Religious phenomenology, sociodemography and ecology in the rural Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Electronic versions


  • Freddy Manongi

    Research areas

  • PhD, School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography


At the dawn of the twenty-first century, in what some have termed the ‘postmodern age’, and amidst scientific and technological advancements and interconnected globalized economies, religion appears to play an even more significant and public role in rural societies in Africa than in the past. Due to this, some interesting questions have risen, such as the following: To what extent do religious beliefs shape the economy and socio-demography of rural people and, conversely, to what extent do economic, socio-demographic interests influence the religious beliefs and practices? Do religions in rural Africa contribute to environmental conservation and, if so, how? What are the religious perceptions and beliefs of local people with respect to the natural environment? Consequently the purpose was to examine the association between core religiosity variables and perceptions about the natural environment and the use of natural resources in rural Kilimanjaro, with socio-demographic variables being controlled. There were 360 households who took part in the survey. It was hypothesized that a) there is a positive correlation between religious phenomenology and sociodemographic outcomes and b) there is positive association between religiosity and perceptions about nature and the use of natural resources. Households were required to complete a standard questionnaire. Core variables for the analysis of religiosity and socio-demography, and religiosity and the natural environment, were selected through the use of factor analysis and nominal group techniques. The majority of the respondents belonged to the Roman Catholic denomination (N=282; 78.33%). Therefore, the results and analysis of religion, socio-demography and the natural environment were based on households who reported that they adhered to the Roman Catholic faith. The results show that, fundamentally, as far as households are concerned, the associations between religiosity (belief in God, reading religious texts and church attendance) and the natural environment phenomenology, controlling for socio-demographic factors, are generally weak and variable. It appears that the ordinary adherent to the Catholic faith in rural Kilimanjaro continues with his/her routine life, without serious environmental concerns, unless there is some good socio-economic reason for him/her to interact with the environment. Perhaps what relates to environmental concerns, or a lack thereof, of rural households is not religiosity as such but their intimacy with the natural environment in the pursuit of their daily livelihoods. It seems also that most rural households, particularly women and primary school leavers, attend organized religious institution services weekly and read religious texts almost daily, making this setting in rural Kilimanjaro a prime and ideal venue for reaching and recruiting potential participants for socio-economic and environmental programmes. Further research and the implications are discussed. Both theoretical and policy implications are also discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Robert Brook (Supervisor)
Thesis sponsors
  • WWF International
  • Frankfurt Zoological Society
Award dateJan 2012