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Rural-Urban Dynamics in the East African Mountains

Sylvain Racaud
Bob R. Nakileza
François Bart
et al.

Part 1

3. Moshi (Kilimanjaro, Tanzania): The urban dynamics of a rural region

François Bart

Texte intégral

1The town of Moshi is a product of the Chagga rural and agricultural system (Bart 2003). History, dating back a little over a century, testifies to its early reasons to be: the resources and dynamism of the Kilimanjaro countryside areas. The high rural densities, the flows of population that have been crossing this open region for a long time (Brient 2007) and the proximity of the border between Kenya and the main tourist areas of East Africa have contributed to feed a dynamics of demographic and economic growth, vector of rural densification, agricultural intensification and urban production. Therefore, a new system is being drafted, made up of an intimate entanglement of rural and urban, urbanity fed on rurality and rurality consolidated by urbanity. It would be completely vain and scientifically counterproductive to separate one from the other when both live in symbiosis.

2Moreover, this space that is difficult to grasp is in rapid transformation. We may nowadays wonder whether this integration of the rural and the urban, which ensures the system sustainability, is not called into question by the emergence of new urban dynamics, more related to globalization and local dynamics. This analysis will therefore take into account a development that we have been witnessing regularly for over thirty years.

3The approach first delineates rural and urban dynamics in a colonial historical dimension, and then in a post-colonial one. With this approach in mind, the 1980s brutal passage from a socialist economy of self-reliance to a capitalist liberalism open to the international, constitutes a major event. It goes on to describe the contemporary operation of this “rural-urban” system and asks some questions on the countryside-towns relationship.

The stages of urban development of this rural area

4It took a little over a century, from the foundation by the Germans of Alt Moshi at the end of the 19th century, for the urban to germinate in the rural.

The birth and shift of the urban, from the mountain to the foothills, the Alt Moshi era

  • 1 See Fiedler K. 1996. Christianity and African Culture: Conservative German Protestant missionaries (...)

5In a context of competition between the chiefdoms of the slopes, the embryo of the future town appears. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the chiefdom was the main structuring element of rural societies (agriculture and livestock) of this densely populated mountain. One of the major issues was trade with the coastal regions, a major phenomenon of the opening of the mountain to the world, i.e. to “Arab” merchants (usually coming from Zanzibar), then to Europeans. The strongest chiefdoms first attracted them, that of Kibosho to start with, and then Moshi’s. Thus, the Church Missionary Society, which came from England and arrived in East Africa in the 1840s, was the first Christian mission to settle in the mountain at the request of Rindi, the powerful leader of the Moshi. The first two missionaries settled there in 1885, followed in 1889 by a military garrison (Militärstation Alt Moshi) of some twenty-five soldiers, hence the beginnings of the Alt Moshi station (Kolila camp, established in 1892), under German control. The last years of the 19th century, in a murky political context, both on the chiefdoms side and that of the relationships between English missionaries and German authorities, witnessed many twists and turns and complicated relationships between Marangu and Moshi. Finally, the balance quickly leaned in favour of Moshi where European and Indian traders gathered. The Protestant mission was strongly marked by the personality of Bruno Gutmann, who settled on the Kilimanjaro slopes as early as 1902, in Alt Moshi essentially. He became a prominent anthropologist of the Chagga country, thus contributing to the influence of Alt Moshi.1

6In 1898, Father Schneider, a Catholic missionary, described the nascent town of Alt Moshi in the following terms:

  • 2 Schneider, “Über die Station Moshi am Kilimandjaro,” DKB 10, 1899, in Munson, 2013: 47-48.

“Along these streets live people from all East African tribes. One meets Waswahili, Wanyamwezi, Wanyema, Maasaï and others. Also different types of Indians, I have even seen a Chinese person. Also three Greeks have settled and make good business from small shops. One can buy all sorts of products: cotton cloth, glass beads, steel and brass wire, sugar, coffee, beer, wine, cognac, tobacco etc. Naturally the prices are extremely high.
The complete complex of houses with the military station as centre point lies upon an isolated hill and presents a pleasant sight”2.

