Ujamaa in Tanzania

Ujamaa in Tanzania

Ujamaa in Tanzania was a concept formed by Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania after independence. The concept was initiated in 1961 and it was based on socio-economic development policies in Tanznia. Ujamaa is a Swahili word meaning Socialism (Ibhawoh and Dibua, 2003). Its ideology was based on African socialism which forms the African model of development. In this model, the members of the society work together as brothers and sisters helping each other in all socio-economic activities of the society. Every member of the community becomes a person through the community, and by working with others. Julius Nyerere used this model of socialism to implement national development projects. It was a good tool for the implementation of political and economic development. It was particularly important for rural development in Tanzania. In 1973, Julius Nyerere said that real development would take place in Tanzania only if the people were involved.

Ujamaa began as a pilot tool of socialist state from Dodoma. The villages formed in Dodoma were socialist villages which had one thing in common – they held land jointly and worked together for the good of the entire community. The first phase of ujamaa in Dodoma resulted in prosperity of some farmers more than others. The second phase attempted to correct this problem by using government control to resettle people living in rural areas in planned villages so that the people can work more closely together and enjoy equal modernized social services (Mhando, 2011). This scheme became expensive and Nyerere went ahead to the third phase of socialist approach whereby the rural dwellers were encouraged through economic incentives to accumulate small farms into larger villages that would be managed and cultivated on a larger scale by all members of the village jointly. The rural dwellers were therefore regrouped into larger groups to form villages through a compulsory process known as villagization. This process led to the disappearance of tribal rule and leadership.

Rural development and Ujamaa were related since independence when Tanzania focused on the rise of rural production and commercialization of agriculture which boosted rural development (Karl, 1971). With the model of Ujamaa, rural development got even a higher boost. Policy initiatives were developed immediately after independence to encourage agribusiness and promote rural development because rural areas in Tanzania highly depended on agriculture. Transformation and improvement were used as the primary approaches to post-colonial agricultural policy. The transformation approach involved mechanization and capitalization in new villages to increase crop production. Improvement policy emphasized the use of extension services whereby small scale agricultural production was gradually improved. In 1966, the village schemes were abandoned due to its cost and inability to penetrate the masses. In1967, Nyerere developed the socialism policy through Arusha Declaration in order to address the rural development policy.

The Arusha Declaration documents were named “socialism and rural development” as an indication of how agriculture is useful to the development of the country (Karl, 1971). People who lived in rural areas at that time were more than those that lived in urban centers by far. The Ujamaa concept reflected the village schemes that were operational before the Arusha Declaration. However, unlike the village schemes Ujamaa involved emphasized collective agricultural production and self-reliance which encouraged rural development. Through the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere also documented a document known as “Ujamaa vijijini” meaning “ujamaa in the villages” (Mhando, 2011). Defending this principle, Nyerere argued that socialism in the country can be achieved if the rural areas became socialist. At that time, rural areas comprised of 95% of the total population of Tanzania (Mhando, 2011). Therefore, Tanzania would become a socialist state only if the largest populated rural areas of the country became socialist. Going from independence to freedom, Nyerere noted that development in the rural areas was necessary and required national policy of villagization (Hydén, 1980). For development to occur in rural areas, it was important to encourage involvement and cooperation in economic activities within the rural areas. Cooperation and involvement would be achieved through socialist approach, which was successfully implemented through the Ujamaa model and villagization.

Ujamaa focused on improved performance of agricultural production in rural areas, which leads to self reliance and improved development in the rural areas (Mhando, 2011). It became common and highly acceptable to electorates. Therefore, the political class used the concept to win in elections. For instance, politicians used terms such as “siasa ni kilimo” meaning that agriculture politics is agriculture. This encouraged the people to pursue agriculture and follow the spirit of socialism and cooperation in the rural areas.

The concept of self-reliance during the ujamaa era was essential because it would also lead to improved production capacity. According to this model, the people would transform their cultural and economic attitudes as a way of changing the means of production in the rural areas and enhancing rural development (Mhando, 2011). The economic wellbeing of the rural areas would be enhanced by people working for the group and for themselves. In this case, native Tanzanians were encouraged to free themselves from dependence on Europeans and work together to improve their livelihoods. In order to be fully independent, Nyerere believed that it was necessary for the people of Tanzania to do things by themselves and learn to be satisfied with their own production capacity as an independent country (Collier, 1986). Therefore, Ujamaa was used as a platform for enhancing full independence economically and culturally. Ujamaa was also encouraged and old through free and compulsory education which sensitized people about the principles of Ujamaa.

