A better formula needed to distribute ‘new’ grazing land among pastor

23Feb 2016
The Guardian
A better formula needed to distribute ‘new’ grazing land among pastor

THE government has finally come up with a plan which, if properly implemented, could well end the intermittent deadly clashes between farmers and pastoralists over land in many parts of the country. According to government officials,

a number of idle forests, ranches and empty game reserves are lined up for survey before being turned into exclusive livestock grazing zones, the idea being to keep pastoralists away from designated farmland and thus diffuse the tensions between them and farmers.

Under this land reform scheme, beneficiary pastoralists – each of whom must own at least 1,000 heads of cattle - will be required to develop the land they are given by constructing dips, dams and other facilities important to livestock care.

We would like to take this to mean that the government is looking beyond just finding a permanent solution to the endless farmer-pastoralist conflicts, and actually viewing the scheme as a fresh opening to embark on a modern livestock keeping program for the country.

There has been a sharp rise in livestock numbers nationwide over the past half-century or so, from 9 million cattle, 3 million sheep, and 4 million goats at around independence (early 1960s) to 26 million cattle, 6 million sheep, 1.6 million pigs, 15 million goats and 33 million chickens, going by the latest livestock census. These numbers are the second-highest in Africa, after Ethiopia which has 54 million cattle.

It is imperative, therefore, that local livestock keepers are afforded more space and facilitation to grow the sector even more; a goal that cannot be achieved if grazing areas continue diminishing in size and number and whatever is available is subjected to constant scrambles for ownership among livestock keepers, farmers, and other social groups.

According to the 2009 Fourth National Report on Implementation of Convention on Biological Diversity published by the vice-president’s office, out of Tanzania's total land area of almost 1 million square kilometers, 25 per cent is set aside for wildlife conservation purposes.

About 43.7 percent of this total land mass is designated as ‘protected’, either as wildlife-protected areas (28 per cent) or forest reserves (15.7 per cent). Yet according to the report, most of Tanzania’s wildlife can still be found outside these existing protected areas.

Yes, we commend the government for coming up with the logic of turning much of this designated protected land that is lying idle into sanctuaries exclusively set aside for the promotion of modernized, industrial livestock keeping – while leaving the farmers to their own land.

However, we believe the beneficiaries of this new land reform program should not be confined to owners of more than 1,000 heads of cattle, especially those who have the (financial) means to develop the land further. And here is the reason why.

By Tanzanian standards, livestock keepers who own more than 1,000 heads of cattle are a precious few in number, with small-scale operators forming the much greater part of the national pastoralists community, so to speak.

So to allocate freed land solely to the larger-scale livestock keepers would amount to literally squeezing the small scale operators out of space.

It is indeed our view that the government should try to come up with a better and wiser formula for allocating this ‘new’ land so that, in the long run, it doesn’t create fresh problems and divisions among the livestock keepers themselves.

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