests that current investment patterns pay little attention to local farmers’ production and marketing preferences.
It is therefore unlikely that FDI will bring technological change that can lead to
meaningful employment and hence such investments have a limited potential to
improve the food security of local communities.
Geopolitical aspects
Some of the land allocations in Ethiopia have geopolitical dimensions. The
country is situated in a region where resource interdependence has historically
been considered a political liability. Over the last few years, however, the country has been actively employing its territorial and transboundary resources to
create regional economic opportunities. Notable initiatives are expanded hydropower production and export and the targeted allocation of large-scale lands to
downstream countries. An example is Egypt, which has acquired land in Ethiopia. In general, according to the Land Matrix database, the Arab countries are
actively investing in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia and Tanzania face many similar conditions. Both countries are highly dependent on agriculture and face huge challenges in building their rural
economies, including addressing food security and providing decent rural employment opportunities. Both countries have championed agricultural FDI and
have striven to facilitate such investments, which often result in large-scale land
acquisitions. To this end, the governments of both countries have committed
themselves to providing land for investors and both governments play key, however somewhat different roles in current land acquisitions and their associated
land deals.
In these processes, smallholders in both countries are facing increasing insecurity related to their land access and food security. In the case of Tanzania,
village institutions have by law the potential to decide on and influence the
terms land acquisitions up to 250 hectares. However lack of information about
the consequences of land acquisitions and village councils’ limited legal, technical and financial capacities have undermined the scope of village institutions
to realise the full potential of the institutional land rights vested in them (as
stipulated in the Village Land Act and the Land Acts of 1999). In the case of
Ethiopia, lack of clear rights of communities to land, particularly in sparsely
populated areas, is a source of insecurity.
In the Ethiopian case, as in Tanzania, land is state property. Identification,
designation and allocation of land to investors are done by the Ethiopian government and associated land deals are concluded solely by the government and
investors with no involvement by local authorities. Land acquisitions and deals
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethopia
in Ethiopia are highly centralised and rural communities do not have a similar
possibility as in Tanzania to influence land acquisitions up to 250 hectares. This
allows the Ethiopian state to deliver land to investors more effectively than in
In the case of Tanzania, land is also owned by the state, but land management is institutionalised across different administrative layers, among which the
village organs (the village assembly and council) have important roles to play in
terms of local land governance, in particular as to land acquisitions up to 250
hectares. In Tanzania village organs according to law have a space to influence
and determine land identification, allocation and agreements with investors and
in particular so if there already exists an official land use plan.
However, complexities regarding technical issues and details of land allocations, investment benefits and legal capacity tend to overtax the village councils, as representatives of the village, and undermine the potential of villages
to attain land deals with long term benefits to themselves. As land acquisitions
have increased with the expansion of large scale land investments over the last
decade, higher administrative levels are acting on behalf of the government in
these activities, often with poor consultations with villages from which the land
is transferred to investors. As a result, villages tend to lose control of the land
The activities and interventions of Tanzanian Investment Centre and subsequent acquisitions of land from villages to the land bank administered by
the TIC show how the government has become an increasingly important actor in land acquisitions and associated land deals. While Tanzania appears to
have a more decentralised system of land governance in place compared to that
of Ethiopia, the central government is becoming increasingly involved in land
deals as they have increased in size.
As Green (2014: 13) points out, the Tanzanian state continues to “implement development through its relations with citizens as village beneficiaries.”
Strengthening local institutions and creating more space for village organs to
make autonomous decisions regarding land acquisition even beyond the current
250 hectares restrictions, would constitute important elements. In this regard,
educating and informing villagers about the content and potential consequences
of the land acquisitions would provide a better foundation for village assembly decisions to transfer village land to external investors. Strengthening village
council financial and technical capacity to thoroughly analyse investment proposals and their consequences2 would be vital to protect village land rights and
2. Land transfers in Tanzania involve six stages: physical planning, valuation and compensation, preparation of detail plan, plot surveying, land allocation and title registration (URT
Atakilte Beyene
The Ethiopian government has the capacity to mobilise and swiftly allocate
land to investors, but it is crucial that it critically assesses the existing status and
uses of the land and whether and how the allocation of land to investors impacts
current users. This is particularly important in pastoralist areas, where most of
the current large-scale land allocations are taking place and where land rights
are particularly complex.
Abdallah, J., L. Engström, K. Havnevik and L. Salomonsson (2014) “Large-scale land
acquisitions in Tanzania: A critical analysis of practices and dynamics.” In Kaag, M.
and A. Zoomers (eds) The global land grab: Beyond the hype. London: Zed Books,
pp. 36–53.
AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) (2014) African agriculture status
report: Climate change and smallholder agriculture in sub-Sahara Africa. Nairobi.
Beyene, A. and E. Sandström (2015) “Emerging water frontiers in large-scale land
acquisitions and implications for food security in Africa”. In Tvedt, T. and T.
Oestigaard (eds) A History of Water, Series 3, Vol. 3. Water and Food: From huntergatherers to global production in Africa. London: I.B. Tauris. In press.
Beyene, A., C. Mungongo, A. Atteridge and R. Larsen (2013) Biofuel production
and its impacts on local livelihoods in Tanzania. Working Paper No. 3, Stockholm
Environment Institute.
De Schutter, O. (2011) “How not to think of land-grabbing: Three critiques of largescale investments in farmland.” Journal of Peasant Studies 38(2): 249–79.
De Waal, A. (2012) “The theory and practice of Meles Zenawi” (review article).
African Affairs 112 (446): 148–55.
EIA (Ethiopian Investment Agency) (2012) Investment opportunity profile for sugarcane
plantation and processing in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: EIA.
EIA (2013) Ethiopian Investment Guide. Addis Ababa: Ethiopia. Available at http://
www.ethemb.se/TEXT%20files/InvestmentGuide%202013.pdf Accessed on 15
April 2015.
FAO (2012) Trends and Impacts of foreign investment in developing country agriculture:
Evidence from case studies. Available at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations, Rome.
Green, M. (2014) The development state: Aid, culture and civil society in Tanzania.
London: James Currey.
GTP (Growth and Transformation Plan) (2010) Growth and Transformation Plan
2010/11-2014/15. Addis Ababa: Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
Havnevik, K. and M. Hårsmar (1999) Diversified future: An institutional approach to
rural development in Tanzania. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell.
Large-scale land acquisitions in Tanzania and Ethopia
Jones, W., R. Oliveira, and H. Verhoeven (2013) Africa’s illiberal state-builders. Refugee
Studies Centre, Working Paper NO. 89, Oxford Department of International
Development, University of Oxford. http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/files/publications/
working-paper-series/wp89-africas-illiberal-state-builders-2013.pdf, accessed on
March 12, 2015.
Land Matrix (2014). The Online Public Database on Land Deals. Available at http://
www.landmatrix.org/en/. Accessed on 18 March 2015.
Locher, M. and E. Sulle (2013) “Foreign land deals in Tanzania: An update and
critical view on the challenges of data (re)production”. Land Deal Politics Initiative,
Working Paper 31. Available at http://www.iss.nl/fileadmin/ASSETS/iss/Research_
and_projects/Research_networks/LDPI/LDPI_WP_31_revised.pdf . Accessed on
10 February 2015.
Matondi, P., K. Havnevik.and A. Beyene (eds) (2011) Biofuels, land grabbing and food
security in Africa. London: Zed Books.
OECD (2013) Overview of progress and policy challenges in Tanzania. OECD
Investment Policy Reviews: Tanzania. Paris: OECD Publishing. Available at http://
dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264204348-6-en . Accessed on 15 April 2015.
Rahmato, D. (2011) Land to investors: Large-scale land transfers in Ethiopia. Addis
Ababa: Forum for Social Studies.
Raikes, P. (1975) “Ujamaa and rural socialism”. Review of African Political Economy
2(3): 33-52.
URT (United Republic of Tanzania) (1999) Village Land Act (of Tanzania) 1999. Dar
es Salaam: Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
URT (2009) Basic facts and figures on human settlements: Tanzania mainland. National
Bureau of Statistics. Dar es Salaam: Ministry of Finance.
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Washington DC: World Bank.
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country/tanzania/overview. Accessed on 20 February 2015.
Wily, L. (2003) Community-based land tenure management. Issue Paper No. 120,
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Woldegiorgis, B. (2015) Land laws and proclamations in Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Occasional Paper. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute.
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity: The works
of religion and parallel cosmologies in Tanzania
Terje Oestigaard1
According to one statistical survey, 60 per cent of the population of Tanzania is
Christian, 36 per cent Muslim and 4 per cent subscribes to another or no religion. What is more striking about this survey is that 93 per cent of Tanzanians
believe in witchcraft (Christians 94 per cent, Muslims 92 per cent) and traditional African religious beliefs and practices are prevalent among 62 per cent
of the population (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2010: 34, 64, 178).
Although one should be cautious about these statistics, they may nevertheless
indicate the ubiquity of witchcraft in Tanzania and the prevalence of traditional
beliefs among even Christians and Muslims. The figure of 93 per cent regarding
belief in witchcraft is remarkable, if accurate, and implies that witchcraft beliefs
are far more common in Tanzania than in other countries. Even if the actual
percentage is considerably lower, it would seem that witchcraft is widespread.
The Sukuma group, numbering about five million, mainly live along the
southern shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. For more than a century, they
have been integrated into the global world, but in varying degree, and missionaries have been spreading the Gospel and Christianising the Sukuma since the
1880s. Traditionally, the society was culturally and cosmologically structured
around the chief and rainmaking. Everything depended on the rain. The chief
was responsible for providing the life-giving rains believed to heal the land, a
power that afforded him legitimacy as ruler. Both chieftainship and rainmaking have now disappeared, while at the same time Christianity is spreading
and both witchcraft and witch killings are flourishing (with more than 500 alleged witches killed annually in Tanzania, predominantly among the Sukuma).
Similarly, the role of the ancestors has diminished and tradition is no longer as
important in culture and cosmology. In a religious context, rainmaking is perceived as not working anymore and the role of ancestors is declining. Thus, the
overall questions are: Is the declining role of ancestors enabling both the spread
of Christianity and the increase in witchcraft? How and why are witchcraft and
1. This chapter was presented as a paper at the Satterthwaite Colloquium in Grasmere, the
Lake District, England in 2014, and builds on T. Oestigaard (2014) Religion at Work in
Globalised Traditions. Rainmaking, Witchcraft and Christianity in Tanzania. Newcastle:
Cambridge Scholars Press.
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
Christianity as religious practices seemingly working perfectly together? What
are the consequences when traditions disappear and how are society and cosmology being restructured? These questions will be analysed through an approach
that emphasises the work and works of religion.
How religions work – beyond structural functionalism
Notwithstanding exegesis, dogma and theology, religions are always concerned
with practical human problems in some way. “Our approach is not concerned
with the origins of religions so much as their functions. We relate and explain the
force of religious ideas by reference to the needs of individuals in their everyday
lives, not to society and its forms,” Reynolds and Tanner argue. They continue:
“We have become convinced by the evidence worldwide that the function of
religions is to respond to human needs, to help people at times of personal crises
(e.g., at funerals), or when they are undergoing a change of status (e.g., at weddings), or generally in relation to everyday strains of normal life. Ours is thus a
functional approach” (Reynolds and Tanner 1995:15). Moreover, “religion caters
to needs at all levels, but perhaps mostly at the more basic level … However …
the concept of need … is not sufficient to explain what religions appear to be
doing in the world” (Reynolds and Tanner 1995:305).
By emphasising that religion functions and works, it is necessary to clarify
my meaning in the term religions work. Concepts such as “work” and in particular “function” have, as part of the criticism of structural functionalism, gained
negative connotations in the history of anthropological thought. In Ritual and
religion in the making of humanity, Roy Rappaport asserted that “neither religion
‘as a whole’ nor its elements will, in the account offered to them, be reduced to
functional or adaptive terms.” He continued: “An account of religion framed,
a priori, in terms of adaptation, function or other utilitarian assumptions or
theory would … paradoxically, defeat any possibility of discovering whatever
utilitarian significance it might have by transforming the entire inquiry into a
comprehensive tautology” (Rappaport 2001:2). This example suffices for me to
make my point: I do not perceive religion in adaptive terms.
Rather, allow me to approach religion from the perspective of the divine
realm (or, at least, how it is perceived and presented by believers), and start with
Christianity and its Jewish antecedents. Christianity works and very much so,
if we are to believe Christians. In Hebrew myth, there is creation from nothing: “And God said. ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). By the
word alone, God created the cosmos and the world and all within it in only six
days. This is the kind of work I refer to when I say religions work. Importantly,
in Christianity there is a fundamental doctrine that “God works in mysterious
ways.” Thus, humans may or may not know how and why God works, but that
does not matter. Even if humans have only partial knowledge of this, they have
Terje Oestigaard
sufficient to adhere to the cosmic laws given by God. And here God works again.
Jesus was crucified and by taking on human sin, he ensured salvation for all. As
a consequence, if one follows the rules, one may attain eternal life in heaven.
This is a huge promise and a durable work of a God – what more can a devotee
wish for? Miracles are another way of illustrating that religion works, and in this
particular case, the Christian God works. Believers truly believe that miracles
take place, that prayers and wishes are suddenly fulfilled, and that sometimes
miracles happen without human requests. These are simply the works of God
originating in and fulfilled through his own plans. However, for sinners, that is,
those who act against God and his will, and this is also a sign of free will (Hertz
1996), God has worked in other ways to prepare a rather unpleasant destiny for
eternity, hell in its various elaborations throughout history.
However, in emphasising the function and work of gods, one must also address questions of time and scale. Gods may once have worked in a primordial
era, but may not do so anymore. This does not alter the ontological status of
the gods as existing: in a cosmic perspective, humans are not in a position to
demand that gods work for them (indeed, in Christianity this is seen as heresy).
The Supreme Being among the Sukuma is one such god. It is impossible to reach
him through sacrifices and prayers and he is so remote that he does not interfere
in the fate of individuals. He is not working any longer because he has done his
job. What he created, exists and has never changed, and therefore he has withdrawn (Cory 1960:15). If there were no such conception of gods, cosmic principles or divinities working on a grand scale, including the Buddhist conceptions
of karma, there would be no religion as broadly defined. In practice, a kind of
Western atheism would prevail.
Thus, I am not concerned here with the origins or existence as such of religion. My approach is the believers’ approach in practice: God, gods and the
ancestors exist, including various malignant forces such as the devil, roaming
ghosts, etc. But they do not merely exist in another sphere: in varying measure,
they influence this world. From this and the believer’s perspective, what are the
beliefs about how the spirits and divinities of the other world, which are superior to humans, function and work in this world? How do they intervene and
in which realms do different religions (defined broadly) impact worldly matters?
This approach also emphasises which rituals are performed and how people can
approach their gods, divinities and ancestors with a view to changing daily life
in this world. As I will argue, Christianity and the world of the ancestors, including the practice of witchcraft, operate on different premises and affect this
world in substantially different ways. Precisely because of this, they can coexist
and work hand in hand.
A common feature of many African cosmologies is the division of the world
into two distinct realms. One is the visible or the manifest world, which is “ob184
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
vious” to all, and the other is the invisible or unseen world, which is nevertheless as real as the visible world. Indeed, it is more real in that it structures and
defines the premises of this world. The visible world is the everyday world of
living – farming, collecting water and fuel, political and economic matters, etc.
The invisible world comprises the ancestors, God and the realm of witchcraft
and the occult, among other spiritual forces. These two realms are intrinsically
linked and the invisible forces largely determine outcomes in the visible world.