From a political perspective, Julius Nyerere used Ujamaa to enhance national cohesion for his independent country (Sommers, 2001). The creation of one-party system under the leadership of Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) emphasized the concept of ujamaa and encouraged unity of the nation. Social, political and economic institutions were also developed through Ujamaa in order to enhance central democracy and eliminate discrimination. Nationalization of key sectors of the economy such as agriculture also played a crucial role in rural development because institutionalization enhanced an equal distribution of resources in the rural areas. This encouraged agriculture and discouraged movement from the rural areas.

Villagization was also common in the socialism regime of Julius Nyerere. It was launched in 1974 to introduce large and organized village systems to replace the formerly scattered and isolated household systems (Sommers, 2001). Its primary goal was to enhance collective production and increase rural production capacity. Ujamaa villages were formed to enable people to live and work together for the benefit of the entire rural communities. Property was shared by all members of the village as they worked together to develop their communities. This enabled people to settle and develop along socialist lines. Peasants played a significant role in rural development because they engaged in agricultural production in a socialist manner where many members of the community participated in agricultural activities (Rupia, 1971). These villages were referred to as development villages because they were intended to develop the rural areas where they were situated. Each village was formed according to the degree to which the communities made progress towards what they considered to be the best form in their rural settlements. In 1973, Nyerere declared that everyone should live in villages, and by 1977 almost 90% of the rural populations lived in villages which would be the foundations of rural development in Tanzania.

This villagization system encouraged socialism and easy implementation of social services in order to promote rural development. The government argued that villagization facilitated the provision of infrastructure and social services including electricity, education, water and health care (Pratt, 1999). This socioeconomic policy encouraged commercial agriculture and improved development in the rural areas. Villagization was a fundamental concept in the Arusha Declaration and Ujamaa system.

After the Arusha Declaration that gave birth to Ujamaa, villagization became an important aspect of socialism in Nyerere’s regime. The president himself got involved in village interactions and other issues affecting rural development. In fact, he spent a lot of time in his village in Butiama to make crucial decisions and relax (Pratt, 1999). One of the foundations of villagization was the need to transform rural areas into better places to live. This fundamental aspect of villagization in the Ujamaa system would lead to rural development. Rural socialism was built upon national policies which were developed through discussions and engagements with scholars, politicians and the local communities in rural areas.  Involvement was therefore important for the success of villagization. It ensured that people pulled resources and efforts together in order to enhance increased production, especially in agriculture, leading to rural development.

Through villagization, people were grouped and provided with modern equipment and social services in order to increase the pace of rural development through increased output (Pratt, 1999). The villages were led through hierarchical management approach, and people were encouraged to go into new settlements in order to make investments easier to implement in rural areas. Politicians who supported Ujamaa encouraged the people to embrace the village socialism because it would make them rich. The villages would help them to receive services and equipment that they might not have received elsewhere, in towns or in farms.

Although the intentions and the reasons for villagization were legitimate because it would enhance rural development, the reality is that implementation did not happen successfully as intended. Instead of increasing, agricultural output declined in general although it increased in some few cases. This poor performance was caused by several problems which would not be solved by Ujamaa and villagization. Some of the problems that faced agriculture in the rural areas of Tanzania during Ujamaa era included bad weather, poor crop husbandry, and fluctuating crop prices in the world market (Jennings, 2008). Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa model put a lot of emphasis on socialism in the villages so much that it forgot to deal with key policy issues such as mechanization and commercialization of agriculture. There were little policies that could improve crop husbandry and competitiveness of Tanzania’s crop produce in the world market.

One of the negative effects of Ujamaa on rural development is that it caused a fall in income for rural dwellers, leading to a decline in living standards of the people. The decline in cash income between 1969 and 1983 resulted from the reduction of farm produce in the rural areas. Bevan et al (1988) suggest that the real income per capita in the rural areas of Tanzania fell by 50% between 1976 and 1983. Due to Ujamaa, people preferred substance farming to cash crop production. Therefore, farming and wage earners in rural areas experienced a great decline in income and low standards of living. The fall in exports in the world market and the fall in oil prices in 1970s also contributed to the failure of Ujamaa which largely depended on the success of agricultural sector. Lack of diversity in ujamaa meant that the country did not have an alternative to rural development apart from the declining agricultural production.

The concept of Ujamaa was intended to prevent rural-urban migration. However, when income started to decline in the rural areas migration started to take place. Rural population declined as urban population increased, contrary to the expectations of Ujamaa and its founders. Villagization failed to achieve its objectives of retaining rural populations through social service provisions and increased income through agricultural crop production. Ujamaa led people to concentrate on peasant agriculture (Collier, 1986). As a result, the areas with fertile agricultural land became more populated than areas with poor land. These highly populated rural areas faced high pressure on crop production because high populations usually cause reduction in amount of land available for agriculture. The population increase in fertile lands also led to resource depletion, environmental degradation, low productivity and conflicts.

