How Population Census Has Evolved Since 1967 exercise

Job Overview

Arusha. Under the scorching dry season sun, the first post-independence in Tanzania kicked off all over the country on August 28, 1967.

This followed lots of preparations such as training of the enumerators and their supervisors and distribution of working materials.

That was slightly to be the case for Hanang District in Manyara Region, largely inhabited by the nomadic pastoralists.

In those (then) remote areas, the counting was rolled out alongside on-site sensitisation of the people on what the exercise was all about.


NBS estimates Tanzania’s population to reach 61.3 million
Today – 55 years down the line – the situation would be much different when enumerators start visiting homes to collect data.

Majority of the villagers are now settled in registered villages even retaining their herds of cattle and aware of the head count.

The literacy rate is a stark reality from the past as is access to the communication tools such as the radios, TVs, social media and printed material.

This will enhance cooperation with the census clerks also because the exercise may take shorter time with the new technology.

However, some questions that were asked more than five decades ago, such as those pertaining to access to critical social services are likely to receive the same answers.

Save for better housing, the quality of life has not changed much in the area and this is largely blamed on the shortage or scarcity of water.

At this time of the year, Hanang and the adjacent districts are under siege from the burning sun with scarce water for domestic use and livestock.

For the government officials, the first Population Census (in 1967) after independence was an eye opener of some sort in that hinterland.

Getting the enumerators was a challenge. Priority in recruitment was given to those conversant with the local vernacular in respective localities.

The civil servants were on the priority list among those targeted for recruitment but were quite few in those days practically all over the land.

Students – both in secondary and primary schools – had to be recruited but in areas like Hanang it still remained a challenge.

In those days, the present Hanang District was known as Barbaig Division in the then Mbulu District in Arusha Region.

It was named after the dominant ethnic group and that was before the split of Arusha to create the present-day Manyara Region.

The conditions were not friendly. Although the census took place the very year the Arusha Declaration was announced, there were no registered villages yet.

The hamlets (bomas) in what were then perceived as villages, were some distance from each other; in many cases a kilometre or more apart.

The entire landscape had large pockets of bush hosting wild animals or were without reliable footpaths to other human settlements.

Recruiting students from the area was a better option to address some of the challenges but there were few schools in the area.

Out of the nine primary schools in Hanang then, only three had students beyond Standard Five level who were targeted as enumerators.

There was not a single secondary school in the entire Manyara Region, then part of Arusha. The only four or five secondary schools were in or around Arusha City.

But the counting of people has to commence no matter the case. The school kids, their teachers and other public officials were bundled in one class for pre-census training.

The teachers were to manage the enumeration areas while the students, who would record the household members, became the enumerators.

Each enumerator had to be accompanied by a local elder who would explain to the people what the census was all about.

Memories may have faded over time but the 1967 census was much different from the one taking place all over the country today.

The enumeration took several days but the maximum duration in the barren Hanang landscape, I was told, was two weeks (14 days).

For the enumerators, the main task was to fill the king-size ledgers with the breakdown of the family members. Not sure of the reference day.

Monday morning (August 28, 1967) was Day One of the exercise and all seemed to be well with a famous village elder as my guide.

The long awaited count started not very far from our school but would extend for more than 20 kilometres to the Singida Region border.

After hitting the ground at the first homestead, the exercise would come to a rude end on the very inception day!

The next bomas were either too far away or the heads of the families were not there for the enumerator to access their home.

It was the peak of the dry season and some family spokespersons (men) could be away with cattle in search of water and pastures.

From Day Two, my guide, a talkative elder at times full of humour, changed tact to ensure our mission was successful.

He started preaching about the census to whoever we met on the way and would lecture on the same to those found at the households.

It was a bit difficult for some families to grant us permission to record their numbers not necessarily because they were hostile.

The concept of census has not sunk into them. This was not something normal, even during the colonial times.

“You need not worry. This is a countrywide exercise. It has been announced over the radios all over the land,” my guide would tell people.

Incidentally, the exercise went well in the pastoralist villages contrary to what the census officials had initially feared.

It would have been a different case if it was a livestock census. They would not cooperate for fear the government intended to meddle with their mode of life.

Shortly before Christmas in 1967, it was announced that the country’s population had climbed up to 12.3 million from nine million at independence in 1961.

How many are we this time around? By the end of 2020, the country’s population is estimated to be around 60 million, growing at the rate of 2.98 percent


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