The visible world is therefore shaped by a deeper, “more real” reality, and consequently, it is of utmost importance to control the spiritual and occult forces
that would otherwise harm society (Sanders 2001:169). In many cosmologies,
humans facing problems turn to the ancestors or gods. Religion works and may
have practical consequences here and now.
On the other hand, Christianity, in practice, works quite differently. The
here and now is largely omitted from the realm of this religion. Whether people starve or die, plagues haunt society and diseases kill animals, women are
debarred and life-giving rains do not come at the right time, there is a double
perception at work. On one hand, these misfortunes are not believed to be the
Christian God’s work. Although in principle the Christian God can control
these events and processes, since he is believed to be almighty, it is also believed
that such mundane problems are not the concerns of God in his daily and practical work. Or rather, although mitigating worldly problems may be a concern of
God, usually he does not solve them here and now. Rather, these misfortunes are
placed within the larger cosmological framework in which God works. Thus, on
the other hand, such misfortune is also commonly and in varying degree seen
as God’s penalty for sin. Throughout Christian history, God is believed to have
punished sinners and unbelievers collectively with plagues, droughts and floods.
In other words, it is not for God to solve the problems he has brought down on
sinners and misbelievers. That is for humans to do, cosmologically through obedience and repentance and practically by surviving as best they can.
This does not imply the Christian God does not work (in all senses of the
term, including penalising humans). To the contrary, he does very much work,
with eternal consequences for humanity, if one is to believe Christianity. However, his main active engagement in the cosmos is after humans die. The grace
of God may send some to heaven for eternity, whereas others may be doomed to
hell. Indeed, this is a very powerful way of having an active god at work, and was
ultimately used by missionaries as the main argument why one should convert
to Christianity.
Apart from eschatology and what may happen after death, the ways in which
the Christian God works as compared to the ancestors point to a crucial aspect
in one’s attempts to understand religion and how it works in society. There are
two main differences. First, Christianity mainly works in the other world and
Terje Oestigaard
the hereafter, whereas ancestors work in the here and now in society. Thus,
the religions resolve different problems in different realms. Christianity may
promise an eternal life in heaven, but cannot (or at least does not) procure the
life-giving rains upon which people are utterly dependent for life and well-being
or solve any other acute problems here and now. The ancestors can resolve the
latter problem. This brings us to the second difference: the ancestors are active
and can be contacted and requested to solve current problems. Thus, the ancestors can be activated, or, in other words, humans may manipulate the divine world
for their own betterment. This is also in the interests of the ancestors, since the
descendants are their heirs and family. An approach such as this is not possible
in Christianity. There is no way humans can manipulate God to secure health
and wealth through ritual and sacrifice. One may pray, but the outcomes are
highly uncertain. Miracles are believed to take place in Christianity, but where,
when and why is a mystery. Even Christians acknowledge that miracles to solve
problems in this world happen rarely. The rule of the game is that humans have
to solve their problems themselves. The ways and means by which humans engage in the world and solve their problems are, however, judged after death, and
include severe penalties for eternity.
This has created a space for different religious practices to operate on different
scales by different means. Wisjen and Tanner state that “the Sukuma see religion
in terms of the options it provides rather than the obligations it creates. They
have periodic problems and their religious practices tend to be periodic” (Wijsen
and Tanner 2000:30). Thus, conversion to Christianity is not a straightforward
displacement of one religion by another. Instead, it is a process of syncretism or
parallel cosmologies. The different religious systems offer different possibilities
and solutions to various problems. The benefits of Christianity are also largely
its main shortcoming – it does not solve the most acute problems here and
now, the problems that have to be resolved. Consequently, religious solutions
are sought elsewhere. This highlights the premises on which the Sukuma world
works. “Causation in their thinking is animate rather than inanimate. An event,
particularly an unfortunate one, has to be caused by someone or something, living or dead, with malevolent intentions toward the sufferer. There are no pure
accidents in Usukuma” (Wijsen and Tanner 2000:47). As will be discussed, this
is the realm in which belief in witchcraft flourishes.
Although it was held that one could achieve much the same results by propitiating the ancestors, there was a sense that in the modern world it is better to
use the modern way and not approach the ancestors. They are connected with
the past and tradition, but witchcraft is connected to the challenges of today and
tomorrow. Thus, witchcraft has to some extent replaced the role of ancestors and
is perceived as a way of being modern.
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
Witchcraft and witch killings
According to the 2002 Tanzania Witchcraft Act (Cap. 18 [R.E.2002]), witchcraft is defined as “sorcery, enchantment, bewitching, the use of instrument of
witchcraft, the purported exercise of any occult power and purported possession
of any occult knowledge” (Tanzania Human Rights Report 2011: 33). All acts
of witchcraft are punishable if murders are committed, and in January 2009
Prime Minister Misengo Pinda stated that those caught in the act of murdering
albinos should be killed on the spot (Bryceson et al. 2010: 374).
A phenomenon peculiar to the Sukuma in Tanzania has been the intensity
of witch killing, although such killings also occur in other regions. Since the
1960s, witch killings have increased significantly in Sukumaland (Abrahams
1994:15). According to Tanner in the 1950s, old men could still remember that
before the Germans occupied the country witchcraft was rare (Tanner 1956a:
443). Similarly, in the 1960s witchcraft incidents were rare (Per Brandström
personal com.). Still, the problem of witchcraft was acknowledged by the British
and the territory’s high court produced a table of murder statistics in mid-1944
(Mesaki 1993: 64).
Table 1: Murder cases in Sukumaland 1935–1943
Murder cases
Source: Mesaki 1993.
There are, of course, uncertainties about the actual number of witch killings and
many killings may not have been reported to the authorities. In any case, even if
the actual number was two or five or even ten times higher, it would nevertheless
have been modest compared to the rate from the 1970s onwards. In short, there
seems to have been a dramatic increase in murders associated with witchcraft.
Importantly, statistics in Tanzania are highly unreliable, and there are serious
methodological obstacles regarding witch killings. Apart from the fact that the
statistics are not published and are largely based on second- or third-hand observations (for example, anonymous police sources largely impossible to check),
it is also unclear how witch killings are documented, or what is categorised as
Terje Oestigaard
a “witch killing.” Witchcraft may also be used as a local term for violent death
and police officers often use it loosely (Stroeken 2010: 199). Thus, the actual
numbers may be higher or lower than the figures presented here.
The killing of suspected witches became gradually more noticeable in the
1960s and notoriously so by the mid-1970s. By the end of the 1980s, the situation seemed to be out of control and the government instituted the Mongela
Commission on witchcraft in 1988 to investigate the phenomenon. The commission’s conclusions were alarming (Mesaki 2009: 72-3) Between 1970 and
1984, 3,693 suspected witches were killed – 1,407 men and 2,286 women (Mesaki 1993: 98). Here it is important to add a comment on the statistics, since the
number of killed witches is 3,693 whereas the number of witch-related cases was
3,333. Mesaki explains: “It should be noted that the number of cases does not
necessarily match the number of those killed because a single case can lead to
several deaths while in other cases no murders occur” (Mesaki 1993: 99).
Table 2: Witch killings in Tanzania 1970–1984
Source: Mesaki 1993.
Mwanza and Shinyanga regions accounted for no fewer than 2,246 of these
witch killings, and in the following period, from 1985-88, a further 826 were
killed in Sukumaland, for a total of 3,072 in this area between 1970 and 1988.
The statistics on the killings from 1970–84 were broken down on a regional
basis by Mesaki (1993: 99).
Thus, the killing of witches has mainly been a Sukuma phenomenon and
among the 2,246 Sukuma killings before 1984, 1,869 were women and 377
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
Table 3: Regional distribution of witch killings 1970–1984
Source: Mesaki 1993.
were men aged over 15 years, a ratio of 5 to 1. Of the women victims, 62 per
cent were 41 and older, that is, post-menopausal. On a monthly basis, some
10-12 people were killed for suspected witchcraft among the Sukuma (Wijsen
and Tanner 2002: 135), with an average of 160 deaths a year in Mwanza and
Shinyanga regions. For Tanzania as a whole, there were 246 killings per year on
From 1984 to 1993 there are no reliable figures for killings of alleged witches.
A newspaper reported in 1998 that 325 people had been killed in Shinyanga
region from 1996 to 1998: 133 in 1996, 102 in 1997, and 90 between January
and October 1998. Another survey conducted by TAMWA (Tanzania Media
Women’s Association) revealed that between 1993 and 1998 in Mwanza region
alone, 318 elderly people had been killed. According to a police official in Shinyanga region, however, when other innocents who are killed in remote villages
are taken into account, murder would be seen to occur more or less daily in
Shinyanga and Mwanza regions (Mesaki 2009:73), although not all these deaths
are related to witchcraft. A leaked Ministry of Home Affairs report indicated
that 5,000 people had been killed between 1994 and 1998 (Duff 2005), although not all these deaths were necessarily related to witchcraft.
Prime Minister Pinda told parliament in late January 2009 that 2,866 elderly people accused of being witches had been murdered in the past five years,
for an average of 573 a year (Banda 2009). The police in Mwanza reported in
February 2009 that more than 2,585 old women had been killed in eight (of 21)
mainland regions of Tanzania over the previous five years (Tanzania Human
Rights Report 2009: 21).
Terje Oestigaard
Table 4: Witch killings in 8 regions 2004–2008
Total (eight districts)
Deaths in the five years prior to February 2009
Average deaths per year/region
Source: Tanzania Human Rights Report 2009.
Based on these numbers, every third day an old woman accused of being
a witch was killed in Mwanza region, and every fourth day in Shinyanga. The
actual number of killings of suspected witches was believed to be higher, because not all such killings are reported to the police. As one respondent from
Shinyanga put it: “It’s risky to inquire of the police about a relative killed due to
witchcraft … because you will be regarded as an accomplice. And they might
end up taking your life as well” (Tanzania Human Rights Report 2009: 21).
The number of witch killings may total more than 1,000 a year. In a newspaper interview in 2005, Simeon Mesaki asserted that in Shinyanga region a
minimum of 300 witch killings take place annually, and the total was most
likely the same in Mwanza. According to an official who wanted to remain
anonymous: “The government figures are very low, not accurate. I know a much
higher number, and even that is not the full situation” (Duff 2005).
Official statistics and statements suggest that in the period 1970–84 an average of 246 people were killed as witches, whereas today almost 600 people
are killed annually. In each year from 1970 to 1988, an average of 160 persons
were murdered in Mwanza and Shinyanga region, whereas this number has now
increased to 245. In Tabora region, the annual average has increased from 17
killings to 102. However, according to the Tanzania Human Rights Report
2010, in that year about 50 people were killed in Tanzania because of witchcraft
accusations. Although this number is provisional, compared to previous years
there has been a significant decrease (Tanzania Human Rights Report 2010:57).
In 2011, however, the national figures were higher according to the Tanzania
Human Rights Report:
Between 2005 and 2011, about 3,000 people were lynched to death by fearful
neighbours who believed them to be witches. This suggests that an average of
500 elderly people, old women … in particular [are] killed [on] suspicion of being witches annually all over Tanzania. For instance, 242 people were killed due
to witchcraft beliefs in Shinyanga alone from January 2010 to June 2011 … [P]
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
olice statistics [also show] the growing trend of killings due to witchcraft beliefs
from 579 in 2010 to 642 in 2011 (Tanzania Human Rights Report 2011:34).
The discrepancy between the numbers given in the 2010 report and the 2011
report was explained by new data provided by the police in a letter. In the Tanzania Human Rights Report 2012 it is reported that 630 persons were killed as
alleged witches (Tanzania Human Rights Report 2012: 31). In the Tanzania
Human Rights Report 2013 it is written that witchcraft related killings claimed
the lives of 765 people – 505 women and 260 men (Tanzania Human Rights
Report 2013: 36). In 2013, a new form of abuse was encountered, with many
people being buried alive for various alleged misdemeanours, often including
suspicions of witchcraft. In sum, despite gaps in official statistics and the shortcomings of other surveys, the conclusion appears to be unequivocal: the killing
of accused witches has increased dramatically.
As a comparison, in the whole of Europe there were about 90,000 prosecutions of witches and some 45,000 executions during the 300 years the main
witch craze lasted (Levack 2006:23). If the rate of witch killings in Tanzania
is 500 per year or more, then there will be more witch killings in Tanzania in
only a century than there were during Europe’s much longer witch craze. The
estimates may be too high, but even if only 150 witches are killed each year in
Tanzania, this is equal to the rate of executions throughout Europe. Indeed, the
witch craze seems to be spiralling out of control, as evidenced by, inter alia, the
killing of albinos and the even more recent trend to kill people for their wealth.
Albino killings and the mining industry
Albinos have traditionally been stigmatised and discriminated against in society
and there are numerous rumours that albino children have been killed at birth
as ‘mercy killings.” In agro-pastoral communities, albino babies have also been
placed in the cattle kraal gateway and trampled to death, but those who survived
were allowed to live. Births have been reported as stillbirths and albinos have
often been called zeruzeru, which is believed to refer to zero, an archaic term
for ghost-like creatures, probably referring to the lack of pigment and denial
of personhood (Bryceson, JØnsson and Herrington 2010: 367–8). In the past,
giving birth to an albino was seen as a bad omen. The whole family was stigmatised. Other villagers were not allowed to marry the albino, but people were
also reluctant to marry any other member of that family for fear that their own
children would be albinos. Albinos were stigmatised in the same way as people
with leprosy. Even a visit by an albino was seen as a bad omen and people refused
to eat and share food with them.
Today, however, this has in principle changed, and people marry members of
families with albinos. Even so, the lives of albinos have gone from bad to worse.
Terje Oestigaard
When albinos are born, men often accuse their wives of unfaithfulness with the
devil or white people, and there are also widespread beliefs that children born
with albinism are punishment for an ancestor’s wrongdoing or for having sex
during menstruation (Ackley 2010: 44). The sexual connotations of albinism
have taken new form in recent years, the most disturbing being the belief that
sex with an albino may cure HIV/AIDS (Baker, Lund, Taylor and Nyathi 2010:
177). Albino women are even raped because of this belief (Alum, Gomez and
Ruis 2009: 8–9).
Albino killings in Tanzania began in 2006, but there were also earlier reports. From 2000 to 2009, the number of albinos killed was 68 (Tanzania Human Rights Report 2011: 36). However, from 2007 to 2009 alone 59 albinos
were killed (six in 2007, 37 in 2008 and 16 in 2009) and nine were mutilated. In
2010 and 2011, there were no reports of albinos being killed (Tanzania Human
Rights Report 2010: 58–9), whereas one albino was killed in 2012.
The killing of albinos among the Sukuma is a recent phenomenon and
seemed to “come from nowhere” (Bryceson, JØnsson and Herrington 2010: 368,
379 fn. 10). In the 1980s and 1990s, there were rumours that bald people would
bring prosperity and as a consequence such people were reported decapitated
and their heads used in magic potions. Thus, apart from witch killings, there
are indications that people were killed and used for various purposes among the
Sukuma, although these practices would also be part of the world of ancestors.
Still, the killing of albinos is new. Why albinos and why as part of witchcraft?
According to the Tanzanian government, there are about 1.5 million artisanal miners out of a total population of some 40 million, and Mwanza and Shinyanga have seen more mineral rushes than other regions (Bryceson, JØnsson and
Herrington 2010: 379). The work is dangerous and the miners have no medical
insurance, so many of them believe they need powerful witchcraft protection.
Moreover, if they have money, there is always the danger it might be stolen. They
also believe they need good luck to find the minerals. Thus, there is a double
need for witchcraft: protection and good fortune.
