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Ujamaa (lit. 'familyhood' in Swahili) was a socialist ideology that formed the basis of Julius Nyerere's social and economic development policies in Tanzania after it gained independence from Britain in 1961.
More broadly, ujamaa may mean "cooperative economics", in the sense of "local people cooperating with each other to provide for the essentials of living", or "to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together", as in Kwanzaa.
Ideology and practice
In 1967, President Nyerere published his development blueprint, which was titled the Arusha Declaration, in which Nyerere pointed out the need for an African model of development and that formed the basis of ujamaa as policy. The Swahili word ujamaa means 'extended family', 'brotherhood'; it asserts that a person becomes a person through the people or community. The spirit of 'others' or 'community' bringing units of families together, and fostering cohesion, love, and service.
Nyerere used Ujamaa as the basis for a national development project. He translated the Ujamaa concept into a political-economic management model through several means:
- The creation of a one-party system under the leadership of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), alleging the need to solidify the cohesion of the newly independent Tanzania.
- The institutionalization of social, economic, and political equality through the creation of a central democracy; the abolition of discrimination based on ascribed status; and the nationalization of the economy's key sectors.
- The villagization of production, which essentially collectivized all forms of local productive capacity.
- The fostering of Tanzanian self-reliance through two dimensions: the transformation of economic and cultural attitudes. Economically, everyone would work for both the group and for him/herself; culturally, Tanzanians must learn to free themselves from dependence on European powers. For Nyerere, this included Tanzanians learning to do things for themselves and learning to be satisfied with what they could achieve as an independent state.
- The implementation of free and compulsory education for all Tanzanians in order to sensitize them to the principles of Ujamaa.
- The creation of a Tanzanian rather than tribal identity through means such as the use of Swahili
Julius Nyerere's leadership of Tanzania commanded international attention and attracted worldwide respect for his consistent emphasis upon ethical principles as the basis of practical policies. Tanzania under Nyerere made great strides in vital areas of social development: infant mortality was reduced from 138 per 1000 live births in 1965 to 110 in 1985; life expectancy at birth rose from 37 in 1960 to 52 in 1984; primary school enrollment was raised from 25% of age group (only 16% of females) in 1960 to 72% (85% of females) in 1985 (despite the rapidly increasing population); the adult literacy rate rose from 17% in 1960 to 63% by 1975 (much higher than in other African countries) and continued to rise. However, Ujamaa decreased production, casting doubt on the project's ability to offer economic growth.
Nyerere used a colonial law, the Preventive Detention Act, to crush opposition.
In 1967, nationalizations transformed the government into the largest employer in the country. Purchasing power declined, and, according to World Bank researchers, high taxes and bureaucracy created an environment where businessmen resorted to evasion, bribery and corruption. In 1973, a policy of forced villagisation was pursued under Operation Vijiji in order to promote collective farming.
The political infrastructure in independent Tanzania
The Tanzanian political infrastructure created after the 1961 independence declaration was a critical response to colonialist values. The British had held Tanzania as a colonial state due to the border divisions in East Africa in World War I. The state was formed under British colonialism as Tanganyika Territory. In 1960, many of the native representative leadership unions were beginning to become responsible for administrative obligations on the colony. These unions were established in smaller local villages to provide limited representation during the colonialist regime. These localized forms of governmental power improved the attendance of village representation. In fact, village representation and attendance at monthly meetings increased to 75% during this time. This increase in village participation in government infrastructure occurred simultaneously with the collapse of authoritarian rule of the British.
However, there remained a rigid divide between agents of power and peasantry. The mistrust of the farming population was well justified as prior agricultural projects had led to exploitive acts on crop yielders. The Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation Schemes (TAC) served as a project to transform the pre-industrialized farmer into a systematically efficient crop yielder who participated in the larger national economy. This program was highly paternalistic and was rejected by Tanzanian peasantry..