7According to the same source, it seems that Alt Moshi, installed on the mountain at 1,400 metres above sea level, a few kilometres northeast of the current town, became an active politico-military and commercial centre in 1906 with, in addition to the German presence at the boma, four Greek traders, four Indians, African shopkeepers and a good thousand inhabitants all around. The first dispensary in the region would have been created in 1926 at Pastor Bruno Gutmann’s initiative (Piot 1998).

  • 3 Notes taken during a field visit and a long meeting with Mr. Isaria Anaël Meli, whom we would like (...)

8Remains of this first urban seed are still found scattered on the mountain today; a Lutheran Church in particular, located at Karanja, completed in 1901 and restored by the German Embassy in 2013 and, in the vicinity, bells and a few graves of German soldiers all close to those of the Merinyo family... The grandson of Chief Rindi, executed by the Germans in 1900, as well as an association, Old Moshi Heritage, watches over this heritage, its most visible element being the old boma of Kolila, now a major high school. But a project to pave the road from Old Moshi to Moshi raises concerns that the tree where Rindi was hanged could be sacrificed to modernity.3

The shift from the mountain to the plain and the birth of urbanity, from Alt Moshi to Neu Moshi

9It was in fact the arrival of the rail from the Indian Ocean that, in 1911, contributed to the return of spatial logics in favour of the lowlands, i.e. of the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The metric railway (Usambara Railway, Usambarabahn) coming from the port of Tanga and started in 1895, finally reached the region on September 26, 1911, after a 350 kilometres journey. It succeeded a “carts road, once very busy [...] [where] the traffic was by means of primitive carts belonging to Indian traders” (Alluaud 1916: 210). Born on the slopes, Alt Moshi will be quickly supplanted by the new town of Moshi, born from the railway station, “town of recent construction at the base of the African Colossus” (Alluaud 1916: 217), called Neu Moshi by the Germans.

10The beginning of the British colonization of Tanganyika gave new impetus to the colonial station. Previously, as early as 1912, the administrative centre of Alt Moshi had been moved to the location of the current town, at the bottom, only a village then, but offering the benefit of available water resources.

11The beginnings of the town of Moshi seem very slow, as evidenced by Ahmed Daya, through his father who arrived in Moshi in 1921:

  • 4, (Retrieved April 19, 2015).

“My father (who came to Moshi in the year 1921) told me that Moshi at that time was nothing but a small village surrounded by a jungle. They could hear the roaring of lions at night as close as the place where today the market is situated. The village gradually turned into a town and now the municipality. Today, we can still see some buildings built during German times like the Railway station and ‘Boma’ which is presently housing the offices of the District Commissioner”4.

  • 5 Refer to Adam M. (ed.) 2015. Indian Africa. Minorities of Indian-Pakistani Origin in Eastern Africa (...)

12From the 1920s, new populations contributed to the birth of a true urbanity. The first communities of Indian origin would have arrived at the extreme end of the 19th century, but especially at the beginning of the British period, after the war (Brient 2007). Thanks to them and to the emergence of a class of merchants and entrepreneurs they contributed to forming, Moshi counted approximately 3,000 inhabitants at the end of the 1920s. The German settlers’ departure after 1918 also promoted the establishment of this new population, as in all East African towns5.

13This community that may be described as Indo-Tanzanian, i.e. a majority of Tanzanian nationality and Indian origin, whether Muslim, Hindu or, more rarely, Christian, is exclusively urban everywhere in Tanzania. Over half a century, “Indianness” became one of the major markers of urbanity, which goes hand in hand with significant market power assuming physical shape, over the years, with the construction of both residential and commercial buildings that often carry the name of their Indian builder, especially in the city centre.

14During the 20th century, this population of Indian origin, powerful catalyst for the beginnings of Moshi’s urbanity, saw its size decline little by little, in absolute value, especially with the wave of nationalization of the Nyerere era, from the end of the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s, and even more so in relative value. The Chagga and some other communities gradually took their share of urban construction, including wholesale and retail trade infrastructure. The Indo-Pakistani dynamism unquestionably contributed to the emergence, and then to the consolidation, of an urban Chagga dynamism, as if the Chagga dynamism of nearby rural areas had been transfigured into a new model, a hypothesis that allows to enrich the reflection on urban-rural linkages.

The consolidation of the urban and of rural-urban dynamics

  • 6 Maanga GS. 2014. Joseph Merinyo: A Patriotic Chagga Nationalist and Adamant, Champion for Justice a (...)

15True urban demographic dynamics, fuelled by growing tertiary functions, settled in direct contact with these mountain slopes very strongly populated by peasants: “its administrative and commercial role emerged as an evidence to the peasant population of the region, for which this small regional centre played a role of sensor and diffuser of the coffee-growing annuity” (Brient 2007: 136). The strongest symbol of this new urban-rural complicity was the creation in 1924 of the KNCU (Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union), by Joseph Merinyo6, a Chagga born in the village of Mahoma in Old Moshi:

“Merinyo was the founder member of KNPA, which was started in 1924/25 and later changed into the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union in 1932. Joseph Merinyo and Charles Dundas formed the union for selling coffee, Merinyo himself being one of the leading coffee farmers” (Maanga 2014 n.p.).

16It is therefore a town in full growth that spreads at the foot of the mountain, as evidenced by the official figures of the Census concerning the Moshi Urban district. It went from 29,423 inhabitants in 1967 to 96,631 in 1988 and 184,292 inhabitants in 2012: the urban population is more than five-fold since independence.

  • 7 Village: Human settlement with less than 10,000 people; Minor Town: Human settlement with 10,000 or (...)
  • 8 (Retrieved May 24, 2015) [archive].

17At the same time, the status of the agglomeration evolves, according to a hierarchical logics formalized by the Government: in 19567, it accesses the status of town, and the Moshi Municipal Council8 is then created in 1956, corresponding to the Moshi Urban district, with an area of 59 km2, divided into 21 wards. This officially urban entity is bordering, on the mountain side, with the small Moshi Rural District, with a population of 466,737, according to the 2012 Census, which is twice and a half more than the urban entity, and has an average density of 358 inh./km2 ! On the Tanzanian scale, Moshi is still only a medium-sized town (ranked 15th nationally in 2012), far behind its neighbour Arusha, ranked third with 416,000 inhabitants. However, its implementation in a region with particularly high rural densities and a proven dynamism promotes its influence.

18The development of the town in a rural and, moreover, tourist environment, with a particularly dense and mobile population, encourages Moshi in trying to consolidate its position. Moshi, clean town, as its rival Arusha, is part of We love cities, the global network of 47 sustainable cities (​fr/​), launched by the WWF in March 2015 via the social networks. At the national level, it also aspires to access the prestigious rank of city, as equal to its largest rivals, as evidenced by certain articles of the national press (Daily News, April 18, 2012 and October 31, 2014). The truth is that it can avail itself of a demographic mass largely overflowing the narrow limits of the municipality.

The contemporary dynamics of a complex rural/urban system

19Between the town and the mountains - the highest rural densities being found on the slopes, rural and urban dynamics interfere to draw a territory that transgresses the administrative boundaries and raises the question of the very relevance of the urban and rural concepts.

A national context of urban transition9

  • 9 Cf. Muzzini E, Lindeboom W. 2008.

20If this context is the common lot of the greatest number of African countries, it is important to note a few national and, even more so, local specificities. They are largely related to the paradoxical concurrence of two important traits: very high rural densities, particularly in these “ethno-demographic” nuclei (Gallais 1982) that are the fertile slopes of these water-rich mountains, and urbanization rates among the lowest.

