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Rural-Urban Dynamics in the East African Mountains

Sylvain Racaud
Bob R. Nakileza
François Bart
et al.

Part 3

7. Spatial interaction between mountains and urban centres in the Mbeya region

Milline Jethro Mbonile

Texte intégral

1There is a strong spatial interaction between the mountains and major urban centres in the Mbeya region, Tanzania. As a whole, in general, spatial interaction is a broad term encompassing any movement over space that results from a human process such as journey-to-work (commuting), migration, information and commodity flows, student enrolments and conference attendance, the utilization of public and private facilities, and even the transmission of knowledge (Hayness and Fortheringham 1984). Nonetheless, out of all these, the most common type of interaction observed in the Mbeya region include commuting not to work but to markets where several commodities are marketed.

2Theoretically, it is assumed that the spatial interaction occurs in about four stages. Stage one involves the processes which occur at the place of origin. This involves supplies from within the urban centres where the markets are located, supplies from within the region and supplies from the rest of the country and beyond. The second stage involves the flow of these commodities following well established routes like the Dar es Salaam–Tunduma Road, Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA), Mbeya-Kyela Road, Mbeya-Itigi Road and minor roads like the Mbeya-Makogorosi Road. This stage also involves the interaction of farmers or other producers and brokers at the main markets in urban areas. The third stage involves the purchase of these commodities by retailers of all types from major urban centres as well as rural areas. The fourth stage involves the consumers who buy these commodities from retailers (Banyikwa 2007).

3The spatial interaction of people and flow of commodities from the Mbeya Highlands with major urban centres like Mbeya City has taken place since the establishment of urban centres in the region in the 19th century by the German and British colonial governments. This change in spatial interaction has led to the flow of commodities from the highlands to the urban centres through specialized routes like roads and footpaths. Besides this, it has led to changes in the farming and marketing systems in the region, leading to vast changes in the livelihood and mobility of people in the region. Nonetheless, despite this long history of spatial interaction no research has been conducted to determine the nature and impact of this type of spatial interaction in the region. Therefore, this study will investigate the nature and types of spatial interaction between the Mbeya Highlands and urban centres in the Mbeya region.

4The major objective of the study is to investigate the nature and type of spatial interaction in the study area. The study will be further governed by the following specific objectives: to examine the type of commuting between the highlands and urban centres, to investigate the flow of commodities between the highlands and urban centres and to examine the changes in livelihoods of the people associated with commuting and flow of commodities.

5The study will add knowledge on the relationship between the highlands as sources of commodities and urban centres which have always been the market of commodities produced in the highlands. Also, the study concurs with several sectorial policies in the country which include the Agricultural and Livestock Policy of 1997 and the National Trade Policy of 2003 which emphasize the distribution and marketing of commodities from peasant farmers. Furthermore, it concurs with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on food production and distribution at an international level.

6The study was part of a major study organized by the CORUS Project which covered several highlands in East Africa, like Mbale in the Mount Elgon in Uganda, Nyeri on the slopes of Mount Kenya and the Mbeya highlands in the South West of Tanzania. The study on all these sites was conducted by using transects when the farming and marketing systems of the area were analysed. It also included physical site visiting of various markets where the various records of commodities were taken. Beside those, interviews of traders, investigations were conducted in order to capture the sources of commodities, modes of transactions and prices. Where quantitative data were required, both structured and unstructured questionnaires were administered. The area of study covered the southern highlands of the Eastern Arc Mountains which include the Uporoto Highlands and Mount Rungwe, the Livingstone Mountains and the Mbeya Ranges.

Figure 28. Location of the study area in the Mbeya highlands

Figure 28. Location of the study area in the Mbeya highlands

Types of spatial interaction and commodity flow

Commuting in Mbeya Highlands

7Commuting is travelling from one’s residence to one’s regular place of business and back to the residence. Basically people commute to towns because of the services they provide for people in the periphery or rural areas or small towns. There are four types of services which these towns provide and these include administration, communication, commerce and social services. Within each category there are varieties of services which are dictated by economics and the hierarchy of the urban centre or marketing centre. Regional capitals like Mbeya City are very conducive to commuting because of their roles as service centres and possession of most of the regional offices and a high proportion of the urban population in the region. In terms of commerce, most of the big shops, stores and warehouses are located here and so act as distribution centres for the whole region including neighbouring countries like Malawi, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most regional capitals have industries which employ a reasonable amount of workers and in terms of communication they act as hubs of land and mobile phones, railways, roads and airways (Ulman 1970, Rwechengura 1986). Furthermore, commuting is generally considered as a periodic move between the place of residence and the place of work. The journey to work represents only one type of commuting which is more related to production. There is commuting for consumption purposes such as shopping trips, weekly markets visits and tourism trips. Besides this, commuting involves day trips to various trade centres.

