The Economic Organisation Among the Bamasaaba


This is a saying in LUMASAABA which is literary translated as “BECAUSE OF LAND and life the Bamasaaba exist”

But Philosophically, it means that land is a resource which the Bamasaaba depend on for sustaining their lives. They also believe that the Earth is their mother.
Because of such beliefs, the Bamasaaba have always relied on Agriculture, then on livestock and then vegetables and fruits.

Each home or family constitutes an economic unit. This unit is strengthened by the principle of division of labour. Each member of the family unit knows clearly his role and hence his contribution to the family existence. In an average home one would find a cow, some chicken, goats and sheep. Each member of such a family will be assigned a role to play. For example the children will be assigned the role of grazing the animals, the mothers would prepare meals and the men would hunt for wild birds and animals for meat.
The men also would be responsible for putting up houses, cutting poles, carrying them to the site of the house, putting up the framework. They would also cut the grass for thatching the houses.

In mountain areas, banana fibres are used instead of grass (Lubembe). Men and women will participate in plastering the homes using mud and cow dung.
Men also construct fences around their homesteads and gardens to keep off the would be wild animals and petty thieves. They also construct cattle pens. The men watch over the gardens and the Kraals at night.
Most of the housework is done by women and children, women have to cook, wash utensils, fetch water from wells, clean and sweep the house and to fetch firewood from forests. Most women who live in the mountains carry their goods on their backs, while those from the plains carry goods on their heads.
Carrying goods on their backs enables them to climb hills slowly but with some comfort. This practice also makes women to try and carry more goods at ago. The women who live in plains are used to carrying goods on their heads. The goods they carry at once are much less in weight than those carried on the women’s backs

Men are not supposed to indulge in most of the womens’ activities unless it is absolutely desirable and inescapable. Women are supposed to grind millet for both meals and beer –brewing.
During the cultivation of crops, men do the bush clearing while the women would follow behind preparing the soil for planting and sewing seeds in most cases the planting of crop is shared by both sexes but the planting of Matooke is solely the duty of men.

Some crops are planted by women alone and these include sweet potatoes, green vegetables, and mushroom growing or production. Whenever, the vegetables and crops are ready for weeding, both sexes participate and in doing so, they cooperated and provided more labour in order that the weeding would be finished in a short space of time to avoid the weeds snothing the crops.

Water- furrows, pruning of banana plants and making roads or bridges were the duties of the men only.
The harvesting of crops was usually a shared activity, but the men did the carrying of the harvested crops home. Men also looked after all the domestic animals. They also slaughtered and distributed the meat. Thereafter they prepared the skins for wearing. Pottery was mostly done by women and basketry by men. Wood carrying, wood curving, smith’s work, bee keeping and animal hunting were the duties of men.

The brewing of beer from millet (Busela) and from bananas (Indali) were usually shared duties of men and women and children.
These were some of the responsibilities which were carried out by the Bamasaaba in their homes.


The Bamasaaba live on a soil which is volcanic, very fertile and all sorts of crops can be grown on it. The fertility of this soil has encouraged the Bamasaaba to become agriculturalists. This land is the foundation rock of the Bamasaaba’s riches. All children grow up knowing that land is the source of their riches of Bamasaaba. A man who owns land is considered to be self-supporting because proper use of his land can produce whatever he needs. For example on his land, he can keep cattle, sheep, goats, and children. On the same land he can plant trees, harvest honey grow food crops and cash crops.

The importance of hard work on the land is always emphasised in every home. Some children follow their parents to the field where they can play while their parents toil. As time goes on, some children develop the desire to participate in gardening. In the old days digging sticks would be given to young children to practice with on some ground near their homestead.
The older children can practice to plant seeds in these tinny gardens near the homestead. At the time of weeding these tinny gardens, the elders take part so that they show the children what to do when weeding crops. The children will learn to separate the weeds from plants and also how to properly hold the hoe or the stick. This type of engaging children in gardening pleases them as they gain pride in showing their playmates their gardens and the crops in them.

On the whole, this sort of informal training in agriculture enables the children to realise that land is the mother of every human being living on this planet. The curiosity and sensibility of land ownership is made unavoidable in the minds of the growing up children.


The traditional agricultural implements or tools were very simple. The tools used were digging sticks which were specially designed for digging and digging stones called “gamahizu” in Lumasaaba. The new Agricultural tools were brought by the early traders, namely the Arabs, coastal Swahilis and the Wanyamwezi. These tools were a hoe made up of an iron-blade and a wooden handle. Then came what was known as a Man’s hoe (Kidima) which had a long handle and the iron-blade. The Bamasaaba also had an ADZE and different kinds of knives. Knives are of different sizes and uses.


There are two main reasons in a year namely the wet and the dry season. The main crops are usually sewed or planted during the long rains or just before they start falling.
Harvesting of crops takes place towards the end of the rains, beginning from June in the plains, and early September in the higher parts. Formerly, the Bamasaaba named these two periods as “Gumusiinde” between January and August and “Gumuluumbi” between September and December. In the higher parts, people had to have a second crop of millet and the second crop was sewn in the month of October and harvested in January up to February. The second crop is generally optional because the yields are unpredictable and therefore only a few people try to engage in the second crop.
The twelve month of the year have been give the Kimasaaba names to match the agricultural activity mostly performed during that month.

Name in English/ Name in Lumasaaba Justification and Activity:

  1. January Namumu This name comes from “GUMUMU” (SUNSHINE) January is the hottest month in the year.
  2. February Nakhumiza This name comes from “KHUMIZA” (SEWING OR PLANTING) crops. In February, people start to sew crops like millet.
  3. March Nalyaka It comes from “KHUKHWAKA” (TO WEED) in this month, the weeding of crops begins.
  4. April Namwidikho It comes from “GUMWIDIKHO” (A MIXTURE OF RAIN AND MIST). In this month, there are heavy rains. Clouds are heavy in the sky and mist is very regular.
  5. May Namunane It comes from “GUMUNANE” (FAMINE MIXED WITH HEAVY RAIN). The weather becomes foggy. There is serious scarcity of food.
  6. June Namiheso It comes from the word “LUHEESO” (LITTLE SUNSHINE) usually after the rains of April and May, June provide little sunshine hence, the name Namiheso.
  7. July Nekesa It comes from “KHUKESA” (TO HARVEST CROPS) in July, harvesting of crops is in full gear.
  8. August Nasambu In August, most crops have been harvested and peasants are busy clearing their fields again in preparation for the second sewing and planting “LUSAMBU” (THE FIELDS WHERE CROPS HAVE BEEN HARVESTED).
  9. September Nabalayo This is the month when cow peas “ZIBALAYO” are sewed.
  10. October. Namulisa In this month, the beans and peas planted in September begins flowering (KHUMULISA) so are some of the trees in the forest
    KHUMULISA means the flowering of plants.
  11. November. Nefuna This is the month in which peas and beans plated in October are harvested. The reaping of peas and beans is called KHUFUNA.
  12. December. Neyelula December is a month of happiness because the year is coming to an end. In this month, every Mumasaaba has plenty of food and some money from coffee and cotton sales. The term “KHUKHWIYELULA” means to come out of a hiding place and be happy again. Therefore, December is called NEYELULA because people are happy once more.

By Samuel Wanendeya Watulatsu (PhD).
Deputy Prime Minister for Global Strategic Partnerships & Internal Standards Auditor.