21If the average density of the Kilimanjaro Region, with a population of 1,640,000 inhabitants (2012 census), is only 124 inh./km2, twice the national average, this figure is nevertheless distorted to the extent that it encompasses large areas of low, dry and sparsely populated land. The four districts of the mountain are home to 1,122,000 inhabitants. Only the Moshi Urban district (Moshi Municipality Council) is officially considered as urban, with its 184,000 inhabitants (density 2,907 inh./ km2). If the 34,000 inhabitants of the urban Ward of Hai Mjini (in the Hai District) are added, there are 218,000 official urban dwellers for the four districts of the mountainous part of the Kilimanjaro region. There is thus a 19 % rate of urbanization in 2012, below the national average (31 %), one of the lowest in Africa with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The other three districts, officially exclusively rural, also have very high densities: 359 (Moshi Rural), 233 (Hai) and 177 inh./km2 (Rombo). As for some rural wards of the “planezes”, they have extreme densities, from 600 to 1,000 inh./km2, for Old Moshi Mashariki, Machame Uroki, Kirima and Uru Kusini, and over 1,000 for Machame Narumu, Mengwe, Mwika Kazkazini and Kilema Kati, these last four being several dozens of kilometres away from Moshi!

22In these mountainous regions of East Africa, the densification of the population was initially a rural phenomenon, sometimes pushed to its paroxysm. The setting of the contemporary urban growth process is basically made of high densities, without a true tradition of grouped settlement. De facto, the accumulation/densification aspect of the ongoing urban transition does not necessarily introduce a sudden break. This essential trait can further stimulate town-countryside approaches in terms of the rural-urban continuum.

23Generally speaking, the report on the urban transition in Tanzania by Muzzini E. and Lindeboom W. in 2008, insists on this methodological issue of density, considered from the results of the 2002 census:

“Empirical evidence indicates that about 17 % of the population in mainland Tanzania lives in high-density settlements which are not officially recognized as urban. Not surprisingly, each perspective on “urban” yields a different level of urbanization—the largest gap in the level of urbanization is found between the politico-administrative perspective (under which Tanzania is 16.8 % urbanized) and the density-based perspective (33.5 %). About 17 % of the population in mainland Tanzania live in high-density settlements which are not legally recognized as urban, suggesting that a significant urbanisation may be occurring off the radar screen of government agencies”
(Muzzini E. and Lindeboom W. 2008: xiii).

24The Moshi area, in Chagga country, is particularly involved in this scientific and political stake. As such, there is no clean landscape break between rural areas with sparse settlement, vast agricultural expanses, and an urban agglomeration, but rather a continuum of high densities, a rural population on the mountain slopes, growing gradually more urban as the gentle slopes of the “planezes” reach further down. In such circumstances, it is not possible to clearly distinguish and delineate the rural from the urban, even if the administrative boundaries (between Moshi Rural and Moshi Urban districts, for instance) attempt to formalise a gap that neither exists in landscapes, nor in the practices of the populations that, mostly, have one foot in the town and another in the countryside. Unless it is both feet in a space that pertains both to the countryside and the town, and that may be defined as “rural-urban”.

  • 10 Moshi Municipal Council, (...)

25The very strong links between urban and rural activities, the intense mobility that irrigates these spaces, the pervasiveness of high population densities - rural and urban - produce original processes of urban sprawl. It may seem that the town is diluted in the countryside, that the countryside seeps into the town and that everyone, through their activities, their behaviour and their mobility, shares at the same time a rural life strongly rooted in the local space and a new urban life. In the region, more than elsewhere no doubt, mobility is a “way of life”, very visible in the landscape, Moshi and the small urban centres being “very lively places by day, and practically deserted by night and over the weekends” (Brient 2007: 157). The main roads of the “planezes” are particularly busy early in the morning and late afternoon; daily commuting is on foot, two wheels, daladala and by bus. The population during the day is estimated in the order of three times that spending the night on the spot10! The heart of this flow system is twofold: the largest is the central bus station and the adjoining Mall, all having been restructured in the early 2000s; on the other hand are the taxi stops along the highway, especially in Kiboriloni, at roundabouts and petrol stations. This phenomenon is one of the major media of the operation of a vast territory, both rural and urban.

The components of the system

26Around Mount Kilimanjaro, at least on its southern foothills, a hybrid territory develops, encompassing highly populated rural areas and the town of Moshi, all docked at the major Dar es Salaam-Arusha-Nairobi international highway, one of the most important in East Africa: it is indeed joined by a road coming from Mombasa, and it spreads towards Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and even the Democratic Republic of Congo (Bart 2006).

