Iringa villagers up in arms against land charlatans

31May 2016
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
Iringa villagers up in arms against land charlatans

ACTS of village leaders selling parts of the village lands, colluding with investors and invading village land forest reserves without the consent of the villagers are still major problems in many places in the country.

TNRF Programme officer, Masalu Luhula conducts one of the TNRF’ trainings.

Some of the reasons could be lack of education on land laws and policies for the village leaders immediately after assuming office.

At village level, normally after elections, no further training is done on administration and good governance or land laws and its associated resources to equip the leaders with knowledge and skills on how best they could lead the villagers.

Lack of such education has fuelled land use conflicts as many village leaders think that being a village chairman or executive officer gives them a leeway in colluding with unfaithful people to sale land, obtain ill-gains or even welcome investors without conducting village meetings to get the views of the villagers on the matter.

Currently villagers at Mbuyuni village in Iringa rural district are up in arms against village council members, accusing them of colluding with unfaithful people to degrade their village land forest reserve which contributes water that flows into Ruaha river.

The villagers leveled the allegations during a training organized by Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) at Mbuyuni on Security of land tenure rights, gender and accountability.

Speaking in different occasions during the training, one of the villagers, Oscar Kodi said that the 308-hectare forest reserve is currently conflict, urging immediate intervention from the government to rescue the ailing forest reserve.

He said that since the invasion followed by the degradation, some parts of Ruaha river banks have been destroyed, a situation which if not controlled, may affect water levels as the country enters dry season.

The village Executive Officer Habily Myovela said that about 200 people have invaded the village land forest reserve including some members of the village council.

“We understand that the village Chairman Mabrouk Kalesi is also involved in the scandal. We are asking the government to take action as soon as possible to rescue the forest,” he said.

He said that he has waged a war against the perpetrators but so far he faces an uphill task due to resistant village leaders who do not want to cooperate because some of them are also perpetrating the invasion.

When sought for comments, the village Chairman, Mabrouk Kalesi, dismissed the allegations saying the invaders were people from outside his village.

‘These allegations are not true and aims at tarnishing my good name. The land is mine and I have been using it for many years now,” he said.

Responding to the villagers’ complaints, the representative of the district land officer, Innocent Ulomi promised to take the matter to District Executive Officer for action.

The Programme officer for Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, Masalu Luhula urged the leaders and the villagers to respect land laws saying they are very clear.

About the programme, he said that the objectives of the program is to enhance the knowledge of communities on land rights and natural resource management

Also in the list are to strengthen the capacity of institutions responsible for land administration and management at the village level and improve accountability in land and natural resource management at the village level.

He advised the government to plan training the village leaders on land laws and enforce them to protect and conserve the environment.

Commenting on the programme, he said that security of land tenure rights, gender and Accountability is a six-month programme funded by Welthaus Graz - Austria.

He said this is a second phase after the first phase which was a three month programme and ended in December, 2015.
The first phase covered three villages in Iringa, Pawaga division namely Mkumbwanyi, Magombwe and Mkombilenga whereas in Chemba district, Kwamtoro division, the first phase covered Mialo, Ndoroboni and Kwamtoro.

“TNRF is currently conducting the second phase which started this month of May and will cover eight villages, four villages from Iringa and other four from Chemba district.

He explained that in Iringa, Pawaga division, villages such as Mbuyuni, Kinyika, Luganga and Magozi will be covered while in Chemba district, this second phase will cover Kinamshindo, Ovada, Manantu and Magambua.
Reasons for choosing these villages

According to Luhula, TNRF has been implementing other projects in the divisions which means the forum has a wide knowledge and experience on the areas.

He also said that the selected villages are victims of land conflicts and poor administration on natural resources including traditions and customs of the areas which are discriminatory to women’s land rights.

Security of land tenure rights, gender and accountability remain central to major debates around rural development, particularly in developing the agricultural sector.

When it comes to land rights and gender issues, majority of rural women are always disadvantaged due to traditions and customs which favour men.

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