A political economy of the plantation system in Arusha

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University of Dar es Salaam
The plantation system in Arusha and Arumeru districts was established to produce coffee, wheat and other food crops for metropolitan consumption in Europe. The system was established during the early formative years of German rule in Tanganyika because it was the only ideal capitalist institution by which export crops could be produced in a traditional economy which was at that time essentially subsistent. The plantation system in Arusha was therefore set to transform the traditional economy of the Wameru and the Waarusha to fit into the metropolitan needs of Germany and later on Britain, in the procurement of certain required cash crops for industrial Europe. As capitalist institutions, the plantations succumbed to the capitalist principle of competition. This of necessity compelled the capitalist farmers to adopt high capitalisation in farming to offset the diseconomies of competitive production. As a result high capitalisation entailed the use of much constant capital at the expense of variable capital which means that cheap profit realisation no longer became possible due to reduction of cheap labour inputs out of which profits are realized. It was the above slack in profit realisation due to heavy involvement of constant capital in production, coupled with difficulties of securing ample labour in the colony, that the plantations in Arusha gradually became outmoded in the eyes of both the German an British metropolitan bourgeoisie. It was out of this experience that they changed direction of emphasis from plantation agriculture and turned towards peasant agriculture which was cheaper and more reliable in the realisation of the intended profits. The Wameru and the Waarusha were therefore encouraged to grow coffee and cash crops which were at the same time cultivated by the settlers. The British were however obliged to mobilize both the plantation and the peasant sectors after 1950 to produce cash crops more intensively so as to avert the dollar crisis which pledged the British economy after the Second World War. It was with this background that the pre-independence years in Tanzania, saw both the settlers and the peasantry in Arusha competing in the production and marketing of cash and food crops for export to Britain. An overall assessment reveals that the peasant sector became the dominant sector to-date despite acute settler competition. The end result was that both settler and a dominant peasant economy manifested themselves in the production relations of the districts up to the time of independence in 1961. Independence brought about some changes in the organisational structure of the plantation system in Arusha. Despite the fact that the plantations remained foreign owned and controlled, the wage rates increased quite reasonably in favour of the labourers. In addition, the government established the Tanganyika Coffee Board to the central marketing agency for coffee in the country. Its establishment meant that the surplus that used to flow to Europe out of the coffee sales was not retained in the country. It is the assumption of this study that in the event of the Arusha plantations being nationalized, the corporations that will be formed to run the plantations, will have to work more closely with the peasants whose landholdings are interspersed with the plantations. Such a policy will be useful because it will mobilize the local peasantry to regard the plantations as no longer institutions of exploitation in the midst of their residential areas.
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Plantations, Economic conditions, Arusha region
Shio, L. J (1977) A political economy of the plantation system in Arusha, Masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (