Tanzania: In Defence of the Rights of the Poor to Land, Extractives Resources

1st January 2016
By Deodatus Mfugale

In September 2015, a group comprising eight non-governmental organisations that deal with land rights and extractives resources advocacy submitted to the Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, a review of the United Republic of Tanzania for the period from 2012 to 2015.

Organisations that took part in the review were the Network of Small-scale Farmers Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA), Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (HakiArdhi), Care International in Tanzania, Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) and MJUMITA. Others are Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), Haki Madini and ONGEA.

In their Joint Submission, the civil society organisations that have been addressing human rights of small scale producers on land and extractive resources in Tanzania based their arguments on recommendations made by the various stakeholders in the areas on land and natural resources and call for further action by the government to address issues related to their rights.

According to a statement made at the launch of the Submission last year, the CSOs noted that the information and data on which the Submission was built came from various sources, including project and programme engagements with individual organisations, CSOs joint interventions and networking with like-minded organisations within and outside the country.

“All CSOs that have been involved in preparing this Submission acknowledge the progress that Tanzania has made so far regarding upholding human rights since the 1st UPR cycle,” the statement says. The Submission has also incorporated inputs offered through joint trainings (Government instistutions and CSOs ) on UPR that began in April 2015.

Information gathered from government institutions including Comission for Human Rights and Good Governance, Attorney Generals Chamber, Law Reform Commission and ministries responsible for land, minerals and energy and argriculture are part of this Submission.

The CSOs analysed the land rights of small farmers since Tanzania is a member and has ratified a number of international and regional legal instruments that address human rights issues including land rights. Such instruments include the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1976), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the African Charter.

It is also a member to two important regional courts namely the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the East African Court of Justice (ECJ). The Submission acknowledges that under the domestic normative framework, Tanzania has a Bill of Rights enshrined in its Constitution in 1984 but land was included as among the rights under the auspices of other property.

“During this periodic review, for example, the proposed Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania has incorporated a chapter on land in which core tenure security and tenurial rights of small farmers are still not protected, rather the radical title has remained with the President,” reads part of the Submission.

There are also courts of law and peices of legislation to address land issues. The National Land Policy 1995 and Land Act and Village Land Act of 1999 assited by other pieces of legislation and regulations on tenure of land have done little to fully protect small farmers tenurial rights. Further, during the period under review, the Ministry of Land, Housing and Human Settlements Development had released a number of regulations on land matters.

They include GN 266 of 2012: The Land (Rent) Regulations, 2012; GN 264 of 2012: The Land (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012;GN 265 of 2012: The Land Survey (General) Regulations, 2012 and GN 263 of 2012: The Land Disputes Courts (District Land and Housing Tribunal) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012. Also in the list are GN 259 of 2012:

The Registration of Documents (Amendment) Rules, 2012; GN 260 of 2012: The Chattel Transfer (Amendment) Rules, 2012 and GN 261 of 2012: The Land Registration (Amendment) Rules, 2012 all of which were made under the Land Act, Cap 113, the Land Registration Act, Cap 334, the Registration of Documents Act, Cap 117, the Courts (Land Disputes Settlement) Act, Cap 216, the Chattel Transfer Act, Cap 210 and the Land Survey Act, Cap 324 but all, of which have had little direct impact on promoting the land rights of small-scale farmers.

Regarding strategies, plans, and initiatives taken by the government during the review period, two programmes aiming at commercializing and modernizing the agriculture sector are worth mentioning here: Kilimo Kwanza and Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT).

One of the areas that the Kilimo Kwanza initiative is targeting is amending the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 to facilitate greater access to land by investors.

“We are greatly concerned that more village land which small farmers entirely depend on for their socio-economic livelihood is falling to be the victim of the initiative and forceful evictions cannot be avoided,” reads part of the submission. It adds that the SAGCOT initiative is also framed in a manner that provides for little participation of small farmers.

