The British Empire Library

Bwana Shamba: Mr. Agriculture

by Peter M. Wilson

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Michael Longford (Tanganyika 1951-62)
Tiwana Shamba is the Swahili title used for Agricultural Officers or Field Officers in the Agriculture Department in Tanganyika (Tanzania).

This autobiography deals not only with the years which the author spent in that country but also with his early life and post-retirement years. He grew up in a bilingual family, British father and French mother. He was educated at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, and at Harper Adams Agriculture College in Shropshire, obtaining a Diploma in Agriculture. In 1958 he was appointed to Tanganyika and was posted to Kilosa district. He spent much time on safari, which he adored even though it involved separation from his family. He believed that in a teaching post he would be more likely to be home every night, so he applied for a post at Tengeru, the Training Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, near Arusha. His descriptions of life in Kilosa and Tengeru are lively and accurate.

Field Officers were not required to pass the Government Higher Standard Swahili examination, but he passed both the written and oral parts during his first tour. He left Tanzania in 1971, and his book Simplified Swahili was published in that year. The publishers, Longmans, have recently issued the fourteenth impression, and over 30,000 copies have been sold.

Peter was later appointed head of the crop husbandry section of the Botswana Agricultural College near Gaborone. Due to his limited knowledge of Setswana, the local language, life in Botswana was never quite like he had found it in Tanzania. He completed one three-year contract in Botswana before returning to Britain with his family.

His book describes the life of a remarkable and versatile man. His boundless energy led him to climb Kilimanjaro once, and Meru several times. He is a committed Christian, and his love for the country where he worked and the people he served are obvious. His skill as a teacher is apparent both in the language text-book he wrote and in his descriptions of the problems faced by peasant farmers in cultivating cotton.

Peter describes as one of the happiest if not the happiest time during his safari years in Tanganyika, an evening which he spent accompanying on his accordion, and teaching songs like "Daisy, Daisy" to over a hundred villagers who did not go home until midnight. Those who have experience of safari in Tanganyika will understand why it gave Peter such joy.

I sympathise with Peter's criticism of two aspects of official policy in Tanganyika. An expatriate wife was not normally allowed to accompany her husband on his first appointment. This put a strain on marriages, and Peter's first marriage ended unhappily. Officers with Diplomas in Agriculture but who were not graduates could do an outstanding job, but were not given the promotion, salary, and status which many deserved until a new grade of "Agricultural Officer (Tanganyika)" was introduced.

Bwana Shamba is well produced, with many attractive black-and-white photographs, mostly by the author, and maps of Tanzania, Kilosa district, and of regions which he visited.

The book contains a very gracious and appreciative foreword written by Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa, formerly Vice-President of the Republic of Tanzania and Prime Minister of Tanganyika. Kawawa was regarded by many expatriates as being more extreme in his policies than Nverere had been. He ends his foreword with the words:-

"For those born the 21st century ... it is my hope that Mr Wilson 's publications will once again serve to demonstrate to them the richness of our heritage and the dire need to glorify it and its preservation. Thank you and God bless you for a job well done".

Such an accolade is very well deserved.

British Empire Book
Peter M. Wilson
Pentland Press
1 85821 907 8


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