Characteristics of commuters and commuting in Mbeya region

Commuters level of education

8Several studies in both developing and developed countries have shown that commuting has a strong relationship between the type of education and the movement of people and flow of goods. This is because educated workers usually use a lot of time commuting to the place of work and home. The same applies with traders who have been subjected to commuting in order to follow the workers who are largely based in big urban centres (Todaro 1992, Balogh 2009). Most commuters are primary school leavers which clearly depicts that most of them are employed in the informal sector. There were few households with secondary and tertiary education which enable them to penetrate in the formal sector and commute to work every day.

Figure 29. Level of education of commuters by market

Figure 29. Level of education of commuters by market

Commuters occupation

9Occupation refers to the kind of work done during the time-reference period by a person who is employed (Newell 1988). The main occupation of commuters in Mbeya City is business which indicates that the majority are in the informal sector and so are strongly correlated with the flow of commodities to and from Mbeya City. It is followed by those who are employed in agriculture, who occasionally come to market their commodities in the City. Very few were employed as workers and other activities such as technicians and workers.

Figure 30. Occupation of commuters by market

Figure 30. Occupation of commuters by market

Supplementary occupations

10As in all developing countries where income from a single source is not adequate, the commuters are engaged in supplementary occupations to supplement their meagre income. The main supplementary occupation for those who were engaged in business was agriculture and for those in agriculture it was petty business, like cooking bans and samosas which are marketed by relatives or concurrently in their business premises (Bryceson 1980).

Mobility of commuters

11Differentials in commuting arose due to the means of transport used for commuting and the type of settlement in the highlands. Mzunguko (minibus) were used mainly by people who commute from small towns like Tukuyu and Mbalizi to a big city like Mbeya and hence as a major means of transport they were used by commuters in agricultural areas in the Uporoto Highlands and Mount Rungwe. Nonetheless, those trading bulky commodities largely preferred appropriate vehicles like lorries, especially during the harvesting seasons. Public transport is predominantly used by those whose workplace is within Mbeya City while long distance buses are most typically used by those who commute from rural areas with agricultural commodities or who travel to large urban centers like Dar es Salaam where there are wholesale shops in large numbers (Balogh 2009).

12Moreover, mobility from the sources of commodities, especially agricultural products, is a common phenomenon as people occupied in different activities move from one place to another. They normally move from a geographic unit with a surplus of commodities to another one with a demand for those commodities in order to satisfy their needs (Rwechengura 1986). In the case of spatial interaction in Mbeya, people move by using various means of transport especially minibuses which are called daladala in Dar es Salaam City, mzunguko in Mbeya City and vifodi in Arusha City. Generally, these transport systems were established by various people based in urban areas as a survival strategy or as means of supplementing their meagre income earned in other activities such as retail and wholesale trade. Since they are very competitive in nature they are highly congested in routes which have adequate passengers and less likely to ply to areas with a deficit in commodities. In urban areas they are congested during the peak hours (morning and evening) when most people are commuting to work or business centres.

13The major means of transport for commuters in Mbeya City include buses, minibuses, bicycles and on foot. Some differentials are observed among the various working places. For example, the major means of transport at the Mwanjelwa and Mbeya Central Market are the buses while the major transport system in more periphery markets are the minibuses. Furthermore, an examination of the main routes used by commuters indicates that the majority of commuters originate from the Mbeya-Uyole route which is among the major collecting centres of farming products such as vegetables and cereals (such as wheat and maize from the Uporoto and Rungwe Mountains). The other important routes with similar characteristics like those of Mbeya-Uyole are the Mbeya-Njombe and Mbeya-Mbalizi routes.

