By Elias Mhegera – Researchers have signaled the end of land based conflicts which have become monotonous in some areas of Tanzania leading to heinous and unprecedented killings.
This hope was given recently by the Executive Director of the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), Dr Bohela Lunogelo during the opening of a modern studio facility at the centre dubbed “Maendeleo Studio”.
Dr Lunogelo was responding exclusively to this reporter on February 11, when he was asked why the ESRF has not embarked in researching on land conflicts in order to suggest a tangible solution to the Government.
“We are quite aware of how these conflicts have affected the economy of this country and soon we will embark in pilot study of eight conflicting zones,” he responded confidently.
Narrating how his centre came about, he attributed to the development of political pluralism in Tanzania in 1992 which demanded a corresponding economic model after the introduction of free market economy in this country.
“Our institution has always maintained a fast pace in providing evidence based results which coincidently facilitate for a participatory private sector which can cope with the stiff global competition,” he boasted.
During the opening ceremony Dr Lunogelo reminded journalists that they should access information through the electronic channels the ESRF is hosting for mass consumption namely, taknet and www.tzonline, this is a database and online tool, to help Tanzanian professionals to promote themselves and their work to local and international audience.
It has facilitated a lot in the dissemination of knowledge in areas like, food security, education, and maternal care. Other areas are corruption and governance, economic management, environment, financial sector, agriculture, and globalization.
The guest of honour in the occasion was Ms Anna Washa Director of Poverty Alleviation in the Ministry of Finance. She said that the government is highly impressed by ESRF’s initiative in establishing the studio, and for the fact that it has targeted mainly the rural population.
Presenting a paper on the contribution of agriculture to the national’s economy, Dr Oswald Mashindano who is a lecturer University of Dar es Salaam and researcher for the ESRF admitted that Tanzania is yet to tape from agriculture which is poorly managed.
“We have one of the best opportunities through agriculture but its poor management is the major obstacle, these inadvertently have led to deaths, illnesses, food insecurity, ignorance, poor clothing and eventually new social reactions as a byproduct, “ warned the don.
He challenged that a failure to develop processing industries has caused the peasantry class which is composed of 75 percent of the whole population in Tanzania to remain stagnant. “If you have such a population without processing industries is a failure in economic terms” he stated.
Moreover he challenged that although a good number of Tanzanians are living below the poverty line, but 16.6 are in a critical situation according to the household statistics and surveys that were conducted from 1992 to 2007.
Dr Mashindano mentioned that there are multidimensional indexes of poverty ranging from hunger, lack of shelter, idleness, which eventually have rendered the rural sector quite unproductive.
He reveals that there is between 10 to 30 percent of post-harvest losses due to poor mechanization of agriculture and storage facilities. He is positive that if agriculture is given much impetus it can generate a lot of employment opportunities.
A lot has to be done in order to make agriculture productive; namely, to improve rural transportation, and increase the awareness of the engagement of the public sector in production.
But while experts are giving this assurance in agro-economics, at the other end analysts are warning of an impending danger of intermittent civil strives due to land based conflicts.
Speaking in various turns at the British Council, it was realized that the once celebrated rural sector during the Ujamaa policy is ghastly fading away and giving room to horrific killings justified in the names of peasants and pastoralists.
From Kiteto, Mvomero to Babati and many parts of this country, pastoralists are considered as unwanted and invaders, a stance which has just attracted overreactions leading to heinous killings, and massive destruction of possessions.
In January breakfast debate which was organized in collaboration of the Policy Forum (PF), and the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum (TNRF) it was realized that land based conflicts are of a longtime making and highly manipulated.
The major causes of land related conflicts and hence causing abject poverty due to the stoppage of agriculture and other productive activities in the rural sector. In the forefront it is land grabbing which comes through a highly polished nice package of foreign investment.
Apart from weaknesses in land policies, corruption in acquisition of plots for investment in agriculture or other purposes have excluded the weak peasants who have been dwelling in those pieces of land for a number of years.
Mr. Alais Morindat, from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says there is a tendency to abhor pastoralists by many Government functionaries no wonder they are kicked out wherever they go to the extent that a good number of them are now restless wonderers without knowing what will be their final destination.
“It is strange to see that pastoralist’s particularly those of the Maasai origin are branded as foreigners, militant, and environmental degraders,” he defended. Instead he explained that the Maasai communities have been combining both pastoralist and agriculture at the same time protecting wildlife.
He challenges that all land related policies like Kilimo Kwanza (Tanzania’s Green Revolution) and even SAGCOT (Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania) have created an imbalance in land ownership. “It is due to such policies that there have been forceful evictions in Loliondo, Mvomero, Mkomazi, Mbaralali, and even Kilosa” he reveals.
For his part Steven Mariki, National Coordinator, Climate Change Adaptation Project at UNDP-Vice President’s Office, says increasing economic activities in land investment have caused a stiff competition and rural disharmony. He suggests that before the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) allows new investors it should study well first the impact of such investments to the local population.
He analyzed a combination of many opportunities that never existed before to have been the reason for the recent commotions. For instance a sudden rush for mining activities, commercial agriculture, construction of modern infrastructures, land speculations all these have caused commotions in the rural sector.
Godfrey Massay, Programme officer-cum-lawyer at the Hakiardhi challenges that it is not proper for highly positioned politicians to cast away pastoralisim as a means for livelihood while knowing that there are many people depending on this mode of life for their survival.
Retired professor Adolf Mascarenhas warns that there have been many grandiose plans in agriculture which disengage poor peasants in the production process, he is worried that some of those are merely fabricated in order to justify land grabbing.
“We have been hearing of sugar production in large scale, climate change, kilimo kwanza, direct foreign investment in agricultures, some of this are conflicting each other and even confusing, they have become a menace to the poor peasants,” he remarked.