It is impossible to know which parts of an albino’s body will be used, but often it is the legs from below the knees. It is believed that one cannot start working in the mines without first going to a traditional healer, and success or failure
depends on the effectiveness of the medicines. And even if a man has no place
or mine where he can start digging, if he has consulted a traditional healer he
can start searching anywhere, even outside the mines, and achieve success and
riches. The miner does not pay the healer in advance. However, after the miner
has struck gold or diamonds, he will return to the traditional healer, who will
instruct him on how to use his finds. In many cases, the traditional healer will
claim the first find as payment for providing good luck, and the next find of gold
or diamonds will belong to the miner. Consequently, many traditional healers
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
are exceedingly rich, at least by local standards. If a miner does not return to the
healer with his share, it is believed that all of his haul will magically disappear
and the miner will be left with nothing.
Some believe the origin of albino killings has its roots in macabre Nigerian
movies, which are popular among the miners when they have time off. One police officer allegedly commented that “an influx of Nigerian movies, which play
up witchcraft, might have something to do with it, along with rising food prices
that were making people more desperate.” According to other Tanzanian policemen, the value of a killed albino, including all four limbs, genitals, ears, nose
and tongue, may amount to USD 75,000 (Ackley 2010). Others believe albinos
are killed because they are not useful and will not be missed in society, while
another explanation is the analogy between the rare occurrence of gold and the
rareness of albino charms. How this practice began will most likely remain hidden, but it is undoubtedly propagated by the waganga (medical practitioners).
Even though nobody really knows why and how albino charms work, the belief
that they do keeps such beliefs and practices alive (Bryceson, JØnsson and Herrington 2010: 368–9, 371).
The use of body parts in medicines is based on the assumption that it is possible to appropriate another person’s life-force literally through the consumption
of that person. It is also believed that the acquired life-power is much greater
if the body parts are removed while the victim is still alive (Vincent 2008:43).
This has other implications: “The albino fetish has become the most expensive
because it is perceived as harnessing spirits that are far more powerful than any
plant or animal charm that waganga could otherwise offer” (Bryceson, JØnsson
and Herrington 2010: 371). As a consequence, there has also been a transition
from healers to dealers (Bryceson, JØnsson and Herrington 2010: 364).
Although it is often claimed that the use of body parts in witchcraft is recent,
this is only partly correct. In Tanzania, among the Sukuma, for instance, there
were practices in the past involving such uses. These were, however, very limited.
Recent ritual innovation has led to an increase in such practices and to their incorporation into spheres where previously there were no such traditions. In this
sense, current witchcraft practices build on and continue older worldviews and
practices, which are reinterpreted and more widely adopted.
Chief Charles Kafipa of Bukumbi chiefdom explained past traditions of using body parts in medicines and how they worked (personal communication).
The killing of albinos and use of their body parts in medicines is not part of tradition and, indeed, the chief argued strongly that it was against tradition. Moreover, according to him, those who kill albinos and use this type of medicine will
not be successful in their endeavours: killing people for medicine is murder and
has no ritual effects, and such killings are seen by all as truly horrible.
Still, according to the chief, the bodies of chiefs and albinos are very impor193
Terje Oestigaard
tant and powerful traditional medicines if they are properly handled by qualified healers. Albino bodies are only effective as medicines if their owners die
naturally. The extraordinary power of such medicines derives from the belief
that albinos are composed of something different on account of their complexion: it was believed there is something missing or something extra in their composition. Traditionally, albinos were buried beneath the interior mud floors of
their homes, with only the nearest family at the funeral. Thus, a healer could
only get body parts with the consent of family members. This practice was both
legal and had superior ritual potential. There were also beliefs that albinos are
somehow alive after death, and it is this that gives the medicines their special
power. Today, with cement floors in modern houses, albinos are buried in outside graves. This has resulted in the looting of albino body parts. Even where the
albino died naturally, such stolen parts are ineffective as medicine, because they
were taken without family consent. Thus, the agreement of relatives is necessary
if the medicines are to be effective, and the other practices now escalating do not
even work as ritual, the chief said.
Religions at work
The poignant question then becomes why both witchcraft and Christianity are
on the increase in Africa? What kinds of solutions do the different religious
systems offer, and how do they differ, since Christians also use witchcraft? The
short answer is simple: witchcraft is believed to be more efficient than Christianity. More importantly, witchcraft is believed to work in this world, solving
mundane and practical problems here and now and creating health, wealth and
prosperity. It is generally agreed that the Christian God, although omnipotent,
does not bother about these trivial matters. His ambitions for humanity are
more fundamental, namely the ultimate destiny of humans in heaven or hell.
Still, for poor people without food and water or facing other miseries, the mundane is far from trivial. Consequently, the problems of the mundane have to be
solved in one way or other. The Christian God is utterly silent in providing help
or solutions and uninvolved in daily life and the miseries of common people.
Thus, the parallel religious cosmologies work perfectly well together: one solves
the problems of this world and the other the problems of the next.
One may therefore say that Christianity has once again created a devil, although not intentionally. By strongly opposing ancestral tradition for more than
a century, the church has largely undermined this tradition, but has also created
a cultural and religious vacuum. But no such vacuums can persist. The miseries and problems the ancestors were believed to resolve continue, and may have
become more acute with increased poverty. Christianity as a religion is basically
not intended to resolve current miseries such as these, but witchcraft can do so
perfectly here and now, it is believed.
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
Regarding how God works within Pentecostal Christianity, or at least in
the preaching, I draw on two complementary examples. First, there were the
two American Pentecostal missionaries I met struggling to convert people. They
were frustrated by what they called the lack of self-sacrifice among the Sukuma.
One of the missionaries had refused to bless a congregant because he had not
paid his weekly dues to the church. According to the missionary, converts had
to follow the same principles as they themselves did and make sacrifices to God.
The missionaries had paid their air-tickets to Tanzania with their own money,
and each week they donated money to the church. These missionaries stated
that the person denied the blessing had once given money at the altar, and they
concluded he had money, or had to find it somewhere and prioritise God! As
they put it, what good are excuses that they had to support their family and not
the church when they face God on Doomsday?
This example highlights the emphasis on godly matters and their interaction
with worldly concerns. From these missionaries’ perspective, the world hereafter
is the sole reference point: what happens after death and the consequences of
being judged on Doomsday. However, worldly matters do matter to the people.
Children need school uniforms and fees have to be paid, the family needs food
on the table and medical bills have to be met. In the missionaries’ overall cosmic
framework, these are mere excuses.
Second, the charismatic founder of the successful Pentecostal International
Central Gospel Church in Accra, Rev. Mensa Otabil, gave some illuminating
insights into the ways God is believed to work in one of his many fire-andbrimstone sermons. While blaming the sad state of affairs on African politicians, he said: “But you can’t claim anyone’s money by faith – it’s illegal. If you
want to have money, there is only one way: work … I prayed to God to prosper,
but we have to change economic structures and social structures. If I don’t have
that opportunity, I can pray all I want and I’ll still be poor … You can pray all
you want, but it won’t help … unless we start looking at the structures of our
nations” (Van Dijk 2004: 178–9). In other words, you can pray all you want in
church for food and money, it will not help: this is not the way God works. He
is not uninterested in his children and human suffering, but he has a bigger and
more important issue to deal with, the devil. Or something else.
A further example of how Christianity is generally believed to work can
be seen in the old woman I met during the drought of 2011 in Sukumaland,
one of the three worst droughts she had experienced in her whole life. She argued strenuously in favour of rainmaking – rainmaking worked and provided
prosperity to the community. However, the tradition had been lost, which she
regretted, and now all had become Christians. During the drought of 2011, they
went to the church and prayed to God for rain and food, but as she said, nothing
happened and they left the church even hungrier. The Christian God does not
Terje Oestigaard
solve problems here and now and does not provide food on the table when it is
really needed.
From this perspective, Christianity, missionaries and evangelisation have
been highly successful in eradicating ancestral tradition as religious practice, but
have largely failed to replace the role of the ancestors with the Christian God:
these are basically different entities or realms working at different scales within
and among humans. God belongs to the other world, and so do the ancestors,
but whereas the ancestors, properly propitiated, help the living in their daily
lives, God does not intervene in this world among his children. Christianity has
therefore created one cosmology, but also left a whole cosmology ripe for reinvention. It has replaced the role of the ancestors in the world beyond with God,
but not fully displaced the role of ancestors in this world and their abilities to
solve problems for the living. Christianity has diminished that role in this world,
but not the logic of how the ancestors work. And that logic of causation has
proved more durable than the power of the ancestors themselves: this is point of
departure for witchcraft. It provides the means to manipulate or approach the
forces of the otherworld for the betterment of this world.
Whereas Christianity is immune from criticism about what happens in the
otherworldly realm (and on this side), this is where witchcraft is superior. Witchcraft can, or at least is believed to, resolve any kind of problem in this world: it
is the source of wealth and success and can deprive others of the same riches and
resources and ultimately cause their deaths. The outcomes are possible to measure and adjudge in a world where poverty increases while some become exceedingly rich. The precise ways in which witchcraft works are impossible to know,
but the mere fact that someone, somehow has gained immense wealth whereas
others suffer more and even die, is all the evidence needed that witchcraft works,
and is at work.
Accidents and misfortunes still happen and this is where witchcraft as logic
and religious system has its supreme force. Whereas in the ancestral cult such
misfortune could be explained in terms of the ancestors not solving the problems, a failing that over time could challenge the rationale of such beliefs,
in witchcraft there are always others to blame. Somebody else has employed
stronger and more effective medicines. Misery and evil, or the success of others
in becoming wealthy and powerful, becomes the ultimate evidence of why a person’s own medicines and witchcraft did not work. This circular, self-referential
evidence is complete, and the only way to break out of this vicious circle is by
employing even stronger and more dangerous medicines, ultimately by using
human body parts. The very logic of how witchcraft works is also the source of
its increase. The consequences of witchcraft can only be combated by employing
more witchcraft.
Witchcraft, witch killings and Christianity
The burden of evidence in Christianity, in which it is strictly impossible to prove
the existence or effectiveness in this world of the Christian God, favours the
spread of witchcraft. Witchcraft also works in mysterious, albeit more mystical and magical, ways. Although there are many unknowns, witchcraft is still
more tangible both as regards how and why the rituals work and the outcomes
of the rituals. The healer makes medicines, using whatever ingredients, which
may include human body parts; he propitiates and incorporates the ancestors,
the other worldly realm well known in the community’s culture; and the client
physically employs the medicines either by ingestion, or by applying it to the
body or sprinkling it. The materiality of witchcraft and its operation on existing cultural premises and horizons of understanding strengthens the beliefs.
Everything is here and now – from the healers and his medicines to the partaker
and his problems. And it continues the logic of causation on which the ancestral
tradition was based: it is possible to actively interfere with the spirits to improve
conditions in this world.
Explaining why witchcraft increases, based on a religious logic that religions
work although nobody can know for sure how, why and when, seems somehow
straightforward. People seek refuge in the magical world given the premise that
religion works. This is a world in which changing the premises and the outcomes
of daily life and affairs is believed to be possible. The church may also promise
this, but very rarely are the outcomes explicitly evident. The church does not
promise a one-to-one relationship between prayer and good health, successful
work, prosperous marriage or excellent exam results. Witchcraft does or is believed to do so. Whether this happens is another question, but then within this
logic there are sufficient ad-hoc explanations legitimising the cosmological system and its effectiveness, even when it fails. Explaining why witches are being
killed, and at a seemingly accelerating rate, is more difficult, because an increase
in witchcraft does not necessarily imply intensified witch killing.
In a cross-cultural perspective, human sacrifice is at the pinnacle of any sacrificial system, but it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for, or cultural
patterns behind, the prevalence among the Sukuma of human killing within a
ritual framework. Rainmaking rituals have historically included human sacrifice, as for instance in ancient Egyptian, Mayan and Aztec civilisations. However, sacrifices carried out in this manner require a sacred person to consecrate the
offerings. The sacrificial victim incarnates the society as a whole and therefore
human sacrifices can be made only for the benefit of the collectivity (e.g. Valeri
1985:49). Strictly speaking, the killing of albinos for personal wealth in the
mining industry is at odds with current sacrificial theory. Since the empirical
data are not wrong and these theories are based on other data, it would appear
Terje Oestigaard
that something peculiar and particular is going on in Tanzania. From a purely
logical perspective, human sacrifice is understandable given certain premises
regarding how gods and the cosmos are perceived to work. From a human perspective though, it is harder to understand how anyone can believe in such practices, let alone carry them out.
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Language, knowledge, development and the framing
of common destiny in contemporary Ethiopia:
some reflections
Tekeste Negash
Though resource-poor, Ethiopia is now ranked as one of the fastest growing
economies on the African continent. Addis Ababa and the regional capitals are
visible demonstrations of this growth. It is true that most of the funding for
growth is either borrowed or donated by powerful states with a strong interest
in security and stability in the region. Remittances and the growing interaction
between the diaspora and home country are also of considerable significance.
The economic upswing has brought with it an acute and extreme inequality
between the few rich and the poor, who constitute the absolute majority of the
population. Bridging the gap through an equitable system of distribution and
social protection is one of the challenges facing the government and state.
It is important to note that the economic growth/recovery that the country
has experienced since the downfall of official communism has very little to do
with the performance of the education system. Education is a crucial factor, but
it is neither the most important nor the only factor in economic development.
Economic policies, as well as the international alignment of Ethiopia with the
Western world and the favourable international climate, are primarily responsible for growth. This does not mean that education is not important, but we
need to be very clear about what the educational sub-sector can do in promoting
It is difficult to discuss the role of education in development until we deconstruct and/or disaggregate the following concepts: education, knowledge, development and the state as main provider. So what is education and how does it
become a factor in the development of the country in the wider sense of the term?
One of the most important myths to dismantle is the equation of education
(irrespective of quality and relevance) with the wellbeing of the nation. A related
myth is the equation of knowledge with education.
There is an unwarranted belief, promoted by the education industry, that
knowledge not mediated through and by the formal education sector is worthless (Negash 2006). I believe it is time for this belief to be rejected for the good
of the education sector itself. Formal education can be useless or a pure waste
of resources if it does not meet the requirements of quality and relevance. Of
course, it can be argued that an education programme deficient in quality and
relevance is better than no education at all. This position can be strongly argued
Language, knowledge, development and the framing of common destiny in contemporary Ethiopia
when it relates to an individual. But an education service is provided by a state
that is constantly constrained by resource challenges and entrusted with creating and maintaining an education system that enables it to meet the challenges
of survival and sustainable growth.
However, it is important to note that the education system now in place is
the source of some knowledge that is good for those who go through the system
and the society of which these students are part, but not of all relevant knowledge. What we learn outside school from parents, peers, formal and informal
institutions and by using our brains is, I would argue, of far greater importance.
It is the knowledge we acquire outside school that enables us and society to meet
the challenges we face as individuals or as members of that society. Although the
relationship between knowledge we acquire as individuals and the knowledge
that we get through formal schooling needs to be looked at closely, it is important to remember that we humans have the capacity to create usable knowledge.
Here it is worthwhile to define the concept of knowledge itself: knowledge
is the interpretation of information. In other words, knowledge is information
(about any subject or phenomenon) that is processed and internalised. It is in
this context that one can argue that a society such as Ethiopia could move ahead
(not all the way, of course, but a long way) even if it has an educational system
that produces more failed students than otherwise ‒ or, to put it more starkly,
even if it has an education system that is on the verge of collapse or has collapsed.
The human brain is not just the product and reflection of a number of years of
formal schooling. Rather, the human brain, judging from its social expressions
(beliefs, quantifiable skills, etc.), has the capacity to reflect, interact and interpret
its condition. An educational system that functions well brings the added value
of enhancing the power of reflection on the construction of the future.
