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The land tenure system in Tanzania

THE Mainland is blessed with land covering 948,132.89km2 (about 94.81 million hectares (ha). This is valuable natural endowment including water bodies like Lakes, Dams and Rivers. With that in mind I’m obliged to thank the Almighty God for blessing Tanzania with land encompassing the highest Mountain in Africa: the land of Kilimanjaro.

Additionally, we are endowed with unique natural heritage of flora and fauna. For instance, a wild plant called Saintpaulia (African violet) is a popular house flower in Europe and America: but its origin is Tanzania particularly the Nature Forest Reserves (NFRs) of Amani and Nilo in the East Usambara Mountains. Furthermore, there are 1500 endemic flora and 100 fauna species making Tanzania 34th globally recognized biodiversity hotspots.

A dialogue meeting facilitated by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, was organized and conducted in Dodoma (St. Gaspar Conference Center). About 70 stakeholders in land related matters were expected but only 60 attended including me.

Most of participants from Ministry of Land could not make it because the meeting took place during the time of accident when the vehicle plunged into the river in Kilombero District claiming nine (9) lives of young Ministry employees and left others seriously injured.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity to key stakeholders to receive, discuss and provide useful ideas to improve the report prepared by Professor Lussoga Kironde, University of Lands (Consultant to AfDB). The meeting was officially graced by Professor John Lupala, Director of Rural and Urban Planning, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary (PS) who couldn’t attend due to fatal accident.

Before opening the dialogue, participants observed a minute of silence in remembrance of nine employees who lost their lives while on duty in Kilombero District. During the opening speech, the PS emphasized a number of important issues related to land tenure in Tanzania. However, the speech underlined the importance of sustainable land management for the good of all. Furthermore, PS appreciated the role played by the AfDB in supporting Tanzania in her endeavours to attaining the national industrial policy.

The land tenure analysis report by Professor Kironde identified strength and weaknesses of land tenure system in Tanzania. Land is governed through the Land Policies (1995) and respective Land Act (1999) and the Village Land Act (1999).

Through the policies and legal frameworks land is administered as follows: (i) Village land governed by Village Government including customary ownerships; (ii) reserved land under different stewardships for instance, National Parks and Game Reserves under TANAPA and Wildlife Authority (TAWA) respectively; Nature Forest Reserves (NFRs) and Forest Reserves (FRs) under Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) but also Marine Parks; designated World Heritage and Ramsar Sites governed under respective UN Conventions and Agreements. 

Furthermore, Local Authorities’ FRs is administered by respective Local Authorities. Additionally, general land is governed by the Commissioner of Land and through his office, land ownerships are granted to various users mainly in the private sector including foreign investors under granted rights of occupancy not exceeding 99 years lease-hold.

Nevertheless, the report by Professor Kironde, highlighted challenges associated with various human land uses and practices. It was further indicated that most of the challenges and conflicts are emanating from unsustainable land management practices in village land and encroachments in legally protected areas.

There are claims that we have increased population: less than 10 (1961) to 50 million people (2015). Nonetheless, the challenge is not population but the way farmers and livestock keepers use land resources.

To great extent most of farming and livestock activities are practiced in villages and general lands but for many years land husbandry has been very poor leading to serious land degradation due to loss of natural vegetation cover and causing rampant diminished soil fertility hence turning arable lands into barren lands. Such unsustainable hand husbandry puts the farmer and/livestock keeper into miserable, wide spread and persistent poverty conditions hence prevalent encroachments into wildlife and forest protected areas.

Thus, there is no legitimate justification to claim that Tanzania is faced with land shortage but trying to use increased population as escape route while poor land management practices still key threat.

Additionally, conflicts and fatal incidences have been occurring between farmers and livestock keepers throughout the Mainland. Furthermore, there have been some claims that protected areas occupy more land than needed.

The authenticity of this complaint not clear as there is no justified references in relation to the claim. Usually, it is normal outlook for people to justify own interests for instance, the farmers detecting fertile lands in Forest Reserves or pastoralists discovering plenty of grasses in protected areas. Immediately they become excited and in absence of effective law enforcement mechanisms they quickly find their way in.

According to Ministry of lands, arable land in Mainland is 440,000km2 (44 million hectares), which is 46% of Mainland area and further that only 25% of arable land is being utilized for farming: food and cash crops.

This alone is good indication that we are still better-off in relation to claims about land shortage. What is actually needed is emphasis on sustainable and productive land husbandry but not agricultural expansion that lead to natural forests and biodiversity losses at alarming rates (372,000 ha annually).

The report also highlighted on the conflicts arising from not clearly demarcating village boundaries and poor village land governance. Participants in addition to echoing the Ministry’s efforts to providing certificates of customary rights of occupancy; also advised the government to increase efforts to land-use planning and mapping throughout the Mainland.

It was also emphasized that village governments’ capacities to govern village land be greatly improved and avoid conflicts and antagonisms between farmers, pastoralists and investors. Let me wind-up by appreciating the initiatives by AfDB to support Tanzania towards her endeavours to attain sustainable land use practices. I trust through AfDB support, Tanzania will attain improved land resources management accordingly.

AN ambitious programme that seeks ...

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Author: Dr Felician Kilahama

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