Tanganyika (Co-Operative Enterprise)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Skeffington Mr Arthur Skeffington , Hayes and Harlington 12:00 am, 13th December 1957

First, I want to express my regret at the fact that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and other hon. Members have been waiting all day hoping to be able to speak about some of the wider issues in Tanganyika, and have been unable to do so. We all hope that they will soon have the opportunity of talking about the many interesting developments which are taking place in that country.

I am glad to have the chance to speak for a few moments about co-operative enterprises in Tanganyika, for two reasons. First, having been there this year, I am able to contrast the changes and development which have occurred in the Territory generally, as well as in the co-operative field, since I was there nine years ago. The material progress which has been made in the intervening period is very striking. One could be forgiven for saying they have been spectacular.

One figure alone illustrates this fact. In 1947 the tonnage entering all the seaports of Tanganyika was under 2 million tons. At the end of last year it had reached more than 5½ million tons. Furthermore, the production of practically all the main crops in the Territory has also increased—in some cases several times over. The production of cotton is 2⅓ times what it was when I was last in the Territory; the production of tea has increased nearly three times; tobacco, 2½ times, and copra and coconut products, 6½ times. Even those crops which have long been developed in Tanganyika, such as sisal and coffee, the former meeting more difficult world conditions, have shown a significant and welcome increase in production.

One of the reasons for this development, I am sure, was the new capital and the skilled personnel introduced in the Territory on a large scale by the Overseas Food Corporation scheme, whatever else one may feel about that scheme. It gave me very great pleasure to stand on the quays of the deep-water harbour at Mikindani and to remember that this was entirely built as a result of the Overseas Food Corporation's scheme and was at that time the first deep-water harbour in Tanganyika. It also pleased me to realise that Mikindani was linked by a railway, also built out of the finances of that scheme, 130 miles in length to Nachingwea, which was one of the centres for development.

I was glad to think that even last year, as a result of the operations of the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation—successors to the Overseas Food Corporation—£250,000 worth of crops rolled down this railway to the new port. That food came from an area which was previously deserted and quite valueless and would not have been developed without the railway.

In this growth, which can be tested in all sorts of ways, I am very glad to find that the co-operative societies have played their part. Credit must be given to the Government for stimulating the work as a result of the setting up in 1949, as a separate department the Department of Co-operative Development. I do not say that the whole development is due to that, but I felt that, generally speaking, there was a lively interest in co-operation in some Government circles. I certainly encountered those in Government service who were enthusiasts for it and I truthfully believe that among the enthusiasts is the Governor himself. He expressed himself in very warm terms about the present and future development of cooperation in the Territory.

Just before the creation of a separate co-operative department in 1949 there were in Tanganyika 77 societies. That was the number of societies when I was there in 1948. In 1949 there were 79. By 1952 the number had risen to 152 and last year the number had reached 410. This is striking progress.

If one looks at the marketing societies—those societies which have formed unions of individual societies—again we find a significant growth. In 1948 there were only two. In 1951 there wore four of these unions. Within the four unions were 108 affiliated societies with a membership of 99,000, their marketed products having a value of over £3 million. Last year, according to the latest figures that I have been able to get, there were 20 of these unions having 325 societies affiliated to them, and a membership of 259,000 with a value of marketed crops of nearly £10 million. This is a remarkable development indeed, and I doubt whether it has been equalled anywhere else in the Colonial Commonwealth.

Looking at some of the tonnages since the development of the co-operative marketing societies in 1952, the amount of coffee handled was 16,000 tons. Today it is 19,000 tons. The figures would have been very much larger but for the fact that there has been a fairly considerable switch from the hard coffee to the mild arabica coffee, and as a result of the change-over the total increase in production which otherwise would have occurred has not resulted.

One finds that the tonnage of maize has gone up from 1,600 tons to over 6,000 tons, rice from 1,500 tons to over 6,000 tons, and seed cotton, of which there was none in 1952, has reached a total of 26,000 tons handled through the societies. Again that is a pretty creditable achievement.

Today we find that there are 410 societies with an African population of 278,000, an Asian population of 3,000 and a European membership of 500. One would hope that more Europeans would take an interest, but, having regard to the numbers of each race, the European proportion is high. The societies have assets of about £5 million and their trading turnover last year was over £10 million.

As I say, I doubt very much whether there is any other territory which can show this advance, and I feel that the Government interest and the fact that they have created a special department for cooperation development and last year contributed £80,000 towards it, is something which all will remember with gratitude. I hope that this Government interest will be continued.

The second reason that I am glad to talk about co-operation in Tanganyika is that it seems to me that it is a most admirable method by which a developing people, who have much to learn, may associate themselves with their own economic progress. Sometimes some Africans may have bitterness from memories of, at any rate, German occupation, if not from other causes, and so co-operation offers a way in which people can be associated with their own advancement free from threatened exploitation or suspicion of exploitation. Furthermore, co-operation is a communal organisation, which is understood and appreciated by Africans who in general favour that way of life. In a co-operative organisation they can get advice from experts with no financially personal interest. It is a powerful means of associating people in their own progress, free from some of the fears and suspicions which inevitably arise in the circumstances of a developing and emerging territory like Tanganyika.

I should like to give two examples of what has been achieved before I make two suggestions about the future. I suppose that the most famous of all examples is the Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union, which markets coffee grown on Kilimanjaro Mountain. It has a very long history, because it began in 1925. The union has 37 affiliated societies with over 40,000 members and last year it had a turnover of over £3 million. The buildings of the co-operative society dominate the town of Moshi.

