Landpara-surveyors:Accessing land ownership ensures security of tenure

28Mar 2023
Deo Mfugale
The Guardian
Landpara-surveyors:Accessing land ownership ensures security of tenure

​​​​​​​CLEMENTINE Mayao a resident of Kanolo village in Kilombero district has had to wait for ten years to have her two farms surveyed so that eventually she can acquire certificates of customary right of occupancy (CCRO). That was a long time to wait.

Land para-surveyors scrutinising documents before they begin surveying a farm

At that time her farms were surveyed but, like many other villagers, she was not given any certificate. Over the years, things have change and data has become obsolete. People have also become more aware of the importance of land and the need to own some has sparked a wave of land grabbing that usually targets surveyed land and whose owner has no evidence of ownership. No wonder Ms. Mayao had always been anxious as she was vulnerable to lose her land.

The period of sleepless nights ended on March 21, when a group of youths, land para-surveyors, surveyed her two farms thanks to the Community Smart Consultation and Consent Initiative (CSCCI) programme being conducted by Landesa and PELUM in Kilosa and Kilombero districts. At global level, similar programmes are being implemented in Nicaragua and Liberia.

“Now I can live in peace. I am no longer worried about land grabbers, and neither will there be conflicts with my neighbours. My ownership of land is safe and secure once I am issued with the certificates,” says Mayao.

Using the para-surveyors, young men and women from beneficiary communities who have been trained in land surveying using digital equipment, the programme expects to reach more villagers than if they were to use college graduates or other similar personnel.

“This is a 5 years programme that seeks to survey land belonging to individual community members and villages and issue customary certificates as a way of accelerating land ownership among men, women and other groups in the community. The use of para-surveyors enables us to reach many individuals within a short time so that by the end of the programme, many people will have acquire certificates as proof of their ownership of land. Generally, the country is facing shortage of qualified land surveyors thus para-surveyors are meant to fill this gap,” says Luhula Masalu, land tenure specialist at Landesa. “In due course we are also reducing the gender gap in land ownership,” he adds.

According to the Masalu the programme will also make land use plans for 20 villages within the first two years of the programme. Currently project implementation is in the pilot stage for two years with individual community members and village government officials participating in land verification before their farms and other parcels of land are surveyed. Prospective owners also participate in the actual surveying and planning before being issued with CCROs. “We expect to issue morethan 500 CCROs to individuals in Kanolo village. There could be more applications as our work moves from one stage to another, as a result of which we could end up issuing 1,000 certificates,” says Masalu. On completion of the programme, it is expected that 10,000 CCROs will be issued to individual women, men and youth, with some of them being joint certificates for spouses.

Having farms surveyed and land use planned for village land does not only provide evidence of ownership but the importance goes a long way towards reducing   land –based conflicts. There are conflicts within families, conflicts between one family and another, there are conflicts between one village and another and there are also conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. Having farms and other land parcels surveyed and land use plans put it in place, it is expected that conflicts will be reduced to the minimum and whenever they arise they can be solved easily basing on existing plans and other documents. More important is the fact that individuals and villages have to abide by these plans in order for them to be effective and it rests upon village governments, first and foremost, to enforce these plans.

Kilombero and Kilosa District councils are central partners in the programme with respective District Land officers and Town planners effectively participating in its implementation.Their roles have been significant in identifying villages to be involved in the programme, conducting education and awareness campaigns to enlighten communities on the importance of owning land and protecting that ownership by acquiring CCROs. Community members must give their consent for any piece of land to be surveyed hence the need for awareness raising campaigns. The programme also promotes the right of women to own land and thus bridging the gender gap in ownership of land and other property. “Traditions that bar women are still upheld in some of the villages that we work. Talk about surveying farms so that individual women can legally own them and men will look at you as if you have just dropped from hell. We are working to reduce such barriers so that men recognize the right of women to own land, manage it and use it in the manner they wish. We also want to ensure security of tenure particularly for women,” says Omary Tunduguru, Ifakara town planning officer.

The use of land-para surveyors speeds surveying of farms and other parcels of land thus not only ensuring access to ownership of land but also providing timely solutions to conflicts. Experience from Mufindi district where Landesa has done a similar programme shows that the use of land para-surveyors also benefits the youth since they are trained not only is surveying but also in land use planning, basic land laws and administration and conflict resolution. “These are picked by the village assembly and we train them so that they can work as surveyors under instructions from and supervision by qualified surveyors. Not all those trained eventually qualify for the job but we get at least two from every village,” says Tunduguru.

However, para-surveyors are not employees of any organisation, nor are they employed by their respective district councils of village governments. They work as volunteers in the course of which they are given some allowances to make ends meet. “The fact that we use them in our land projects ensures that they make some kind of income which they would otherwise not have realized. In Kilombero District, for example, we have a ten years’ programme for village land use planning in which they will participate. We have trained about thirty youths so far but the project intends to train a total of 80 para-surveyors,” explains Tunduguru.

Norah Nyuna is a land para-surveyor from Udumuka village in Mufindi district who is currently working with the CSCCI programme in Kanolo Village of Kilombero district. Besides surveying she also trains local youths how to do the job so that the latter may continue to work in future. “I have participated in two training sessions conducted by PELUM Tanzania both of which have mainly focused in digital survey methods using tablets,” says Nyuna.

 Three youths were elected by the Udumuka community to participate in the land para-surveyor training but only two of them made it, including Norah.She has surveyed farms in eight villages in Mufindi district during which she has acquired enough experience to train others. Besides gaining professional experience, Norah admits that life has become easy due to the income she gets from the work. “I have also gained new knowledge and skills and learned a lot from the people I have met and the places I have visited. Today I can survey 20 farms on average but I can do up to 30 depending on conditions,” she says.

In the course of her work Norah has witnessed a significant increase of women who own land in the rural areas. Following legal ownership of land and having acquired CCROs, the women have improved their lives through taking loans from financial institutions to start small businesses, among other initiatives. Others have sold part of the land they own. But others have lost the freedom of ownership and tenure security. “Some women have willfully given their CCROs to their husbands while others have been forced by their husbands to surrender them. This has curtailed their freedom to use the land as they must ask permission from their husbands. In practice, they have lost ownership of their land,” she says.

Yet working as a land para-surveyor is not all that rosy. “For women para-surveyors, working among men remains a challenge. You can act strong and confident but the situation doesn’t guarantee your safety,” she explains. “When surveying farmland you work in bushes, and the bush is thick on virgin land. You never know what is lurking in the tall grass. Sometimes you are required to walka long distance from farmland owned by one house hold to another. The nature of work does not allow us to use any form of transport,” she adds.

Land surveys, land use plans and issuance of CCROs are meant to provide secure tenure and protection of land ownership and rights. This is particularly the case for communities adjacent to large-scale land investments. “Investors tend to expand their activities over time as is the case of Kilombero Sugar Company which neighbours several villages including Kanolo. There is nothing wrong with expanding business but such expansion should not infringe the land rights and ownership of locals. Investors should conduct their operations responsibly,” says Angolile Ryason, Programme Officer for land projects at PELUM.

Under the circumstances, the best way to safeguard the rights and ownership of land of local communities is to make sure that farms and other parcels of land are surveyed and owners given CCROs. Villages also need to have land use plans to avoid giving all the land to investors without due concern to the current and future needs. “However, for this to succeed the communities must be educated in order to be aware of the importance of having land use plans, proof of ownership and security of tenure,” says Rayson.

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