Figure 11. Moshi, Mount Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro Region

Figure 11. Moshi, Mount Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro Region

The Chagga countryside

27It is the seat of strong dynamics that could make it compare to other densely populated rural territories of the highlands of Africa, such as the Kikuyu country in Kenya (Droz 1999), or the Bamileke country in Cameroon (Dongmo 1981). In all cases, this dynamism translates into numerous flows, a heavy traffic of people and goods that, very early on, contribute to the emergence of the town.

28The countryside areas of the Kilimanjaro slopes, particularly the southern ones, the most open to the outside, were able to grow at the same time the natural assets of their land, very suitable for agriculture and livestock, as well as an entrepreneurial spirit, commercial opportunities, in connection with an ancient, pre-colonial and colonial history of flows between the Indian ocean and the Great Lakes of Africa. This double anchoring is a tradition that has been strengthened in our own times with the improvement of road infrastructure, the role of the coffee and market-gardening economy and the development of international tourism.

29This peasantry rooting in the mountain, associated with an undeniable entrepreneurial dynamism linked to intense mobility, has fed both a spectacular population densification, as part of a tradition of agricultural intensification, and, at the same time, an opening to the outside, to the town, nearby or distant, integrating the mountain into an active market economy.

30In fact, this countryside, whose hour of glory was related to a coffee economy which structured it strongly and made it fit into a spectacular development process, the marks of which are still clearly visible today, has now reached a turning point (Charlery de la Masselière et al. 2009). It is time for post-coffee economy opportunities, which let other agricultural sectors emerge, very connected to urban markets, such as the production of vegetables, especially tomatoes. In these countryside areas, a new generation is perhaps inventing a new Chagga system. Investigations carried out in 2014-2015 under the European programme Rurban, showed how the small market of Kwa Sa Dala, on the main road 20 kilometres to the west of Moshi, became THE main tomato market in the region and even nationally.

Figure 12. Rural Moshi: population growth and rural development in the coffee-banana belt

Figure 12. Rural Moshi: population growth and rural development in the coffee-banana belt

31The old network of markets grows and gets closer to the main roads; some of them, in this region deprived of villages, turn gradually into real market towns that, if a significant non-agricultural activity develops, are sometimes transformed into small towns, which consolidate the structuring of the countryside areas. Himo, to the east of Moshi, on the road to Kenya, and Sanya Juu (11,283 inhabitants in 2012), on the western foothill, can be named as examples of towns in contact with the mountain and the plain, usually along a highway. The most significant example is that of Boma N’Gombe, also called West Hai, in the officially urban Ward of Hai Njini: its population doubled from 2002 to 2012, growing from 17,000 to 34,000 inhabitants. A new settlement grew there, around an important road junction and the Hai district administration. The animation centres on the bus station, the bi-weekly market, the shops and bars along the road, a high school, a hotel and several restaurants…

32At the heart of this countryside transformation, the logics of multiple activities are consolidated, frequently involving agricultural and non-agricultural resources, and that of multi-territorialities, at varying geographic scales. They associate complementary « terroirs » that lay close and, increasingly, the countryside and the town:

“The contemporary challenge actually resides in a difficult-to-control transition between what was an essentially peasant and agro-pastoral model and another model of society and in-between space, where the anchor on the mountain is now no more than an element, possibly of lesser economic importance, but still important culturally, in the context of multi-territorial logics and of generalisation of multiactivity”
(Bart 2003: 218).

The town of Moshi

33Its history, dating back a little over a century, testifies to its early reasons to be: the resources and dynamism of rural Kilimanjaro. The densities are what attracted missionaries in quest of evangelisation, the potential of the coffee economy that brought European settlers, who then spread it to peasant areas. Then the rail, route of entry to the interior of the continent, reached the foothills of the mountain, improving its accessibility. It was finally the British colonial administration that, in the 1920s, turned Moshi into the region administrative centre. This political-administrative centralisation was succeeded by an economic polarisation, built up largely from the coffee.

