Definitions of development and poverty have always been controversial, such that the world is deprived of universal definitions.
However there is consensus that both have something to do with how human beings work on natural resources and what they realize from them.
I was once privileged to be lectured by Austrian Professor Paul Kellermann who defines development as meaning how human beings have worked on their environment and converted their natural endowment into goods and services needed to satisfy their needs, wants and demands.
Development arising from work on natural resources is a process which takes place in space and time. In order to have meaningful development human beings have to identify the natural resources in their environment.
The second stage in the process of development is that which requires human beings to establish the potential and utility embedded in the natural resources available in their environment.
At that stage the process enters the third stage whereby owners of natural resources have to commerce with others within and outside their environment, making them aware of the potential and utilities of identified resources. This is simply marketing.
The final stage in the process is sustainable exploitation of resources, which entails turning resources into goods and services for human consumption.
This is what economics people call production. They provide that in order for production to take place meaningfully, the factors of production have to be in place.
These factors are understood to be objects of production which come from natural resources and means of production, the latter bringing together labour and capital.
Tanzania is believed to be endowed with abundant natural resources, yet despite being resourceful it makes an entry in the underdeveloped and poor lists. As to why we are in the list of underdeveloped and poor, the answer lies in our failure to execute the natural resource process.
Most of our politicians have made us to believe that we can develop by virtue of being in a country with abundant natural resources.
More often than not we have heard them telling us why it is unacceptable that we are poor while we have abundant mineral resources, biggest fresh water body in Africa, Lake Victoria, deepest lake that is Lake Tanganyika, the Serengeti and highest mountain in Africa, the Kilimanjaro and so forth. Failing to use these resources is irresponsible to say the least.
It was pleasing and encouraging on the last night of year 2011 and first morning of 2012 when President Jakaya Kikwete reflected on this in his New Year speech.
He painted in bold that development will only come about if Tanzanians will apply their effort on natural resources, underscoring that in doing so capital may be needed to complement their effort.
The president’s view is anchored in ideas expressed by many great thinkers. John Locke is reported by Karen I. Vaughan as having provided that labour along with other inputs applied on natural resources is responsible for creation of goods and services.
Application of labour on natural resources also determines value, the measure of value and the ultimate owner of the goods or service produced at the first instance or in the exchange process. John Stuart Mill held the view that labour and other factors of production are responsible for the formation of new values which support life.
On the other hand William Petty said that labour was necessary for production and determination of value while Quesnay was of the view that labour is responsible for extraction of value from nature.
Other great thinkers whose views also go towards seeing labour as central to value include Adam Smith who provided that a value is the product of human labour which is also embedded in human nature. Adding to that view is David Ricardo who stated that labour is the source of value in the production process.
Reflection on the above sheds lights on our problem. We have resources which include human resources meaning that we have something to start with. We have laboured on the land to produce our own food for years and years which is evidenced by the fact that at least we have enough food in the country.
We have also laboured in livestock keeping on our abundant grassland and fishing but only enough to meet our own consumption. In actual fact all our efforts in agriculture and fishing have added little value in our produces. In these aspects nature is still as it was created and presented to us by God. To drive the point home, the words of founder president Julius Nyerere are helpful, as he said that if
Adam and Eve returned today they would be surprised about many changes that have taken place except in agriculture.
In Mwalimu Nyerere’s view we are farming, livestock keeping and fishing as Adam and Eve did seven millennia or so ago. In my view we are doing worse, why? While Adam and Eve would not be surprised by the way we are doing farming, livestock keeping and fishing, they would be surprised by the quality and quantity of our yield which are declining year in, year out.
Of late the bulk of our labour force has turned further away from our natural resources. The younger generation shuns farming, livestock keeping and fishing, leaving it to the dwindling older generation.
Worse, the younger generation is brainwashed by Constant Negative News (CNN) which portray that all we need to have to develop is foreign capital, elections.
Tanzania has put up some effort in developing human resources in terms of provision of secondary and higher education. However it has generally proved fruitless, for the recipients seems to be out of touch with the society. What is the use of a Tanzanian who has been trained as a veterinary but does not have any knowledge of indigenous breed of livestock?
Is it not a waste of effort to train a teacher to university level who ends up refusing to live and teach in a local community on the ground that the community is void of the utilities that suits him/her? Our institutionally -anchored education has generated converts of modernization which is transferred development, and thus which does not have roots in our own natural resources.
Besides, our elites shun farming, livestock keeping and fishing despite the fact that these are the leading economic activities undertaken by many Tanzanians. Of late elites have turned into land grabbing not for farming but for parading loan collaterals. This land grabbing has turned farmers in peri-urban landless, a situation which hurts agriculture.
In the context of this discussion land which leads to farming and water bodies which leads to fishing are categorized as traditional resources.
This categorization leads us to have non-traditional natural resources which comprise scenic and wild animals on one side, while on the other side minerals are found beneath the surface. The scenic and wild animal sub-category is developed into the tourism industry while the minerals make up the mining industry.
Critical stock taking in the tourism industry reveals that as a country our effort has only taken us to the stage of being able to identify the potential and compile the list of what we have. Little effort has been put on the marketing aspect of natural resource development process. Forty million people have failed to shout out that Mt Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania.
We have also failed to tell outsiders whom we have interacted that Serengeti is in Tanzania. We have communicated via modes of communication which are growing in number since the era of letters and telegram to this era of twitting, yet we have done little to show that Ngorongoro and Zanzibar are in Tanzania. This is possible because the internal marketing system is also poor or not existing at all.
How many of us have been to tourist sites that we are supposed to market? By the way who is a tourist in the Tanzania context? The answer is that he or she must be a foreigner, preferably a white from Europe or America. This can not pass the test of natural resource development which states that natural resources have to be converted into goods and services for localized needs, human consumption.
This by implication means that the development of the scenic and wild animals into tourism should in the first place target Tanzanians with the foreign market becoming complementary.
The opposite makes us a laughing stock, but why? Suppose a white Mzungu is sighted in Nyamongo in Tarime, will he or she be taken as a tourist and thus accorded a cordial welcome or will be seen as a gold grabber and treated as a potential thief?
The mineral resources are also located in the same swamp as scenic and wild animals. In its respect all what we have is a geology map which tells us the kind of minerals available in Tanzania. We are made to believe that all known minerals exist in Tanzania. In actual fact in the list there are minerals which are found only in Tanzania. Is this a big deal? No, we still have home work to do.
Identifying the minerals is not enough; we still have to determine not only the quantity but also the quality. For sure we cannot market anything we do not know its quality and quantity. The great thinkers referred above have critical made it clear that human effort is what adds and determine value on a natural object.
We may be believer in God or gods who are the creator of human beings and natural resources. This means every human being has a right to a natural resource as long as it is still in a natural form as God or gods created it. It is only human effort put on natural resources which at the end determine who the rightful owner is. Short of that we will be sinning to think that the natural resources in their natural form belong to us.
We will also remain poor if we do not put effort on the natural resources. The effort needed to work on the natural resource has also been innately provide by God, all what we have to do is take initiative. This is also the view held by John Locke who said “though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person.
This no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he remove out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is with his own and therefore made it his property.
It is being by him removed from the common state nature placed it in, it hath by his labour something annexed to it, that exclude the common right of other men.
For this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have the right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.”