Food & Daily life

Rural lives

A woman farming poultryAcross rural areas of Tanzania, houses are often traditionally built of stone or earthen construction, with roofs of thatch or corrugated iron.

The shape varies by region. On the shores of Lake Victoria, traditional houses are beehive-shaped. In other regions, they’re rectangular.

They’re usually surrounded by a smallholding or shamba, where families plant crops and keep livestock such as chickens or goats.

Traditional roles

Girls and marriage

The majority of girls in Tanzania fail to complete secondary education – see Education & Jobs – with expectations that they will take on household duties or marry.

It is still common for women to take on the traditional role of looking after the house and home, while men go out to work. Women are also responsible for less physical tasks involved in the growing of crops on their smallholdings.

Although they take on much of the work, women are still considered to be lower down the social hierarchy than men.

But the place of women is changing slowly. Since 1996, a fifth of parliamentary seats must be taken by women and female cabinet ministers are becoming more common.

  • Washing clothes by hand
  • Fetching water from a borehole

Regional variations

Influences of the Far East

Influenced by the waves of immigrants from Asia and India, foods such as chapatis (fried flat bread), samosas (vegetable or meat-filled pastries), masala (spiced rice) and curries are popular, particularly in coastal towns and cities.

Tanzanians enjoy a wide range of foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Plantains or bananas are the most commonly-grown fruit/vegetable and are used in a number of dishes. One example is Ndizi Kaanga, made with butter, sugar and fried bananas.

Maize is the most common staple, with many meals based around ugali, a thick starchy mash made from cornmeal or cassava flour. This is served with a sauce or stew of vegetables, meat or fish. Rice is also a popular staple and often accompanied by fried foods or fish, especially along coastal areas.

  • Fruit and vegetables at the market
  • A woman providing food for her children