The city of Dar es Salaam currently has a population of over 1.6 million people, and is growing at 7 to 8 per cent per annum. Despite the government's anti-urban policies, followed particularly vigorously during the 1970s, Dar es Salaam has continued to be swamped by migrants from the countryside. During a period when agricultural production generally in Tanzania has been declining, including food crops, demand by urban consumers has never been greater. To meet this ever-growing demand, the urban food market of Dar es Salaam depends on six main supply areas at various distances from the city (Figure 11.1). These are Mbeya in the extreme south-west of Tanzania; Morogoro, primarily the Uluguru Mountains, about 150km to the west; the Arusha-Moshi area in the northern periphery; Lushoto, about 250km north of Dar es Salaam; the immediate hinterland of Dar es Salaam including both the peri-urban zone and the Kisarawe area about 40 km to the south-west of the city; and finally imported supplies of food bought on world markets to cover shortfalls in domestic production. It is these last two sources which have become increasingly significant during the 1970s and especially during the 1980s, as Tanzania's agricultural production crisis has deepened. It is the peri-urban zone which is the focus of this chapter.
In a broader context, there is little doubt that the provision of food supplies in Africa, especially for the urban population, is now close to the top of the politico-economic agenda for most African countries. Indeed, during the 1980s urban riots or lesser disturbances, related to high food prices and/or shortages, have been witnessed on various scales in many African countries, including Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, and Zambia. There is evidence that the abortive coup attempt in Kenya in 1982 had elements of dissatisfaction over food prices within it; certainly, the urban unrest in Khartoum which immediately preceded Nimeiri's downfall in Sudan was, to a large extent, sparked off by rising food prices.