They say “Geography is mother of all sciences,” which gives me a tinge of pride as a practitioner of the all important subject. It’s one of the oldest disciplines, which maybe in the development paradigm of mother Tanzania, we need to start relying on it more for nationwide economic development. Days are gone, when this subject was viewed as purely academic, and more people know it has got a lot to do with every human being on a day to day life.
Human geography (which basically study the people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment), touches on our lives from the family setting, hamlet, ward, division, district, region- upto the national level. If you look at our history, from a geographical point of view, then plan for the future, there are things, we could do differently, that could propel better economic prospects.
All this has come to my mind in the wake of World Population Day (July 11). In human geography, one of the major divisions is population geography. Looking at our population, World Population Review estimates it to be 59.09 million (2018), and we are described as having “one of the highest birth rates in the world,” where over “44 per cent of the population is under the age of 15.”
Going back to 2016, the World Bank estimates had that the percentage of the rural population was at 67.68 per cent. This means that the majority of Tanzanians live in the rural setting, where farming, cattle keeping or fishing are the predominant activities, again depending on some geographical factors. Looking to the future it’s my opinion that it will take years before the born towns become the majority, in as a vast land as ours. So any time anyone talks of inclusive national economic development, look at the impact in rural areas, as they represent the majority.
Again from a demographic view, development for the under 15 who comprise about 44 per cent of the population, means good health and education, and other factors can follow. But for the politicians and adults in general, it could be about infrastructure, jobs, good business environment and so on.
To share resources equitably as a nation, it is paramount to have demographic data. For example, kids who are under five, where are they, in every part of the country? With the answer to that question, it is easier to take vaccines to accommodate all, without over provision, or under provisions in some areas.
For the big businesses, the population data determine how they will operate and expand over the years. Some international corporations have business plans of over 50 years, based on population trends. To them every person who is born today means business opportunity.
For the government, where to open a school, where to improve a road, etc, the same data is necessary. Thus, as a nation we should have geography-related practitioners in crafting of big projects, and this will make a huge difference. There is no doubt that geographers can contribute to policy in many ways. Tanzania needs to make more decisions based on geographic circumstances. For instance, decision-makers should consider issues related to geographical location, different processes that operate over space and time, and the changing character of a physical environments and landscapes. A book titled ‘Rediscovering Geography’ is very explicit: “geographic expertise can be of great importance in helping organisations and individuals operate more efficiently and make better-informed decisions.”
UN figures indicate that, about 214 million women in developing countries are not able to access modern contraceptive methods. This is a huge number, and so improved family planning strategies have to be adopted, and women should be educated on the same.
Saumu Jumanne is an assistant lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education