Figure 31. Means of transport of commuters by market

Figure 31. Means of transport of commuters by market

Figure 32. Routes of commuters to Mbeya City markets

Figure 32. Routes of commuters to Mbeya City markets

Distance travelled by commuters to markets

14The majority of commuters travelled 6-10 kilometres followed by those who travelled a distance of 11 and above kilometres, which shows most of the commuters originate from the slopes of Mount Rungwe and Uporoto Ranges and very few originate from the periphery and within Mbeya City. Nonetheless, there were big differentials in distance covered by commuters by market. Those who travel 6-10 kilometres are more predominant in the Central market and Soko Matola because these are more established markets and since they were established during the colonial period the vendors in these markets are largely retailers. On the other hand, the Mwanjelwa market draws largely wholesale traders from as far as Kyela and Rungwe district, who trade mainly in bananas and rice agricultural products.

Figure 33. Distance travelled by commuters to market

Figure 33. Distance travelled by commuters to market

Flow of goods in Mbeya Highlands

15The Babylon Dictionary (2009) defines flow of goods as the direction and path of movement of goods and sequence of place of goods in a supply chain. In the case of the Mbeya Highlands the supply chain begins in the highlands to major urban centres such as Mbeya City and Tukuyu, coupled with suburban areas like Kiwira, Igoma and Ndaga. It also includes weekly markets at Isyonje and Kandete in Rungwe district. The flow of commodities in Mbeya City showed that the movements of commodities in the Mbeya Highlands like elsewhere in the world (cf. Mount Kenya and Elgon in East Africa) obeys international trends that the movement of commodities is an outcome of several agents in a supply chain. In the case of Mbeya City it is controlled by the demand chain whereby Mwanjelwa market acts as the centre of distribution of most commodities which are later distributed to the other markets such as Central Market and Soko Matola.

Table 14. Type, place of origin and markets of commodities in Mbeya City

Table 14. Type, place of origin and markets of commodities in Mbeya City

Note: x is an ordinary market and xx is a retail and wholesale market

16However, when the supply and demand chain is further examined, it shows that the distribution begins more with periphery markets like Uyole which has a big command of vegetables (cabbages) from the Uporoto Mountains. For millet and other ingredients used in making local beer, it begins with Mbalizi Market.

17Besides the supply demand command there were other factors which influenced the distribution of these commodities. These include the individual behaviour of the customer who decides the supplier from which to purchase and the amount acquired from each of the suppliers. It takes into account the interplay between transporters and customers in the supply chain but also captures the spatial interactions among alternative markets for these impacts on customer preferences. Moreover, the freight movement of commodities is generated by the demand of commodities from more than one or more points of origin. For example, in the case of rice, customers in Mbeya City and elsewhere usually ask for popular brands like those from Kyela or Kamsamba. This is because the rice from these areas is regarded to be of high quality (Guillermou 2008).

18The marketing of surplus food among the peasants in the Southern Highlands is the result of changes in the farming systems among the peasant farmers. For example, the marketing of potatoes is the outcome of a change from traditional potatoes like Loti to new varieties like Arka and Kagiri which originated from Makete and are more marketed in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, as well as abroad to countries like Zambia and Malawi. Other newly introduced varieties of CIP from Njombe district and Kinding’a and Tigo originated from the Kilimanjaro region. In terms of production and marketing these new varieties can be grown and harvested three times in a year (Mbonile 1993, Jeremia 2009).

19Moreover, it is easy to get high quality potato seedlings because the Uyole Agricultural Centre is given the mandate to produce and distribute potatoes in the whole of the Southern Highlands Zone (Sokoni 2001). Besides this change in the type of potato in the Uporoto Mountains it has spread to other areas with similar climatic conditions and soils such as the Umalila Highlands in Mbeya Rural district and in Kipengere and the Livingstone Mountains in Makete and Njombe districts (Jeremia 2009). Above all, since potatoes are more profitable than other food crops, the cultivation has started to spread to banana growing areas in the Rungwe and Ileje districts.

20These changes in farming systems did not occur to potatoes only but also to other crops like bananas. New varieties called Uganda have been introduced in the Rungwe district coupled with the system of banana traders following the bananas to the village after a big improvement of rural roads by the local authorities. The introduction of new hard skin avocado fruits from Zimbabwe has led to the fruit being marketed to distant areas like Dar es Salaam as well as abroad (Sokoni 2001).

