Spectacle of fabulous rural homes no one wants to live in

Why do people build in rural areas when they don’t plan to live there? You must know of one or two people who have built mansions “closer to their ancestors”, but who, on average, spend no more than two weeks in these houses.

The explanations given vary, but the underlying theme remains the same: I don’t want to live there, but I had to build a house there.

In Tanzania, like in many rural parts of Kenya, such homeowners are paying people to live in the houses and take care of them!

While in the US and Europe, people move from one town or city to another, leaving many buildings uninhabited as they look for jobs, in Tanzania, the advents of colonialism and independence have created a class of jobbers who, on one hand, have sought to maintain their traditional roots in the villages as they develop new homes in urban areas on the other.

Places such as Marangu, Machame, Kibosho, Rombo, Usangi, Ugweno and Mwanga divisions in Kilimanjaro Region (North East Tanzania), Ibwera and Kamachumu in Kagera Region (North Western), and Tukuyu in Mbeya Region (South West), are among the areas where many houses have been built by such individuals, but at the moment they are vacant as they do not have dwellers.

In terms of count, there are thousands of such houses, which fall vacant or are inviting for paid tenancy, built from the period of Uhuru to the present, according to a Xinhua survey.

There are several ways in which these houses came about. One of them was when the individuals got rich, they thought they should build places where they would stay after retirement.

Though the idea was good, in some cases they built the houses without knowing that they would not want to live there later.

Gadiel Mzava of Usangi, Kilimanjaro Region, is one of the victims. He secured a good job and was earning a handsome salary in the East African Common Service Organisation in the 1960s.

Then he built a big mansion at his home village, but today the house is a home for bats and rats as there are no people staying in it.

What’s stunning is that even the beautiful washing sinks bought are used as a manger for cattle feed. All his children living in towns, like him, have also built several houses.

Dan Shirima has been working in Sweden after finishing his studies in Stockholm in the 1970s.

In one of his holidays he built a “cathedral” at his home village in Marangu, Kilimanjaro Region, where his father and brothers had built several other houses.

In Sweden, he owns houses and has no intention of returning to Kilimanjaro. In his home village, the number of houses has increased as owners are looking for people to live in.

In some cases, houses were built out of parents’ coercion and order.

Some parents forced their children to have homes down in their villages to prepare a place for the day they would be seen off to the grave.

Ruge Rumisha of Ibwera, Muleba District in Kagera Region, is a victim of this coercion.

“My parents told me that I would not be in their good books if I didn’t construct a house in my home village. Though my priorities were to build one in the town where I work, it could not work that way. I had to build a house in my home village which is idle because neither me nor my parents are staying in it,” Rumisha said.

He told Xinhua that his parents had told him that they would like him to build “home” while they were still alive.

His parents also asked his bothers to create a “village” of their own around his father’s residence.

Now his parents are no longer alive, and Rumisha’s bothers live and work in town, almost all the homes have turned into homes for bats, wildcats, dogs and mice.

Maintaining of these houses is not only expensive, but also inconvenient as no one wants to live in them.

Rumisha says he is obliged to pay someone to live in the houses because no one wants to stay for free.

“While in the cities there are fewer houses to live in and sometimes tenants go in search of rooms for years, in some of the villages in Tanzania, the reverse is the case. There are houses which go vacant throughout the year and are looking for paid tenants,” he said.

Sometimes the paid tenants say payment alone is not enough, they would need even food supplies regularly and clothes at least once in a year.

For people living in Kilimanjaro and Kagera regions in the north part of the country, this appears to be normal and has become a general practice in life.

But for dwellers in big urban areas like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza and Tanga, getting even a single room for residence is a problem.

As people originating from rural areas were heading home village for Christmas and New Year holidays, some of them virtually went home to clean the houses which may have for the whole year remained vacant, under “housewarming” by animals, or being used by some individuals who are paid to live in.

This is definitely what economists call a dead economy, because it does not generate any wealth and neither can it be made to generate anything at the moment.

 Source: nation.co.ke


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