Land rights: Setting sights on the rights of pastoralists, other land

29Sep 2021
The Guardian
Land rights: Setting sights on the rights of pastoralists, other land

​​​​​​​IN December 2021 a bloody and fatal conflict between pastoralists and farmers occurred in Kilosa District, Morogoro Region. The incident left 38 farmers dead and several casualties in either group, to say the least of loss and destruction of property.

A herd of cattle grazing on the roadside.

The clash between farmers and pastoralists was a wakeup call for government to take decisive action to end similar conflicts and although since then moregrazing land has been allocated to pastoralists, conflicts of lesser magnitude still exist between the two groups. Conflicts between the two groups often erupt after pastoralists allegedly graze their herds in the farms of peasants, sometimes when crops are yet to be harvested.

Perhaps it is worth at this juncture to ask whether pastoralists have land rights and if these are protected by law. Since time immemorial, pastoralists have owned land through customary laws and such ownership has been recognized by other land users and government at all levels. They have also, until recent years, managed the land they own in a manner that ensured availability of pasture throughout the year. When there were unusually long and severe drought, pastoralists migrated to areas far away where they were sure to get water and pasture for their herds without having to tread onto other users’ rights.

 However, in the advent of new developments and increasing number of land users, pastoralists have found themselves squeezed out of some areas, what with most of the rangelands being unprotected and prone to encroachment. There are also cases when rangelands have been allocated for other land uses under assumption that they are unused or unoccupied land.

“We have land rights and these are protected particularly for those of us living in villages. The land is under village government and through land use planning we have acquired Customary Certificates of Right of Occupancy (CCRO).These are legal documents that protect ownership and our rights,” says Paulo Rokonga of Loiboisot A village in Simanjiro District.

But it is possible to set aside land for pastoralists irrespective of the fact that they are almost always on the move. As stated earlier rangelands are communally recognized and pastoralists’ movements are usually well organized. The Village land Act, 1999 and other rated laws allow for joint land use plans since rangelands are and in most cases a shared resource. So we have a law that recognizes range lands for use by pastoralists and we have land use plans that specify which land should be used for what purpose. More importantly, the public recognizes that land is a shared natural resource to be used by all according to rules and regulations and according to existing land use plans.

In some villages like Loiboisot A, pastoralists have introduced block grazing whereby all herds are allowed to graze on only one part of the area and after some time, they are moved to another area. “This rotational grazing is less destructive and gives time for pasture in one area to rejuvenate while herds graze on other parts of the rangeland,” says Rokonga.

Yet Pastoralists are often blamed for causing land conflicts because they do not respect the rights of other land users.

“This is not true, and it is not fair,” says Luhula Masalu, a Land Tenure Specialist with Landesa. “Conflicts between pastoralists and other land users are caused by multiple factors. In fact, they are mostly systemic and other conflicts are a result of factors such as forced evictions, climate change, and unregulated expansions of other land uses and limited investment in improving and developing rangelands. Some conflicts are historical and the historical causes are not addressed to their roots,” he adds.

At a national convention for livestock keepers and pastoralists held in Dar es Salaam early this month, the national chairman of livestock keepers and pastoralists, Jeremiah John Wambura raised concern that over 3,000 livestock remains confiscated by government after their owners took the herds to gaze in prohibited areas.

Addressing the meeting, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa underscored the government’s intention to end land conflicts involving pastoralists. “District councils should ensure that pastoralists desist from causing conflicts with other land users,” he said. And as a means to this end, the Prime Minister advised local government authorities to work with pastoralists and other stakeholders to identify and set aside land for grazing. Such land should be surveyed and developed in a bid to ensure that there is enough good pasture and water for livestock.

At the same event the Prime Minister also directed authorities to educate pastoralists on the importance and benefits of reducing their herds to match with the carrying capacity of their respective areas. More importantly he stressed the need for extensionofficers to work closely with pastoralists so that the latter may acquire better livestock keeping methods that would see their products fetching good prices in the market.

But it would appear that many pastoralists are not comfortable with the idea of reducing the size of their herds and the arguments put forward are not convincing.