What is development and how does it relate to Education?
The shortest definition of development is the rational and cumulative exploitation of human and natural resources (cf., Wolf 2004). We need to bear in mind
the key indicators that define the concept of development. Rationality involves
choice and priorities. The cumulative aspect of development implies continuity
over time. Exploitation in turn implies mobilisation and effective use of people
and resources. By defining development in this manner, I am prepared to argue
that tropical African societies in general, and Ethiopian society in particular, are
oppressed but not exploited. I go further and maintain that the greatest problem
facing societies such as Ethiopia is that they are underexploited. Neither the
material nor the human resources are exploited so as to lead towards development as I have defined it. There is a huge difference between oppression and the
rational and cumulative exploitation of both people and resources. Whereas op201
Tekeste Negash
pression stifles initiative and breeds resistance, rational and cumulative exploitation leads to the benefit of society as a whole.
In spite of the globalisation hype, development takes place within national
frontiers. The capacity of some countries (judged by their governments’ ability
to rationally exploit the human and material resources within their territories) to
go beyond their national economies in search of cheap raw materials and labour
is what is really called globalisation. The revolution in communication technologies has only accelerated the process of expansion that started centuries ago.
Insofar as we can learn from the logic of development as it has been applied
in Western Europe, there are three things of crucial importance to launching
and sustaining development. These are a strong state based on law; a judicial system that upholds laws and regulations; and an educational system that spreads
values of common destiny that are shared by the majority of the citizens of the
There are basic differences between strategies of survival and strategies of development. Most human societies would continue to survive using the information flows (and hence the knowledge they possess) that they daily acquire while
engaged in the sheer logic of keeping alive. Strategies of development, on the
other hand, are based on a qualitatively different way of organised life in which
the constant search for renewal and improvement is the guiding principle for the
state and its citizens. Reflexivity (the collective ability to reframe the present on
the basis of lessons learned) is the crucial difference between strategies of survival and strategies of development. One may, of course, criticise the obsession
with development for the sake of development that at times varies with needs
and wellbeing of citizens at the cost of huge damage to the environment, but
that is another question.
If we were to rank the crucial factors for development, the rule of law put
in place by the state would be the most important followed by a strong state
and a functioning education system. Here it is worth noting that education’s
most important role is not the transfer of skills but the transfer of values that
bind together the citizens of the country. In developed countries, this role of
education was quite well recognised about a century and half ago, but has now
receded as some of education’s functions have been taken over by television and
other media. Moreover, education as a transformative value is much less needed
in national states than in multicultural or multinational states such as Ethiopia.
So how is the education system serving development in Ethiopia?
Some years ago, I argued that the Ethiopian education system was on the brink
of collapse mainly due to the use of English as a medium of instruction and the
expansion of the education sector without adequate financing (Negash 2006).
The national learning assessments for grades 4, 8, 10 and 12 revealed that less
Language, knowledge, development and the framing of common destiny in contemporary Ethiopia
than 40 per cent of students scored a passing grade. The majority of those who
passed the tests scored slightly more than 50 per cent. An educational system
that fails the great majority of enrolees is a failed system. The main purpose of a
well functioning system is not to fail students but to make sure that all of them
get the support they need to pass. The problem does not lie with the students,
but with the system itself. In short, the school is either not ready to create conditions for all students to complete the programme of studies successfully or is
incapable of doing so. The psychological impact of being told that one has failed
to complete one’s studies is indeed huge. The greatest problem facing the schoolage generation is not learning difficulties but language difficulties, especially in
secondary school and beyond, a challenge complicated further by huge classes,
poorly trained teachers and the virtual absence of educational materials.
How bad is the Ethiopian education system?
Our state of knowledge on the various subsectors is not as we wish it to be.
Whereas we have some studies on the conditions in the primary and secondary
subsectors, we have virtually no studies on higher education. I think it would
be a challenge to the university community to get its act together and to find
ways and means of examining itself. Unfortunately, higher education can only
be studied by those who are in it, unless one asks the World Bank to do the job.
The bank certainly would do it, but would definitely lose sight of the key issues
along the way.
According to a number of studies carried out by various joint USAID and
Ministry of Education (MOE) taskforces, the situation in primary and secondary schools is very bad. The most recent study on reading among second and
third grade students revealed that the majority either cannot read or do not
understand what they read (USAID/Ethiopia 2010). These are students taught
in languages spoken at home. The USAID and MOE study on early grade reading concluded that at least 80 per cent of the students in the eight regions studied were not reading at the expected fluency rate (USAID/Ethiopia 2010). And
when it comes to reading comprehension, the USAID study concluded that
more than 50 per cent of the children in most regions were unable to answer a
simple question (USAID/Ethiopia 2010). The USAID study was carried out in
2010. More than 300 schools and more than 13,000 students participated. In
ten years, many of those who participated in the study will come knocking at
the doors of universities and colleges, including Addis Ababa University. Judging from this single, but important, study it is hard not to conclude that the
Ethiopian education sector faces huge crises.
In my earlier writings (Negash 2006), I argued that Plasma education (televised lectures) has compounded the crisis in secondary schools. I identified
English as the medium of instruction as the main obstacle. To a large extent this
Tekeste Negash
has been corroborated by a recent (2013) World Bank study entitled Secondary
Education in Ethiopia: Supporting Growth and Transformation. The bank, after
noting that 61 per cent of those who sat the Grade 12 national exams scored
less than 50 per cent, concluded: “It is clear that the poor quality of education
in Ethiopia which results in low levels of student learning is compromising the
further development of the education system” (World Bank 2013: 35-6). The
study further notes that the secondary school curriculum promotes the learning
of factual data rather than the understanding of underlying concepts, leaving
learners little or no time to practise and develop meta-cognitive skills, that is,
the ability to think and the ability to use learning as an instrument for autoeducation. According to the World Bank study, Ethiopian secondary school
education is designed to identify and encourage fast learners rather than to help
the greatest number of students. This is a great tragedy.
The World Bank study does not even attempt to link this aspect of the curriculum to the constraints that English as a medium of instruction imposes on
everybody engaged in the sector. The study notes that the switch from home
language to English in Grade 9 creates learning problems, but offers no remedies. This is not surprising because the World Bank does not encourage developing countries to abandon English as medium of instruction. Of course, the
World Bank is wrong. Ethiopian students, like all students elsewhere, do not
have learning difficulties, but only difficulties directly related to a foreign language as medium of learning. The problem lies in the language.
Before I conclude this brief review of the World Bank study, I would like
to mention two interesting insights. The first is about Plasma technology. The
introduction of Plasma education was technology-driven without any evidence
that it would improve learning. And according to the World Bank study, the
results of Plasma can only be seen as disappointing. The second insightful conclusion of the World Bank study is that 70 per cent of secondary school students
in grades 11 and 12 are boys and that the rural population and ethnic minorities
are discriminated against. In Addis Ababa, more girls attend secondary school
than boys. The conclusion I draw from this is that the secondary education sector now caters to the rich in urban areas. I am sure this is not the intention of
government but is rather the consequence of a policy environment that stresses
the expansion of the sector without due reflection.
How is education related to the maintenance and enhancement
of a common destiny?
Nobody can tell what the future holds. However, immense strides have been
made in analysing the making of the future in which education has a very important role to play. We know how the present is made. It is a fusion of yesterday and our reactions to it today. I am aware that I am over-generalising and
Language, knowledge, development and the framing of common destiny in contemporary Ethiopia
abstracting, but let this be for the purposes of this discussion. Unprecedented
events such a serious environmental disaster may call for a rapid and radical
adjustment, followed by diverse solutions. Not everything can be planned to
keep the future under control. But the development of the culture of reflexivity (learning from past lessons and planning for all scenarios) appears to offer
the hope of taming the future for the wellbeing of citizens. It is in promoting
common values as well as the capacity for reflexivity that education becomes an
important instrument. The primary goal of education, as I mentioned earlier, is
the transmission of values that bind a society. But it has to be made clear that
this huge and important task cannot be managed by an education sector alone.
The education sector of any given country is an outcome of policy. Education is
not an independent variable that can propel a society towards development. The
sector functions when it is closely tied to politics and policy.
How can education serve Ethiopia’s development and social cohesion?
Perhaps the starting point is the bitter realisation that Ethiopia behaves, by fault
or design, in the same manner as a former colony. The widespread belief that
Ethiopia is the only country not colonised by a European power is a truth that
demands considerable qualification. Ethiopian education does not in any way
reflect the fact that Ethiopia has always been independent. So although true, the
narrative of Ethiopian independence has rhetorical value but very little content.
The best demonstration is the country’s reluctance to privilege its languages and
cultures as the medium of instruction throughout the education sector.
I subscribe to the view of many African scholars before me that it is only by
replacing English with Ethiopian languages as the medium of instruction that
Ethiopia can achieve sustained development and social cohesion. It is worthwhile
mentioning briefly two authors who perceived the link between development (as
I have defined it above) and the enhancement of indigenous languages. Ngugi
(1986) argued repeatedly that there could be no African university that does not
enhance African languages. Secondly, Kwesi Prah has consistently maintained
(2013) that the only way for African states (including Ethiopia) to deal with
their inferiority complexes is to switch from European to African languages.
I want to make it clear that English would remain as very important language as it is par excellence the source of most of the knowledge available in
the world today. As many people as possible ought to be encouraged to master
it so as to participate in the flow of knowledge and information. My argument
is that Ethiopia cannot and ought not to attempt to educate its citizens through
the medium of English for two reasons. First, English is not even a second
language in Ethiopia. Teachers are unable to teach in English, students end up
being uneducated and the country loses the added value of a population able to
understand concepts very much needed for development and social cohesion.
Tekeste Negash
The success of Ethiopia will depend on the quality of its people. There is
sufficient reason to give credit to Martin Wolf (2004) for arguing for a causal
relationship between the economic success of any state and the quality of its
people. The latter is measured through two principal indicators, health and education. A country that does not pay attention to the health of its people (by
making food cheap and accessible) will not be able to get the best out its population. Likewise, a nation that fails to institute an education system that does not
encourage learners to reflect on what they are learning will fail to get the best
out of its population. And a well-functioning education system, in tune with its
cultural base, can produce citizens who would enhance the quality of the state
and economy. However, despite the enormous investment in education, Ethiopia is not deriving the benefits (in terms of creating citizens of quality) due to
the uncritical adoption of curricula and English as the medium of instruction.
The second reason is that the status of English in the Ethiopian society as
whole is diminishing, partly due to the growth of Amharic and other Ethiopian
There is one country in Africa that has devoted adequate attention to the
damaging effects of English as the medium of instruction, South Africa. Since
2009, South African institutions of higher learning have intensified their efforts
to introduce the home language of learners either as a learning support to the
main (English) medium of instruction or as an alternative language of education. The South African case is interesting for several reasons. English is a native
language for several million South Africans (Wildsmith-Cromarty 2014). Yet,
there are many South Africans whose native language is other than English and
who find it difficult to follow their studies in that language. It is indeed commendable that these South African institutions have understood that the main
problem was not learning difficulties but language difficulties. I believe that
Ethiopia can learn much from the South African experience. And I do hope
that the Department of Comparative Education that is being established at Addis Ababa University will give more attention to trends and developments in the
middle-income countries of the South rather than to the traditions of countries
in the European Union and North America.
Can one abandon English and provide education that contributes
to development and social cohesion? Whose responsibility is it?
For all intents and purposes, English is no longer the medium of instruction.
True, textbooks are in English and exams as well. Code switching – the practice
of using other Ethiopian languages alongside English – is widespread at secondary schools and quite common at universities as well. In my view, it is possible
and highly desirable to abandon English in favour of a maximum of two Ethio206
Language, knowledge, development and the framing of common destiny in contemporary Ethiopia
pian languages, with the caveat that the transition be planned well ahead of
time. The responsibility for such transformation rests with the state.
The transition from English to Ethiopian languages, complex as it might appear, is doable. Earlier, I have argued that Amharic and Oromiffa ought to be developed as the medium of instruction for the whole country (Negash 2006). While
the position of Amharic is given (it is already the language of government), the
argument for the introduction of Oromiffa is based on numbers. The Oromo are
the largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia, comprising nearly 30 million people.
A point of great importance is the decision by the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region, commonly called the South, to use Amharic as the
language of communication. This region is highly diversified, possessing more
than 45 ethnic groups. Moreover, it was by far the most oppressed part of the
Ethiopian empire from its incorporation in the mid-19th century until the mid20th century. At the risk of digressing, I wish to place on record that the role of
the South in the evolution and development of social cohesion in this country
has been an inestimable blessing.
What does the future hold for education and its role in development?
In conclusion, I limit myself to two scenarios. But I would first like to say few
words on the survival capacity of the Ethiopian state. I believe that in spite of
the politicisation of ethnicity, Ethiopia is more united now than it was a couple
of decades ago. I do not need to dwell on the dispersal of human and material
resources caused by ethnicity politics and I believe that the government will
soon redefine its policy. Ethiopia is still rural and the mentality of the rural will
continue to shape the strategies of survival.
The first scenario for the future is continuing along the same lines in the
hope that the education system will produce the manpower needed by the society. This would work despite the weaknesses of the education system. As I mentioned earlier, the formal education system does not have a monopoly as regards
the creation and transmission of knowledge. However, continuity may allow the
society to survive, but not to embark on development strategies that allow for
the rational and cumulative exploitation of human and material resources.
The second future scenario is for Ethiopia to redefine its relationship with
its citizens in terms of resources to be fully exploited for their own good and for
the wellbeing of society. In addition to food, the education sector has to be the
focus of such redefinition. The introduction of Amharic and Oromiffa would, I
believe, be the most daunting challenge, but in the long run the most rewarding.
There is no better alternative than the second scenario if Ethiopia is to make the
best use of its population.
Such a radical reframing with a focus on education would certainly require
a roadmap. The main point of departure for the roadmap is the realisation that
Tekeste Negash
the use of English cannot enhance Ethiopia’s capacity for a rational and cumulative exploitation of its human and material resources. It would be futile to
discuss a roadmap without consensus about the problem of the use of English in
the Ethiopian school system. However, assuming there is such consensus, then
a roadmap for the reorganisation of Ethiopian education could contain two
principal phases.
The first phase is building consensus among all sectors of society on the reasons for the change of language of instruction. It is important that enough time
(up to five years) be given for consensus building. It is also important that the
Ethiopian state resists the temptation to manufacture consensus, the difference
being that consensus building is participatory whereas consensus manufacturing appears to be but in fact is not.
The second phase could be planning and implementing the actual shift from
English to Amharic and Oromiffa. This phase could very well demand the establishment of language and translation academies and could take up to 20
years to accomplish. This may sound long, but such a timeframe is quite short
compared to Ethiopia’s past and its future.
Negash, T. (2006) Education in Ethiopia: From Crisis to the Brink of Collapse. Uppsala:
Nordic Africa Institute.
Ngugi Wa Thiongo (1986) Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African
Literature. Nairobi: East Africa Education Publishers.
Prah, K. (2013) “No country can make progress on the basis of borrowed language.”
eLearning Africa.
USAID/Ethiopia (2010) Ethiopia Early Grade Reading Assessment. Addis Ababa:
Wildsmith-Cromarty, R. (2014) “Challenges to the Implementation of bilingual/
multilingual language policies at tertiary institutions in South Africa (1995–2012).”
Language Matters 45(3): 295–312.
Wolf, M. (2004) Why Globalization Works. New Haven: Yale University Press.
World Bank (2013) Secondary Education in Ethiopia: Supporting Growth and
Transformation. Washington DC: World Bank.