34The town centre is there to bear witness to such logics of history. It is structured around the train station and the old Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU)11 building dominating the main roundabout. This tall building houses, on the one hand, the headquarters of the great historic Kilimanjaro coffee cooperative (which claims to be the oldest in Africa) and, on the other hand, the hotel and restaurant New Coffee Tree, at the entrance to which, many plaques and posters evoke the importance of Kilimanjaro coffee and the part played by British administrator Charles Dundas in its distribution in peasant areas, as well as a few shops. On the other side of the roundabout, stands a newer building, Kahawa House, the headquarters of the Tanzania Coffee Board, a national body where the coffee auctions take place. As its website shows (​, visited on July 16, 2015),

“Tanzania Coffee Board is a government organ established by the Tanzania Coffee Industry Act No. 23 of 2001. Its main function is to regulate the coffee industry in Tanzania and advise the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania on all matters related to the growing, processing and marketing of coffee within and outside the country”12.

35The coffee from countryside areas visibly still has a place at the heart of the town.

  • 13 (Retriev (...)
  • 14 Interview with Nikos Emmanuel, June 21, 2015.

36Nearby, the old train station and the railway infrastructure are nowadays abandoned, although there are sometimes rumours of rehabilitation, in the context of the creation of a consortium associating the railway company with India, rumours not confirmed by facts to this date. Right next to them, large buildings are home to one of the main coffee plants in the city, Tanganyika Coffee Curing Company Limited (TCCCo13), 57 % of the shares being owned by the KNCU. In the surrounding areas, old traders’ houses modestly recall the origins of the city, closely related to the trade in which the Indians were key players (Brient 2007). Two of them are former hotels built by Greeks14.

A few questions

37They arise from the difficulty to identify and to analyse, despite the administrative boundaries, both urban and rural dynamics, without combining them. It seems that they consist of new types of spatial and social practices.

Moshi, “peri-rural” urban space?

38“The town of Moshi is frequently viewed as being a town that is not developing or changing (Field notes, 21/10/2005). It is rural Kilimanjaro that is dynamic and changing, the nearest urban environment is constant and stagnant” (Fisher 2012: 171).

39Is this sentence, written by a British social and political scientist who worked on the field in the years 2005-2007, still relevant in 2015? It raises at least one specific question: is the current urban dynamism, if at least demographically proven, first the product of an exceptional rural dynamism in the Chagga countryside areas? In other words, can the town be analysed as a periphery of a particularly dynamic rural area? A first observation is tempting: the Kilimanjaro region has experienced very significant changes over the past decade: crisis in the coffee growing industry, tourism development, emergence of technologies of information and communication, improvement of road infrastructure, diversification of agriculture (horticulture, market gardening), all no doubt contribute to shaping a new system involving new urban-rural relationships. Is it not the town, be it close-by (Moshi) or more distant (Arusha, Dar es Salaam), that nowadays opens up horizons for the peasants of the mountain kihambas?

40The new deal lays probably in a considerable expansion of the influence of this town that identifies itself with one of the most emblematic mountains in the world, and the coffee to which it is historically linked. Old-day’s activities, administration, commerce, services, some plants (coffee, brewery, etc.), remain significant. Nevertheless, it should be noted that trade has experienced massive mutations that are still ongoing: many shops, selling food and textiles especially, recall the seniority of the role played by Indo-Pakistanis. But the small minimarkets which, in the 1990s, spread along the main streets of the centre have, in recent years, been challenged by the national and foreign urban elite, by Nakumatt, a mall open to the public until 10 pm daily. Thus, this Kenyan company vividly shows the bursting in of the globalised consumer society; and, ironically, the supermarket was built along the street that connects the old railway station to the central roundabout surrounded by coffee buildings and the post office, on the site of a former Greek family-owned hotel. The downtown market is undergoing renovation, and the Kiboriloni textile and second-hand clothes market, in a peripheral area, on the road to Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, has a new transnational dimension. It has just been moved to a new location, Memorial, a large area at the town exit, in the direction of Arusha.

A rural-urban continuum?

41Between mountain and foothills, between countryside and town, how to understand the specificities, complementarities and differences today?

