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Tanzania: Farmers want the government to stop land grabbing
17 April 2012
Small-scale farmers in the country now want the government to stop any kind of land grabbing purportedly being carried out in the name of public investment, saying the trend would soon send the country into utter chaos.
Farmers also have been persuaded on the need of unite in strong organisation in order to jointly defend their right even if it would cost them their lives.
Speaking during at a Symposium to mark the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle nationally organized by the National Small-Scale Farmers Networks Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA) on 17th April 2012 in Morogoro, they said small-scale farmers in Tanzania have been sidelined throughout the 50 years of independence but it was now the right time for farmers to wake up.
Ms. Sekerega Sabula a farmer from Mbarali district in Mbeya region warned that the government would soon send the country into chaos by welcoming more investors who take village lands.
Ms. Fatuma Kimolo, a farmer from Babati district Manyara region pointed out the need for farmers to jointly defend their right even if it would cost them their lives.
She said women and children are the main victims of land grabbing whereby the government promotes the medium scale farmers investment and sidelining small-scale farmers. “The government has forgotten about women who make the biggest portion of small scale farmers, the only way out is to come together and say no to any form of land grabbing.
“There is a longstanding land disputes (for over 20 years) between villages surrounding Tarangire National Park, in which more than 2,000 farmers were evicted from their land due to the expansion of the park without compensation and are not allowed to do any activity,” she said.
Ms. Kimolo who is also a chairperson of MVIWATA Manyara, noted that there ware no effort taken by the village leaders to address the situation, which threatened the breach of the peace.
Meanwhile, the government has been urged to survey all village land in the country and provide owners of land with a certificate of occupancy and a titled deed in an effort to reduce the escalating land conflicts in Tanzania.
Presenting a paper entitled “The real situation of land grab among small-scale farmers in Tanzania” at a one-day national symposium in Morogoro, The Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (HAKIARDHI) Executive Director Mr Yefred Myenzi said a village survey was one of the viable solutions to land disputes.
He said ongoing land disputes between the farmers and investors were caused by lack of surveyed village land and title deeds.
Tanzania has done very little in surveying villages, as a result villagers or government officials do not understand their land limits when it comes to land acquisition. Statistics show that only one per cent of village land is surveyed.
He said the cost of surveying village land was not very high and the government had enough resources to do the job.
According to him, Tanzania has 12,000 villages and the cost of surveying each village stands at between Tsh.7 million and Tsh.15 million. “This means that we need not more than Tsh 200 billion for the whole job to be done and reduce all challenges facing village land,” he said.
Mr Myenzi also urged the government to learn from the 1967 Arusha Declaration to reduce land disputes.
He said the Arusha Declaration was a blueprint for a new turn in national development, where all the major means of production had to be owned and managed by the public to bring about equal access to and distribution and ownership of national resources and services.
Despite good intentions, it has always been on record that the implementation of programmes and projects in the post Arusha Declaration era was associated with gross violations of land and human rights especially against rural based small producers.
Statistics show that 50 million hectares worldwide have been allocated dubiously to investors where as 70 per cent of it is found in Africa.
MVIWATA member Paul Makolo from Shinyanga Region said there was a need to educate more village government leaders about the Land Act No. 4 of 1999 for general land and the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 for village land.
He said most people did not understand the land legislation and entered into agreements with investors without fully knowing what it all meant.
Makolo, who is a former Member of Parliament for Kishapu Constituency, said lack of such knowledge had aggravated the problem.
“Most of them sign agreements without understanding their impacts on the community. Hence, there is a need for a massive campaign,” he elaborated.
According to symposium coordinator Mr Thomas Laiser, who also is Lobbying and Advocacy Officer of MVIWATA, the symposium sponsored by Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA) and Irish Aid, was organised to discuss the fate of farmers including the ongoing killings and marking the International Peasants Day.
“We have recently witnessed farmers losing their land and the use of excessive force against them, which is not good for the development and prosperity of this nation,” he said.
He said evicting farmers to pave the way for local and foreign investors and expansion of reserved land was detrimental to people.
He also said the eviction of pastoralists in Ihefu, Loliondo, Ulanga, Kiteto and other areas was a clear example that farmers’ rights had been violated.
The workshop, which was organised by a national network of farmers’ groups (Mviwata), attracted over 100 participants mainly women from areas, which had a high percentage of land disputes.
April 17 is the International Day of Peasant Struggle, commemorating the massacre of 19 peasants struggling for land and justice in Brazil in 1996. The day invokes solidarity actions around the world in defence of small scale producers working for social justice and the right to grow food for their families and communities.
This is the first time it is marked at national level in Tanzania under the leadership of the National Small-Scale Farmers Networks Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA), which attempts to help address the multiple challenges faced by farmers.