The wrangles over land ownership and use that Tanzania has witnessed over the years, and things are far from over, have come in all shapes and sizes. They range from the parochial to the pervasive, from the short-lived to the stubbornly endemic, from the mild to the bloody, and therefore from the simple to the complex.
Some have pitted individual against individual, others have been between one family, household, clan, village, ward, district or region and another, and yet others have related to territorial boundaries and thus pitted the country against one or two of her next-door neighbours.
Given that Tanzania is blessed with a lot more arable land than all the countries it borders, it is understandably baffling seeing it endlessly grappling with all manner of land-related disputes or conflicts over land.
There are those who are fond of blaming the situation on the lack of transparent, realistic and effective laws, regulations and plans catering for the needs, demands and aspirations of the whole spectrum of land users.
But, honestly, things need not be that bad. This is because, while excessive pressure on particular chunks of land will likely lead to squabbles, there are still massive tracts of virgin fertile land across the country that could be readily opened up to development.
Trouble is that we are yet to fully walk the many years of tough and sweet talk on plans to genuinely transform our agriculture into the “backbone of the national economy” we have all along said it is.
Media reports published as recently as early this year talk of Tanzania registering 1,000-odd land-related rows a year pitting local residents, mainly poor villagers, against moneyed and therefore powerful local and foreign investors.
Even doubting Thomases will have to take the staggering figure seriously as the source is the hugely authoritative Land Resources and Research Institute, more popularly known by its HakiArdhi acronym.
The agency’s findings tally with what is now common knowledge to many observers, and this is that the main villain is a swift increase in land use which land use plans have failed to catch up with.
The observers blame the mess on laws long overtaken by events. They say the resulting scenario is made all the worse by shortage of responsible land use experts, and hence the snail’s pace at which land is surveyed and titles issued.
Amending land laws, having more effective land tribunals at various levels, doing more to sensitise the citizenry of land laws and rights, and ensuring better urban planning could serve as part of a recipe that would guarantee success in both settling and forestalling land conflicts.
But doing so alongside excellently empowering Lands, Housing and Human Settlements ministry would still not necessarily work the wonders needed to substantially bring down the incidence and prevalence of land wrangles in Tanzania in the foreseeable future.
So what? As a nation, we need to put our heads together and weigh as many options as possible. After all, it is the fate of our country and nation that is at stake.