Friday, December 18, 2009

Experiencing Land Reforms in Tanzania

From the outset let me categorically state that I am not trying to give an academically grounded analysis of land reforms in Tanzania nor would I dare challenge any existing analysis of the land tenure reforms. I am rather giving my personal experience of the reforms, particularly on the implementation of the Land Act no 4 of 1999 and Village Land Act No 5 of 1999. To fast track the implementation of the LA and VLA the Ministry of Lands and Human Settlement Development (MLHD) has gone as as far as to devise a strategic plan.

The Strategic Plan for Implementing Land Laws(SPILL) is tasked to survey, issue certificates of title to villages and urban land and setting up local registries for land documents. With all these efforts and associated reforms, particularly the Local Government Reform Programme (LGRP) and the Legal Sector Reform Programme (LSRP), where are we now? What is the status of the reforms and what are the practical evidence on the ground?

My observation is basically based on my practical engagement with villages in various districts where Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (LARRRI), popularly known as HAKIARDHI, through the Programme on Land rights and Village Governance is working with Local Government Authorities (LGAs) through sharing experiences on land tenure system and raising awareness on the relatively new laws and their implications to small producers as well as through charting what best can be done to secure the security of tenure of small producers such as peasants and pastoralists. My engagement with village leaders and ordinary villagers therefore forms the basis of my analysis of the status of the implementation of these laws of which, by 2009, a decade would have elapsed since they were enacted. Connected to the implementation of the said Acts is the whole question of investment in village lands and the massive influx of investors, both foreign and local, to the village areas.

My first observation is that many villages still continue to be recognized legally through the Local government Act (District Authorities) of 1982 as ammended in 1999. In order to be recognized in the new land regime, they must undergo surveys and demarcation and hence issued with a Village Land Certificate (VLC). Since the whole process involves adjudication, many villages have not yet been issued with VLC. In many areas when looking at the level of implementation of the VLA one will find out that Districts have managed to give circulars only to guide villages in establishment of Village land Councils. Many link security of tenure with CCROs and the pseudo beliefs that once issued with a CCRO villagers will be able to access bank loans, the concern of the villagers is therefore one the guarantee of security of tenure and second other benefits that might be associated with having a CCRO.

Members of the Village Land Councils are not trained hence not aware of their duties and as a result make decisions against the law. The primary purpose of establishment of these council is mediation, that before the dispute escalates at least those involved settle their differences basing on the customs and traditions of the given place. But since they do not have any training they tend to operate just like any other court of justice including punishing the aggrieved person by fines etc.

Another significant feature is undue interference of village authorities by District level and National or central government authorities. This is manifested in a way investment is guided. In the two districts their is scramble for land as both local and foreign investors frequents the villages with introductory letters from central and local government asking village authorities to assist investors with land for investments.

Since the villagers are not aware of the various provisions in the Village land Act and the Land Act and how land transactions is done find themselves alienated from their land once they grant concessions. The status of the land changes from village land to general land under the Commissioner for lands. But few villagers are aware of this anomally, many villagers as a matter of fact authorize transfer from village to general land blindly. It is clearly stated in the village land Act that the village assembly can allocate up to 50 acres, above that they can only recommend their willingness to other organs responsible with land administration such as the district council and the ministry responsible through the overall incharge of land administration the Commissioner for Lands.

In a final analysis the reforms has succeded in exposing to the large extent the villages or rural areas to market forces, now it is a matter of making another analysis to find out whether this has been for better or for worse, but experience shows and case studies from districts near by major towns and even in peri urban areas shows negative impact as far as villagers are concerned, the other aspect that the reforms sort to address was the question of hoarding and land speculation, how far has this succeeded?

What we are observing now is the increasing trend in land hoarding, in some cases villagers are now demanding their land back after realizing that the so called investors are not real investors as they have not developed their land unfortunately for villagers is that once they realize this it is too late for them as other processes especially of transfer are at high levels of decision making. This is another room for future conflicts between villagers and investors especially when villagers are aware of the procedures guiding land issues in Tanzania especially when they master the basics in the Village Land Act.

Last but not least is a crisis of governance at ward level, this is in regard of the ward tribunal, the confusion here is to whom and where is the ward tribunal accountable. It is a land tribunal under the DED, it falls under the primary court for non land cases, appeals of land cases are send to District Land and Housing tribunal. In some areas the question that came out was on who is responsible for financing the tribunal? It is clear that the Assistant registrar of villages who happened to be the District Executive Director is responsible for the budgets and financial implication of the ward tribunals and Village land tribunals but in as far as support to these organs is concerned we still have a long way to go.

The dysfunctional organs of government, if we are to reap the benefits of reforms have to be revamped, the site of development must be the village, much as we want to get rid of peasants and nomad pastoralists development from above will never help in transformation of our societies and eradication of poverty, if the system of administration of land works in favor of the small producers chances are that they will transform not necessarily revolutionary but rather gradually and in a way a more prosperous and poverty free Tanzania will be realized, much as we need foreign investment this should not be at the expense of small producers, peasants unlike what many critics argue are also responsive to the market, diversification will always happen in as far as they reap surplus from their harvests and sell them to the available markets.


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