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  • Prof. Sam Maghimbi, University of Dar es salaam
  • Prof. Razack Lokina, University of Dar es salaam
  • Dr. Mathew Senga, University of Dar es salaam
 There are about four million peasant families in Tanzania whose principal economic activity
is small-scale farming and pastoralism. Their farming is on the smallest scale, the average
family farm being only two acres in size and quite often not in one continuous block.
Land parcelling is extreme and a technical breakthrough or green revolution in farming has
not occurred. The principal agricultural equipment is the hand hoe. Since colonial times,
those in authority have pursued policies that have reproduced a stolid, almost homogeneous
peasantry: easy to control politically, dominate socially and exploit economically. It is argued
that the small scale of operation of the peasant economy and the failure of technical
 and marketing innovations have contributed to widespread absolute poverty among peasant
families. The agrarian question in Tanzania is also a national question and the national
economy is not likely to take off if the agrarian question is not resolved. Peasants own a
lot of land in Tanzania, but accumulation is slow and agrarian classes are not well developed.
Given the current land tenure, the agrarian condition is not likely to improve. Many
land laws have been enacted, but land parcelling to the smallest plot and insecure tenure
are major problems. The hypothesis is advanced that land laws are not enough to bring
about agrarian development and that what is needed now is land reform to consolidate
peasant farms and arrest the further subdivision of farms. There is still good agricultural
land that is not farmed, but the current land tenure of peasants reproduces itself on new
farmland. A minimum size of farm is recommended as a measure to stop further parcelling
of agricultural land. Differentiation of the peasantry along the lines predicted by Karl
Kautsky is occurring very slowly, and the peasantry is more consistent with a Chayanovian
description. Slow differentiation means slow accumulation at the farm and state level. State
accumulation strategies, such as the creation of parastatal farms and crop authorities, are
considered, as are peasant accumulation strategies, such as the formation of cooperatives.
Most importantly, the commodification and privatization of land and the forceful expulsion
of peasant populations and commodification of labour power are also considered within a
political economy framework. Socialist agriculture has failed in Eastern Europe, China and
in Tanzania. This makes a study of agrarian themes even more interesting. New theories are
needed as some old themes (including the idea of the alliance of peasants and workers) lose
historical importance and other themes (like the current upsurge of neoliberalism in African
agriculture) gain theoretical and real-life importance. The conclusion is that in order to
 accelerate agricultural development, land tenure must be institutionalized. This will remove
the wasteful use of land and other resources resulting from the current open-access regime,
which is arguably to be associated with the tragedy of the commons. Further research on
the agrarian question is recommended.
  • agrarian question; land tenure; land reform; peasants; state; accumulation; agrarian classes.
Publication Date
Winter January 1, 2011
Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala in coperation with THE UNIVERSITY OF DAR ES SALAAM
ISBN-10: 9171066845, ISBN-13: 978- 9171066848
Citation Information
Sam Maghimbi, Razack Lokina and Mathew Senga. THE AGRARIAN QUESTION IN TANZANIA? A State of the Art Paper. Uppsala and Dar es SalaamVol. Current African Issues 45 (2011)
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