Agrarian Change and Rural Transformation in Tanzania: Ismani, Circa 1940-2010

In: Utafiti
Maxmillian J. Chuhila Department of History, University of Dar es Salaam Tanzania

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Farming is a major sector of informal employment for more than 67 per cent of the active labour force in Tanzania. This means farming is of primary importance to the overall economy. Rural transformations and the future of agriculture in Tanzania depend mainly upon improved access to market outlets, guarantees on improved seeds, and availability of farm-loans. These are essential interventions to transform the rural sector despite the challenges it is facing. An overview of government interventions in rural development policy and activity is offered here by focusing on Ismani, part of the present-day Iringa District in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Agrarian change in Ismani through the 1940s to the 1970s depended upon government interventions on the one hand, and changes in the physical environment on the other. Initially during this period, Ismani became a national food granary in the 1970s as a result of government interventions. Then this progress turned upside down in the 1980s, when the development of Ismani took on a new dimension due to a rapid decline in maize productivity. In recent years, especially over the last two decades, Ismani has experienced recurrent food insecurity. Evidence of the drastic change emerges from reliance on archival sources, fieldwork interviews and secondary sources collected in 2012, 2013 and 2017. This paper explores the dynamics of maize farming in Ismani, to provide a detailed historical understanding of how a prosperous maize farming area can become, in the space of only a few years, an area which is now rife with localised food insecurity in many of its villages.

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