Tanzania Journal of Development Studies

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Struggles over land, labour and livelihoods in Tanzanian agriculture: from a feminist perspective

Marjorie Mbilinyi


The major argument of the article is that agrarian change is not a unilinear narrative based solely on the impact of global forces on agricultural producers. The behaviour of global capitalist forces is conditioned by the different responses of different elements within the ‘communities’ of agricultural producers, including their accommodations but also their resistances and struggles against both patriarchy and capitalism intertwined with different forms of imperialism/ globalisation These responses are not always self-evident nor predictable. The roots of the current phase of plunder of Tanzanian natural resources were established in the colonial era, and even before, in the major transformations that occurred in local economies in response to the slave trade and the growing pressure for many societies to produce commodities (goods and services, including slaves and ivory) for export and food to feed the urban city states along the Indian Ocean coastline of Africa. The colonial state was complicit in efforts to sustain patriarchal structures of power which underlay the local peasant economy, and acted as a significant aspect of indirect rule. Many elements of the gender division of labour found in contemporary agriculture production and reproduction which are considered ‘traditional’ and ‘customary’ are, in fact, products of struggles over control of female and male labour in the colonial era. Moreover, the nation state’s continued ambivalence today over taking concrete steps to abolish patriarchal structures and social relationships embedded in such practices as child marriage reflects the significance of patriarchy in sustaining global capitalism and the globalised nation state.

Keywords: global capitalist forces, agricultural production and reproduction, patriarchy, transformative participatory democracy

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