42Several researchers have put forth the concept of a rural-urban continuum. Such is the case of some sociologists:

  • 15 Sociology Guide, (...)

“Some sociologists have used the concept of a rural-urban continuum to stress the idea that there are no sharp breaking points to be found in the degree or quantity of rural urban differences”15.

  • 16 Giraut F. about West Africa, in Chaléard JL, Dubresson A. 1999: 207.

43For geographers, it is in the most urbanised and richest countries that questioning first developed, in particular about peri-urbanisation and the extension of urban spaces. But Africa is not absent from this debate, causing researchers to work on the role of small and medium secondary towns, in a process of “functional and morphological transition of urban networks that would affect small towns and record changes in the urban-rural relations”16.

44There are at least two possible geographical approaches to this rural-urban “continuum” (or “discontinuum”?). One uses a systemic approach favouring the flows, the connections, the functional mutations; the other enters this reality via the landscape, the image, the map, the frame of the habitat. In the case of Moshi, two recent geography theses can be referred to; on the one hand, that of Gaëlle Brient, the oldest of the two (2007), closer to the first approach and, on the other hand, that of Johannes Schlesinger (2013) that, in a comparative study with a medium town of Cameroon (Bamenda), sheds a light on this notion of a rural-urban continuum through the prism of agriculture and the GIS tool.

45The first thesis analyses the rural-urban continuum (fig.13) in terms of flows, mobility and activities especially. This issue is dealt with in a separate chapter (: 396-420). It describes this territory as “a continuum... which does not erase contrasts” (Brient 2007: 396, and then, 411). The question is to specify an in-between territory, which can be split into “peri-urban rural space and peri-rural urban space”. (: 398). The first “is defined as a space near the town, dominated by agriculture” (ibid.); the second “consists of spaces under urban planning” (ibid.). Logics of agricultural development and a persistence of the village values as collateral faced with the risks of the urban experience can be observed (ibid.). Also, the importance of mobility between countryside and town is linked to the existence of many gradients in terms of equipment in services, even if Kilimanjaro countryside areas are privileged compared to other regions, despite the coffee industry crisis. The difficulties of the countryside, the new urban opportunities combine: “in a context where people are constantly on the move, where products are exchanged both ways, where news and ideas circulate, everyone is both peasant and urban, successively or jointly” (ibid: 418).

Figure 13. Kilimanjaro, rural-urban “continuum” around Moshi (Brient 2008)

Figure 13. Kilimanjaro, rural-urban “continuum” around Moshi (Brient 2008)

46The second thesis proposes a spatial analysis from an index that combines density and mobility: “An Urban-Rural Index (URI) was calculated based on building density and travel isochrones as the foundation of spatial analysis” (Schlesinger 2013: 4). It then studies a series of transects from urban to rural, between the town centre (the market) and the surrounding countryside areas, developing the place and the characteristics of agriculture as an indicator, from the heart of the town to the countryside. That which extends to the North, i.e. towards the most populated rural areas, is particularly interesting: “Changes along this transect are still influenced by the mountain rather than by urbanisation processes, even though urban growth already has an impact on the people living on the slopes” (: 90). The conclusion of this study, which covers both households and intra-urban, peri-urban and rural agriculture, insists on the absence of a sharp breaking point and on the spaces of transition: “The analysis of land use data as well as the results of the household survey showed that the differentiation between urban and rural is inappropriate to comprehensively capture the complexity of spatial changes along the urban-rural continuum. Several spatial patterns could be identified using the transect approach that would have remained undiscovered if conventional approaches would have been applied.” (: 120). In short, the concept of continuum seems relevant, at least in its spatial dimension.

47Nevertheless, the latest evolution of the peri-central and central districts of Moshi seems to introduce a new deal. It is reflected in the landscape by the sudden emergence of a few very tall modern buildings made of concrete, glass and steel, said to have been built by the Chinese, without any evidence: offices without doubt, a very recent supermarket part of the Kenyan chain Uchumi, thus entering into competition with Nakumatt, the other nearby Kenyan store. These buildings of impressive architecture are the first example (it seems others may be added) of a “transition” from a horizontal town to a more vertical one.