One of the most interesting developments has been the College of Commerce which the Chagga people have built from the revenues derived from the coffee which has been marketed in this way. This is a splendid college which has been built without the aid of a penny of Government money. There are 90 whole-time students at the college and many hundreds of evening students. One cannot imagine a more useful adjunct at this time, having regard to the very great development which the Chagga people themselves have accomplished and the need for more people trained in business techniques.

To make the story perhaps sound more unlikely, I was surprised to find not only that the college was run very much as a college over here is run but that the principal is the late vice-principal of the Wimbledon College of Commerce. It seemed a most unlikely organisation to encounter in the Northern Province of Tanganyika.

In the progress of the Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union very great credit must be given to Mr. Bennett, the European adviser, who has been there through the whole period and whose name is commemorated in the Paramount Residence of the Chief. I was very pleased to see this fine house, and I think he is very proud of the phrase, "This residence was opened by Mr. Bennett, a friend of the Chagga people." I am sure that this gave him more pleasure than almost anything else could have done.

Another and more recent example which shows what can be done occurred when the hon. Member for Crosby and myself visited a very new coffee cooperative at Mount Meru. For twenty years the people of this mountain have been marketing coffee, and the best price they could ever get for themselves was 1s. a 1b. Possibly it is much more difficult for individuals to sell singly, but, whatever the reason, the best price was 1s. a lb. The Mount Meru Co-operative Society has been operating for only two-and-a-half years but it is already getting 3s. a 1b. for the coffee. It has about 4,000 individual growers who are members.

The society is purchasing centrally the apparatus which its members require, the tools, the seeds and various things of that kind. It has even bought a breeze block breaking machine and has been able to sell breeze blocks for local coffee sheds which the farmers need to have. This is only a small instance but it is something which could not be done if the co-operative were not there. Perhaps the most heart-warming point of all is that the Mount Meru Co-operative Society, only two-and-a-half years old, has an education fund of £700. These things are encouraging and very warming to my heart.

Here I should like to mention one other credit which must go to the Government and to the co-operatives in equal measure. It is the co-operative section of the local government school which has been started in the Eastern Province. I visited it with the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), and I saw the first ten co-operative students, their fees had been paid for by the individual societies. The intention is to give young officials who cannot possibly have had any previous experience of this work the opportunity to learn about commercial methods, book-keeping, a little about law, a little about the arts of warehousing and a little about finance as well as something about the principles of co-operation from Rochdale to Tanganyika. The costs of the ten students there whom we saw had been met by individual societies. They were tremendously enthusiastic. At 5.30 on Saturday evening all ten were working long after hours on a voluntary test, so keen were they to do well and take full advantage of the opportunity. It is developments of this kind which can give us great feelings of confidence for the future.

I should like to make two suggestions. I do not say that they are particularly new, but they may be worth drawing to the attention of the House and the Parliamentary Secretary. First, it is quite clear that in some areas recently, production has not gone up as rapidly as one would hope. That was found to be the case by the hon. Member for Devonport in the Bukoba Coffee Co-operative, which is a successful undertaking. Production has not been as fast as one would like to see, and that is certainly true of some areas in the cotton co-operatives. The reason is stated to be that an income has now been received by certain growers which is sufficient for their present low standard of requirements. Consequently, in some cases, cotton is not even plucked and certain developments which otherwise would follow do not take place.

Clearly, more incentives are required in the shape of consumer goods, which would have a great appeal for the women, who in Tanganyika, if not elsewhere, certainly do all the work. If they could be provided with opportunities of purchasing things that they would like—some of the things which would be very much desired can be seen in other parts of Africa—this would help in increasing production. This would bring in further revenue and enable yet further progress for the people.

For example, one of the remarkable things about Chaggaland is that because the people continue to increase their coffee production. 33,000 of the 36,000 children are in primary schools provided by Chagga money. That is a record not equalled elsewhere in Tanganyika or, possibly, elsewhere in East Africa. That is what has been done in the schools—of course, with some Government finance—because the revenue from co-operative marketing has gone up. This, surely, must be one of the ways in which to increase development generally by stimulating consumer demand.

I very much hope that both the Government and my co-operative friends in East Africa will enter into the consumer side of co-operation on a much larger scale than hitherto. We saw developments at one or two places, but I should like to see the idea pursued much more strongly.

The other suggestion is this. I am certain that the general scale of cooperative enterprise is now sufficiently large for all the unions themselves to form one union for the whole of Tanganyika. The first advantage would be that they could be associated with the International Co-operative Movement, to which they are not at present affiliated. As a result, they could get advice and, possibly, finance. They would certainly be in touch with developments all over the world, with advantage to those in Tanganyika and also to those elsewhere.

Secondly, by having a co-operative union for the whole of Tanganyika, to which the Government might be able to devote a little finance and other finance would come from the individual societies, there would be built up a fund and a body of experts who could step in if things went wrong. I have talked about the general development, which has been encouraging, but there were instances in which the co-operative movement was not doing very well. In the case of some of the primary products—I recall the marketing of vegetables at one place in the Eastern Province—it was clear that the co-operative society, for one reason or another, either because it might not have sufficient skill or its turnover was perhaps insufficiently large, was not in a healthy condition. The only way that that can be put right is by experts in the field coming in and helping, sometimes with knowledge and sometimes with loans. That must be done by experts. I do not think it can be done by a Government officer, however expert.

In putting forward these suggestions, I shall be interested to know what response they evoke from the Government. On the whole, the story is an encouraging and successful one. I only hope that the example in Tanganyika will be copied in other parts of the Commonwealth, because I believe that it can bring very great benefits to emerging peoples.