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The Tutsi and the Nyamwezi: Cattle, Mobility, and the Transformation of Agro-Pastoralism in Nineteenth-Century Western Tanzania

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2019


The key role of the Nyamwezi in the nineteenth-century caravan trade of East and Central Africa is well known. The convergence of rapid change in Unyamwezi, a region connecting areas of economic specialization, is more obscure. The development of agro-pastoralism in Unyamwezi was an adaptation and an opportunity forged by (unequal) partnerships between the Nyamwezi commercial elite and Tutsi immigrants. Patron-client relationships reflected prevailing economic and political forces, reversing the pattern of pastoral dominance in the Great Lakes region. Two different agro-ecological, sociological and political regions – the East African woodland savannah and the Great Lakes zone – were interlinked in a trans-regional cattle, salt, and labor economy intertwined with global capitalism. Human mobility stimulated change but so too did movements of livestock, diseases, agricultural regimes, and ecological boundaries.


Le rôle clé des Nyamwezi dans le commerce caravanier de l’Afrique Centrale et de l’Afrique de l’Est au XIXe siècle est bien connu. La convergence des mutations rapides dans l’Unyamwezi, une région au carrefour de zones de spécialisation économique, a été moins bien étudiée. Le développement de l’agropastoralisme dans l’Unyamwezi est le résultat d’une adaptation et une opportunité forgées par des partenariats (inégaux) entre l’élite commerciale nyamwezi et des immigrants tutsi. Les relations de clientélisme reflétaient les forces économiques et politiques dominantes et renversaient le modèle de domination pastorale dans la région des Grands Lacs. Deux régions agro-écologiques, sociologiques et politiques différentes, la savane forestière est-africaine et la zone des Grands Lacs, étaient interconnectées dans une économie transrégionale de l’élevage, du sel et du travail liée au capitalisme mondial. La mobilité humaine a stimulé le changement, de même que les mouvements de bétail, les maladies, les régimes agricoles et les frontières écologiques.

Bridging Histories of East and Central Africa
Copyright © African Studies Association 2019 

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