Searching and Researching: The Legacy of Ujamaa in Present-day villages in Tanzania

It all starts with a deceptively simple question: What happens to a Ujamaa village when the government stops implementing socialism as an official policy?

Ujamaa is a Kiswahili word that literarily means kinship or togetherness. In Tanzania, this phrase harkens back to late 1960s when socialism was adopted as an official economic policy. It was believed then that progress will only be attained by people coming together in villages and communally laboring to produce food and build infrastructure. These villages were known as ujamaa villages. At first, the general approach to creating such a village was to convince people to sign up for relocation, with the promise of land and other government benefits. This stage did not create as many villages as the government would have liked to see; therefore coercive measures were taken to quickly translateujamaa from ideology to practice. In a space of three years, about 70% of the Tanzanian population was relocated to newly created villages. This proved disastrous for the economy – agricultural production plummeted – which forced the government to reconsider ujamaa. Therefore, as quickly as it had begun, ujamaa was completely abandoned as an actual economic policy. Surprisingly, there are present-day thriving villages that date back to the 1970s coercive relocations. For this project, I looked at a history of two of these villages - in archives, in the villages and through remote images. 

The events in the posts are not at
all sequential. I did not travel around with a computer; and internet
cafes, when and where available, proved to be rather unreliable due
to epic power cuts. Therefore I resorted to writing down my thoughts
and reflections in notebooks. It took a while to condense these blog
posts from several months-worth of reflections. Maybe some details
and daily quirks will be lost; but with the advantage of hindsight, I
believe I could share the excitement and the joy of research that was past summer. 


  • Tanzania National Archives
    Niwaeli Kimambo | February 9th, 2012
    All historians who have worked in the Tanzanian National Archives talk about how impressively unstructured the holdings are. The initial process of accessing the archives is deceptively simple: just fill a slip of paper, leave your bag in a locker,...