Urban Agriculture in Mwanza, Tanzania

By Flynn, Karen Coen | Africa, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Urban Agriculture in Mwanza, Tanzania


Flynn, Karen Coen, Africa


ABSTRACT

Many people living in Mwanza, Tanzania, provision themselves through urban agriculture--the planting of crops and raising of animals in urban and peri-urban areas, as well as in the countryside. This article compares Mwanza's urban farmers with those in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana. Like Zimbabwe's urban agriculturalists, more and more of Mwanza's are not among the poorest of the poor. Much like Ghana's urban farmers, those in Mwanza are often middle and upper-class males with access to scarce land and inputs. Urban cultivators in Mwanza differ from those in Kenya and Zambia with regard to gender, socio-economic class and the factors motivating their farming activities. These findings suggest that even though socio-economic differentiation is on the increase in Tanzania it has not reached the levels of divergence found in Kenya and Zambia. Many of Mwanza's wealthier males continue to face enough job/income insecurity to choose to plant crops to support themselves and their household in lean times. They may also engage in urban agriculture because they are unable or unwilling to take advantage of more profitable investment opportunities outside the food market, or because they desire to spread risk across a number of different investments.

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In the burgeoning municipality of Mwanza, Tanzania, people survive by eating foods purchased in the market places, offered as gifts by rural-based kin and other visitors, and distributed in the form of hand-outs to the destitute. Many people also depend on foods produced through urban agriculture, characterised by town residents' cultivation of food crops and rearing of livestock in open spaces in urban areas, in periurban areas, and in the countryside. (1) In 1993-94 I surveyed seventy-one women in Mwanza and learned that nineteen of them were members of households that relied to varying degrees on growing their own foods (see Table 1). (2) In an attempt to build a better understanding of the variability of gender roles, income levels and motivations among Africa's urban agriculturalists, these nineteen women's detailed personal accounts are compared with the findings of recent studies carried out elsewhere in Tanzania, as well as in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

Mwanza municipality, (3) the second largest urban area in Tanzania after Dar es Salaam, is the industrial, commercial and administrative centre of north-western Tanzania. Located on the hilly southern shores of Lake Victoria, the municipality had an estimated 1992 population of 277,000 (4) and its present growth rate of 7.5 per cent per year leads government planners to expect that the population will exceed 1*3 million by the year 2011 (Mwanza Master Plan, 1992). Increasing birth rates, lengthening life spans and rural to urban immigration contribute to Mwanza's growth. First or second-generation African arrivals, including many females who historically remained in the rural areas, comprise the majority of the multi-ethnic and polyglot population. The 1957 census, the last to differentiate town dwellers along racial lines, found that 77 per cent of the population were African, and that the rest were Asians (5) (18 per cent), Europeans (2 per cent), Arabs (1 per cent) or others (2 per cent). Since Independence in 1961 the proportion of Africans to others has grown, owing to increases in African immigration, decreases in Asian immigration and the emigration of European colonial administrators. The Africans living in Mwanza in 1993-94 largely included people who were affiliated with the regionally dominant Sukuma ethnic group but also those of the Nyamwezi, Jita, Ha, Haya, Kuria, Chagga, Swahili and Luguru groups. Some people originated from other countries, especially Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Zaire (Flynn, 1999).

Over the past three decades, other areas in Tanzania have been experiencing this same rapid urbanisation and a concurrent rise in demand for urban staple foods. …

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