Performance philanthropy: a case study of dairy development in Rungwe, Tanzania

  • Ben Eyre

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores relationships between philanthropists and cattle-keepers in Rungwe District in South-West Tanzania who are their putative beneficiaries. The former include individual philanthropists who provide small donations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who are the world's largest institutional philanthropist. It compares and contrasts these relationships which are mediated by the non-governmental organisation Heifer International, as well as other actors, who obtain funding to transform the lives of farmers through the productive capacity of dairy cows, and productive relationships made possible through a 'value chain approach' to milk markets. After introducing the history of philanthropic relations in Tanzania and Rungwe, this thesis describes the work of the Gates Foundation, the pre-eminent philanthropic institution in the world today and situates different philanthropic actors in international development. It then describes the history of dairy development in Tanzania, and farming practices in one village in Rungwe from which participant observation was conducted for 18 months. Grounded in that field site, this thesis represents farmers, Heifer's Tanzanian and international staff, employees of the Gates Foundation, and individual philanthropists and volunteers as interlocutors within a symmetrical approach to philanthropy. This is supplemented by interviews, surveys, and online ethnography. Philanthropy is not considered something that one group does to another, but a relationship in which recipients of funding and putative beneficiaries (attempt to) create representations that make those with the resources they want feel the 'power to do good'€™ and on that basis influence the direction of resources that they value. This is first exemplified by individual philanthropy focussed on the provision of dairy cows, which has been successful in Rungwe over many years. It relies on effects on donors as much as beneficiaries. Institutional philanthropy focussed on market-based approaches to development through the 'dairy value chain' is a second paradigm that this thesis explores in more detail. While it seems less overtly emotive and affectionate towards beneficiaries than individual philanthropy, institutional philanthropy (often associated with 'philanthrocapitalism') is no less reliant on effects on how donors feel. Performance philanthropy here connotes the way in which institutional philanthropists are affected by representations of their attempts to benefit others through the application of concepts drawn from (tech) business management and financial markets. Philanthrocapitalism is as much a moral economy as 'traditional' ideas of proper economic relations and relies on non-market-based transactions. Engaging with the role of impact metrics in mediating these relationships show how this happens. However, this thesis proposes an anthropological critique that is not merely 'negative' about philanthropy but engages with its limits from my interlocutors points of view and therefore shows how anthropological theory could contribute to debates about the role of philanthropy in international development.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaia Green (Supervisor) & Karen Sykes (Supervisor)


  • philanthrocapitalism
  • dairy
  • Gates Foundation
  • Heifer
  • cattle
  • development
  • philanthropy
  • Tanzania
  • agriculture

Cite this