Review: Promoting Agricultural Export Crops & Co-operative Societies in Tanzania – Somo ML Seimu

I have a confession (or more) to make regarding Promoting Agricultural Export Crops and Co-operative Societies in Tanzania during the British and Post Colonial Era, c 1914-2014. The book appealed to me for a number of reasons:

1. It took me back to Tanzania, and one of my favourite towns – Moshi – which is where the main coffee co-operative is based. The KNCU coffee shop was a good place to meet and have a coffee. Discovering how it fits into the wider co-operative movement and its influence on the rest of the country was fascinating. Little had I realised its national significance.

2. I love coffee so gaining a better understanding of how it came to be a dominant part of the Kilimanjaro economy has been a bonus.

3. World War 1 features – this is a longitudinal look, over a century, at the development of export commodities, mainly coffee, but also cotton and rice. Seimu traces the start of mass production under the short German colonial rule and the consequence of the 1914-1918 war leading to the British taking over. How they built on, and further developed, the German system making it British, until the Africanisation from post-WW2 is the main focus of the book. In dealing with what could be rather politically sensitive matters, Seimu has maintained an objective view by keeping the focus on primary source material. Gaining an idea of what is held in the Tanzanian archives (also referred to as TNA – the same as The [British] National Archives] has been great. Returning to World War 1, from as early as 1916, civil administration was being re-introduced in the Kilimanjaro area with colonial officials working with the Chagga community to improve their lot and to give them an opportunity to hold their own against the white and Asian settler communities. It’s a reinforcement of the importance of having the right people in place to enable collaboration, irrespective of background.

4. I worked closely with the author to get the book published – through the GWAA.

So, yes, I am biased, but for anyone wanting to discover how coffee and other co-operatives developed and changed over time in Tanzania, as well as getting an insight into Tanzanian economic policy and how politics influences such, then this is a book worth reading. All due to the legacy of World War One, but more significantly Africans taking the initiative.