The government has been urged to speed up the pace of resolving emerging land ownership and use disputes, to avoid their degenerating into bloody conflicts.
The call was made in Dar es Salaam yesterday by Haki Ardhi Executive Director Yefred Mnyenzi when contributing at a workshop on Land-Based Investment in Tanzania organised by Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA), in collaboration with Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Mnyenzi said land disputes involving various groups were on the increase, but the pace at which the government was dealing with them was slow, inflaming them further.
“There have been conflicts between those want to use land for investment and villagers who use land for their daily earnings…we need to do something to respond to the emerging interests to regulate the situation amicably,” said Mnyenzi.
He blamed the system of land administration in the country, saying there were too many hands involved in the system, thus being another source of the conflicts.
Mnyenzi also pointed out that fragmentation of land institutions has resulted in poor implementation of the land laws as investors can change the use of land without being held accountable.
For his part a consultant with International Institute for Environment Development Alais Morindat blamed the country’s laws and policies as the sources of land conflicts.
He said the land issue was a historical problem which had never been critically addressed, blaming the government for continuing to use outdated laws and policies which were unjust to its people.
He said it was impossible for villagers to remain quiet observing their land being taken away and given to investors. This was to put their democratic and constitutional rights into jeopardy.
In another Development REPOA Executive Director Samuel Wangwe said: “We keep saying that Tanzania has a big chunk of land, but we forget that it not all lands are suitable for investment.”
He pointed out that it was a combination of factors, such as water and infrastructures which contributed to an area being ideal for investment.
Kigoma North Member of Parliament Zitto Kabwe said there was a need for the government to support smallholder farmers since they produced food for the nation.
He said the government has been supporting large scale framers (local or international) by providing 100 percent guarantee of their loans, forgetting the ordinary citizen.
He cited flower farmers in Meru saying that they have been provided with 50bn/- loan from Tanzania Investment Bank and guaranteed by the government.
Zitto proposed for an integrated system which would benefit both investors and small holders.
Presenting a paper titled Making Land Investment work for Tanzania an Advisor to REPOA and TNRF Melissa Makwarimba said that economic liberalisation, land laws reform and renewed focus on formalisation of land ownership appear to be combining to intensify existing land disputes and create additional disputes.
She said a significant risk to land rights was weak governance in land administration at all levels, but particularly at local level.
She said the situation was due to among other things availability of financial and material resources, capacity of human resources, complex procedures, lack of transparency and accountability.