Kufuruni, a peasant and resident of Migeregere village, Kikole ward in Kilwa district, Lindi region has been earning income through subsistence economy for nearly three decades now. But the much touted agro investment completely changed his thinking.
As the district council officials visited one village after another campaigning for the investor, Kufuruni trusted that he would shift from subsistence to commercial and become rich within few years.
Shukrani was not the only villager beckoned by the foreign investment but also an image of wealth clocked minds of Mavuji, Nainokwe, Migeregere and Liwiti villagers where the investor had acquired huge land to conduct agriculture particularly for growing cassava for export. They all commended the district council and the investor for the planned investment.
As time passed on, the villagers started realizing that the much touted investment was not a genuine one but ghost. In an interview with this paper at Nainokwe village, Halifa Likamba said during the land acquisition of 35,000ha of land from the four villages, process and procedures were violated.
The former Nainokwe village Chairman said the investor and Kilwa district council took advantage of villagers’ limited knowledge on land based investments to pursue and conclude their ill-deal.
“Even when the land was reduced to 27,000 ha the villagers did not know a`nything about the new size of their land. They didn’t know exactly the meaning of the investment and what exactly investment would provide the community, instead, the villagers were motivated by the way the district council officials were campaigning about the investor, he said.
Forexample, during an interview, the district council said that the land for investment has been reduced from 35,000 ha to 27,000 ha. Also information from the reports of land use plans for 2019/2020 indicate to have increases in some villages and in Migeregere and Mavuji villages, the land reduced has been set for forest conservations managed by the Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS) and therefore not village land.
In Nainokwe for example, the land for investment increased from 4789.82 ha to 6372 ha The first investor promised to grow Jatropha but it was not clear on what jatropha would provide and benefit the villagers. When the project refused to take off the villagers started to demand their land back.
The villagers said they were not educated on the benefits and challenges of investment to make them decide on whether they need it or not. They were only asked at one meeting if they wanted the investment or not. An investigation conducted by this paper revealed that different investors had been introduced into the villages to invest in Agribusiness.
Some of the investors such as Bioshap were introduced since 2016. Others include Somanga Property Ltd, Pan Tanzania Agricultural, Development limited, AfricaOrama and Great Tanzania Ltd (Thailand Company). All these companies had shown interest to invest in the four villages.
The villagers indicated that there was no unclear emphasis by the district council for all these investments. The district council did not clear information on the status of the land before the discussion on land acquisition. Contradicting information: Another thing noted by this paper, there was contradicting information where it was not clear to the villagers on whether the land under investment was village land or general land.
In March 2019 for example , the former Zonal Assistant commissioner for lands Gasper Luanda visited the villages and told them that, the land was still village land since transfer process were underway.
At the same time, the district council through the land office later told villages that the land was under the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC) and therefore they had no power over it than accepting investment for their benefit. The villagers had also been confused by unclear information which they received from their leaders that land transfer was denied by the commissioner, but this was not officially shared rather, they received information from the district council that there were directives from the office of the commissioner for lands to rectify minutes of village assembly for the transfer of land to be effected.
Further investigation revealed that the villages signed contracts between village councils and Pan Tanzania Agriculture Company Limited without enough consultations at the village level. Kikole Ward councilor Musa Kinjokwile said it is possible that some villagers had no enough information on the project. Forexample, at Migeregere villagers said that they had been told by Kilwa district officials that demanding back their land is like demanding a married daughter back home from her husband.
The villagers have already given their land so they should not expect it back. These statements and others influenced villagers to accept the planned investments against their will. Speaking on behalf of the investors, both the former Kilwa district commissioner Christopher Ngubiagai and the district executive director Renatus Mchau commended the investment saying it was genuine one. They said land acquisition process and procedures were followed.
They named some of the benefits as employment. “Unlike other investments, this one investing in cassava is genuine. He has good plans to benefit the villagers in the project area, said Ngubiagai. The district executive director Renatus Mchau said the land acquisition process and procedures were followed. The district council said the investor will acquire land through the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA) and not through the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC).
This is the genuine investor. He is coming to change lives of the villagers through the investment,” said district commissioner Ngubiagai However, Land rights advocates and land experts have different comments.
Advocate Masalu Luhula from Landesa and Benard Baha from Tanzania Land Alliance said that this raises questions on the transfer process which for a responsible investment, community consultation and effective engagement is key to ensure community generational benefits from investment and avoid future conflicts between communities and investors which in most cases affect sustainability of investments.
He also added that, the reasons to pursue land transfer not through the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC) and opt going through EPZA need to be scrutinized. The information from Pan Tanzania Agriculture Company limited forexample indicates that, the company for part of the three companies consortium where the other three include Epoch Agriculture Development Limited (Epoch) and Tanzania Agriculture Export and Processing Zone limited (TAEPZ) .
“therefore it is important for the government authorities to undertake in-depth due diligence as companies are not unitary factors he said. He said the whole process of land acquisition process and procedures leaves a lot to be desired. Forexample he said the Land use planning Act, 2007 and the revised ( 2013 and 2020) guidelines require effective participation of communities in their land use planning process.
The law also gives planning powers to the village authorities on village land. The district planning team support as technical advisers in the process and decisions are made by the villagers through village council and village Assembly.
The law and its guidelines require the land use planning reports be owned by the community and implemented by the village council.