Land reform, natural resources governance and food
security: Message from and to Africa and beyond
Prosper B. Matondi
I have been a student, mentee and colleague of Kjell Havnevik for some 17 years.
In those close to two decades of professional relationship, we have shared many
thoughts on land reform, natural resource governance and food security in Africa. He has been a top scholar and Africanist who believes that these subjects
are of such importance they should be part of the world’s scholarship, policy
and practical discourse. His contribution as a teacher for many generations has
been outstanding, and I am both fortunate and privileged to have been one of
his close students ‒ even now, mid-career, when I am trying to make a contribution and a difference. I work in the same area, not by coincidence, but because I
believe there have to be some ideological shifts on these matters.
For Kjell, the underlying questions and issues include what type(s) of governance institutions and mechanisms will lead to improved livelihood outcomes and
environmental sustainability in rural Africa? It is this my chapter seeks to address.
This is not an easy question to answer, yet it must be answered in several ways.
First, by understanding the local knowledge and capital base, and opportunities
for collective action/institutional development for strengthening the productive capacity of fractured households and communities. Second, by enhancing
the adaptive capacity of communities to climate change and emerging market
opportunities and risks (technical, technological, climatic and social aspects).
Third, by examining the impact of land grabbing on livelihood strategies and
rural dynamics (labour shortage for agriculture, impact on access to and use
of natural resources, on gender, on property rights of affected segments and
on family and social values and safety nets). Fourth, natural resource governance must achieve a balance between rural life improvement and environmental
sustainability. Fifth, production and markets (formal and informal) must be
governed to achieve rural improvement (labour productivity, technology, innovations, institutions, pro-poor market development). Sixth, governance mechanisms should be in place to promote African agency (promoting sound policies
and institutions at all levels, countering ill-devised policies and mitigating the
negative impacts of globalisation on rural livelihoods and on the management
of natural resources).
Kjell has a passion for global justice and the rights of smallholder farmers in
Africa, and it is in that spirit that this chapter tackles the above issues. Within
Prosper B. Matondi
the ambit of governance, there has been much confusion, misunderstanding and
contestation over what governance implies in Africa in relation to access to and
use of natural resources in general and the position of agriculture in food security. These are the matters this chapter seeks to unpack against the backdrop of
two contested realities. Governance is used by powerful global forces as a basis
for market expansion, whereby African states are conditioned to be accountable
and transparent, while allowing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). In contrast,
smallholders, civil society actors and development academics such as Kjell view
governance through the lens of justice and equity for the poor.
Africa’s image and the central role of smallholder agriculture
This snapshot of Africa provides the premise upon which Kjell devoted his professional and intellectual career. The image of Africa globally is one of poverty,
underdevelopment and with a population with no answers of their own to the
challenges they face. Africa is the most underdeveloped continent; it has the
largest population dependent on external relief; civil war ‒ whether externally
instigated, promoted by a dissatisfied military with an appetite for power or
due to incumbent leaders resisting leadership renewal ‒ is the norm; African
economies continue to under-perform and attract very little investment; rural
areas remain underdeveloped, with high levels of illiteracy, malnutrition and
food shortage; women and youths are trapped in poverty, with high risks ranging from vulnerability to marginalisation. The images on Western television of
drought-stricken animals or people wasting away from hunger seem to reveal a
continent still in the Dark Ages.
Yet, there is a need to understand Africa better, and Kjell has contributed
enormously to this through his research on agriculture and smallholder farmers.
Agriculture remains the main source of livelihood for the majority of the rural
poor, and farming in Africa is dominated by smallholders. Given this, the sector
is laden with challenges that continue to undermine its potential to contribute
to economic growth and development and at the same time drive vulnerable
smallholders deeper into poverty and insecurity. There is therefore, a critical
need to focus on the role of agriculture and rural production in averting poverty
and promoting economic growth. Further, while some African countries have
registered such growth over the last decade, a larger number still grapple with
high poverty levels, particularly among the rural poor and women. I have often
engaged with Kjell and others interested in Africa in an effort to understand,
critique and deliberate on the many challenges that African smallholders and
rural producers face.
The instability in communal areas can be traced to population growth and
relative scarcity of land, resulting in conflicts and social tensions. Communal
tenure has proven to be unstable and insecure, leading to an unwillingness to
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security
invest in land improvement. This has had a deleterious effect on production and
led to economic stagnation and land degradation, since weak property rights
mean that farmers do not benefit from long-term investment in land. However,
land scarcity encourages private ownership in place of communal property and
the emergence of institutions that facilitate the recognition and regulation of
property rights. Stable property rights across the societal strata (large- and smallscale farming areas) facilitate the further development of agriculture by creating
suitable environments for investment in land and for credit and risk markets that
use land as security and collateral. Property rights emerge when individuals are
willing to invest to gain stable and recognised rights in land and when the benefit
of this investment are considered to outweigh the costs. Land markets, stable
property rights and institutions that monitor these emerge when the costs of creating them are lower than the gains to productive investment in land.
The choices of what works best for Africa can be divided into two. First,
there is the model of smallholder livelihoods, which, when well backed by government at policy level, and the private sector through value chain and market
support, can help achieve food security and income earning for families. Second, the development of large-scale farming through displacement based on
land acquisitions and leasing from authorities makes smallholders food vulnerable, and as they become workers on estates they then depend on the markets
for their food needs. In much of Africa this is happening at a wider scale with
the dominant assumption being that large-scale leads to lower prices, sustained
production, better quality of produce, etc. Our argument has always been that
smallholder farmers should primarily benefit from public investment and be prioritised by public policies. These should provide measures, incentives and infrastructure that support smallholders’ investments, secure their access to natural
resources and enhance their access to local and domestic markets. Smallholders
in Africa are the central productive units whose productivity can readily be enhanced through better connections to the global market, better integration into
global value chains and improved technologies.
The paradox of land and Africa’s social inequities
Access to land and tenure security are the primary means to secure livelihoods
in Africa, although achieving them often pits markets against the state, and indigenous communities become either victims of state inaction or market offensives. Often, the narrative trajectory has been associated with access to and uses
of land and natural resources. We have had numerous debates about resolving
problems of access to land, and agree that though much has been said, little has
been achieved. Various types of land reform have been implemented across Africa, but they have been inadequate to resolving the contested demands for land
and security of tenure and in achieving favourable agrarian outcomes. Access by
Prosper B. Matondi
Africans to land, water and other resources and the rights to own, use and transfer these resources remain weak. International and local policy-makers, though
paying attention to these challenges, are still far from providing solutions that
move the majority of Africans out of poverty and underdevelopment.
The land problems of Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, relate to the
skewed distribution that is a result of colonial history. From the 1950s, in order to deal with these challenges, many countries in Africa needed sophisticated policy-making to get public resettlement programmes going. At the same
time they needed to balance social needs with the technical restructuring of
their economies. But balancing conflicts based on race, class and ethnicity to
lay the foundations for creating equity meant that governments had to make
hard choices, change social policy priorities and redress inherited imbalances
(Cliffe 2000; Herbst 1990; Palmer 1990). The racial connotations meant that
the socio-demographic features, including population, wealth, income and employment patterns, favoured farmers of settler origin against blacks. That chasm
in race was defined in terms of superiority and inferiority in the colonial period,
and privileges were allotted accordingly. The result in former settler colonies is
that wealth and income were concentrated in one minority racial group, which
benefited far more from economic development in a region where the majorities
were poor and had weak tenure rights.
Land reform in former settler colonies became political, simply because the
colonial “project” had resulted in the displacement of blacks from the most productive land. In addition, land ceilings were imposed on people who were pushed
on to marginal land, and a host of regulations were issued as to what could and
could not be done with the land. The colonial land reform programme was
racist and was aimed at subjugating black people (Mamdani 1996). Therefore,
the communal areas with high population densities were a colonial creation
and not the result of natural forces (Matondi 2001). Colonial states, when they
conceived of the communal areas, saw the dangers of population increase for the
environment and the potential political consequences of mass poverty.
The dominant problems facing land reforms can be summarised as follows: i)
Unequal land ownership: A large percentage of productive land is in the hands of
a few large farmers in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In Mozambique
and Zambia, there is increasing foreign land ownership, with foreigners owning disproportionately large holdings. There is also the issue of underutilisation
by large farmers and foreign landowners amidst growing landlessness due to
“land grabbing” through secretly negotiated government-to-government agreements; ii) Tenure problems: Some enjoy freehold tenure while most communal
farmers owned their land on the basis of customary law. Customary ownership
is replete with rules and regulations enforced by multiple competing institutions (traditional and government), all of which make the land unattractive for
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security
private financing. The result is that customary areas have weak connections to
commercial services (banks, agricultural service contractors, offshore finance,
etc.); iii) land administration problems: In much of Africa land management is
a key challenge, because it is highly centralised, with lower structures at times
making decisions without reference to national structures and vice versa. For
instance, traditional leaders have been known to grant concessions to land to external investors without the knowledge of the central government. Information
flows and data on land ownership and access tend to be weak; iv) legal problems:
Redress for land-related conflicts is not only expensive, particularly for the poor,
but also complex, since the justice system is too elitist, making it inaccessible;
v) land-use planning problems: Planning systems tend to focus on the short term
and to be uncoordinated. For example, ministries of agriculture, the environment, and fisheries may have different plans for the same area, at times confusing local people. These current paradoxes in Africa are products of the past, are
constructions formed by social relations of domination and resistance.
In terms of solutions, various instruments have been tried over several decades. The three most important are firstly, the willing seller - willing buyer instrument. The central argument in land reform is that it must lead to poverty
alleviation (World Bank 2003) while also ensuring economic growth and social
stability. Yet, curiously, from the 1950s to 1970s, the bank argued for land registration and titling, invoking a market instrument and the associated willing
seller and willing buyer principle as the alpha and omega of reform. The basic
argument for this instrument was the protection of acquired land rights through
market control of land pricing beyond what government and ordinary people
are willing and able to pay.
Secondly, a market-led or market-assisted approach was promoted by the
World Bank for resolving land conflicts. It was believed at the time that markets
were non-political and would be juster and fairer than the state. However, as
we have found out, free markets will not deliver a just agrarian system in Africa. Leaving markets alone is a myth, as one leading African thinker on social
policy, Professor Thandika Mkandawire, has pointed out: “Markets are created
and markets can be shaped” (Mkandawire 2001). The World Bank has over
the years tried to argue for a lesser state role in land distribution. Instead, they
have argued for “market-assisted land reform.” The neoliberal agenda for land
redistribution is based on market-led land reform. The basis for land reform is
seen in the context of cooperation by large landowners through their voluntary
willingness to sell. The market approach prefers land taxation to land ceilings
as a way of forcing large landowners to relinquish land they are not fully utilising. Large landowners subvert this reform process by subdividing their farms
and only releasing the worst portions, and by engaging in legal battles to slow
the redistribution of land. Moreover, the approach has the potential to promote
Prosper B. Matondi
land speculation. The issue of compensation to large landowners has been raised
as a major deterrent to compulsory acquisition. There is a view that the compensation offered to large landowners in state-run land redistribution schemes is
usually below the market value of land, and this provokes landowner resistance
to reform.
In free markets for land there is little reference to notions of social equality
and justice. Market transfers work in a context of land abundance relative to
land demand. The major problem with market transfers is that they perpetuate
the status quo of land inequity. Market approaches are usually resistant to the equity that may be established through transfers. In practice, market land transfers
do not result in redistributive reforms through public resettlement programmes.
Indeed, as has been seen in South Africa and Zimbabwe, this approach results
in escalation of land prices through land speculation. By contrast, state landacquisition programmes concentrate on redistribution to address political pressures. Very little emphasis is placed on the productive use of the land. The end
result is that either land speculators or resistant large landowners win the game
by holding on to the land, or the state wins at the cost of productive land going
to waste. Is there a potential for a middle reform path that can work for the people to address political, social and economic issues, not least poverty?
Thirdly, there is state-enforced redistribution whereby land reform is achieved
through the forced or negotiated acquisition of land and its redistribution to
disadvantaged groups. Such reforms are principally aimed not just at security of
tenure but also have political dimensions. The main instrument in state landreform programmes is compulsory acquisition, referred to in some contexts as
expropriation. It may be seen more extremely as nationalisation of private land
for public purposes. To achieve this, the state largely depends on control of the
legal instruments to ensure the success of its programme of land transfers for
the purposes of achieving social equity (including gender equity), breaking the
monopoly of large farmers and reducing poverty. Yet in practice the state may
use land redistribution to build political capital without necessarily changing
the circumstances of the poor. Indeed, state redistribution is usually seen as
inefficient and driven by political rather than economic imperatives. Productive
farms are subdivided into smaller efficient farms.
The beneficiaries of this programme are frequently elites, not poor households without the capacity to farm the land efficiently. The implementation of
state-led reform is frequently top-down and associated with rent-seeking activities, not with land distribution on the basis of need, particularly where land
is expropriated at below market price. This prevents the most efficient farmers
from acquiring land, and discourages the development of an agricultural credit
sector releasing loans against land collateral. It is further argued that expropriation of large landowners drives capital from the farm sector, and that land ceil214
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security
ings and prohibition on sales and rentals by farmers awarded land discourages
the development of a land market that would promote collateral. This also
discourages external investors from entering the agricultural sector (Deininger
1999). State administration of land has frequently resulted in greater inequity
and land concentration as people in positions of economic power take advantage
of the less powerful. This has often encouraged land speculation rather than
investment in land (Bruce 1993).
If we take the case of Zimbabwe, there was consensus on the need for land
reform to redress unjust colonial imbalances. However, there were differences
about the strategy and approach to implementing land reform. It has been difficult for Zimbabweans to oppose something they agree on in principle but differ
on regarding implementation. The politics of land reform demonstrate that it is
easier to fight against the “what” you do not agree with than against the “what”
all agree with, except in terms of the “how.” Even so, given that land in Africa is
a highly valued resource, contests over who takes what land are endemic.
International land grabs: the new elephant in the room
A major issue in global development discourse relates to the nature of the Foreign Direct Investment African agriculture requires (Matondi and Mutopo
2011). In view of increasing food insecurity and reliance on food imports amid
decreasing crop and livestock productivity, many countries on the continent require FDIs. Furthermore, with most African nations struggling to attract international investment, the energy industry has shown continued interest in investing in farmland for biofuel production. The book I edited with Kjell (Matondi,
Havnevik and Beyene 2011) alluded to a dominant but misleading view that
Africa has abundant under-utilised land, which can be used for biofuel feedstock production. Yet amid such views, many Africans, facing food insecurity,
are struggling to gain access to land or secure their rights. Arguments have been
made that Africa needs to industrialise on the model of Western and emerging
Asian nations. In this view, FDIs are a basis for stimulating economic growth
through employment and foreign currency injection. While FDIs are necessary
and industrialisation itself is good for Africa, they have to be considered in terms
of Africa’s evolving culture and the rights of Africans.
The current global food system is dependent on major companies making
large-scale land investments for cash crop production, controlling the value
chain and operating mostly in the international market (Hall 2011). The supply
of investment resources by the private sector is often considered the solution,
in terms of reversing agricultural disinvestment and enabling required change.
This brings us to two contradictory visions of agricultural development: one
with smallholders at the centre, with their own rights and autonomy in designing systems that better benefit them; the other with smallholders serving the
Prosper B. Matondi
corporates, with a strong focus on profit that often undermines the potential for
livelihoods and food security.
