Country: Tanzania

Country: Tanzania

Kilimanjaro, as seen from Moshi, Tanzania. (Photo by Shawn Dowd)

Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Kenya and Mozambique. Area: 945,000 square kilometers (slightly larger than twice the size of California). Terrain: Plains along the coast; central plateau; highlands in the north and south. Highest point: Kilimanjaro (5895 meters).

Population: 40,213,160. Life expectancy: 51.45 years. (Lowering due to HIV/AIDS epidemic. Note: There are an estimated 1 million AIDS orphans in Tanzania; only South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria and Zimbabwe have more in Africa.)

Ethnic: Native African 99 percent (of which 95 percent are Bantu consisting of more than 130 tribes). Asian, European, and Arab 1 percent. There are more than 160 indigenous ethnic groups.

Religion: Christian 30 percent, Muslim 35 percent, indigenous beliefs 35 percent.

Languages: Kiswahili or Swahili (official) and English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education).

Economy: Tanzania is in the bottom ten percent of the world’s economies in terms of per capita income. The economy depends heavily on agriculture, which accounts for more than 40 percent of GDP, provides 85 percent of exports, and employs 80 percent of the work force. Topography and climatic conditions, however, limit cultivated crops to only 4 percent of the land area. Average annual income: $280 (2004 World Bank estimate). Tanzania ranked 162 out of 175 countries in the 2004 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index. Thirty percent of Tanzanian children under age 5 suffer malnutrition.

People: Chagga

Market in Moshi, Tanzania. (Photo by Shawn Dowd)

People: Chagga, Mochi (also known as Machame, Moshi, Moci, and Moshi Chagga). Location: They live on the southern and eastern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, as well as in the Moshi area. The Chagga migrated from the North Pare Mountains in northeastern Tanzania, perhaps 250-400 years ago.

Population: 712,000 in Tanzania and 14,000 elsewhere in the world. Second-largest tribe among the Bantu peoples and third-largest ethnic group overall.

Ethnic tree: Sub-Saharan African. People cluster: Bantu, Central-East.

Language: Mochi.

Religion: Christianity 90 percent. This tribe was among the first in Tanzania to convert to Christianity.

Baba, written on a school blackboard in Marangu, is one of the names for the Great Ancestor. (Photo by Shawn Dowd)

Folklore: Chagga legends center on Ruwa and his power and assistance (see “The Mystery” at right). Ruwa is the Chagga name for their god, as well as the Chagga word for “sun.” Ruwa is not looked upon as the creator of humankind, but rather as a liberator and provider of sustenance. He is known for his mercy and tolerance when sought by his people. Some Chagga myths concerning Ruwa resemble biblical stories of the Old Testament, including one concerning the fall of man (though in the Chagga version, a sweet potato was the forbidden fruit, and it was a stranger rather than a serpent that persuaded the first man to take a bite); there are also stories that bear a resemblance to the tales of Cain and Abel, and the great flood.

Economy: Literacy and English language skills higher than most people groups have helped make the Chagga a relatively wealthy people. The Chagga are agriculturally based, profiting from a strong market for their coffee beans. That said, working on Kilimanjaro as a porter or guide remains among the most lucrative ways to earn an income in Tanzania.

Overview: Traditionally, the Chagga belonged to different clans (groups of people of common descent) ruled by “mangis” (chiefs). The area was divided into independent chiefdoms. The chiefs sometimes warred with each other. Other times, they formed alliances to try to increase their power. After Tanzania won its independence in 1961, the system of chiefdoms was abolished throughout the country.

In general terms, the concept of “neighborhood” is highly important in African culture. “It is not to be understood as merely a geographical term, referring simply to people living in close proximity to one another. ‘Neighborhood’ in African understanding is ‘neighborliness,’ a relationship of friendship and mutual assistance,” Ernst Jaschke’s review of the work in Tanzania by Lutheran missionary Bruno Gutmann (1876-1966), “Building on Clan, Neighborhood, and Age Groups.” To have a neighbor is to have a helper on whom one can rely in all circumstances and with whom one enjoys fellowship.

This concept is one reason for the success of Islam among the Chagga. Christianity was introduced to the Chagga people in the middle of the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, both Protestants and Catholics had established missions in the region. With the adoption of Western religions, traditional Chagga beliefs and practices were reduced or adapted to the new Christian beliefs. Early Swahili caravan traders introduced Islam to the Chagga people. Islam brought a sense of fellowship not only with the Chagga of different regions, but also with Muslims of other ethnic groups.

The life of the Chagga was based on knowing your place within the social structure of the tribe. Younger people are required to show respect to the older generations. It is believed that the more senior a person is, the closer his or her contact with ancestors.

Time and civilization have undermined Chagga culture. “Money becomes a substitute for brother and neighbor, dehumanizing and dissolving all mutual obligations,” German theologian Peter Beyerhaus wrote in his doctoral thesis “Die Selbständigkeit der jungen Kirchen als missionarisches Problem” (“The Responsible Church and the Foreign Mission”). This is true throughout the world, of course.

The solution for restoring the health of a people is a restoration of their relationship with God. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The missionary needs to, likewise, follow the model that Paul set for the church at Corinth: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23, NIV).

We must acknowledge that the old relationships of clan, neighborhood, and age groups were divine gifts, and by encouraging a return to that way of life we can develop relationships that are more brotherly (indeed the goal is to become brothers and sisters in Christ).

Kilimanjaro porter burdened with too much gear. (Photo by Shawn Dowd)

Climbing: The Chagga people have lived for generations on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, but never had a desire to climb Africa’s tallest mountain. They believed it was full of evil spirits, and told stories about people who climbed toward the silver top and never came back, or returned with their hands and feet deformed (probably by frostbite). Even today, Chagga who work on the mountain are ill-equipped for the cold. They often climb with light jackets, no gloves, and shoddy footwear. This is a physical need that many groups, including Climbing For Christ, have been and will continue to address.

Gary FallesenGary Fallesen

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