Farming in Distant Virgin Land: Women Farmers’ Techniques of Evading Colonial Administration in Tanganyika, 1920-1960
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The Matengo Highlands of Tanzania made considerable contribution to the German and later the British colonial agriculture. The region is mountainous with concentrated population that considerably faired in the economy. The administration of colonial agriculture in the area gradually sparked indigenous reactions from various individuals and groups. This paper examines women farmers’ social and economic reactions to colonial agricultural investment in the Matengo Highlands from 1920 to 1960. Women farmers provided the most agricultural labour in the area as men provided colonial migrant labour in the northern part of the country. Moreover, socioeconomic moral value of the area entails women as the main food providers of the families and community at large, and this forced them to work more to fulfill the needs of families and those of the colonial state. The paper used data collected in 2014 and 2015 in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. The evidence from archival sources, fieldwork, in-depth interviews, focus discussions and secondary sources indicates that women devised different mechanisms to evade the control of the colonial state. One of these mechanisms included migration to distant lands beyond the reach of colonial machinery thereby making their farming unknown to the government. This implies that the plans and practices carried out by colonial state to make women farmers contribute positively to colonial economy worked to the contrary as they eventually alienated some women farmers from participation in the colonial economy.
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