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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

`Stop dishing out land to foreigners`

19th March 2012

Tanzania, once endowed with abundant land is under threat following the influx of people in the name of investors wanting a huge chunk of land for mining, large scale farming, hunting and all the things one could possibly earn out of the said land. 

Several people have lost their ancestral land, properties and their livelihood in various places such as Loliondo, Njedengwa, Meatu, Kilosa and Ihefu, Nzega and Geita among other areas to pave way for someone in the name of an investor.

This was consensus during a recent a workshop conducted by the Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA) in collaboration with Tanzania Natural resource Forum (TNRF) and International Institute for Environment and Development (IEED)...

A researcher on land issues at the Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA), Dr.  Prosper Ngowi unveiled findings over a research he conducted over land vis a vis investment to the effect that economic liberalization, the land law reforms and a renewed focus on formalization of land ownership appear to intensify existing land disputes.

He says the situation has led to more land disputes between investors and existing land holders.

“The land laws are complex with cumbersome procedures and similar criticisms have been leveled against some of the new laws for natural resources such as the Forest Act 2002,” he says.

According to Ngowi, the existing land issues have come with several problems one being failure to compensate the previous land owners, or the pollution emanating from industries releasing wastes.

“There are people who have been coming to the country saying they are large scale farmers who have come to ensure there is food security, but we should ask our self as to whose security these people are talking about,” says Ngowi.

He says large scale farmers may come to the country and end up farming food that can exported to other countries to feed people and cattle.

“ Can that create food security in our country,” he querries.

Ngowi calls upon the need for the country to come up with new laws that will make land more profitable in the country unlike the current trend where it only benefits the selected few.

Another point raised in the findings of the research is over the several investors coming to engage in mining while paying for the Environment Impact Assessment a situation he says tends to compromise the quality of the work as it is more likely they will ensure it is conducted in their favour.

A consultant with the International Institute for Environment Development Alais Morindat raises concern over the pace at which people are grabbing land saying it makes him wonder over whether it is the end of the world where each person must grab what he can get to go with to the other world.

“Land is a historical injustice. It is a life and death issue. We keep giving all the land to investors what will happen to the millions who are yet to come, What does the future hold for our children,’ he queries.

 REPOA’s advisor Melisa Makwarimba cautions  over compensation saying it may seem ideal but one ought to think of the descendants whom she says may find themselves with no place to call home.

“There is an assumption that there is a relatively abundance of land in the country.  This is a misconception.  There is no recognition of grazing land as a separate category.  This is a serious issue as Tanzania has millions of cattle in need of an area,” says Makwarimba.

Her statement is echoed by HAKIARDHI Executive Director Yefred Muyenzi who faults the whole idea of compensation as bad as not only does it come untimely and unfairly, but there are some other things such as ways of livelihood which can never be compensated.

Indeed, the ancestral graves, farms where people used to conduct rituals and other traditional issues are something that people have failed to consider when they evict people.

REPOA’s Executive Director Professor Samuel Wangwe says more often what is termed as security of one means the insecurity of other, referring to the current terminology where investors are given land in the name of improving food security.

“We keep saying we have a big chunk of land where is it anyway?  People are being displaced quietly where we are releasing them to,” queries Professor Wangwe.

The discussion goes on and on until one of the participants decides to suggest one key point, and that is calling upon our government to halt from giving out our land.

Indeed, perhaps it is about time we stopped the exercise to give out our land as we check and balance on how we are fairing.  Indeed, we may say we have abundance land but we ought to remember that our population is moving at a supersonic pace.  Giving out all the land will mean being too selfish to remember those planning to come as children of Tanzania. 

One piece of our advice to our leaders and TIC: Stop telling people that we have enough land because we will end up having disputes like those we experience in Loliondo, Meatu, Kilombero, Kilosa and Njedengwa to mention but a few. 

If we had so much land we wouldn’t have been witnessing people brandishing machetes to each other because of a small piece of land. And as Professor Wangwe says, not all the land is good land least we forget that there must be water and good infrastructure to compliment it.  We have no more land to give to investors: We have given enough. 

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