Land grabs in Africa are premised on agribusiness corporations’ capitalising not only on land but also on the wealth produced by peasant families, as
they become protégés of the main processing and contracting companies. In
the end, firms that industrialise and commercialise peasant crops capture the
majority of the wealth. Yet at times they introduce crops such as jatropha or convert sugarcane into ethanol into areas where they were not produced before. In
countries such as Ethiopia, the expansion of cut flower production has displaced
traditional agro-food production systems and converted indigenous people into
workers. These processes intensify inequalities by deepening wealth concentrations, further enabling corporate control over territories and technologies and
reinforcing corporate subordination of indigenous people. They also lead to
devastated environments, where nature is transformed and people lose their autonomy. For advocates of FDI in agriculture, the monopolisation of technology,
the rural exodus, and territorial concentration are part of a “natural” process of
agricultural modernisation. For analysts of the agrarian question, however, such
violent and destructive outcomes could be minimised if the state intervened
with policies to control the excesses of corporate agriculture.
The impact large-scale private investments are having on smallholder families
and communities has to be considered when we take a stand of which vision to
support and promote. At this time, many smallholders, women and indigenous
people are being driven off their land, deprived of the control and use of their resource base, are victims of human rights abuses and are forced into a life without
a house, food or dignity. When they are integrated into new farming systems
as a result of contracts with large companies, they often become wage workers
whose labour rights are not respected and whose livelihoods and prospects are
not improved. In many cases, large tracts of land are sold or leased to private and
foreign investors, thereby depriving communities of their resource base in return
for unfulfilled promises and dramatic livelihood changes. Women are often the
most severely affected.
Food security the foundation of Africa’s development
Kjell was passionate about food (in)security in Africa, and this dovetails with
agriculture, land and water and broadly with the natural resource management
discussed next. To him, poverty is largely expressed through lack of food and
more poignantly through lack of access to food by Africans in a world where
there is abundant food, which often has to be thrown away in some countries.
He spent a lot of his time researching and speaking publicly on this matter,
while teaching future generations. To me, the connection of food (in)security to
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security
poverty is a clear indication of the failure of the world’s institutional and policy
systems, despite the grandeur with which these policies are announced.
Therefore, the complexities of agricultural and rural production and livelihood systems represent profound challenges for interventions and support
aiming to enhance agricultural productivity, natural resource management
and broad-based development. Over the last three decades, strategies by nation
states, international financial institutions and donors have failed to unlock the
potential of sub-Saharan agricultural and rural production, and/or have worsened conditions and deepened exclusion and marginalisation. Why are strategies and policies to reduce rural poverty and enhance agricultural productivity
failing? Are they constrained by lack of knowledge or undue emphasis on certain interests or factions, or are the capacities to conceptualise and the methods
at hand unequal to the complexities being faced? How can interventions and
their effects be productively analysed and understood? How can land and tenure
reforms be designed in a manner that will address poverty rather than accentuate it?
Underlying analytical messages: structure and agency
Kjell’s strong arguments at a workshop in Harare in November of 20061 were
that no country could prosper without state structures to effectively manage
the development process. This goes beyond the moral case for tackling poverty, with all its inequality and dehumanisation. Through the lens of structure
and agency, we can better appreciate how development evolves in Africa and its
contestation. Yet, in reality this is not a new approach, because structure and
agency have long formed the basic framework of the land governance debate,
even though understandings of the paradigmatic nature of the struggle have
changed as the institutional identity of participants has been transformed over
time. More often than not, the poor in Africa have not been served by dominant
state structures and agencies. There are exceptions though, where countries such
as Zimbabwe have moved to support indigenous people for various reasons, and
where shifting politics and power forced the state to align with the poor.
In general, marginalised classes in Africa have tried to strengthen their
control over land, only to find the state aligned against them in alliance with
powerful elites. The indigenous people have hardly ever risen up against the
imposition of laws that displaced them, and instead civil society organisations
and academics have, in the interests of the poor, provided information on and
questioned structure and agency. Yet, the issues of structure and agency lie in
the detail. Agencies are at times powerful actors in decision-making on land,
1. Conference on ”Livelihoods, natural resource governance and environmental sustainability in East and Southern Africa” organised by NAI in cooperation with the Institute of
Environmental Studies, the University of Zimbabwe.
Prosper B. Matondi
food security, natural resources management and so on. However, often they
are not. This is because in most of Africa political power is central to decisions,
not socioeconomic issues that affect the majority of actors. Thus, the structures
of the state fail to perform their functions.
For example, land administration systems in Africa are beset by a number of
problems, including desuetude, bureaucratic complexity, managerial opacity, inefficiency and high transaction costs (Okoth-Ogendo 2007). Desuetude is most
evident in the juridical and cadastral functions of land administration (OkothOgendo 2007). In most jurisdictions in Africa, land delivery, demarcation and
survey, registration and records-keeping, and cadastral mapping procedures and
processes are not computerised and storage facilities and support services are
often inadequate and under-funded. The result is inaccuracies and management
lapses. Even simple, routine information is often hidden in “confidential” or
“secret” files, while transactional procedures are often couched in undecipherable legalese that might defeat even the most adept lawyer. In turn, this leads to
operational inefficiency as well as high transaction costs. This is particularly true
of state-maintained land-administrations, which insist on complex and precise
Interdisciplinary approaches: the key to better
appreciation of rural development
In the many years I have known Kjell, a multidisciplinary approach has been
central to his understanding of the complexity of Africa’s rural development
problems. He has worked with a wide network of students and researchers in
disentangling the issue. For instance, his take on governance emphasised institutions that address land rights, land redistribution, tenure reform and policies
and drew on the work of many eminent researchers (Bruce and Migot-Adholla
1994; Platteau 1995; Okoth-Ogendo, 1991; Lund 1998; Toulmin and Quan
2000; Barros et al. 2002; Hammar and Raftopoulos 2003). The same is true
of his work on the management of common pool resources (Ostrom 1990 and
1999; Agrawal 2001; and McKean and Ostrom 2005) and the institutional preconditions for their sustainable management. Also of relevance in this area is his
analysis of the implications of the decentralisation and/or devolution evident in
most African countries.
He argues that most of the studies mentioned above show the limited institutionalisation of sustainable management and governance regimes. Rather,
what seems to emerge in Africa is a dynamic diversification of livelihoods among
communities and households, including the landless, landowners and the female-headed households, in response to subsistence needs, commercialisation,
population growth and government interventions. This diversification is part
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security
of the struggle for survival but may result in land and natural resource degradation. Yet, an integral strand in many of the studies associated with him has
been the attempt to improve, adjust or develop new approaches and theories in
addressing the sociocultural, institutional, economic and political complexities
of rural Africa. Linkages between politics, institutions and sustainability issues
in sub-Saharan Africa have been given added weight through related research
by his many students at doctoral level (Larsson Lidén 2000; Matondi 2001;
Nemarundwe 2003; Belaineh 2003; Habtemariam 2003; Beyene, 2003; Kowero et al. 2003; Hårsmar, 2004; Gunnarsdotter, 2005; Arora-Jonsson, 2005;
Lindahl, 2008; Sandström 2008). While many of these studies remain disconnected, there has been a tendency for each theoretical strand to broaden and for
a more comprehensive approach to be adopted. To me this is Kjell style, he leaves
a legacy for multi-disciplinarity, rural development and his vision of picking not
just students, but niche areas of knowledge generation of which I have been a
prime beneficiary.
Africa’s development future
This was perhaps the starting point for Kjell, when as a young student he wrote
on Tanzania. During his student days, he was confronted by the harsh realities of Africa’s underdevelopment as seen in Tanzania. He was to make this
country not only his second home, but a place in which to carefully dissect and
understand Africa’s development problems and how best the continent could
define its future. The global community is at a crossroads in terms of how best
to respond to Africa’s supposed “rising” or its economic growth of 5-6 per cent.
It is pertinent to celebrate growth that addresses poverty, yet one needs also to
differentiate those who in the past grew their economies without concern for
the ecological footprint of that growth. My point is that Africa must desist from
“revenge” growth, but undertake growth that does not jeopardise the future
of current and ensuing generations. This means that Africa will need to make
choices and political decisions.
Political mobilisation is now key to addressing the issues this chapter identifies. The message is clear that communities and organisations need to mobilise
around the defence of their natural resources and the development of spaces and
abilities to define their own development path. Better appreciation of natural
resource governance and the role of the poor provides scope for social and political mobilisation so that governance becomes consistent with the normative
values of the poor globally. People need to engage in land and natural resource
management as a priority and as citizens with real control over their resources.
Given Kjell’s background as an educationist, this includes mobilising learning resources so that the people are better informed and better able to inform
Prosper B. Matondi
‒ in short, to be heard and to hear. The development agenda requires income
above subsistence, so that individuals are liberated from the everyday toil that
prevents them from enjoying broader engagement in the world.
This leads us to question some of the received wisdom used by dominant
powers. Concepts such as “stakeholder” consultation have been abused by power
gatekeepers, and are used in “charm offensives” rather than as an avenue for
substantive engagement of the people most affected by natural resource attrition. Beyond the simple acknowledgement that “stakeholders” are all parties
with a claim or interest and therefore entitled to participate, there is no clear
delineation of stakeholder or the validity of their stake in community development. How are stakeholders validated, by whom and why? These are complex
questions that Kjell leaves us to find answers for or forms of engagement with.
In doing so, we must muster the courage to question how participation and
stakeholder discourse are used to obfuscate the complex power relations that
exist between interests to perpetuate relations of domination.
In all our discussions with Kjell over the years, we strongly felt that the land
question in Africa was of paramount importance. The last encounter on this
subject was when he designed a programme at the Nordic Africa Institute aimed
at unpacking the land question in the Great Lakes region, with lessons drawn
from countries such as Zimbabwe. Though he was not able to see through this
proposed project, he felt there was a need for a regional focus to demonstrate not
just the issues, but also the complexities and possibilities of finding solutions to
this nagging question.
The land question in Africa is multifaceted and complex, and speaks to a
whole range of governance-related issues, because most resources that are accessed and used by people are found on the land. Land redistribution and tenure reform are pressing matters, but so too are natural resource rights, land use
and planning and land administration, production and so on. Given that land
reform encompasses a gamut of issues that touch upon the welfare of Africans,
it directly affects their economies and life, their social welfare, cultures and relations. Therefore, the politics of land control cannot be easily separated from the
life of Africans. International development trends have tended to put the land
issue on the back-burner, yet the economic progress of Africa cannot be achieved
without examining land and its meaning for African people.
In 2006, we attempted a workshop in Harare to discuss climate debates. This
initiative was prescient, for climate has become a key defining feature of global
governance in terms of rights, equity, roles and responsibilities. Climate change,
biofuels, land and resource degradation, poverty and underdevelopment con220
Land reform, natural resources governance and food security
nect with Africa’s land question(s) in complex ways. Yet, we did not follow-up
on climate change as thoroughly as we did the other matters discussed in this
chapter. My hope is that the current generation of scholars, in which Kjell has
invested so much of his intellectual life, will pick up this subject with much
greater determination. I would say the climate discourse raises fundamental
questions of the rights of the poor to development, and there is pressure on
Africans to mitigate or adapt in exchange for economic benefits. This in itself is
problematic, because the dominance of markets places greater pressure on communities to preserve resources.
In many contexts, the rights of communities are being rapidly eroded
through, for instance, land grabbing for biofuels, mining and tourism and
through a complex mix of green growth that hides the important usurpation of
local community rights. I certainly believe that Kjell would agree with me that
the rights of communities are being reduced, extinguished or modified given the
massive power imbalances and structurally entrenched inequities.
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About the contributors
Atakilte Beyene is a senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. He holds a
PhD from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and has worked in
universities and research institutes in Sweden and Ethiopia. His research focuses
on agrarian and rural institutions, natural resource management, food security
and gender studies. He has conducted extensive field studies in Ethiopia and
Tanzania. He has both coordinated and worked as part of interdisciplinary research projects in Nordic and African countries. His current research includes
large-scale agricultural investments in Africa and their implications for local
economies. Atakilte worked with Kjell Havnevik as a research student.
Deborah Fahy Bryceson received her BA and MA in geography from the University of Dar es Salaam and her DPhil in sociology from Oxford University. Her
research interests have spanned food insecurity, agrarian development, rural
transport, gender, structural adjustment and income diversification, artisanal
mining, urbanisation and transnational families. Changing labour patterns in
relation to processes of deagrarianisation and mineralisation in Africa has been
her central concern since 2000. Her most recent publication (2014) is an edited
collection entitled Mining and Social Transformation in Africa: Mineralising and
Democratizing Trends in Artisanal Production, published by Routledge Studies
in Development and Society.
Andrew Coulson graduated in economics from Cambridge University in 1967 and
was posted as an ODI Fellow to the Ministry of Agriculture in Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania. After four years there, and four more teaching in the Department of
Economics at the University of Dar es Salaam, he lectured at the Project Planning Centre for Developing Countries in Bradford, England, where he wrote
books and articles about Tanzania and supervised Kjell Havnevik’s doctoral
thesis on agriculture in the Rufiji Valley. At the Institute of Local Government
Studies at the University of Birmingham, he worked on matters relating to local
government in Britain. After his retirement in 2009, he started visiting Tanzania again and writing about Tanzanian political economy and agriculture. He
remains an Associate of the Institute of Local Government Studies.
Stig Holmqvist is an author and documentary film producer. He works internationally and has produced 50 films and TV series, among them documentaries about Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish explorers Sten Bergman and Sven
Hedin, as well as about life in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, located
in northern Kenya. He has written books of fiction as well as specialist literature,
mainly dealing with Africa, where he has followed and documented the life of
the Barabaig pastoralists of Tanzania for more than 30 years. He has also had
consultancies for international organisations such as UNICEF and UNHCR.
About the contributors
Mats Hårsmar is programme manager at the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Stud-
ies (EBA), as well as a researcher associated with the Stockholm International
Water Institute (SIWI). Previously he held positions as researcher, research leader and temporary director at the Nordic Africa Institute and as chief analyst for
development policies at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He has also
served as head secretary for the Expert Group for Development Issues (EGDI)
in the same ministry. Hårsmar earned his PhD at the Swedish University of
Agricultural Sciences in 2004. His research interests include technical change
in small-scale African agriculture, poverty issues as well as wider issues of social
and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
is a professor of agricultural economics at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. She
has over 40 years of working experience in the fields of agriculture and rural
development and as an academic. She is editor of the Journal of Continuing
Education and Extension. She has been district agricultural officer and in 200810 coordinated an agricultural value chain development project for Oxfam (GB)
Tanzania. Her publications have focused on production, productivity and resource-use efficiency. Her other interests include efficiency in land administration, land markets and gender.
Aida C. Isinika
has a background as teacher and banker and has since 2004 been
working as an activist and as head of programmes and administration at the
Tanzania Gender Network Programme (TGNP), a local NGO working on gender issues. She also facilitates training programmes designed to empower grassroots members of TGNP to become effective in pursuing their rights, including
land rights. She has participated in seminars and advocacy activities focusing on
land and gender issues.
Anna Kikwa
is the executive director of the Ruzivo Trust, a not-for-profit
organisation based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He holds a PhD in rural development
from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala. He has more
than 20 years of experience researching issues related to land, natural resource
management, and environmental policy and planning in Zimbabwe, and, since
2008, on renewable energy. He has published numerous book chapters, and his
latest publication is Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform, published in London
by Zed Books (2012). Prosper has been a policy advisor to the private sector,
civil society and local authorities.
Prosper B. Matondi
Herman Musahara is the executive director of OSSREA (the Organisation for So-
cial Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa). He holds an MA in
economics from the University of Dar es Salaam and PhD in development studies from University of the Western Cape. He is a former dean of Faculty of
About the contributors
Economics and Management and acting vice-rector (academics) at the former
National University of Rwanda. He has taught at postgraduate level, conducted
research, undertaken consultancies and published in several social science fields.
