Dar es Salaam. Land acquisition by investors is said to be one of the major causes of land disputes in Tanzania - especially when locals are not involved in the processes.
Some leaders at the village level offer lands to prospective investors without getting approval from village authorities in accordance with the Village Land Act of 1999.
This, to a large extent, has been sparking land disputes, which normally result in stagnation of investment in the area and at times leading to violation of human rights.
Issues arise when investors fail to use the acquired land while the local people lack land to farm and yet they live in a restricted land in their village.
Once they start farming in that piece of land, the so called owners comes out and start a dispute with the locals who knew nothing about the acquisition of the land.
On the other hand, issues arise during payments of compensation, particularly where the acquired land was owned by the villagers. They are underpaid compared to the market value.
Some local authorities have been complaining that the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) brings investors to their areas where they are almost arbitrarily allocated parcels of land. This triggers land disputes in the community regarding compensation and employment issues.
“Investors are brought by TIC, we don’t ourselves decide to give them land. Usually, TIC are behind that - and they are to be blamed for this,” says one village leader in Kilosa District, Morogoro Region.
However, sources from TIC claim that allocation of village land is under the mandate of village councils and village assemblies. Where there is need for compensation, statutory valuation is done by the government and an investor is required to pay before getting access to the land.
A TIC document shows that there are several land disputes of this kind in the country. However, most of them are in the Eastern Zone (especially in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and the Coast regions); the Northern Zone (Arusha, Manyara and Tanga regions), and the Southern Highlands Zone - especially Mbeya Region.
TIC also revealed that there are no actual statistics on the extent of land disputes in Tanzania - but stresses that procedures for foreign investors to acquire land are strictly adhered to.
“Issuing rural land to investors can only begin after approval by village authorities through meetings. Where agreements on compensation are passed, procedures are followed and approved by relevant government authorities,” TIC says in a statement.
A research paper by Emmanuel Sulle titled ‘Of local people and investors: The dynamics of land rights configuration in Tanzania’ reveals that the amount of compensation is supposed to reflect the market value of the land and unexhausted improvements - such as crops, trees and buildings and other immovable assets.
Yet, he says, individuals or communities that have given up their land, whether voluntarily or under compulsion, have often received unfair compensation from the government or investors. This is often one of the key causes of disappointments and land-based conflicts in rural communities.
“Empirical evidence indicates that communities and individuals are grossly underpaid for acquired village land because the compensation paid barely captures the real economic value of the resources located on expropriated land,” a researcher, Sulle says in his paper.
He further notes that the acquisition of land for investment purposes reduces the land available to villagers, for instance, for grazing. This can create local conflicts that are indirectly related to investments.
“In recent years, land and large-scale investments have indeed become an important political topic in the country,” the researcher says, adding that compensation is a fundamental requirement for all land that is acquired by the state or an investor.
A lawyer from Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), Clay Mwaifwani says the whole process of land acquisition in not inclusive, therefore, local people see the investors as their enemies.
He gives an example of mining sector where the Mining Act of 2010 with its amendments of 2019, provides that an investor should describe his land allocation, settlement and compensation plan.
“Sometimes the land disputes are caused by delays in compensation. And when they are ready to pay, they don’t consider the market price. This makes people angry and truly they deserve to be compensated per the market price, according to the law,” he says.
Mwaifwani further notes that the government embraces the investors more than its people to the extent that they protect their interests during establishment of their investments. This leads to mistrust and lack of communication between the local people and the government.
“Actually, there is lack of land use plan countrywide. In Tanzania we have 14,000 villages but only 4,000 villages have land use plan, the rest have no. That is another reason for these endless land disputes,” he stresses.