“Modern” farming and the transformation of livelihoods in rural Tanzania

  • Katherine A. SnyderEmail author
  • Emmanuel Sulle
  • Deodatus A. Massay
  • Anselmi Petro
  • Paschal Qamara
  • Dan Brockington


This paper focuses on smallholder agriculture and livelihoods in north-central Tanzania. It traces changes in agricultural production and asset ownership in one community over a 28 year period. Over this period, national development policies and agriculture programs have moved from socialism to neo-liberal approaches. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, we explore how farmers have responded to these shifts in the wider political-economic context and how these responses have shaped their livelihoods and ideas about farming and wealth. This case study clearly debunks the idea that rural farmers are slow to respond to “modern” farming methods or that smallholder farming is stagnant and cannot reduce poverty. While changes overall are very positive in this rural community, challenges remain as land sizes are small and markets often unreliable. This research cautions against a shift in emphasis to large-scale farming as a strategy for national development. It suggests instead that increased investment in supporting smallholder farming is critical for addressing poverty and rural well-being.


Rural livelihoods Smallholder agriculture Agrarian change Iraqw Tanzania 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the DfID ESRC Growth Research Programme (Grant No. ES/L012413/2) which has funded this research project along with the University of Arizona, School of Geography and Development. As always, we thank the many people of Mama Issara who participated in interviews, focus groups and household surveys as well as the editors and reviewers of Agriculture and Human Values who provided valuable comments to the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine A. Snyder
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emmanuel Sulle
    • 2
  • Deodatus A. Massay
    • 3
  • Anselmi Petro
    • 4
  • Paschal Qamara
    • 5
  • Dan Brockington
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Geography and DevelopmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.HaidomTanzania
  4. 4.Mbulu District CouncilMbulu DistrictTanzania
  5. 5.KainamTanzania
  6. 6.Sheffield Institute for International DevelopmentUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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