Tanzania: Mapping a route to land rights

| November 7, 2016

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Katarina Hhaynihhi and her husband Simon have been farming for 26 years in Yaeda Ampa, a village 200 kilometres from Arusha, in northern Tanzania. They grow maize, garlic, beans, sunflowers, and Irish potatoes. They also keep 20 cattle, 10 goats, 12 chickens, and four pigs.

Her land supports her family, which is why Mrs. Hhaynihhi joined a community land mapping project, led by her village leaders. Mrs. Hhaynihhi says, “We have learned about the importance of planning our land and how to manage those areas.”

Mapping the community is important for the individual farmers living there, for empowering the community, and for the local environment. Through the mapping process, villagers determine which areas will be used for building, agriculture, herding, community purposes, or forest land.

Deogratias Matiya is the district land and natural resource officer in Mbulu district. He is working with more than 13 villages to map their land use. He says the process helps reduce conflicts. He explains, “We locate land for pastoral purposes and agricultural purposes, so when that project is finished, people can use that land for its intended purpose.”

Mrs. Hhaynihhi and her husband have 11 acres of land—and now they have proof that they own it. Through the mapping project, they received a certificate of customary right of occupancy. Many Tanzanian farmers do not have proof they own the land they cultivate, which can leave them vulnerable to neighbours or village leaders who try to claim their land.


Mrs. Hhaynihhi says: “Before, we were not aware of how to get this certification. But having CCRO [certificate of customary right of occupancy] means a lot to us. Our land is now secure and we do not anticipate any boundary conflict with our neighbours. We have also benefited because the CCRO has given us confidence in undertaking various agricultural enterprises and accessing microcredit schemes.”

Thanks to the mapping project, 100 residents of Yaeda Ampa now have certificates for customary right of occupancy. The project, run by the international NGO Farm Africa, has so far helped 600 villagers in Mbulu and Babati districts to receive certificates.

The villagers and village leaders of Yaeda Ampa now better understand how they can use their community land. Beatrice Merian Muliahela is a project coordinator with Farm Africa Tanzania. She says that, because the process was participatory, all villagers and village leaders now understand local assets such as water sources, agricultural areas, and grazing areas. And together they have agreed on bylaws to guide how villagers use them.

Mrs. Muliahela says the mapping process will also improve efforts to protect the local environment and better manage resources. She explains: “The rapid population increase currently being experienced has put these resources under enormous pressure. This has led to expansion of agriculture, settlements, grazing, [and] increased tree cutting for charcoal, timber, etc.”

Yaeda Ampa has established an environmental committee and Mrs. Hhaynihhi is a committee member. She explains: “My role is to facilitate proper management of the environment at large…. We go on forest patrols once a month to check the situation and report our findings to the village government.”

Mrs. Hhaynihhi understands how important land is. This year she harvested 4,200 kilograms of maize from her land, as well as 1,000 kilograms of garlic, five tonnes of beans, eight bags of sunflower, and 10 tonnes of Irish potatoes.

She explains, “Land is a very essential resource and provides us with a living. We have 11 acres to farm, and it is all we have to sustain our daily needs.”


Photo credit: Farm Africa