Upon the independence from British rule on December 9, 1961, the sovereign state of Tanzania was created and was in need of a new political order. During the collapse of British colonial rule, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was a party that was led by Julius Nyerere and constituted mostly of a peasantry population. TANU was able to create a village-organized political structure which allowed localization in political representation. This allowed TANU to grow in party support from 100,000 to 1,000,000 million people within only five years
TANU was able to integrate various labor and agricultural unions onto their party to ensure representation of the working class population of the soon to become independent nation. The party leaders would stay in touch with local village leaders (most often the elders of the village) by taking trips known as "Safaris" and discussing issues particular to the community. Once borders became established, individuals were elected to represent the district. As Gerrit Huizer suggests, these elected officials were known as "Cell Boundary Commissions". The particular function of the Cell Leader was to not only represent issues of the village or district to the higher political body, but to explain to the local population, the legislation formed by the Tanganyika African National Union.
In 1967, the President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere established a new ideological sense of economic independence that was a response to a highly bureaucratic capitalist model once imposed by colonialist Britain. Rather than exporting a majority of Tanzanian goods overseas, Nyerere believed that Tanzania could compete in the market by themselves and create a self-sufficient market absent of global trade. This was a significant step for Tanzania's approach to the global market in the wake of independence.
Codification and implementation of Ujamaa ideology
The Arusha Declaration was created to codify the projections and ideologies of Ujamaa. The document allowed TANU to create a national consensus for the ideologies of a socialist party which revolved around the ideologies of brotherhood and community. The Arusha Declaration served as the TANU Constitution and clearly states the infrastructure of a Socialist State. The Arusha Declaration outlined a progressive state that supports the rights of the individual, free from authoritarian regime. The opening statement begins:
Whereas TANU believes:
- That all human beings are equal;
- That every individual has a right to dignity and respect;
- That every citizen is an integral part of the Nation and has a right to take an equal part in Government at local, regional and national level;
- That every citizen has a right to freedom of expression, of movement, of religious belief and of association within the context of the law;
- That every individual has a right to receive from society protection of his life and of property according to the law;
- That every citizen has a right to receive a just return for his labour;
- That all citizens together possess all the natural resources of the country in trust for their descendants
- That in order to ensure economic justice the State must have effective control over the principal means of production; and
- That it is the responsibility of the State to intervene actively in the economic life of the Nation so as to ensure the well being of all citizens and so as to prevent the exploitation of one person by another or one group by another, and so as to prevent the accumulation of wealth to an extent which is inconsistent with a classless society.
The second part of the Arusha Declaration examines the role of the socialist practices and ideologies of TANU. The major components of this section were "Absence of exploitation, Major Means of Production to be Under the Control the Majority of Production the Peasant and Workers, Democracy, and Socialism as an Ideology." TANU firmly believed that it was important that even though the government would have complete control over the means of production, that the government be run by those who constituted the working class and peasantry. Furthermore, TANU deemed it impossible to successfully accomplish socialism without the presence of a representative democracy.
Ideology of self-reliance and the Five Year Plan
TANU believed that the nature of capitalist markets was exploitative and was cancerous to the eradication of poverty. For Nyerere, it was crucial that Tanzania created a self-reliant economy that could defend itself from exploitive capitalist international markets. The Ujamaa ideology was deeply rooted in the image of a self-reliant nation which justified the massive governmental spending used to enhance production.
This expansive government spending was introduced and broken down in the Arusha Declaration two "Five Year Plans". These plans promised increased agricultural and industrial production and development yields particularly in rural settings. The solution to this plan was creating "Ujamaa Villages". Ujamaa ideology focused heavily upon the practices of communal living and brotherhood.
Even though it was necessary that Tanzania became an independent economy, the local practices of Ujamaa promoted reliance upon communities. The most important part of society according to Ujamaa ideology was the community. The individual came secondary. Furthermore, Ujamaa ideology promoted the importance of communal living and a change in economic practices in regards to agricultural development that fit in line with Ujamaa ideology. Ujamaa was not only a domestic social project, but proof to the global community that African socialism could be achieved and succeed in creating a fully independent economy.
Ujamaa villages and Tanzanian villagization
Ujamaa Ideology as presented in the Arusha Declaration promoted by TANU, and promoted by President Nyerere, had significant effects on the structural development of the first Five-Year Plan. The beginning of this social and economic experiment began in Ruvuma, the southern region of Songea in Tanzania. The beginning of the Ujamaa development scheme began in the village of Litowa.
