Land bank for investments not a panacea for conflicts

25Sep 2021
The Guardian
Land bank for investments not a panacea for conflicts

AN idea is being floated by Investments ministry authorities, seeking that  local governments move to profile land suitable for investment, and the land so marked out be made part of a national land database accessible to investors.

That would replace the need to deal with village leaders and obviously the district authorities themselves as is the case now. This idea doesn’t look distinctly new as it has been in the air for a while, but for the minister, Geoffrey Mwambe to actually address a press conference on the matter, implies the plan is being sharpened or efforts are being mounted to have it adopted at even higher levels .

It is easy to see that there is plenty of grain in the plan, as usually countries that have moved into large scale industrial programmed have had to acquire land on a grand scale from traditional users such that the plans can go ahead. And on the basis of data that we have been exposed to of late, there are numerous companies which are trying to set foot in Tanzania and would not wish to start a tourist phase of talking to villagers on chances of obtaining land. In that context those vested with supervising investments need to seek a usable formula that can ease take up of investment projects, to have them rolling on the ground.

For one thing, the ministry is trying to improve existing land registration to facilitate investment uptake, instead of actually obtaining ready and tried formulas from elsewhere to use in the matter. So it isn’t easy to say what model (which maps out expectations and how any eventual contentions are solved within the framework of the model, how it absorbs current and subsequent pressures on the use of land) the ministry is applying. The two land acts were seeking to extract an option for the government to take up land for the use of investors if it is on village land, along with modalities of renting public land that isn’t village land.

There seems to be at least two points of oversight in the ministerial proposal, one in its still-photograph view of land for investments, where there is open land featuring on a map, so it is available for use. Obviously there are issues of compensation where necessary and that can rapidly be met. This is inadequate as land is public on the one hand and communal on the other hand, in which case land needs to be surrendered by villagers by their own free will, not just appear on a map. At the same time village leaders can only summon current consensus; if population expands, or cattle rearing migrants come in, there are problems.

When the land and village land legislation was made 20 years ago (and counting) investment needs were limited, unlike at present. So the government has an option of either changing customary land occupancy to freehold titles so that anyone can sell on their own, and no migrants can come in, or set out specific zones for large scale investments. If they take China’s example in 1978, the whole of the coastal zone is declared a special zone, peasants paid out and shift, or shift when investors come. Here that would apply to Tanga, Coast, Lindi and Mtwara regions as areas best for investors, to avoid declaring all land private.

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