The two initiatives will see small farmers failing to benefit from the initiative and impede food security strategies the government had agreed to create during the previous review cycle.

“In this regard we are likely to witness violation of land rights and acute food shortage,” says the submission. The submission recognizes the fact that the government of Tanzania had pledged to address the question of land rights and avoid forceful eviction during the 1st review cycle.

However, the government has not taken firm actions to address land conflicts in the country. The long standing land-based conflicts, mostly between small farmers and investors, between small farmers themselves, and small farmers with agro pastoralists and pastoralists have yet to be fully resolved. Serious violent conflicts continue to be witnessed in Mvomero, Ulanga, Kilombero, Morogoro Rural, Bagamoyo, Mbarali, Loliondo, Babati, Kilosa, and Kiteto districts, among others.

A recent report by Special Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the Sources of Land Conflicts among different land Users of 2014/15 and that of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance of Tanzania (CHRAGG) highlight similar issues of land conflicts and show great concern over the escalation of violation of land rights, forceful evictions and improper administration of the land.

Lack of transparency in large land deals, inadequate and unfair compensation for individual land that has been taken by government or investors are among issues that violate the land rights of small farmers. In the eyes of the public, government is seen as having failed to put in place a proper mechanism that would initiate prompt action and amicably solve land conflicts in the country.

“Our general observation is that there are serious concerns that the land tenure of smallholder farmers will continue to be undermined through land grabbing and since they cannot afford some of the suggested fees, their land rights will remain insecure and possibly under constant threat,” says the Submission.

The civil society organisations strongly recommend the government to honour its commitments and address land rights issues in the next UPR cycle and revisits all recommendations concerning land rights violations of small producers that are being brought to their attention within the period under review via an established mechanism and its report and status be made public and become part of Government report for next UPR cycle.

“We further urge the government to honour its commitments under the Maputo Declaration particularly the allocation of 10 per cent of its national budget for agriculture, so that it can create an enabling environment for small-scale farmers to produce more for their families, meet the market demand and significantly contribute to the country’s food security.

This would also make small-scale farmers to become part of policy and legal formulations on land and argricultural initiatives. They are indispensable stakeholders in the country’s decision making process.

Regarding small-scale miners, the civil society organisations acknowledge that the country is endowed with substantial reserves of mineral resources, including metals, minerals and gemstones.

However the country’s legal regime including the Mining Act of 1998 tend to lean more towards encouraging foreign investment than promoting and safeguarding rights and interests of the wider Tanzanian population particularly small scale miners and communities around mining areas. There are concerns over the harmful impacts of the industry on the environment.

Moreover, the issue of livelihoods of those who have been moved from their homes and farms to give way to mining activities remain unresolved. They remain landless and are paid unfair compensation.

There is little or no evidence to show that the increase in mining activities in the country has actually contributed to a reduction in the level of poverty. “There is still no mechanism to protect the rights of communities who have been affected by large mining projects.

They are in no way involved in the mining projects and lack the power to intervene when things don’t go well on their part. This has resulted in the government carrying out forced eviction of small scale miners from their areas of operation,” says the Submission.

The CSOs cite a case in Chunya District of Mbeya Region whereby the rightful licence owners were barred from conducting mining activities in the area commonly known as Mount Elizabeth and instead that right was granted again to BAFEX Gold Mine in 2014.

The fate of 14 rightful holders of mining licence from that particular area and their families is unknown. “We recommend that the Government of Tanzania should avoid arbitrary eviction of small-scale miners and those who lose their mining rights should get prompt and fair compensations,” reads part of the submission.

There is also need for government to exercise good governance when dealing with small-scale miners, with due attention given to their rights and interests.

The CSOs also recommend that legal and policy reforms should be undertaken that would lead to poverty reduction among communities living around or adjacent to mining sites operated by investors.

Copyright © 2016 Tanzania Daily News. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).


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