Although the first experiment in Litowa had failed due to a lack of agricultural continuity, TANU tried again a year later and was able to succeed in creating cooperatives and elected bodies of representation. In fact, in 1965, "President Nyerere came to visit... and declared the Litowa was an example of the Ujamaa approach". As population numbers increased in Litowa, there was an effort to institutionalize education practices to immediately benefit the development of the community. This allowed individuals to be educated specifically to play an immediate part in the communal Ujamaa living rather than being educated with the more conventional foundational approach. Agricultural and construction practices were often taught as part of the curriculum within primary education in Litowa.
Litowa served as an example of what the true concept of the Ujamaa initiative meant: communal farming, community engagement in civil service, spread of production practices, and modernization of technical development skills (i.e. construction). As Litowa promoted the ideas of Ujamaa, the practices of cooperatives and communal living spread. Individuals would leave their current jobs to move to Ujamaa villages and live communally.
Litowa was an example of success which resulted in mass movements of people in this region of Tanzania. Anthropologist John Shaw argues that "according to President Julius Nyerere, from September 1973 to June 1975 over seven million people were moved, and from June 1975 to the end of 1976 a further four million people were moved to new settlements". These massive movements of people into Ujamaa villages during this time proved that Nyerere's and TANU's ideology could become implemented into a social reality.
Ujamaa village structure
Ujamaa villages were constructed in particular ways to emphasize community and economic self-reliance. The village was structured with homes in the center in rows with a school and a town hall as the center complex. These villages were surrounded by larger communal agricultural farms. Each individual household was given about an acre or so of land to be able to harvest individual crops for their own families; however, the surrounding farm lands were created to serve as economic stimulants as structures of production.
Ujamaa village structure and job description varied amongst the different settlements depending on where each village was in terms of development. Villages with less agricultural infrastructure and smaller populations would have greater divisions of labor amongst its people. Many people would spend their days on the cooperatives plowing land and planting staple crops. Communities that had large populations struggled with division of labor. As larger Ujamaa villages developed, there became a problem not only with agricultural yield, but with labor practices. As Ujamaa villages became increasingly developed, people would pursue less work and would often be punished with being forced to work overtime.
The TANU served a vital purpose in aiding the localized Ujamaa villages. TANU supplied larger resources such as access to clean water, construction material, and funding for supplies. Furthermore, TANU aided local communities by creating elections and forms of representation for the larger political party. Furthermore, TANU persuaded individuals throughout Tanzania to join the communal living within the Ujamaa Villages. This allowed for Ujamaa villages to thrive as professionals would leave their professions in other cities to join the Ujamaa movement. This created the legitimacy and social traction that the Ujamaa program needed to make a mark on the international community.
The Vijiji project was the Ujamaa specialized agricultural program that helped centralize agricultural production within the villagization process. Project officials ensured the population of the Ujamaa villages never fell to less than 250 households and agricultural units were divided into 10 cell units that allowed for communal living and simple representation when relaying information to TANU officials. The Vijiji project architected cities with high modernist ideology. many academics have studied the Vijiji Project in Tanzania. Priya Lal explains that the villages were created in grid like form with houses that were bordered by a street that led to the city center.
Even though this may seem as though this form of development is not unique, it was a major social transformation that rural Tanzania had not seen before. Thus, the Ujamaa program utilized the Vijiji program in the five-year plan as an example to prove that agricultural yield was possible within socialist communal living. One of the biggest failings of the Vijiji Project was the creation of misinformation. TANU officials would often record preexisting Ujamaa Villages as newly formed villages to inflate success numbers which misdirected resources and made creating new villages much more difficult. With the desire to inflate the project as being more successful than it was, systemic contradictions began to foil the impacts of the Ujamaa program.
Ujamaa and gender
The Ujamaa socialist movement not only changed many economic production practices in Tanzania, but altered the ways in which family dynamics were pursued within Tanzania, particularly gender roles. The Ujamaa project supported of the idea of a "nuclear family". However, throughout the course of the Ujamaa project, there continued to be resistance from local populations to change the way in which gender roles were assigned in society.
The nuclear family within the later developing villagization efforts centralized its focus on the household rather than brotherhood and communal relations, which created internal tensions between the socialist ideas of Ujamaa. In fact, it later became the cause for a struggle for power within the Ujamaa villages. However the TANU party created an entire section of government that represented women's rights and equality within society. This department was known as the Umoja wa Wanawke wa Tanganyika (UWT).