He was for many years a research assistant to Kjell Havnevik in Tanzania.
is professor emeritus. He has lived and worked in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italy, Great Britain and Sweden. He has written numerous articles and
books on Italian colonialism, Eritrean and Ethiopian social and political history, and on education policies, especially in Ethiopia. He is the author of Italian Colonialism in Eritrea (1987); Eritrea and Ethiopia: The Federal Experience,
(1997); Brothers at War: Making Sense of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War, with Kjetil
Tronvoll (2000); LÉtiopia entra nel terzo millennio: Saggio di storia sociale e politiche dell’ istruzione (2009).
Tekeste Negash
has a Master’s degree in social sciences from Stockholm University
and a Ph. Licenciate degree from the Department of Peace and Development
Research, Gothenburg University. He has worked for the Swedish International
Development Cooperation Agency as an economist, evaluator and advisor. He
has been advisor to the Ministry of Planning in Mozambique and the Ministry
of Finance in Tanzania. He was deputy secretary to the Swedish Parliamentary
Commission on Development Cooperation. He headed a research and policy
analysis programme on Southern Africa at the Nordic Africa Institute and was
secretary to the Expert Group on Development Issues (EGDI) at the Ministry
for Foreign Affairs. He has written and contributed to a large number of academic and popular science publications, mainly on Southern Africa’s political
economy and on development cooperation issues.
Bertil Odén
Terje Oestigaard (Dr. art) is a senior researcher and leader of the Rural and Agrarian Change, Property and Resources programme cluster at the Nordic Africa
Institute, and docent in archaeology at Uppsala University. He has conducted
fieldwork in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Jordan, Nepal, Palestine, Tanzania and Uganda. His recent books include Religion at Work in Globalised Traditions ‒ Rainmaking, Witchcraft and Christianity in Tanzania (2014);
A History of Water: Water and Urbanization, series III, vol. 1 (2014), co-edited
with Terje Tvedt; Water, Christianity and the Rise of Capitalism (2013); and, together with Gedef Abawa Firew, The Source of the Blue Nile – Water Rituals and
Traditions in the Lake Tana Region (2013).
Opira Otto works as a lecturer at the Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) – Uppsala. He earned
his PhD in Rural Development from SLU in 2013 for his research on understanding the role and influence of social institutions on labour transactions in
crop farming in Midwestern Uganda. Hence, Opira’s research interests revolve
About the contributors
around analyses of institutional intervention for resolving policy and livelihoods
challenges in the context of uncertainties, including climate change. His current
research interest is on land rights and the future of food and farming in the drier
areas of north-eastern Uganda. His particular focus however, shall be on exploring the potentials of edible insects for improved food security and adaptation to
climate change.
is associate professor emeritus at the Department of Economics,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Dragvoll campus,
Trondheim, and associate at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala. His primary
research focus is development economics and macroeconomics. He has spent
long periods doing research in Tanzania and has been a visiting researcher at
universities and research institutes in Argentina, India, Mexico, Germany and
Rune Skarstein
holds a PhD in political science from Uppsala University and a
docent degree in Water Management Studies at Linköping University. He has
40 years of experience in research and development cooperation in Africa. He
was director at the Nordic Africa Institute in the early 1980s and thereafter
held management positions at the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation
(SAREC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
(Sida). In the 1990s, he was director of a regional environmental programme in
East Africa and then head of the Swedish development cooperation programme
in Ethiopia. Between 2002 and 2010 he was director of the International Foundation for Science. He has published extensively on natural resource management issues in Africa.
Michael Ståhl
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and
major publications
Born September 1948 in Aalesund, Norway
Village visit in Iringa Region, Tanzania, January 1993.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
Academic qualifications
Norwegian School of Business Administration and Economics
(Civilekonom), Bergen.
1984–1988 PhD, Postgraduate School of Studies in Planning, University of
Bradford, UK: State Intervention and Peasant Response in Tanzania (principal supervisor: A. Coulson).
Professional positions
Researcher and Senior Researcher – Chr. Michelsen Institute,
CMI, Bergen.
Research Fellow – Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use
Planning, BRALUP, University of Dar es Salaam (currently Institute of Resource Assessment, IRA), Tanzania.
Research Fellow – Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala.
Senior Researcher – Centre for Development Studies, University
of Bergen, Bergen.
Head of Nordic Research Group – Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala.
1992–1996 Independent researcher, advisor and part time lecturer at Agder
University College, Agder.
Professor of Rural Development – Department for Rural Development Studies (currently the Department of Urban and Rural Studies), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU,
Adjunct Professor – Department for Rural Development Studies, SLU, Uppsala.
Senior Researcher and Head of Agrarian Research Cluster (until
2013) – Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala.
2005–present Adjunct Professor in Development Studies – Agder University,
Academic committees and reviews
Discussant and examiner of PhD dissertations and assessment of honorary doctorates
at various universities:
Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU); Norwegian Technical and
Natural Science University, NTNU; Gothenburg University; Uppsala University;
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU); Linköping University; Stockholm University; Lund University; The School of Architecture and the Built En230
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
vironment, KTH, Stockholm; Roskilde University Centre; University of Oxford;
The Warsaw School of Economics; and The University of Dar es Salaam.
Committees for evaluation, reorganisation and creation of development related research and
The University of Bergen; The Norwegian Technical and Natural Science University (NTNU); Uppsala University; The Swedish University of Agricultural
Sciences (SLU); Centre for Environment and Development (CEMUS), Uppsala
University; University of Oslo; NOKUT, Oslo; The Volkswagen Foundation,
Hannover; the Master’s programme in Development Research and Practice,
MADRAT, SLU; the Nordic Research School on Local Dynamics, NOLD (cooperation of five Nordic universities); The Research School at the Centre for
Development and Environment (SUM) University of Oslo; The National Rural
Development Master’s Programme, Vietnam.
Reviews and evaluations for research councils and national and international organisations,
NGOs, networks and editorial councils;
UN Habitat, Nairobi; UN Development Programme (UNDP) New York; UN
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Rome; International Foundation
for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome; International Foundation for Science (IFS) Stockholm; The Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation (SAREC)
Stockholm; The Swedish Research Council, Stockholm; The Swedish Bank
Centenary Foundation, Stockholm; The Swedish International Development
Cooperation Agency (Sida); The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stockholm; The Swedish FAO Committee; The Swedish International Agricultural
Network Initiative (SIANI); The Hammarskjöld Foundation, Uppsala; The Africa Groups in Sweden; Vi Agroforestry Programme, Stockholm; the Norwegian Research Council (Development Paths in the South and FRIMUF); the
Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD); The Ministry
for Development Cooperation, Norway; Forum for Development Studies (editorial committee), Oslo; Vardöger (editorial council), Trondheim; Fellesrådet
for det sörlige Afrika, Norway; the Danish International Development Agency
(Danida) Copenhagen; The Small Industry Development Organization and The
Tanzanian Ministry for Industries and Trade, Dar es Salaam.
Principal supervisor of Doctoral theses at the Swedish University
of Agricultural Sciences (SLU):
2000. Lisbeth Larsson Lidén Democracy, Grassroots Movements and Rural Development
– Case Studies from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kerala. Agraria 230, SLU.
2001. Prosper B. Matondi, The Struggles for Access to Land and Water Resources in
Zimbabwe – The Case of Shamva District. Agraria 297, SLU.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
2003. Melaku Bekele, Forest Property Rights, the Role of the State and Institutional
Exigency: The Ethiopian Experience. Agraria 409, SLU.
2003. Atakilte Beyene, Soil Conservation, Land Use and Property Rights in Northern
Ethiopia. Understanding Environmental Change in Smallholder Farming Systems.
Agraria 395, SLU.
2003. Nontokozo Nemarundwe, Negotiating Resource Access – Institutional
Arrangements for Woodlands and Water Use in Southern Zimbabwe. Agraria 408,
2004. Mats Hårsmar, Heavy Clouds But No Rain - Agricultural Growth Theories and
Peasant Strategies on the Mossi Plateau, Burkina Faso. Agraria 439, SLU.
2005. Seema Arora-Jonsson, Unsettling the Order. Gendered Subjects and Grassroots
Activism in Two Forest Communities. Doctoral Thesis No. 2005:48, SLU.
2005. Yvonne Gunnarsdotter, Från arbetsgemenskap till fritidsgemenskap. Den svenska
landsbygdens omvandling ur Locknevis perspektiv. Doctoral Thesis No. 2005:3,
2008. Karin Beland Lindahl, Frame Analysis, Place Perceptions and the Politics of
Natural Resource Management – Exploring a forest policy controversy in Sweden.
Doctoral Thesis No. 2008:60, SLU.
2008. Emil Sandström, Reinventing the Commons – Exploring the Emergence of Local
Natural Resource Management Arrangements. Doctoral Thesis No. 2008:48,
2009. Sen Hoang Thi, Gains and Losses: Devolution of Forestry Land and Natural Forest.
A study of forest allocation in North Central Coast, Vietnam. Doctoral Thesis No.
2009:72, SLU, Uppsala (supervision during the early phase of thesis).
2013. Deborah Duveskog, Farmer Field Schools as a transformative learning space in the
rural African setting. Doctoral Thesis No. 2013:47, SLU (supervision during
funding and the early phase of thesis).
2013. Opira Otto, Trust, Identity and Beer – Institutional Arrangements for Agricultural
Labour in Isunga village in Kiryandongo District, Midwestern Uganda. Doctoral
Thesis No. 2013:76, SLU (supervision during funding and the early phase of
Publications of books, articles, major studies and evaluations over time
2015. Havnevik, K., T. Oestigaard, E. Tobisson and T. Virtanen (eds) Framing African
Development – Challenging Concepts. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
2015. “Framing African Development – Challenging Concepts.” In Havnevik et al.
(eds) Framing African Development – Challenging Concepts. Leiden and Boston:
2015. “From Food Security to Food Sovereignty.” In Havnevik et al. (eds) Framing
African Development – Challenging Concepts. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
2015 (forthcoming). “The Current Afro-Optimism – A Realistic Image of Africa?”
In FLEKS – Scandinavian Journal of Intercultural Theory and Practice, Oslo and
Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. Special edition in honour of
Tore Linné Eriksen.
2014. Abdallah, J., L. Engström, K. Havnevik and L. Salomonsson “Large Scale Land
Acquisitions in Tanzania.” In Kaag, M. and A. Zoomers, Land Grabbing –
beyond the hype. London and New York: ZED Books pp. 36–54.
2014. Responsible agricultural investments in developing countries - how to make
principles and guidelines effective. Study conducted for the Swedish FAO
Committee. Stockholm: Publication Series 9, Swedish FAO Committee and
Swedish Ministry of Rural Affairs.
2014. “Bannlys alla politiska beslut som ger mer klimatutsläpp.” (in Swedish).
Authored by 23 researchers based in Sweden in DN Debatt, Dagens Nyheter,
May 10.
2014. Havnevik, K. and B.M. Fernandes (coordinators),”Inquiry into alternative
sustainable global development models and the role of agriculture and rural
development: an interdisciplinary comparative study across three continents.”
Application for international research network submitted to the Swedish
Research Council in April 2014 by universities and research institutes in
Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Tanzania, Mocambique, Norway and Sweden.
Appendix A summary, 8 pages.
2013. “ ‘Science for science’ or ‘science for social relevance?’ Some observations and
reflections on African environment.” In Berge, L. and I. Taddia (eds) Themes
in Modern African History and Culture. Festschrift for Tekeste Negash. Libreria
universitaria.it edizioni, Italy, pp. 257–263.
2013. Havnevik, K. and L. Engström ”Inclusive growth through agricultural
development.” Memorandum prepared for the Nordic-African Foreign
Ministers’ Conference, Finland, June 15–16, 2013. Uppsala: Nordic Africa
2013. “Afro-optimismen en falsk bild.” (in Swedish) UNT Debatt, Upsala Nya
Tidning, 24 June.
2012. “Varför brister politikerna när det gäller miljömålen?” (in Swedish). Authored
by 19 researchers based in Sweden in DN Debatt, Dagens Nyheter, 27 December.
2012. “Färre fattiga, men fler hungriga.” (in Swedish) UNT Debatt, Upsala Nya
Tidning, 12 September.
2011. Dietz, T., K. Havnevik, M. Kaag and T. Oestigaard (eds) African Engagements.
Africa Negotiating an Emerging Multipolar World. Leiden and Boston: Brill. 388
2011. “African engagements: on whose terms?” In Dietz et al. (eds), pp. 1–35.
2011. Matondi, P., K. Havnevik and A. Beyene (eds) Biofuels, Land Grabbing and Food
Security in Africa. London and New York: Zed Books. 230 p.
2011. Matondi, P., K. Havnevik and A. Beyene “Introduction: biofuels, food security
and land grabbing in Africa.” In Matondi et al. (eds) 2011, pp. 1–20.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
2011. “Grabbing of African lands for energy and food: implications for land rights,
food security and smallholders”, in Matondi et al. (eds) 2011, Chapter 1, pp.
2011. Havnevik, K. and H. Haaland “Biofuel, land and environmental issues: the case
of SEKAB’s biofuel plans in Tanzania.” In Matondi et al. (eds), chapter 6, pp.
2011. Matondi, P., K. Havnevik and A. Beyene “Conclusions: land grabbing,
smallholder farmers and the meaning of agro-investor-driven agrarian change in
Africa.” In Matondi et al. (eds), pp. 176–196.
2011. Havnevik, K. and E. Yglesias “Community forestry in Babati, Tanzania”.
Production of a research-based DVD. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute and
Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania.
2010. Havnevik, K. and A. Isinika (eds) Tanzania in Transition – from Nyerere to
Mkapa. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers in cooperation with the
Nordic Africa Institute and Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania. 276 p.
2010. Havnevik, K. and A. Isinika “Tanzania in Transition – To What?” In Havnevik
and Isinika (eds), pp. 1–19.
2010. “A Historical Framework for Analysing Current Tanzanian Transitions: The
Post-Independence Model. Nyerere’s Ideas and Some Interpretations.” In
Havnevik and Isinika (eds), pp. 19–57.
2010. “Postscript: Tanzania in Transition – Summary and Trends 2005–2010.” In
Havnevik and Isinika (eds), pp. 265–279.
2010. Adams, W., C. Brun and K. Havnevik, “Doctoral Thesis. Mattias Tagseth 2010.
Studies of the Waterscape of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: Water Management in Hill
Furrow Irrigation”, In Norwegian Journal of Geography Vol. 64, pp. 172–173.
2010. Trang Thi Huy Nhat, L. Chiwona-Karltun, K. Havnevik and B. Ogle,
“Tackling Household Food Insecurity: The Experience of Vietnam.” In Asian
Journal of Agriculture and Development, Vol. 5, issue 2, pp. 41–56.
2009. Korsnes, O., A. Rabo, K. Havnevik and I.S. Gilhus ”Evaluation of Unifob
Global.” Bergen: University of Bergen.
2008. “The Research Programme ‘Globalisation and Marginalisation – Development
Paths in the South’: Some Reflections.” In Forum for Development Studies,
Norwegian Institute for Foreign Affairs, NUPI, June.
2008. Establishment of an Agro-Forestry Academy in East Africa. Study conducted for Vi
Agro-forestry, Stockholm and Kisumu.
2007. Havnevik, K., D. Bryceson, L.-E. Birgegård, P. Matondi and A. Beyene (eds)
African Agriculture and the World Bank. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, Policy
Dialogue No. 1, 75 pages.
2007. “The Suledo Forest and the Burunge Wildlife Management Area: Natural
Resource Management Interventions in the Land Management Programme
(LAMP) 2002–2007”. Study conducted for ORGUT, Stockholm.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
2006. Havnevik, K., T. Negash and A. Beyene (eds) Of Global Concern – Rural
Livelihood Dynamics and Natural Resource Governance. Stockholm: Sida Studies
no. 16. 258 p.
