Dan Brockington is leading an ESRC/DFID project exploring long-term livelihood change in Tanzania to revisit sites first surveyed in the 1990s. We try and talk to the same families that were visited in the original surveys, conducting re-surveys and then sharing results and findings with community members. One of the features of this work is that we also visit these sites with the researchers who conducted the first work. Here we have re-blogged a series of entries and reflections about these revisits in which researchers consider what changes they have seen and what they might mean.

The first blog in the series is from Olivia Howland, Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the project.

In October and November of 2015, Vesa-Matti Loiske and I returned to his study site where he did his doctoral research in 1991.

Gitting is a village near to Katesh, in northern Tanzania.  In fact, since Vesa conducted his original research, it has become two villages – Gitting and Gocho – due to the rapid growth in population.

Armed with the original list of 77 domestic units, and with help from a village elder and the Village Executive Officer (VEO), we located and re-interviewed the sample.

There are now at least double the number of domestic units in Gitting and Gocho than there were in 1991, and Vesa’s keen observations of the changes that have occurred in that time provided a rapid insight into the level of development that has taken place.

In addition to resurveying the original sample, we undertook focus group discussions on the meaning of wealth and poverty.  We feel it is important for these key terms to be defined, and defined locally, as much existing research does not do so.  We also discussed the nature of a domestic unit with the focus group participants.  We want to be really clear about what we are measuring, and to make sure that these units of measurement make sense in their local context.

In 1991, Vesa conducted a wealth ranking exercise.  This involved identifying all domestic units, and then asking a team of village elders to create wealth groups in which each domestic unit would be ranked according to local definitions of wealth or poverty.  This process was repeated in October by a group of village elders, who defined the wealth groups, and then organized the domestic units for the whole village into their appropriate group.  The groups that were defined by the elders differed from person to person, but had marked similarities.  When we triangulated these groups with data from the other focus groups on the meaning and definitions of wealth in Gitting and Gocho, it became clear that there are, generally speaking, three main wealth groups.

Following further focus group discussions, it was decided by participants that the vast majority of people now fall into the middle group.  These are people who are able to farm their own land, send their children to school, live in a house with an iron sheet roof, and make enough money to sustain themselves and their family.

This result is startling.  In 1991, Vesa found that almost 60% of Gitting inhabitants were destitute, or worked for daily wage labour.  For those who were classed as destitute, that means they had no work, could not farm their land, lived in poor housing, and were either sick or alcoholic.

Vesa could see this from the visible changes in the village, but the data from the domestic unit resurveys and focus groups, combined with the wealth rankings, were confirming what we thought.

This does not mean, however, that Gitting is a particularly wealthy place.  People have managed to improve their status primarily through education, better access to markets, improved seeds, and microfinance loans.

Women have especially benefitted, and many of the women we spoke to reported taking out microfinance loans and starting their own business.  This, they said, was something they could not have done in 1991 – not merely because of the lack of access to financial assistance, but because they feel that attitudes towards women running businesses have relaxed.  They reported feeling more liberal attitudes towards women working outside of farming.

They key priliminary finding to come from our pilot study, prior to detailed data analysis, seems to be greater economic mobility within Gitting and Gocho.  Wealth gaps have decreased and there is greater equality.  Of course, there are still some very wealthy families, and some who are extremely poor, but this is much less stratified than in 1991.

Our next job is to find out what happens one generation down the line.

We are collecting data to make a sample of the secondary domestic units from Gitting and Gocho.  These secondary domestic units will be any domestic units formed by an adult child of the original domestic unit head from 1991.

Due to the large number of children, it would not be possible or practical in the time we have to interview everyone.  We propose to make a list of all of these children and then to sample from this list.  Then we will visit each of these people and conduct a survey and interview discussing asset ownership.  It is our belief that these data will provide us with more insight into this perceived mobility, and show us if indeed this is the case.  If it is, we want to know what is causing people to become wealthier, and if it is not the case then what is causing them to become poorer?

We think that the key to this is asset ownership.

Over the coming months, I will be posting about our progress with the analysis and the secondary domestic unit sampling, so follow us onFacebook to keep updated.

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