Tanzania: Farmers claim land leased to private firms (The Citizen)

| January 11, 2016

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Villagers in Hanang District are claiming ownership of two wheat farms leased to private investors.“We want back our land,” they declared during a series of meetings held last week. The villagers want the government to intervene in their bid to repossess farms leased to private firms.

Leonard Soa is from Deajammeda village in Hanang District, in the Manyara Region of northern Tanzania. He explains, “We want land for crop cultivation and the remainder for grazing. We have been living here for a long time.” Mr. Soa says the villagers’ problems have been compounded by harassment from the management of the two farms.

Another local farmer, 43-year-old Daniel Damo, played down concerns that the farmers would not put the estates to productive use. He says, “Once we get the farms, the village government will prepare land use plans and will decide what to do.”

The two farms are on the Bassotu plains in Hanang District, and are among seven farms that were managed by the Canadian-supported Hanang Wheat Project, launched in 1969.

At the peak of production in the 1980s, 100,000 acres of wheat were planted, and the farms met at least one-third of the country’s demand for the grain. The project declined in the late 1990s and collapsed in 2003, when donors froze financial and technical support.

To boost production, the Tanzanian government invited private investors. One farm was taken over by HLH Farm and Development Company, a firm controlled by the Haydom Lutheran Hospital in neighbouring Mbulu District. The proceeds from the farm support the hospital, which serves several districts in nearby regions. Three other farms were leased to the Kenya-based Ngano Limited.

But this arrangement was marred by a decades-old conflict with the surrounding communities, who claimed that they had been forced off their land without compensation, and wanted it back. In response, the government gave one farm to livestock keepers for grazing, and another to farmers for crop production.

Renatus Paulo is the village chairman in Deajammeda. He wonders why companies or individuals from outside the area had been leased vast amounts of land while locals were forced into marginal areas. He notes that the farms stand on the villagers’ ancestral land, where they lived before they were evicted by force in the 1970s. He adds, “We are pleading to the government of President John Pombe Magufuli to intervene.”

Officials of Ngano Limited were unavailable for comment, but a senior official at HLH Farm and Development Ltd. said he was unaware of any conflict between the management and the villagers.

To read the full article on which this story is based, Hanang farmers claim more estates, go to: http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/25645-tanzania-hanang-farmers-claim-more-estates#sthash.h1Mhquan.dpuf

Photo credit: Rweyemamu info blog