Current Tanzanian land law offers registration of private interests in land in the form of Certificates of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCROs) within a broader community lands approach. We conducted qualitative research on the issuance of CCROs along a mountain slope transect in Meru district in northeast Tanzania. This area features intensified smallholder agriculture that evolutionary theory suggests is well adapted for registration of private interests in land. It also features strong customary authorities of the sort that legal pluralism theory suggests may lead to property relations that are not singular and evolving but multiple and co-existing. We found that tenure was highly individualized and local demand for CCROs was expressed in a context of both agricultural intensification and nascent urbanisation. Nevertheless, due to high cost and coordination constraints, this demand did not deliver widespread registration. While CCROs were perceived as useful to resolve land conflicts and put up as collateral for loans, they were not essential as a variety of alternative approaches were in place. In this forum shopping, plurality was not in itself a problem and individuals increasingly chose quasi-formal paper authorisations over customary rituals. Based on our findings, we recommend that land administration systems more explicitly build on existing quasi-formal practice, and that community lands approaches include a diversity of national programmes tailored to different local community circumstances.
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Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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