Period: 24 October - 23 December 2003. Country: Tanzania
(1)  Agro-Ecological Study on the Transformation of Indigenous Agriculture under Socio-Economic Influences in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania
KONDO Fumi  (Division of African Area Studies)
Key Words: East Africa, Indigenous Agriculture, Transformation of Subsistence Activity, Valley-Bottom Cultivation, Agroforestry

A scene of chama (seeding)

Organizer of mgowe entertains participants to local beer. Each participant brings a bottle for beer

After mgowe work: relaxing with local beer
(2) The Bena are farmers who inhabit the southern highlands of Tanzania in East Africa. They employ a unique valley bottom cultivation system called fiyungu in the dry season, while at the same time using hillside fields in the rainy season. This combined cultivation system provides them with staple household food security throughout the year. Historically, they practiced slash-and-burn agriculture using both types of fields. Over the years, they have improved their own agricultural technologies and created a new cultivation system that fits the present macro socioeconomic conditions of Tanzania. At present, the new cultivation system provides them not only with staple food security, but also with cash earnings.
          The main objectives of this study are as follows: 1) To clarify how the new cultivation system was created, and analyze its influences on the ecosystem and its sustainability. 2) To evaluate the socioeconomic influence of this new cultivation system on Bena society.

(3) From Oct. 24, 2003 to Dec. 23, 2003, I conducted my fieldwork in a rural Bena village (Iringa region, Njombe District, Kifanya village). Through the research, I clarified the actual situation of 1) the group work of agricultural activities, and 2) the lending or borrowing of formerly afforested land.

  1. Group work in the research area can be roughly classified into two types. The first is a traditional form of cooperative work, called hisambula or mugowe locally, in which participants are entertained with local beer. The members of the hisambula or mugowe vary from occasion to occasion. However, in each case the labor force is counted as something like debt. This exchange of labor force is conducted not only between work of the same kind, but also between work of different kinds. The second type of group work is rotation work, without the provision of beer, called chama locally, which was started under the socialistic agricultural policy after the independence of Tanzania in 1961. In one rotation period of chama, the members of the group are fixed, and the exchange of labor force is conducted between work of the same kind.
  2. Nowadays, the Bena plant trees in fallow fields, fell them for use as charcoal or lumber after 10 to 20 years, and burn the remaining branches and leaves as part of slash-and-burn cultivation. However, as a result of the villagization which led to the concentration of the population into villages, the size of afforested fields varies greatly among households. The lending and borrowing of formerly afforested fields between immigrants and former inhabitants is very common.
          Based on these findings, I will evaluate the relationship between the changes in the Bena cultivation system and their society.

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