February 3, 2007

Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU): the most efficient and progressive cooperative organization in Africa.

A First World War fighter pilot Mr A. L. B. (Ben) Bennett DFC, who was general manager for years and later adviser to the KNCU, carried the task on splendidly. Such was the devotion of the Chagga to these two men and their gratitude for their services that they bestowed unique Chagga titles on them both.

Dundas was given the title Wasaoye-o-Wachagga (Elder of the Chagga) and Bennett that of Mbuya-o-Wachagga (Friend of the Chagga). Indeed, so greatly loved and admired was Sir Charles Dundas that when he left Moshi for the last time by train to Tanga and ship to Dar es Salaam, the Chagga reputedly hired a band to accompany him on board ship and serenade him on his journey. As the boat sailed into Dar es Salaam harbour a day or two later, the band apparently struck up God Save the King. History relates that the Governor was not amused.

Bennett was at the peak of his career when I arrived and always gave me his help and support. His pride and joy was the recently opened building in Moshi that housed the KNCU headquarters. Not only did it accommodate all the cooperative headquarters' staff in splendidly equipped modern offices, but it also housed a fully residential KNCU commercial college. There was also an excellent multiracial hotel, the KNCU Hostel. It had beautifully furnished bed-sitting rooms with bathrooms attached and a top-floor scenic restaurant with wonderful views of the mountain.

Moshi was the obvious area on which to concentrate. It was densely populated with a million people living in banana groves (migombani) and coffee small-holdings (vihamba) on the fertile slopes of the mountain. This was where they cultivated the excellent Arabica coffee the Catholic missionaries introduced at the end of the last century. Thanks to the government, local authorities and Catholic and Lutheran missions, Moshi had universal primary education and the highest literacy rate in the territory. The Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) was probably the most efficient and progressive cooperative organization in Africa. A district commissioner called Sir Charles Dundas, a Scots baronet, started it in the 1920s to enable Chagga coffee growers to compete on equal terms on world markets with the European growers.

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