Their way of life is based primarily on agriculture, using irrigation on terraced fields and oxen manure.
Although bananas are their staple food, they also cultivate various crops, including yams, beans, and maize.
Initially (i.e., before the German conquest), various Chaga chiefdoms welcomed missionaries, travelers, and foreign representatives as they did traders; in the 1880s, however, when the Chaga gradually lost their autonomy, they became more hostile.
In 1886 Germany and Britain divided their spheres of influence in East Africa; Kilimanjaro was allocated to the Germans.
Some of this trading was hand to hand, some of it at markets, which were a general feature of the area.
Some Chaga chiefs became German allies and helped the Germans to defeat old rivals in other Chaga chiefdoms. Taxes in cash were imposed to force Africans to work for Europeans from whom they could receive wages.
Sudanese and Zulu troops were also brought in when some strong chiefly resistance to German control manifested itself. A native system of corvée was expanded for the benefit of the colonial government.
The resisting chiefs were deposed or hanged, and more malleable substitutes were appointed in their stead.
Warfare came to an end and, with it, Chaga military organization, which had been a system of male age grades.