Thursday, December 29, 2022


  e-SBO       Thursday, December 29, 2022


Definitions of Settlement

- Settlement is a place where people live.

- Settlement is any form of human dwelling, from the smallest house to the largest city.

- Settlement is a place or location where people live and establish their livelihood.

- Settlement as a place or housing unit where a group of people live together.

- Settlement is the place where people live together and engage in various social, economic, and political activities. Example: industrial activities, Agricultural activities, educational activities.


Housing units not only refer to buildings where people live permanently but also include structures such as schools, hospitals, factories, churches, warehouses, and other buildings.

A settlement may be as small as a single house in remote area or as a large as a mega city. A settlement may be permanently or temporary. An example of a temporary settlement would be a refugee camp. However, a temporary settlement may become permanent over time. This happens to many refugees’ camps that have been built in conflict zones. Actual piece of land upon which a settlement is built is known as the settlement site.

Settlement, Mwanza


There are two types of settlements which are urban and rural settlements. The characteristics which define a settlement include the size, population density and activities being undertaken in these two types of settlements.


The definition of a rural settlement depends on the country. In some countries, a rural settlement is any settlement in the areas defined as rural by the government. This may include even rural towns. In some others, rural settlements traditionally do not include towns.

In developing countries, like Tanzania, the basic unit of a rural settlement is the homestead. The inhabitants in this kind of settlement occupy isolated homesteads that form their homes. Often, homesteads are owned by people of common ancestry or kinship. These people are mainly farmers or peasants. This gives a clear indication that agriculture is the mainstay of rural dwellers.

In Tanzania, about 80% of the population live in rural areas. To supplement their farming activities, some rural communities engage in other traditional activities such as weaving, carving, fishing and harvesting of timber from the forest.

Rural Settlement

Characteristics of Rural Settlements

There are several characteristics which distinguish a rural settlement from an urban settlement. Characteristics of a rural settlement include the following:

1. Exhibits distantly-placed houses, some several kilometres apart.

2. Agriculture is the major activity undertaken in rural areas.

3. It is characterized by simple houses; many thatched with grass and few with iron sheets, and smeared with mud.

4. Many temporary and very few permanent buildings, some of which are inherited from family members.


An urban settlement is a densely populated area comprising mostly of man-made structures that contain all of a society's administrative, cultural, residential and religious functions. Urban settlements are characterized by continuous buildings with people of mixed ancestry and kinship. The main economic activities of urban dwellers include trade, commerce, and social and industrial activities.

In general, urban areas are densely populated compared to rural areas which are sparsely populated.

Urban Settlement

Characteristics of Urban Settlements

Many characteristics distinguish urban settlements form rural settlements. Characteristics of a rural settlement include the following:

1. The number of urban settlements and their boundaries will change over time, depending on construction activities and change of present population.

2. The boundary line of the urban settlements is independent of the administrative boundaries.

3. Urban centres are characterised by a denser population and which is engaged in industrial activities.

4. Trading is a major activity undertaken in urban areas.


A settlement pattern is an arrangement or layout of dwellings in a particular area. Settlement patterns refer to categories of settlements ideally. A settlement pattern assumes a distinct form as it grows, which may be influenced by different factors such as topography of an area and availability of a suitable land for farming. Transport routes and communication lines also may influence the pattern that emerges. Human factors such as an increase in population may lead to the spreading of settlements because as many people will be searching for new land to settle on. There are three categories of settlement patterns as explained in detail below.


This is a pattern in which dwellings are randomly spread out over an area. Typically, there are a number of separate homesteads scattered throughout the area. The houses may be separate from one another by physical features such as valleys, rivers, and ridges. Dispersed settlement is common in areas where people own individual pieces of land. It is commonly found in rural areas where population is low and the land is freely available for occupation as well as where water is readily available. The pattern is also very common in places where there is reliable security over a wide area.

Dispersed Settlement Pattern

Factors leading to a Scattered Pattern of Settlement

1. Plenty of land to build anywhere the population wishes to.

2. Avoidance of harsh climate e.g. arid and semi-arid areas.

3. Poor or infertile soils(iv) Presence of pests and diseases.

4. Presence of physical features such as ridges, valleys which separate houses.

Nucleated, also known as clustered or compact pattern settlement pattern, consists of dwellings and other buildings which are concentrated in a group in a relatively small area. This type of settlement is found in urban centres such as towns and cities but also in some parts of rural areas.

Nucleated Settlement Pattern

Factors that leading to a Nucleated Settlement Pattern

1. Availability of social services such as water, hospitals, schools or other social amenities.

2. Presence of factories, industries or natural resources such as minerals or water.

3. Shortage of land for settlement.

4. Security concerns, especially areas where banditry is not a threat.

5. Favourable climate favouring high agricultural production e.g. southern highlands.

6. Availability of fertile soils for agriculture.


A linear settlement pattern is one where buildings are developed along specific features such as a river or road. Buildings appear to be arranged in a line following the course of the feature. The lines may be straight or curved depending on the nature of the feature along which houses are built.