The heavy capital investments that the government extended to the village settlers did not produce the output that was anticipated. Therefore, rural development did not grow as anticipate through socialist approach. Enthusiasm of the village settlers failed because they did not realize the prosperity that they anticipated. The settlers started to resist the orders from the government officials, who were considered by the villagers as outsiders. Ujamaa vijijini or ujamaa in the villages was developed to solve the problem of failed production in the villages. Through political perspectives, the government started to see socialism as a way of developing rural areas through people rather than through output (Jennings, 2008). Ujamaa villages were socialist groups developed by the people and governed by those who live and work there. Therefore, ujamaa villages showed some form of political and social democracy where all members of the village have a role to play in both the management and running of affairs in the village (Bevan et al, 1998). This would encourage cooperation and improve the welfare of all members of the community. The villages would no longer be governed by outsiders nor run by people living outside. The people would no longer be forced into ujamaa villages, and farmers would carry out their activities independently together, and as individual farmers.

The success of ujamaa would largely depend on the ability of the people to understand the purpose and ideology of socialism. Like any other system of governance, ujamaa village faced challenges, and its survival would only depend on the people’s will to implement it through dedicated collaboration and cooperation in the grass root villages. Crop failures would occur as part of the problems that the people should have to encounter (Ibhawoh and Dibua, 2003). Droughts and floods are unpredictable and may occur at any time. However, the will of the people to work together and cooperate in the villages would enable them to overcome such challenges and see the development of their rural homes increasing when things are running positively. Self-reliance and self-discipline would be an important driving force for rural development because it would enhance effectiveness when people are working in a community with knowledge of the things they are facing and the things they will face in future. In this regard, the socialist ideology of ujamaa villages would only be successful if the people identified and appreciated its purpose, and dedicated their lives to its implementation for the benefit of the community. People needed good leadership and education so that they could develop the skills and knowledge they needed to develop their own villages in their own ways without being told what to do or controlled.

Indeed, Julius Nyerere’s socialist ideology of Ujamaa villages had unique and important goals of rural development. However, its implementation led to its failure. The people were controlled in villages where they would perform activities and enjoy social services that the government wanted them to perform, and not want they wanted to do with their own will. Ujamaa in the villages encouraged agricultural output which would always be affected by challenges such as falling crop prices, droughts, and floods. Ujamaa’s ideology was very important because it encouraged people to pool resources and work together to achieve common good for the community and encourage rural development. This is similar to the concept of teamwork which always leads to sharing of ideas and information that may enhance greater performance. However, Ujamaa was imposed by the government and lacked the motivation that was required to encourage people to work more effectively and efficiently to achieve greater productivity.

References list

Bevan, D. L., Collier, P., and Gunning, J. W. “Incomes in the United Republic of Tanzania           During the Nyerere Experiment,” in Ginnen, van W. (eds.) Trends in Employment and             labor Incomes: Case Studies on Developing Countries, ILO: Geneva.

Collier, P. (1986). Labour and Poverty in Rural Tanzania. Ujamaa and Rural Development in the United Republic of Tanzania. New York: Oxford University Press

Hydén, G. (1980). Beyond ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an uncaptured peasantry. Berkeley, Calif: Univ. of Calif. P

Ibhawoh, B. and Dibua, J.I. (2003). Deconstructing Ujamaa: The Legacy of Julius Nyerere in the Quest for Social and Economic Development. African Journal of Political Science, 8(1), 59–83.

Jennings, M. (2008). Surrogates of the state: NGOs, development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania.          Bloomfield: CT: Kumarian Press.

Karl, M. (1971). Ujamaa and self-reliance: building socialism in Tanzania. IDOC.

Mhando, L. (2011). Tanzania and the Geo-Politics of Rural Development: The Return of Neoliberalism. Journal of Emerging Knowledge on Emerging Markets, 3(26), 454-472.

Pratt, C. (1999). Julius Nyerere: Reflections on the Legacy of his Socialism. Canadian Journal of African Studies, 33(1), 137–152.

Rupia, J.A.J.  (1971). ‘Mpango wa uchumi wa kijiji cha ujamaa’ (Economic plan for an ujamaa      village). Ujamaa, 25, 7-15.

Sommers, M.Y. (2001). Male and Pentecostal: Urban Refugees in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.         Journal of Refugee Studies, 14(4), 347-370.

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