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Papers of Ralph Ibbott relating to Ruvuma Development Association

 Fonds — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Coll-1827

Content Description

These papers consist of correspondence, publications, articles, pamphlets, reports and newsletters relating to the Ruvuma Development Association (RDA) of Tanzania in the 1960s. There are a small number of letters to and from Julius Nyerere himself, as well as correspondence with other key actors in the history of the RDA. Also included is some research material related to Ralph Ibboott's subsequent publications on the subject.
  1. Correspondence with the Swiss organisation FEPA, one of the charities that supported the Ruvuma Development Association (RDA) by paying for the materials for the developing school at Litowa. (1963-1969, 2 folders)
  2. Correspondence with 'War on Want', one of the charities that supported the RDA by providing transport between village and supplying funding for Ralph Ibbott and his family. (1963-1969, 2 folders)
  3. Publications related to the RDA, including the monthly journal Mbioni; Christian Action; The Arusha Declaration; publications from the Centre for African Studies Edinburgh University; booklet entitled 'Socialism and Rural Development' by Julius K. Nyerere, etc. Some of these publications are now rare and hard to find, including those from Kivukoni College. (1966-1998, 1 folder)
  4. Papers of 'special interest', including Ralph Ibbott's book Ujamaa, The hidden story of Tanzania's socialist villages; correspondence, newspaper clippings, and reports. (1966-2014)
  5. Academic articles relating to the RDA, including but not only some written by Ralph Ibbott himself. (1969-2015)


  • 1963-2015


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is currently only partially listed and some parts are restricted or closed under Data Protection regulations. To allow staff time for the necessary screening of material, please contact the repository in advance of your visit.
Sections no. 1, no.2, and no. 4 are closed under Data Protection regulations. Sections no. 3 and 5 are open, except for one letter extracted from folder 1/2 of section no.5, which requires the reader to sign a Data Protection form.

Biographical / Historical

The Ruvuma Development Association (RDA) was an organisation set up in the early 1960s in Tanzania to support the creation and development of self-organising communities later known as ‘Ujamaa’ (collective self-help) villages. Despite being short-lived, this project was an iconic example of creative villagisation, and became admired both nationally and internationally. Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania, was one of its most prominent supporters.
The RDA was set up by the villagers, with the aim of spreading Nyerere's vision of self-organising villages across Tanzania. The leading force behind its creation was Ntimbanjayo Millinga, secretary of the local branch of the Tanzanian African National Union Youth League, who was supported by Ralph Ibbott, an English quantity surveyor who acted as an advisor. Ibbott and his wife Noreen had agreed to who live and work with their children in Litowa, the first of these communal villages.
The principal objectives of the project were self-sufficiency and self-governance. Members focussed on improving agriculture and village industries, such as milling, knitting and weaving, which were taught by Noreen Ibbott in Litowa. Volunteers from overseas supported by charitable aid programmes helped villagers to acquire building skills such as bricklaying, carpentry and joinery. The school of Litowa had its own curriculum. Members selected their representatives amongst themselves and were not controlled nor organised from above, in accordance with Nyerere’s vision. By the late 1960s the Association comprised 17 villages, including several with over 80 families.
However, the RDA was strongly opposed by the country’s elite (members of the party's central committee, regional commissioners, civil servants etc.) who saw the system as a direct threat to their power and privileges. In 1969, the Tanzanian parliament voted to disband the association and seize its assets, despite Nyerere’s opposition. The government then instituted the ‘villagisation’ project whereby all rural families across Tanzania were forcibly collected into villages, however these were far less successful than the original ‘Ujamaa’ villages.


3 boxes

Physical Location

CLX-A-328 (no. 1 and 2); CLX-A-329 (no. 3 and 4); and CLA-X-330 (no. 5).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Ralph Ibbott in August 2017. Accession no SC-Acc-2017-0148.


Ralph Ibbott, Ujamaa. The hidden story of Tanzania's socialist villages (London: Crossroads Books, 2014).

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Aline Brodin in May 2019. Original order and descriptions provided by Ralph Ibbott.
Papers of Ralph Ibbott relating to Ruvuma Development Association, 1961-2015
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Repository Details

Part of the Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379