Linear Settlement Pattern

Factors Influencing Linear Patterns

1. Presence of a transport line e.g. road or railway.

2. Presence of a river or a spring to provide water for domestic or commercial use.

3. Presence of a coastline which has a favourable fishing ground e.g. shore of East African coast.

4. Suitable terrain for cultivation of crops such as at the foot of a scarp.


A settlement's functions are the activities that take place there. Settlements normally have a number of functions but one may be more important than the others. Most large settlements in MEDCs (Most Economically Developed Countries) are multifunctional and perform a range of functions such as retail, education and industry. When settlements first started to grow, most had only one distinct function, and others developed as the settlement grew.

Examples of settlement functions include the following:

1. Market towns: originate as centres for sale and distribution of goods and services.

2. Mining towns: are located in areas that contain a supply of natural resources such as coal, diamond and tin.

3. Manufacturing and industrial towns: grown around the source of raw materials often in conjunction with mining towns.

4. Route centres: located at nodal points (points where two routes intersect or branch off) that develop from the transportation of raw materials for processing of manufactured products to the marketing centres.

5. Administrative centres: Involve settlements that are strategically well placed to combine several functions and provide administrative services on a regional or national basis.

6. Port centres: The original function of ports is the transport of raw materials, goods, services and passengers with development of national and international trade. Such centres have naturally acquired additional functions like business.

7. Resort centre- a settlement where tourists visit to enjoy themselves.


Well-established rural or urban settlements are important because of the following reasons:

1. Availability of Social Services

Provision of social services such as education, healthcare, transport and communication, and water depends on the number of people staying in a particular geographical location. Settlements concentrate people in one place and this has made it easy for the government and non-governmental organizations to provide social and other services to people.

2. Enhancement of Security

Security is usually high when people are living together than when they are isolated. People living in isolated homesteads spread far apart are easy to attack because they have a little unit and compounded strength to defend themselves against any external threat. When people are organized in settlements, defence can be smoothly and easily conducted. It is also easy for the government to provide people with security if they live together in an established settlement.

3. Economic Development

When citizens are settled in a reasonably big group, it is easier for the diffusion of economic development into such a group to take place. For example, banks, industries and factories develop in such areas mainly because of readily available labour and market. It is also easy to provide agricultural inputs and machinery. This improves the lifestyle and life standards of the people.

Also, because people depend on each other in a number of ways, living together helps to boost one another’s incomes. For example, the income of a livestock keeper depends on people employed in other sectors of economy. Likewise, milk vendors and livestock keepers are economically interdependent. This form of interdependency is made easy when farmers and milk vendors live in the same settlement setting.

4. Political Services

When people live together, it easy for them to participate in different political activities like attending political rallies, selecting their leaders, and discussing and finding solutions to their problems.


Growth of settlements refers to the increase or expansion of the place or areas where people live and engage in different economic activities. The growth of settlement of a given place is always dynamic as it changes over time due to the different factors.

Factors that Lead to Growth of Settlements

For settlements to grow in a particular geographical location and in a particular pattern there must be some contributing factors. The factors responsible for growth of settlements are conventionally grouped into two types and they include the following:


These factors include climate, soil, topography, drainage, natural resources, vegetation, land availability, and pests and diseases.

a) Climate

Areas which receive insufficient rainfall are sparsely inhabited. Such areas have low population densities because rainfall is insufficient for agricultural activities to take place. Many settlements are found in areas that receive sufficient and reliable rainfall because they are suitable for crop cultivation and livestock keeping. If a place is too dry, too cold or too hot, it’s more difficult for large numbers of people to settle there, especially if they make their living from farming. Arid and semi arid areas which receive low rainfall and experience high temperature are also less inhabited. Consequently, there are very few settlements in such places.

b) Soil

Fertile soils and which receive adequate annual rainfall attract many settlements because they are suitable for agriculture. Many settlements have, as a result, been established on lands whose soils are fertile. These areas are usually densely populated as compared to those with unfertile soils.

c) Topography

It is difficult to erect buildings on areas which are very steep. Gentle slopes are ideal areas for building houses as they are well drained. Too flat areas do not attract settlements because of the possibility of flooding due to poor drainage, especially if the soil is waterlogged. Windward slopes of highlands as well as the slopes which receive direct sunshine are favourable for settlements because of higher rainfall and warmer weather, respectively.

d) Availability of Water

The areas with enough and clean water, such as rivers and springs, attract more people to settle there compared to arid or dry areas since water is a basic human and livestock need. This is the reason why many settlements are sited near rivers, lakes and springs with fresh water. For example, places such as Rungwe in Mbeya which has plenty of water have high growth rates of settlements while areas such as Longido which is arid has low growth rate of settlements.

