If all goes well, this seemingly sleepy village 25 miles outside Dar es Salaam soon will have its first truck to haul locally grown oranges and cashew nuts to the capital.
This may not be big news abroad but to the 8,000 villagers here it is a giant stride forward in more than a decade of toil to lift themselves out of poverty. Tanzania is one of the world's poorest countries.
Hidden under banana and cashew trees along the main macadam road leading west out of the capital, Mwendapole was one of President Julius Nyerere's earliest experiments in ujamaa, or collective villages.
Three years before a 1967 declaration spelling out Nyerer's socialist philosophy of development based on ujamaa, families came here to form a village and try working on a cooperative basis. While each family was given its own three-acre plot to cultivate, the village set aside an initial 34 acres for a communal farm.
Nearly 15 years later, that farm has grown in size by a meager 13 acres, far short of the 400-acre goal. But by combining part of their daily labors, the villagers have accumulated enough money to buy their own farm-to-market truck and are considering a far more ambitious project, to build a small juice-canning factory.
Mwendapole, a Swahili name that means "going forward gradually," is an example of impressive successes, as well as striking failures, of Nyerere's socialist system.
While it is still far from being a fully collective village, it has established a foothold in the modern sector of Tanzania's farm-based economy.
With the massive campaign of 1974-75 that saw 5 million peasants moved by force or persuasion into villages at the height of a terrible drought, now 7,667 first-stage collectives have been officially registered.
Most of these villages, with a population of 13.8 million, have little more than a symbolic communal plot where the peasants are initiated in the principles and practices of ujamaa -- working together to raise a cash or food crop that will provide the community sustenance or capital for development.
But 12 years after the Nyerere's declaration in Arusha, only two villages have reached the stage of being certified ujamaa, meaning more than 50 percent of all economic activity is being done on a collective basis.
Nyerere does not seem to be discouraged, however, only more realistic about how fast he can move an African peasant society of 16 million toward socialism. After watching events in his own country and reading about the problems communist countries have had in agriculture, he is being very careful when pushing change in the traditional sector.
"We now have a complete spectrum, from a few villages completely communalized to others where there is no communal activity at all," Nyerere said in an interview. "We are allowing each village to go at its own pace," he added, noting that his own home town of Butiama had undergone some backsliding as a result of shocks from the forced collective campaign.
"We don't allow capitalist farming but we don't interfere either to force communal farming," he said. He denied a "kulak class" of wealthy private farmers was emerging as a result of this go-easy policy -- an allegation made by his leftist critics who generally see Tanzania as going "capitalist" these days.
The current strategy, Nyerere explained, is to assure that all new economic activity in the villages associated with development is done on a cooperative or collective basis. This he hopes, will eventually convince the villagers to change their views.
But, he said with philosophical resignation, "the objective realities will dictate what is possible."
These realities have shown that Tanzanian peasants are not enthusiastic about collective farming. But there is also evidence in villages like Mwendapole of the economic benefits to the peasants of working together at least on some project to pool their meager resources.
Cooperative efforts have allowed the villagers to raise capital. The truck they are about to buy costs about $24,300. They have made a down payment of about $4,800 and gotten an 18-month loan from a commercial bank in Dar es Salaam.
Village officials, abuzz with projects, seem to feel it is within Mwendapole's means to set up the canning factory. They said the village could raise an initial $28,000, and the government would provide technical assistance and a loan to get the factory going.
As rural life goes in Tanzania and most of Africa, this is fairly big money for such a village. Mwendapole accumulated the truck funds by planting orange and tangerine trees on its 47-acre communal farm, raising chickens for the Dar es Salaam market and selling through the village cooperative the cashew nuts abounding on the trees spread across the peasants' private plots.
Last year, the village sold 200,000 oranges and tangarines in the capital's markets, thousands of chickens and 2,400 tons of unshelled cashew nuts delivered to the state marketing board.
Mwendapole's young elected officials say the village's take from all this was the equivalent of about $10,000 while the average family income was over $700.
Modest though it may be, Mwendapole appears to be one success story in Nyerere's efforts to bring his country's rural poor into the modern economy. It may be that in the long run this will prove the major benefit of his ujamaa policy rather than bringing communalism to Tanzania.