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Kilombero Land Conflicts on Increase; We Need a Solution, Lands Minister

No wonder he cautioned new regional commissioners he recently appointed that they would be measured by how much each of them addresses the ever growing challenge in his area of jurisdiction.

For the past 40 years, some residents of the two districts have been engrossed in land conflicts mostly pitting farmers and herders.

Dr Magufuli has managed to draw the attention of many people and in fact, he has won their hearts. Will he win their confidence as well? It all depends on how he will deliver his campaign pledges; chief among them is the land mishaps.

But even before the regional commissioners have started to do their homework, a meeting of the G8 countries held in London in June last year when Tanzania was invited has started to bear some fruits with many citizens benefiting from them.

A relationship between Tanzania and the countries dubbed Tanzania-G8 Land Transparency Partnership (TLTP) was cultivated during the meeting which, among others, highlighted the need for embracing transparency on land issues.

Development agencies from Denmark (Danida), UK (DFID), Sweden (Sida) in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development have established a programme aimed at enabling ordinary wananchi to easily obtain land ownership rights.

Known as Land Tenure Support Programme (LTSP), the programme, which will also help in improving land use and management, will focus on five areas.

Three community members who mapped and recorded boundaries to certify customary land rights.

They include openness and sharing benefits for expansive land use, improvement of policy issues, issuance of traditional title deeds, and creating awareness and empowerment at all levels.

A team of the programme experts was, as part of the programme implementation, launched on March 2, this year, when it started operating in two districts of Kilombero and Ulanga in Morogoro Region.

The programme coordinator, Mr Godfrey Machabe, says the programme plans to survey over 300,000 plots and issue title deeds in Kilombero which has 110 villages and Ulanga which has 92 villages.

These title deeds will go a long way in serving as vital documents to the villagers. According to LTSP, the work will cost $15.2 million, equivalent to Sh32 billion.

“The project, which has formally started, will last for three years. The early stages will involve ground work for land use plans,” he says, adding that they will closely work with land officers at all levels in collecting relevant data for the preparation of reports which will be tabled in council meetings.

“The civic leader will debate the reports and prepare a second draft before land survey activities take off.”

Mr Machabe says the project will not be confined to the two districts only. Kilombero and Ulanga will be used as pilot areas from which to spread the success story across the country when challenges have already been ironed out.

Land conflicts burden.

Introducing the programme before Kilombero officials, a legal expert and councillor for Namwawala Ward, Mr Godfrey Lwema, said between 70 and 80 per cent of land in 110 villages is engrossed in conflicts in the district.

Mr Lwema, who is involved in High Court litigations pertaining to land conflicts in 126 villages in the two districts, insists that many of the clashes should be resolved first before the programme takes off.

“For instance, there is a conflict in Kilombero Valley involving several villages and a Ramsar site. I am afraid that the programme will not give its desired results if such conflicts are not addressed first.

“I am ready to withdraw the case in court, but the litigants, who are the villagers, are adamant that no case will be withdrawn if there are no prior agreements between them and leaders at all levels,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr Machabe allays the villagers’ fear, noting that the programme has already embarked on talks with leaders, including managers of the Ramsar site.

“We can spend six months ironing out these differences before we start to survey the land and issue title deeds to avert such challenges. But what is encouraging is that people from the Ramsar site have agreed to talk and they are the ones holding large part of the land. Therefore, there is hope the project will succeed,” he says.

The deputy minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, Ms Angelina Mabula, says they have been going around the country talking to villagers and other leaders in a bid to address the land conflicts.

Long story short, the combination of effective local organizing, strong traditional leadership, women’s participation, getting a small amount of money into the hands of grassroots leaders.

Ms Mabula further says they have been able to resolve a number of conflicts including some which appeared a hard nut to crack.

“I’ve visited Mara, Morogoro, Arusha and Mwanza regions and I’ve witnessed land problems facing ordinary people especially women, elders and the youth.

“In many of the areas I’ve visited, I’ve hold talks with leaders and victims, and in some cases, we’ve been able to resolve the problems,” she says.

Programme challenges.

For the past 40 years, some residents of the two districts have been engrossed in land conflicts mostly pitting farmers and herders. In some cases, these conflicts have led to deaths of innocent people.

As a result of this experience, Mr Swagile Msananga, a leader of a team comprising the land registrar experts, says through the programme, they will collect and analyse data on all farms measured from 50 acres and above.

Mr Msananga says out of the analysis they will engage villagers in discussions on policies, laws and regulations governing the land management so as to come up with ideas of improving or changing them.

“We believe through this participatory approach, we’ll be able to come up with solutions to many of the prevailing disagreements on land issues. We want this programme to increase the surveying of land and improvement of reconciliation systems at grassroots level,” he says.

He says data on all large farms in the country will assist the ministry and local authorities in planning for better land use.

Avoiding politics.

The assistant land commissioner for the Eastern Zone, Ms Juliana Pilla, blames leaders, especially politicians, for being part of the problems, observing that they have unnecessarily been inflaming a number of land conflicts as they seek public support and sympathy.

Grassroots leaders are capable of addressing most of the conflicts if they want to do so, she says, adding: “For this project to be meaningful, I call upon local leaders to resolve land problems in their areas for the project to focus on what it is intended to do when it arrives.”

The Kilombero district commissioner, Mr Lephy Gembe, also appeals to councillors to refrain from using land conflicts for obtaining political mileage.

His appeal follows councillors on a CCM ticket and their Chadema counterparts issuing different perceptions when debating the project.

The chairperson of the newly established district council, Mr Bernard Mbilinyi, also decries the politicians’ stance.

Another part of the country where land conflicts have been registered for years.

“People have been suffering for many years as a result of politicians’ insensitivity on land issues. For this project to succeed, local leaders must work together. Otherwise, we’ll fail to achieve anything tangible,” he warns.

By Robert Muriisa.

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