Swamps and marshes discourage settlements because they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and snails which spread malaria and bilharzia, respectively. The ground is also too wet to erect buildings on. They are also prone to flooding.

e) Availability of Land

Settlements are established on the land. The growth of settlements is low in areas with a limited land while the growth is expansive in areas with abundant land which is suitable for settlement.

f) Natural Resources

Areas with natural resources such as minerals and fish attract settlements. The growth of settlements around Mwadui in Shinyanga region and Nyamongo in Tarime District are due to mining activities. Likewise, fishing activities on Lakes Nyasa, Victoria and Tanganyika as well as on the Indian Ocean have attracted a lot of settlements along the shores.

g) Vegetation

Thick vegetation such as dense forests hinders settlement because it is difficult to clear trees and establish settlements in such areas. Some forests are reserved by the government and so settlement is prohibited. Some forests are a home to tsetse flies which spread sleeping sickness to humans and nagana to livestock.

h) Pests and Diseases

Areas that are free from pests and diseases attract a lot of settlements whereas areas that are infested with pests and disease vectors such as mosquitoes and tsetse flies are generally avoided.


The human factors that influence the growth of settlements include historical factors, political factors and economic factors.

a) Historical Factors

Historical events such as slave trade and inter-tribal wars are a hurdle to settlement establishment and development. Slave trade raids in East Africa left a permanent effect on settlement. Some places were deserted when people fled to avoid being captured by agents of slave dealers. Consequently, a few settlements were established in the affected areas and the situation has remained so until now.

Inter-tribal wars caused people to vacate regions especially areas where tribesmen frequently fought neighbouring tribes. As a result, the regions in the borders of hostile tribes have remained less settled. Border areas between Karamajong and Teso in Uganda are an example where settlements are very few.

Prior to the division of Africa, some communities moved in various directions and settled in their present homelands. Those movements were caused by various factors, especially wars, e.g. Mfecane war in South Africa.

b) Political Factors

Civil wars depopulated areas and have a negative impact on the establishment and growth o settlements. This can be evidenced in many areas of eastern Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and northern Uganda. Southern Sudan and Somalia have also experienced long periods of civil wars. They have tracts of land that are sparsely settled since inhabitants migrate elsewhere to escape wars.

Government policy influences department of settlements. The government can affect the growth of settlement by forcing or persuade people to settle in certain areas where they are supplied with social services and other incentives. Also government policy affects settlement growth through town and land use planning. For example, there has been a rapid growth of settlement in Kinyerezi area on the outskirt of Dar es Salaam city due to government’s decision to allocate that land for settlement and by supplying and improving the social services in the designated area.

The policy of villagisation in Tanzania, where people were forced to live in Ujamaa Villages, had a great impact on settlement growth and development. People were relocated forcibly from their ancestral lands to Ujamaa Villages. As a result, more settlements were concentrated in the villages whereas the rest part of the rural land remained uninhabited.

The policy of decentralization and redistribution of industries influenced the growth of urban settlements of Mwanza, Musoma, and Mbeya.

c) Economic Factors

People establish settlements in places which offer economic opportunities. Migration from rural areas to urban centres is mainly due to prospects for employment and trading opportunities. That is why settlements in urban areas continue to grow. Mining activities also lead to the establishment of settlements. For example, the development of Mwadui town was a result of mining activities at Mwadui diamond mine.

The fertile agricultural lands tend to become centres of agriculture and hence centre of settlements. Also constructions of major roads attract people close to roads and result in growth and expansion of settlements in the area.

d) Cultural Factors
Some areas may be productive but due to some cultural beliefs people may be prohibited to establish settlements on such areas. The best example is Mumbanitu forest in Njombe.


Urbanization involves making an area more urban or town where by increasing portion of the total population in a country settlers in town.

Causes of Urbanization

1. Availability of employment e.g. Trade and in distort.

2. Availability of social service.

3. Shortage of employment opportunities in rural areas.

4. Over population in rural areas.

5. Low level of modern contraceptive user limited education.

6. Natural increase in birth and death rate in Urban centres.

Problems Associated with Urban Growth (Urbanization)

1. Rise of transport problem e.g. Traffic congestion.

2. Presence of unplanned houses.

3. Lack of enough water supply leading to serious disease.

4. Shortage of social services e.g. School, health centers etc.

5. Overcrowding/over population leading to the crimes such as prostitution, robber and theft.

6. Unemployment.

7. Rural urban migration leading to scarcity of labour in rural area.

8. Environmental deterioration.

Overcrowding and Transport Problem

Ways of Overcoming Problems Associated with Urban Growth

1. Emphasizing seriously in family planning program.

2. Improvement of rural areas e.g. Employment opportunities, improve social services.

3. To educated people the danger caused by rapid population growth.

4. Provision of adequate social service on rural and urban area.

5. Improvement of the living standard of the people.

6. Maintenance of the cleanness of the environment.

7. Population retribution.

8. Enforce laws to restore unpleasant settlement.

Merits/Advantages of Urbanization

1. They are center for changes e.g. Modernization and fashion.

2. They are centers for commerce.

3. They attract greatly tourist from different parts of the world.

4. They are importing and exporting centers.

5. They are center of manufacturing industries.

6. Most of urban center are administrative areas.

7. There is good provision of social services.

8. They are center for cultural change.

Dar Es Salaam





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