The UWT, as Priya explains, was designed to address the issues concerning women's integration into a socialist society; however it became evident that the officials of the department were the wives of important TANU officials and promoted a rather patriarchal agenda. However, with that being said there were large movements by the UWT to increase the literacy rate of women in Tanzania and institute education systems specifically for women. However, many of these academic institutions were teaching women the ways in which one could become a better wife and further benefit the society as their role as wives. For example, Priya provides the example that classes such as "Baby Care + Nutrition and Health Problems in the City" were taught in these women's educational institutions. Even though the UWT later began to teach women the concepts of structural development, they were still taught it in the realm of "home economics".
However, men and women in rural Tanzania continued to farm their individual farms to provide subsistent yields and income for their families ("particularly their cashew plots). Men continued to exist in positions of power and women continued to function within domestic spheres. Even though there were efforts to change the ways in which gender role effected communal living, the gender binary between men and women continued to exist within the Ujamaa villages.
During the Ujamaa project there were many ecological effects that influenced both economic and political action. Academics like John Shao show the inherent contradictions that came to the forefront of Ujamaa's political and ecological undertaking. Ujamaa schemes such as the Urambo scheme, presented successful farming yields due to the access of African agricultural markets. However, the scheme was shut down by the central authority because farmers were becoming increasingly wealthy.
The environmental consequences of the Ujamaa project were highly reactive to yearly rainfall in Tanzania. With high yearly rainfall, fertile soil yields increases dramatically in Tanzania. Furthermore, rainfall is very important in regards to the agricultural purposes of the land. During the Ujamaa project, Shao writes "Land with only twenty inches or less.. is generally not suitable for agriculture and is used mostly for grazing". However, land that received thirty to forty inches of rainfall a year were used to grow staple crops as well as commercial products such as cotton. During the Ujamaa Villagization program, population was dispersed throughout the country; however, the densities of cities and developed villages was particularly unbalanced. Nonetheless during the Ujamaa project, Tanzanian land was ready to be cultivated and it depended on the legal institutions to organize settlements on these lands.
The most prominent ecological consequence during this time in Tanzania was due to the forced settlements by the TANU government and President Nyerere. During the time of forced settlement, TANU provided more artificial means of agricultural aid while cracking down on yield results and as a result, production yield began to decrease and land became underdeveloped. Land was not being utilized to its full potential and therefore, not only were crop yields subpar, but the biodiversity also became inferior.
Decline and end of the Ujamaa Project
Eventually a number of factors contributed to the downfall of the development model based on the Ujamaa concept. Among those factors were the oil crisis of the 1970s, the collapse of export commodity prices (particularly coffee and sisal), a lack of foreign direct investment, two successive droughts, and the onset of the war with Uganda in 1978, which bled the young Tanzanian nation of valuable resources.
There were also internal factors that led to the implosion of the Ujamaa program. The first was resistance from the public. During the 1970s there was a resistance from the peasantry to leave their individual farms and move to communal living due to the lack of personal capital that came out of the communal farms. This led President Nyerere to order forced movement to Ujamaa villages. Public frustration did not help the Ujamaa villages in producing acceptable agricultural yields.
Another issue that created friction in the success of Ujamaa was the importance of self-reliance during a time of neoliberal international economic policies. These international economic policies made it particularly difficult for newly independent countries such as Tanzania to be able to grow even with the mentality of self-propagated economic production.
By 1985 it was clear that Ujamaa had failed to lift Tanzania out of its poor economic state; Nyerere announced that he would retire voluntarily after presidential elections that same year.
In popular culture
The hip-hop scene in Tanzania was greatly influenced by the key ideas and themes of Ujamaa. At the turn of the century, the principles of Ujamaa were resurrected through "an unlikely source: rappers and hip hop artists in the streets of Tanzania." In response to years of corrupt government leaders and political figures after Nyerere, themes of unity and family and equality were the messages sent out in a majority of the music being produced. This was in response to the working class oppression and in some sense a form of resistance. The principles of cooperative economics —"local people cooperating with each other to provide for the essentials of living"— can be seen in the lyrics of many Tanzanian hip-hop artists. They promote self-business and self-made identities in an effort to raise the spirits of the youth and promote change in society.
Ujamaa, understood as "Cooperative Economics", is also the fourth of seven principles of the African-American celebration of Kwanzaa: "To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together."
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