2006. Havnevik, K., T. Negash and A. Beyene “Introduction to Rural Livelihood and
Governance Issues.” In Havnevik et al. eds, pp. 11–31.
2006. “Successful Community- Based Forest Management in Northern Tanzania:
Reflections and Theoretical Implications.” In Havnevik et al. (eds), pp. 165–
2006. “Dubbelt svek drabbar Afrikas bönder” (in Swedish) UNT Debatt, Upsala Nya
Tidning, March 9.
2005. Nemarundwe, N., K. Havnevik et al. Access to Natural Resources for Sustainable
Livelihoods: A synthesis of lessons learned from three case studies in southern
Zimbabwe. Study presented to the International Development Research Centre,
IDRC, Canada.
2005. “Experiences with Community Based Forest Management in Babati District,
Tanzania.” In Currents No. 31/32, October, pp. 37–42. Uppsala: SLU.
2005. Bryceson, I., K. Havnevik et al. Mid-Term Review of Natural Resource
Management Programme, Tanzania. Dar es Salaam: NORAD/Norwegian
2005. Sustainability Analysis of the VI-Agroforestry Programme in Kenya, Uganda and
Tanzania. Study conducted for Vi Agroforestry Programme, Stockholm.
2005. “Alternativ modell för Vietnam?” (in Swedish) UNT Debatt, Upsala Nya
Tidning. May 13.
2004. Odén, B. and K. Havnevik “Jeffrey Sachs och Milleniemålen” (in Swedish). In
Omvärlden, Sida, Stockholm. April.
2004. “Lärdomar av Nordens samarbete med Tanzania – Analys av 40 års
utvecklingssamarbete” (in Swedish). In Habari 4/2004, Swedish-Tanzanian
Association SVETAN, Stockholm, pp. 20–22.
2002. Havnevik, K., M. Hårsmar and E. Sandström, Rural Development and the
Private Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Stockholm: Sida/UTV: 2002–2003. 104
2002. “Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank and Poverty.” In Hallencreutz, E. (ed),
Gender, Poverty and Church Involvement. MISSION No. 20, pp. 101–112.
Uppsala: Swedish Institute of Mission Research.
2001. “Villagisation in Tanzania and possible lessons for Rwanda.” (in Norwegian).
Festskrift for Rune Skarstein. Vardöger, Nr. 26, Trondheim, pp. 175–195.
2001. “Sustainability and local dynamics in a global perspective; rural development
in Sweden.” In Proceedings from international rural development conference,
Worriken, Belgium.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
2001. Havnevik, K., Y. Gunnarsdotter, A. Setterwall, A. Tivell et al. Methods for
rural development – is that sufficient? (in Swedish) Research-based assessment
of the Method leader programme in Northern Sweden. Umeå: Centre for
Development Research, SLU and Centre for Evaluation Research, University of
Umeå, 177 pages and annexes.
2001. “Multi-functionality – A new trend with opportunities for everyone?” in Forest,
Trees and People Newsletter, No. 44, April, pp. 74–76. Uppsala: SLU.
2001 Havnevik, K., J. Myrdal, R. Gustavsson and Y. Gunnarsdotter, “Ämnesområdet
Landsbygdsutveckling vid SLU” (in Swedish). Uppsala: JLT Faculty, SLU.
2001 Havnevik, K., G. Monela, E. Röskaft et al., Mid-Term Review of the Natural
Resource Management Programme, Tanzania. Norwegian International
Development Agency, NORAD. 140 pages plus annexes.
2001. “Se Jorden. Ett samtal kring rymden, vetenskapen och människan.” (in
Swedish). In Not 1, Sigtunastiftelsen, pp. 13–15.
2000. Havnevik, K., T. Halvorsen et. al, Assessment of 6 Norwegian Masters’
Programmes. Study conducted for the Senter for Internasjonale Studier, SIU,
University of Bergen.
2000. Havnevik, K., M. Rwebangira and A. Tivell Formative Evaluation of the Land
Management Programme in Tanzania. Stockholm: Sida Evaluation 00/4,
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. 43 pages and annexes.
2000. Havnevik, K. and E. Sandström (eds) Institutional Context of Poverty Eradication
in Rural Africa. Proceedings from a seminar in tribute of the 20th Anniversary
of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, Rome.
Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute. 80 pages.
2000. “Introduction.” In Havnevik and Sandström (eds), Nordic Africa Institute, pp.
2000. “The Institutional Heart of Rural Africa – An Issue Overlooked.” In Havnevik
and Sandström (eds), Nordic Africa Institute, pp. 38–50.
2000. “Agricultural production and rural development – some necessary reflections.”
(in Swedish). In Forskningsnytt, nr. 7–8, pp. 14–15. Centrum för Uthålligt
2000. “Agricultural Production and Rural Development.” (in Swedish). In Landsbygd i
Västerbotten, nr. 6, pp. 28–30. Hushållningssällskapet i Västerbotten, Umeå.
1999. Havnevik, K. and M. Hårsmar, Diversified Future – An Institutional Approach to
Rural Development in Tanzania. Expert Group on Development Studies, EGDI,
Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stockholm. 120 pages.
1999. Havnevik, K. and P. Malmer, Nordic Rural Development Research. Tema Nord
1999:593, Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, 63 pages.
1997. “The Land Question in Sub-Saharan Africa.” In IRD Currents, No. 15,
December, pp. 4–10. SLU.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
1997. Havnevik, K. and R. Skarstein, “Tradition, Land-Tenure, State-Peasant
Relations and Productivity in Tanzanian Agriculture.” In Bhaduri, A. and R.
Skarstein (eds) Agricultural Productivity and Economic Development. London:
Edwin Elgar, pp. 183–215.
1997. Alting, L., K. Havnevik and P. J. Schei, “Evaluation of the Centre for
Environment and Development, the Norwegian University of Technology and
Natural Science.” NTNU, Trondheim, April.
1997. Gibbon, D., K. Havnevik and J. Jiggins, “Science, Society and Survival”.
Inaugural Lecture. Uppsala: Department of Rural Development Studies, SLU,
24 p.
1996. “Africa at a cross-road.” In Development Today, Oslo, No. 19.
1996. “Tanzania with Outlooks to Kenya and Uganda.” Project 2015, Long Term
Development Prospects and Sida’s Aid Management. Stockholm: Sida,
Department for East and West Africa, 33 pages.
1996. Havnevik, K. and B. Van Arkadie (eds) Domination or Dialogue? Experiences and
Prospects for African Development Cooperation. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute,
130 pages.
1996. Denninger, M., K. Havnevik and M. Brdarski, Food Security in East and
Southern Africa. Stockholm: Sida 257 pages.
1995. “Pressing Land Tenure Issues in Tanzania in Light of Experiences from Other
Sub-Saharan African Countries.” In Forum for Development Studies, No. 2.
Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, NUPI, and the Norwegian
Association for Development Research, pp. 267–285.
1995. “Knowledge for Development.” In Rudebeck, L. and T. Negash (eds)
Dimensions of Development with emphasis on Africa. Uppsala: Nordic Africa
Institute, March.
1995. “Forskning med Relevans for Norsk Bistand: Rammebetingelser, Aktuelle
Tema og Utövere” (in Norwegian) in Norsk Nord/Sör –politikk, bistanden og de
kunnskapsmessige utfordringene. Oslo: The Norwegian Research Council.
1994. “The new framework for developing countries – consequences for trade,
development assistance, environment and development” (in Norwegian). Study
for the Program Division, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. 55 pages.
1994. “Structural Adjustment in a blind alley.” (in Swedish). In Nilsson, H. (ed.) Kris
och Marknad i södra Afrika. Afrikagruppernas Årskrönika 1994, pp. 31–41.
Stockholm: Afrikagrupperna,.
1993. Gibbon, P., K. Havnevik and K. Hermele, A blighted Harvest. The World Bank
and African Agriculture in the 1980s. Oxford: James Currey, and Red Sea Press.
1993. Tanzania – the Limits to Development from Above. Uppsala: The Nordic Africa
Institute in cooperation with Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam. 343
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
1993. Havnevik, K., J. Hultin and T. Negash, “Evaluation of the Programme
Peasant Production and Development in Ethiopia, PPDE”. The Centre for
Environment and Development, the University of Trondheim. 60 pages.
1993. “Assessment of Third World Forum’s, TWF, research programme.” Report
presented to the Research Office. Oslo: the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, 19
1993. “Tanzania 1998–1993. Experiences from Nordic development assistance -based
on conducted evaluations and in light of historic and actual development
trends.” (in Norwegian). Report presented to the Evaluation Office. Oslo: the
Norwegian Foreign Ministry. 53 pages.
1992. “Aid cooperation: What kind of partnership? Experiences with technical
assistance to Tanzania and East Africa.” In Forum for Utviklingsstudier (Forum
for Development Studies), nr. 2. Oslo: NUPI, pp. 163–180.
1992. “The failure of two decades of structural adjustment in Zambia.” In Nytt från
Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, nr. 29. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, pp. 23–41.
1991. “Some perspectives on economic and democratic reforms in Tanzania” (in
Norwegian) in Nytt från Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, nr. 28. Uppsala: Nordic
Africa Institute, pp. 27–36.
1991. ”Tanzania’s path” (in Norwegian) in Fredskorpsforum nr. 1. Oslo: Norsk
Fredskorpssamband, pp. 4–9.
1990. Havnevik, K., B. Odén and R. Skarstein (eds) Nordic Commodity Import
Support to Tanzania: Experiences and Issues. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 64
1990. Havnevik, K., B. Odén, R. Skarstein and S. Wangwe ”Nordic commodity
import support to Tanzania: A follow-up study.” In Havnevik et al. (eds), 1990,
pp. 40–59.
1990. ”The Strategy of the World Bank for Sub-Saharan Africa: Is it sustainable?”(in
Norwegian) In Vardöger, June, pp. 121–127. Trondheim.
1989. “Norwegian development assistance to Tanzania in growth and crisis:
Experiences from the 1970s and 1980s.” (in Norwegian). In Forum for
Utviklingsstudier, No. 1 pp. 65–89. Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International
Affairs, NUPI.
1989. Mothander, B., F. Kjärby and K. Havnevik Farm Implements for small-scale
farmers in Tanzania. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 214 pages.
1988. State Intervention and Peasant Response in Tanzania – mechanisms of government
surplus appropriation, their effects on agricultural and non-agricultural production
in the Rufiji Valley, Tanzania and their implications for the proposed Stiegler’s
Gorge multipurpose dam. PhD dissertation, Postgraduate School of Studies in
Planning, University of Bradford, UK, 343 pages and references.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
1988. Havnevik, K., F. Kjärby, R. Meena, R. Skarstein and U. Vuorela Tanzania
Country Study and Norwegian Aid Review (in English and Norwegian).
Background studies by Hofstad, O., B. J. Ndulu, S. Wangwe, I. Shivji, B.
Mbwana, B. Odén, T. L. Eriksen and B. Bjorvatn. Center for Development
Studies, University of Bergen, 366 pages.
1988. Skarstein, R., K. Havnevik and W. D. S. Mmbaga, Norwegian Commodity
Import Support to Tanzania – Background, Design and Implications. NTH-Trykk,
Trondheim. 329 pages.
1988. Skarstein, R., K. Havnevik and W. D. S. Mmbaga, Norwegian Commodity
Import Support to Tanzania: Summary Report and Recommendations. Evaluation
Report no. 4.88. Oslo: Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 93 pages.
1988. “Pengefondet og Verdensbanken i Afrika” (in Norwegian) in Samtiden, nr. 2,
pp. 52–58. Oslo.
1987. Havnevik, K. (ed.) The IMF and the World Bank in Africa. Conditionality,
impact and alternatives. Seminar Proceeding No. 18. Uppsala: Nordic Africa
1987. “Introduction” in Havnevik (ed.), pp. 9–25.
1986. Boesen, J., K. Havnevik, J. Koponen and R. Odgaard (eds) Tanzania – Crisis
and Struggle for Survival. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 325 pages.
1986. “A resource overlooked – crafts and small-scale industries” in Boesen et al. (eds),
pp. 269–293.
1985. Havnevik, K, R. Skarstein and S. Wangwe, Small Scale Industrial Sector Study:
Review of Experiences and Recommendations for the Future. Dar es Salaam: The
Ministry of Industries and Trade, 313 pages.
1985. “Some observations on the empirical foundation of theories of
underdevelopment with particular reference to Tanzania.” In The Journal of
Social Studies No. 29, Dacca, Bangladesh, pp. 55–67.
1985. Havnevik, K. and R. Skarstein, “Agricultural decline and foreign aid in
Tanzania.” DERAP Working Papers, A 341, CMI, Bergen, 28 pp.
1985. Havnevik, K. and R. Skarstein, “Tilbakegangen i det tanzanianske jordbruket”
(in Norwegian) in Landsbruksökonomisk Forum, 3:3, pp. 64–69.
1983. Havnevik, K. and R. Skarstein, “Some notes on agricultural backwardness in
Tanzania” in Parkinson, J. R. (ed.) Poverty and Aid. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp.
1983. “Analysis of rural production and incomes, Rufiji District, Tanzania.” Institute
of Resource Assessment. IRA research paper No. 3, April.
1983. Havnevik, K. and J. M. J. Mwene-Milao “Programme for assistance to crafts
and small scale industries, Rufiji District – Tanzania: Main Report”. Study
conducted for the Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO),
Tanzania. Bergen: DERAP Publication No. 174, CMI.
Kjell Havnevik – curriculum vitae and major publications
1983. Havnevik, K. and A. Ofstad, “Norwegian industrial establishments in
developing countries – contributions to a development theoretical perspective.”
(in Norwegian). In Havnevik, K. and A. Ofstad (eds) The internationalization
of Norwegian industry directed towards developing countries. Bergen: DERAP
Publication no. 149, CMI, pp. 43–56.
1982. “Need for a comprehensive assessment of Tanzanian development” (in
Norwegian) in Norkontakt, nr. 6. Oslo: NORAD, pp. 9–11.
1982. Havnevik, K. (ed.) Development problems in Tanzania. Bergen: DERAP
Working Paper, A 250, CMI, 86 pages.
1982. “Agricultural development in Tanzania.” In Havnevik (ed.) 1982, pp. 49–60.
1980. Economy and Organization in Rufiji District: The case of crafts and extractive
activities. Research Paper no. 65, Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use
Planning, BRALUP, the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, xii, 207 pages.
1980. “Tanzania in the 1970s: Agriculture, industry, external economy, state and
economic crisis.” (in Norwegian). In Forum for Utviklingsstudier No. 9–10, pp.
20–53. Oslo: Norwegian Institute for International Affairs, NUPI.
1979. Charcoal and cashewnut production in Rufiji; conflicting production objectives.
Service Paper no. 79/13. Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use
Planning, BRALUP, the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 19 pp.
1978. The Stiegler’s Gorge Multipurpose Project: 1961–1978. DERAP Working Paper, A
131. CMI, Bergen/Dar es Salaam, 41 pp.
1978. “Industrial strategies in Latin America: Experiences.” In Worm, K. (ed.)
Industrialization, development and the demands for a new International Economic
Order. Köbenhavns Universitets Institutt for Samfundsfag, pp. 133–154.
1977. Samir Amin’s Theory for Underdevelopment. Bergen: DERAP Publication nr. 68,
CMI, pp. 42–50.
1975. An Assessment of Norconsult’s Stiegler’s Gorge Report (in Norwegian). Bergen:
DERAP Working Paper, A 71, CMI.
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