21Another important change in the farming systems in the Mbeya Highlands is the modernization of traditional irrigation systems. The changes of irrigation systems have improved the intakes of irrigation schemes like those of Iziwi in the Utengule Usongwe ward and Kapunga in the Usangu Plains. This has enabled farmers to grow vegetables throughout the year and reduce the deficit of vegetables during the dry season. Besides this, the presence of irrigation water throughout the year has enabled the farmers to change from traditional irrigation crops such as beans and maize to Jamaica bananas, which have a high demand both locally and internationally (Mpayo 2005).

Spatial interaction and improvement in livelihood

22The livelihoods ofpeople involved in commuting are supposed to improve with time. These changes are supposed to reduce the vulnerability of commuters to poverty in terms of income, food security and sustainable utilization of natural resources. Nonetheless, sometimes this type of livelihood improvement may be skewed in favour of traders instead of farmers and the community as a whole. The farmers may be vulnerable by selling the land to foreigners leading to landless households or they may concentrate on the growing of cash crops instead of food crops leading to food insecurity (Mbonile et al. 2009, Jeremia 2009). The study revealed that there was an overall improvement in the housing conditions of the people engaged in the spatial interaction and marketing of commodities. More than 50 % of the respondents in each market indicated that their households are built of improved building materials such as corrugated iron and burnt bricks or concrete blocks. The other means of livelihood which improved with time include the acquiring of household assets such as radios, televisions, sofa sets, bicycles and motor vehicles for a few privileged ones. In social services there was an improvement in the education of children as well as relatives of respondents because of the marketing of commodities which enabled them to pay school fees even in private secondary schools.

Table 15. Type of livelihood improvement by market

Table 15. Type of livelihood improvement by market

23The other positive changes associated with this spatial interaction included the commercialization of labour in both rural and urban areas. In rural areas the intensification of agriculture cannot take place without hiring labour from within and outside the villages. Also, transportation to the market in less accessible areas requires porters and bicycles. Moreover, there were changes in the credit systems which witnessed the emergency of SACCOS. This has enabled the producers and sellers to have credit for purchasing inputs and other facilities like kiosks for marketing commodities. Besides this, there was a diversification in the economic activities in the highlands and the lowlands. The economic base was broadened by introducing activities like business, wage employment, lumbering and livestock keeping, especially improved livestock which produce more milk and the surplus is marketed in large urban centres like Mbeya City.

24The negative side of spatial interaction is that the high mobility of the population exposed it to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS and food insecurity to households which market all the crops during the harvesting period. There were about 5 % of households which indicated that there was an increase in marriage instabilities and polygamy because the increase in income in some traditional societies leads to multiple marriages.


25The study was conducted in the Southern Highlands in the Mbeya region, and the main objective was to examine the relationship between the flow of goods from the highlands to major urban centres and the change in livelihoods of the people. The results revealed that there was spatial interaction between the highlands and urban centres in terms of commuting and flow of goods. Furthermore, the study found that most commuters have attained primary education and their major occupation is small business while others are farmers who occasionally market their commodities in urban areas. Most of them have supplementary occupations which help them to boost up their meager income earned from primary activities.

26The mobility of commuters and flow of commodities depends on the type and availability of transport especially minibuses (Mzunguko) in Mbeya. The other means of transport include big buses, bicycles and on foot. The major routes of commuting and floor of goods radiate from Mbeya City following the major transport systems of the region. The distance travelled by commuters and commodities is concentrated between 6-10 km but manufactured goods originate as far as 1,000 km from Mbeya City.

27The flow of commodities were influenced by the customer behaviour who decide which and where to purchase the commodities and changes in the agricultural and marketing systems which increase the productivity of commodities. Also, as a result of this spatial interaction of people and commodities there was an improvement in the livelihood of the people in terms of housing quality, household assets and social services.



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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 28. Location of the study area in the Mbeya highlands
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Titre Figure 29. Level of education of commuters by market
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Titre Figure 30. Occupation of commuters by market
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Titre Figure 31. Means of transport of commuters by market
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Titre Figure 32. Routes of commuters to Mbeya City markets
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Titre Figure 33. Distance travelled by commuters to market
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Titre Table 14. Type, place of origin and markets of commodities in Mbeya City
Légende Note: x is an ordinary market and xx is a retail and wholesale market
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Titre Table 15. Type of livelihood improvement by market
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Prof., Geography Department, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania),
His main research interest is in migration and development. The subjects of his publications include population pressure, food security, land use change, environment change, rural-urban migration and are often focused on the situation in African countries.

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