“I think the call to reduce herds is a misplaced one; research should provide for different alternatives. Experience shows that pastoralists are losing members of their herds every time out of limited pasture, poor veterinary services, and lack of facilities. It is also true that pastoralists sell their livestock all the time for different reasons? Do we want them to sell all what they have? Authorities have not done their homework right. There is limited investment in developing pastoralism and managing rangelands. Pastoralists have limited platform which brings them together with other land users to deliberate issues that affect them. Thus reduction of herds has never been a sustainable solution to land conflicts,” argues Luhula, citing the disappearance of livestock corridors and reallocation of rangelandsfor other uses as some of the reasons behind land conflicts.

However, Rokonga supports the idea of reducing herds so as to invest in other sources of income. “Herds should be sold from time to time so that a family can diversify its economy. Farmers do the same; they grow crops, harvest and grow again. They spend the money from selling their harvests to meet other needs of the family,” he says. In February this year Rokonga bought several cows for 250,000/- each. He sold the cows in August at 700,000/- each to Happy Sausages Company in Arusha City and made good money. But he was not happy to part with his livestock. “I was very sad to let the cows go. In fact I was not at home when the company came to collect them for fear that I would breakdown,” he explains. “There is a special bond between pastoralists and their herds and maybe that is why we don’t like to reduce our herds,” he adds.

There are also arguments that when conflicts erupt the losers who are usually farmers don’t get redress even when it is clear that pastoralists are on the wrong side. They will graze in someone’s farm in a forest reserve and buy their way out because they are corrupt. These are, to some extent, valid accusations.

“Yes this happens sometimes but for good reasons. Pastoralists have limited alternative solutions to their problems. They opt to bribe their way out and they are encouraged to do so by corrupt government officials who are ready and willing to bend rules for money. You can say authorities create conditions for pastoralists to bribe them and get away with their crimes,” explains Luhula.

 That pastoralists are corrupt was also once acknowledge by the secretary general of the pastoralist community in Rufiji District who said that some officials are easily lured into taking brides due to greed for money.

At present, many pastoralists still face the challenge of unprotected and poorly managed rangelands. Land use plans which are deemed to solve conflicts are often drawn without the participation of pastoralists, as a result of which they are not respected. There are still limited investments in livestock infrastructure and veterinary services while corruption remains a challenge that government has to grapple with. It is also true that there is no mechanism to resolve disputes that would treat both parties fairly and in the face of corruption, such mechanism may not be available soon.

In the meantime, authorities could focus on participatory land use planning and joint land use plans for resources shared by several pastoralist communities or by different land users. However those who have land use plans that are operational face new challenges.

“We have conserved some of the land we own and now wild animals have come back. We are now in conflict with conservation authorities because they want to turn this area into game reserve and we might not be allowed to graze our herds there,” says Rokonga, adding that large-scale farmers also encroach on their rangelands even when they have CCROs. “This is particularly the in Kiteto and Simanjiro Districts.”

An inherent problem has surfaced recently. Individuals who have CCROs sell their pieces of land and migrate to other areas to start a new life and those who buy the land change its use, thus reducing land for pasture. “The village government thinks of abolishing issuing certificates to individuals so that all the village land is communally owned. No one can sell it,” says Rokonga.

Rangelands have in recent years been invaded by invasive alien plant species that push away local plants which are good for pasture. Pastoralists think that the problem has to do with climate change and they are yet to find a solution. The increasing number of people in villages has also affected the availability of grazing land as new houses are being built and other human activities are on the rise. “The loss of culture and tradition has compounded the problem. Nowadays when young men become Morani they don’t want to live in the family compound but build their own houses. In the long run the rangelands will be reduced and perhaps that is when people will be forced to reduce their herds,” says Rokonga

In a bid to normalize relations between pastoralists and other land users, it is advisable to establish and strengthen dialogue platforms and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms so that conflicting parties may have space to air their views and be heard. This should go hand in hand with allocating sufficient budget to invest on developing pastoralism and livestock in order to provide a good market for livestock and livestock products.Perhaps the most important solution to the challenges is conducting legal reforms and effective enforcement of laws and regulations without being tainted by corruption.

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