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 John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon 12:00 am, 13th December 1957

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) for having chosen this subject for the Adjournment, especially as we have been slightly cheated by the clock out of the wider discussion which I had very much hoped to listen to earlier and to make a contribution.

I am doubly grateful to him. I am also glad that the hon. Member acknowledged at the outset the deep interest that the Government take and have always taken in the co-operative movement and I am glad that for once—perhaps there will be other occasions—I find myself ranging behind him in the general remarks which he made in his interesting speech. He has made many of the points which I should have liked to make on this subject.

The hon. Member started by telling us how interesting it was for him to contrast the difference in Tanganyika the last time he went there compared with when he was there nine years earlier. I am sure that that is right. I am sure that visitors to Tanganyika today, especially those who can remember con- ditions as they were ten years ago, cannot fail to be impressed by the evidence on all sides of the great changes which are taking place.

One of the most significant changes is the recent development and growth of the co-operative movement. A cooperative movement of any size is a comparatively recent development in Tanganyika, and it is only since the Second World War that it has assumed a significant position in the economy of the Territory. With the recognition that the future well-being of the African community depends very largely on the creation of an African cash economy, has come the realisation that one of the most effective ways of achieving the switch-over from a subsistence economy is by the work of the co-operative societies.

Until recently, many Africans had little knowledge of the use of money, of keeping accounts or of the conduct of business in general. One of the chief functions of the co-operative department in Tanganyika has been to enable them to acquire this knowledge. Co-operation in Tanganyika had its origins around Mount Kilimanjaro, among the members of the Chagga tribe, mostly those engaged in growing coffee. The first steps were taken as a result of action taken by the then District Commissioner, who, later, became Sir Charles Dundas. The work he did for them is recognised to this day with real gratitude by the Chagga people.

The movement did not expand greatly, and until the early 1940s the only cooperative societies in Tanganyika were still in the Moshi area. During the war, however, changes were made in the administration of the co-operative department. By 1945, there were 52 co-operative societies with 45,000 members, a large proportion of whom were Chagga. The paid-up share capital and reserves of the societies amounted to £58,000. From then onward the movement grew rapidly, and by 1956 there were 410 societies and unions with 280,000 members and £1,700,000, in paid-up share capital and reserves. This is a truly remarkable expansion and it is, of course, in line with the general increase in agricultural production to which I had hoped I would be able to refer if we had been talking on wider aspects.

As the hon. Member mentioned, cotton production, for instance, has grown from 7,000 tons in 1947 to nearly 24,000 tons in 1956. Other considerable increases have occurred in sisal, sugar, tea, tobacco, cashew nuts, and coffee. It is clear that the Territory, with the help of the co-operative societies, is emerging steadily from the state of excessive dependence on sisal which has been a weakness in the past.

This rapid expansion has inevitably thrown a very great burden on the staff of the Department upon whom rests so much responsibility for the success or failure of the movement. The success that has been achieved is in no small measure due to their enthusiasm and efficiency. It follows from this that training is a most important matter for the future. This is a problem to which we have been able to make our contribution.

Since 1946, 27 Departmental officers and employees of co-operative unions in Tanganyika have attended the annual overseas course at the Co-operative College, at Loughborough. Also, in 1956, 26 Departmental officers and employees attended the two five-month courses at the East African School of Co-operation at Kabete, near Nairobi. Others have, of course, attended in previous years. Furthermore, a co-operative school for training secretaries and members of committees has been started near Morogoro, in the Eastern Province.

The development of co-operation in the Territory has been very largely tied up with the formation of produce marketing societies and it is only natural that these should be playing an increasingly important part in industry by processing agricultural primary products. Examples of these are coffee-curing works, tobacco factories, rice mills, and ginneries.

It has been necessary in all this to ensure that Africans were able to acquire the necessary skill and knowledge to run these undertakings with a minimum of outside help. To this end they are being trained as managers, engineers and accountants so that they can fill increasingly responsible positions.

During his recent visit to East Africa my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to meet representatives of the Victoria Federation of Co-operative Unions in Sukumaland, with whom he had a most interesting discussion on the work of the Federation, its problems and its plans for the future.

One of the principal aims of Tanganyika has been to foster the creation of an independent co-operative movement, and the present ability of the movement to stand on its own feet financially is clearly demonstrated by the fact that advances of working capital are obtained from the banks as ordinary commercial operations and not by loan or guarantee provided by the Government. In 1955, the commercial banks agreed to provide up to £4 million for short-term advances on crops handled by cooperatives. In the case of the cotton marketing societies, however, finance was obtained by ginneries on the guarantee of the Lint and Seed Marketing Board.

The hon. Member suggested in his speech that a territory-wide co-operative union might be formed. There is, of course, already in Tanganyika a Cooperative Trading Agency, with 119 societies as members, which acts as an agent for its members for selling coffee, for insurance and for the purchase of various requirements which, in 1956, amounted to £90,000. This is obviously only a modest beginning, but I certainly hope that this project may eventually lead to a territory-wide co-operative union on the lines which the hon. Member suggested.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind, in considering territory-wide organisation in Tanganyika, that distances are very great indeed, communications are difficult and the cost of travel is still high. Furthermore, societies are still in greatly varying stages of development and so are the co-operative unions, and, as is only to be expected, from time to time local and tribal jealousies still do appear.

However, I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that this assessment, and what the hon. Member has said of the work of co-operatives in Tanganyika, really presents an extremely encouraging picture and one upon which I think it is reasonable to base great hopes for the future. To have produced, in a matter of twenty-five years, a group of organisations which, starting from virtually nothing, have grown to the point where they are responsible for handling produce valued at £10 million. that is, nearly one-fifth of the Territory's exports, is an achievement of which Tanganyika can be justly proud.

Tanganyika, as hon. Members will know, has only recently had an additional allocation of colonial development and welfare money to the extent, I think, of £750,000. It is proposed to spend most of this in the development of natural resources and, in particular, on African productivity schemes, and the co-operative movement will, of course, get its share of this.

Finally, I would once again thank the hon. Member for having drawn this matter to the attention of the House. I am glad that I am able to speak, as he has, in praise of this great movement and with high hopes of its future continuance in a flourishing way, to help the whole of the economy of this important Territory.