48Many elements lead to the hypothesis that the most recent phase of urban development is first nourished by the new logics of globalisation, strongly marked here by a growing international tourism. Could this be the beginning of a phase of disconnection of the town regarding the countryside, which would question the symbiosis of a genuine rural-urban continuum?


49The town of Moshi, i.e. the town of the Kilimanjaro, a mountain that is a bastion of intensive peasant mixed farming, open to the outside, develops in a context where rural-urban relations seem torn between two trends. One of them might be described as symbiotic, bearer of continuum and strong local roots; the other, instead, would relate more to a breaking point, the display of the difference, in a region marked by the affirmation of globalised logics. There is not necessarily any antagonism between those two trends, but rather, for the urban and rural populations concerned, multiple opportunities to accommodate. This resulted in many flows, which make the men and women of Kilimanjaro the bearers of a modernity, playing on the strength of local rooting and on the vigour of the opening to the outside, which is based on the resources of the rural and the urban: “rural and urban mingle in a momentum towards the universal, the well-being (...). Individuals broaden their spaces of reference, and the range of possibilities of both action and thought” (Brient 2007: 420).



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Bart F, Mbonile MJ, Devenne F. (eds) 2006. Kilimanjaro, mountain, memory, modernity. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers.

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(Retrieved May 17, 2015).

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1 See Fiedler K. 1996. Christianity and African Culture: Conservative German Protestant missionaries in Tanzania, 1900-1940. Leiden, Brill; Refer too to the work of Anza A. Lema, particularly 1982. The foundation of the Lutheran Church in Kilimanjaro, Hong Kong, Minda.

2 Schneider, “Über die Station Moshi am Kilimandjaro,” DKB 10, 1899, in Munson, 2013: 47-48.

3 Notes taken during a field visit and a long meeting with Mr. Isaria Anaël Meli, whom we would like to thank warmly, in Old Moshi on June 27, 2015.

4, (Retrieved April 19, 2015).

5 Refer to Adam M. (ed.) 2015. Indian Africa. Minorities of Indian-Pakistani Origin in Eastern Africa. Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, IFRA-Nairobi/Mkuki na Nyota Publishers.

6 Maanga GS. 2014. Joseph Merinyo: A Patriotic Chagga Nationalist and Adamant, Champion for Justice and Human Rights. Global Journal of Human-Social Science, History Archaeology & Anthropology, 14 (3),; (Retrieved July 17, 2015).

7 Village: Human settlement with less than 10,000 people; Minor Town: Human settlement with 10,000 or more people; Town: Human settlement with 30,000 or more people; Municipal: Human settlement with 100,000 or more people; City: Human settlement with 500,000 or more people; Mega city: Human Settlement with 4,000,000 or more people. Source: Tanzania National Human Settlements Policy 2000.

8 (Retrieved May 24, 2015) [archive].

9 Cf. Muzzini E, Lindeboom W. 2008.

10 Moshi Municipal Council, (Retrieved May 14, 2015).

11 (Retrieved May 15, 2015) [archive].

12 (Retrieved May 16, 2015) [archive].

13 (Retrieved May 16, 2015).

14 Interview with Nikos Emmanuel, June 21, 2015.

15 Sociology Guide, (Retrieved May 23, 2015).

16 Giraut F. about West Africa, in Chaléard JL, Dubresson A. 1999: 207.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 11. Moshi, Mount Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro Region
Fichier image/jpeg, 54k
Titre Figure 12. Rural Moshi: population growth and rural development in the coffee-banana belt
Fichier image/jpeg, 89k
Titre Figure 13. Kilimanjaro, rural-urban “continuum” around Moshi (Brient 2008)
Fichier image/jpeg, 58k


Emeritus Professor, Bordeaux Montaigne University, UMRLAM (Les Afriques dans le Monde), Bordeaux (France),
François Bart conducted geographical studies mainly on tropical mountains. He was involved in multidisciplinary projects in East Africa, especially in Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania). He published about a hundred of scientific publications. His main topics are rural development and new rural-urban dynamics.

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