In the wake of the recent global financial and food crises, however, Tanzania’s agricultural policy landscape experienced a notable transformation when the then president, Jakaya Kikwete, launched the Kilimo Kwanza (KK: “Agriculture First”) vision at a splendid hotel in Dar es Salaam in 2009. Even though the Tanzanian government subsequently launched a set of other policy frameworks, and developed a new agricultural policy in 2013, it was actually KK that made headlines as the de facto agricultural vision for Tanzania until there was a change in government in 2015.
Authored by the Tanzania Business Council (TBC), a body made up of both public and private sector organizations (rather than the usual government or donor agencies) and chaired by the Tanzanian president, KK was significant in that it pushed the more public sector-driven, productivist and smallholder-oriented agenda of the existing policy mix “towards the market” . Its focus on large-scale farming, capital-friendly land legislation, agricultural finance, and potential joint ventures with foreign capital “reflected the emergence of a national commercial farming lobby” . KK was soon followed by the launch of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) strategy at the regional World Economic Forum held in May 2010 in Dar es Salaam. Advancing a now familiar trope in the land rush context, the growth corridor concept seeks to incorporate areas with “yield gaps” or “idle”/ “unused” land into modern market relations. The material realities of land tenure and ownership have often been sidelined in such discourses. For instance, in the context of SAGCOT, government and state officials have repeatedly claimed that Tanzania had 44 million hectares of arable land, but that only 24 per cent was being used. Much of this “idle” land is said to be in the SAGCOT corridor.
For many critical observers, the rise of KK and SAGCOT represents just the latest phase in Tanzania’s shift from peasant-oriented African socialism to capital-oriented neoliberalism. Issa Shivji , a Tanzanian law professor argues that years of market-oriented restructuring had turned the old mantra of the Arusha Declaration upside down, in that money (including foreign capital) was the outcome of development, not its basis.
Nevertheless, although such an interpretation raises important questions about the political economy of transition in Tanzania, it tends to forget that the governmental rationality engrained in SAGCOT, the underlying problematization of subsistence agriculture and the call to modernize agriculture have a long history, which stretches back through the early postcolonial period to the colonial state’s agricultural policies. The socialist Tanzanian state operated with a modernizationist ethos similar to that of SAGCOT , envisaging a space of social and economic transformation based on simplifying assumptions about both the population and agricultural systems “therein”.
The family resemblance between SAGCOT and a socialist modernizationist ethos becomes clearer if we take the example of a grain project discussed here as Case Study 2. At the time the company that had taken over this former socialist friendship farm was still operational, one was greeted by the painting below of the farm produced a long time ago. Although it is doubtful if the farm ever looked like that in the past, the painting nevertheless encapsulates the modernizationist rationale associated with parts of the Tanzanian socialist project. In an interesting twist of history, it was only after the collapse and sale of the state farm that the reality started to match the vision – after North American private equity and European development finance have taken over the farm. What appears as an irony of history is, rather, a confirmation of James Scott’s thesis that high modernism may be engrained in both state- socialist and capitalist agriculture, with the latter having been heavily influenced by the former . The state farm structures that Tanzanian socialism left behind seem attractive for financial investors, for whom scale is an important feature in shaping their investment decisions. Although scalability is often an objective in its own right – for example, when it comes to assessing the market potential of certain business models – it is often also desired because large institutional investors have minimum investment thresholds in order to keep transaction costs low. For large beneficiary institutions, it is often easier to invest US$20 million than US$2 million.
(Ouma 2020: 75-77)
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