Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Patriarchy and Politics of Land among the Chagga of Tanzania: Gender and Feminist Perspectives

Dr. Elinami V. Swai (College of Education, University of Dodoma, Tanzania)
Using gender and feminist theoretical imperatives, this paper examines the politics of land among the Chagga people of Tanzania. It argues that whereas land has always determined the place of women and men in society in Tanzania, ownership regimes have remained patriarchal in nature and need to change in order for society to achieve holistic development. 

Utilizing the social change theoretical approach and its tenets concerning societal transformation based on resource utilization, I deploy the Chagga people of Tanzania and the role of gendered politics in land as a case study. The paper will demonstrate that land plays a very central role in the Chagga cultural and social milieu and allocates power and authority to men and women.


Despite new lifestyles and economic opportunities, land has continued to play a crucial role in survival and subsistence among the Chagga of Tanzania over the years. Why have land policies favoured men? What can be done to create a balance in land ownership? The case of the Chagga is a compelling one, because in Tanzania, local small scale producers account for almost 80 per cent of food, compared to other countries in Africa where large scale famers produce the bulk of food in the market.

 Women constitute the majority of the labour force as well as leading producers and yet they do not have ownership of the land. They use both Western and indigenous knowledge systems and material technology, in farming and raising livestock. Although every village in Tanzania has a fair share of small scale farmers, the Chagga society is different because it is the women who provide the backbone of the Chagga economy compared to other societies in Tanzania where men dominate economic production.