The poor relation: a political economy of the marketing chain for dagaa in Tanzania

The poor relation: a political economy of the marketing chain for dagaa in Tanzania

Dagaa is the collective name in Tanzania for various types of sardine-like fish eaten in a dried form by poor and middle-income groups throughout eastern and southern Africa. This paper is a fieldwork-based case-study of the ‘commodity chain’ for dagaa. That is, it is a study of how dagaa is produced, marketed, distributed and consumed, of which groups are involved in each of these stages, how they are organised and how they inter-relate with each other. The aim is to identify basic principles of market structure and organisation and the basic pattern of distribution of earnings and profits. The study mainly concentrates on ‘dagaa Mwanza’, the Lake Victoria fish which now makes up the bulk of dagaa consumed in Tanzania. It shows that over the last decade the trade has increasingly fallen under the control of a group of about one hundred wholesaler-cum-brokers based at Kirumba market in Mwanza town. This group has centralised control over the national and regional trade through establishing a high degree of regulation on Victoria itself, in a context of falling catches and high demand. Unlike other fisheries, where regulation is often organised through sharecropping-type relationships, Kirumba traders basically regulate the trade through various forms of cartelisation. The study examines how they work and what conditions they rest on.

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