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‘How come others are selling our land?’ Customary land rights and the complex process of land acquisition in Tanzania


Locher, Martina (2016). ‘How come others are selling our land?’ Customary land rights and the complex process of land acquisition in Tanzania. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10(3):393-412.

Abstract

The recent increase in transnational acquisitions of agrarian land raises concerns about rural people's inadequate involvement in the decision-making process, and violations of their land rights. Tanzania's statutory land laws are comparatively progressive in terms of recognising customary land rights. According to legislation, transferring ‘Village Land’ to an investor requires villagers' approval. It is therefore revealing to focus on the acknowledgement of customary rights in land deals in Tanzania. This study analyses the land transfer process of a UK-based forestry company that has acquired land in seven villages in Kilolo District. In the case of the village presented here, the investor seems to have followed legal procedure regarding decision-making for the land deal in a formally correct way. Yet, interviews with various stakeholders revealed flaws at village and district government level that have led to a conflict-ridden situation, with numerous affected villagers having lost their land rights – and thus the basis for their livelihoods – against their will. Among those affected are several households from a neighbouring village, whose customary rights date back to the period before the resettlements of the 1970s (‘villagisation’). Employing the concepts of property rights and legal pluralism and unbundling the role of different actors in the host country government, this article analyses the decision-making process that preceded this land transfer. It illustrates how unequal power relations lead to unequal recognition of customary and statutory law. The study concludes that even under comparatively favourable legal conditions, there is no guarantee that local land rights are fully protected in the global land rush.

Abstract

The recent increase in transnational acquisitions of agrarian land raises concerns about rural people's inadequate involvement in the decision-making process, and violations of their land rights. Tanzania's statutory land laws are comparatively progressive in terms of recognising customary land rights. According to legislation, transferring ‘Village Land’ to an investor requires villagers' approval. It is therefore revealing to focus on the acknowledgement of customary rights in land deals in Tanzania. This study analyses the land transfer process of a UK-based forestry company that has acquired land in seven villages in Kilolo District. In the case of the village presented here, the investor seems to have followed legal procedure regarding decision-making for the land deal in a formally correct way. Yet, interviews with various stakeholders revealed flaws at village and district government level that have led to a conflict-ridden situation, with numerous affected villagers having lost their land rights – and thus the basis for their livelihoods – against their will. Among those affected are several households from a neighbouring village, whose customary rights date back to the period before the resettlements of the 1970s (‘villagisation’). Employing the concepts of property rights and legal pluralism and unbundling the role of different actors in the host country government, this article analyses the decision-making process that preceded this land transfer. It illustrates how unequal power relations lead to unequal recognition of customary and statutory law. The study concludes that even under comparatively favourable legal conditions, there is no guarantee that local land rights are fully protected in the global land rush.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:14 November 2016
Deposited On:21 Jun 2017 15:59
Last Modified:21 Nov 2017 19:33
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1753-1055
Funders:Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North– South: Research Partnerships for Mitigating Syndromes of Global Change, co-funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Additional Information:This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in [include the complete citation information for the final version of the article as published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, 14.11.2016 Copyright © 2017 Informa UK Limited, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/17531055.2016.1250890.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2016.1250890

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