Taste Th e Mountain

The KNCU Brief History

1898 - 1918

Coffee was first planted in Kilema by Catholic Missionaries in 1898, and later on by Germany Settlers. Kilimanjaro natives were not allowed to plant coffee instead they worked to Settlers’ plantations. It was until the end of First World War in 1918 when Germany lost the war so as her colonies including the then Tanganyika.

On the picture right is 110 year old coffee tree planted by first Missionaries in 1898 at Kilema Parish as it is seen today. The first seedlings originated from this tree. The first coffee tree in Kilimanjaro

The Founder of Kilimanjaro Native Associations It was at this time the first British District Commissioner of Moshi Sir Charles Cecil Farquharson Dundas (1884 – 1956) allowed natives to grow coffee as cash crop. He popularized the area’s coffee production, and he was given the title Wasaoye-o-Wachagga (Elder of the Chagga).

Being allowed to cultivate coffee the natives got seeds from churches where coffee was grown. They planted the crop but they had no knowledge of the crop. The World War had created a high demand of coffee in Europe hence most of buyers were white settlers who export it. The Natives used buckets, bags and other means to carry coffee to settlers.

The social and economic unrest brought by White Settlers and Asian businessmen during trading forced small scale peasant to establish cooperatives for social and economic emancipation. In 1925 natives formed Kilimanjaro Native Planters Association (K.N.P.A) with Joseph Melingo, the first leader of the association as opponent to White Settlers.

In 1927 A. L. B. (Ben) Bennett DFC, a fighter pilot in World War I from Britain arrived in Kilimanjaro as Labor Officer. In collaboration with Sir Charles Dundas assisted natives to form their Union as per cooperative ordinance that stressed the need of having Primary Cooperative Societies. 1932 first eleven societies were registered, which were Kibong’oto, Uru Central, Kilema, Kibosho Central, Kibosho East, Kibosho West, Machame Central, Mamba, Tarakea, Nkuu Rombo, and Useri. Formation of these Primary Societies paved a way to the establishment of Kilimanjaro Union as per cooperative act.

Therefore, most of these societies were formed within established centers of chiefdoms. And some of them were provided with land by “Mangi” (Traditional Leader). With time, the crop spread all over the area and these societies served most of the villages on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and coffee became a tradition crop to Chagga people.


The Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union (KNCU) Ltd was the first Union to be registered in 29th December 1933 under the Co-operatives Societies Ordinance of 1932, together with its 11 affiliated member societies namely Kibong’oto, Uru Mawela, Kilema, Kibosho Central, Machame Centre, Marangu, Mamsera, Mengwe, Mkuu Rombo, Keni, and Useri.

A.L. B. (Ben) Bennett (on the picture) was the first General Manager and later adviser to the KNCU. 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).

Abolishment of cooperatives
in Tanzania - 1976

The government disbanded cooperatives on 14th May 1976 on political grounds. The assets of the union were transferred to a newly established Kilimanjaro Uremi Corporation Ltd as care taker.

Introduction of new cooperative
act - 1984

In 1982 the Government re-introduce new Co-operative Act. In 9th March 1984 KNCU was registered as Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (1984) Ltd with 90 affiliate societies and members totalling over 60,000. After the registration there was a reform on economy and politics, which brought trade liberalization where by farmers where allowed to trade. Currently KNCU (1984) LTD has 61,650 affiliated Members that are dedicated and trade with the Union.