THE government has assured Tanzanians that land that belongs to villagers will never be taken from them and offered to investors.
The assurance has been given by the Minister for Agriculture, Food security and Cooperatives, Eng Christopher Chiza, when addressing groups of villagers in Kidunda, Mkurazi and Usungura villages in Kisarawe District, Coast Region.
The minister was taking around a group of investors who had gone to see the 63,000 ha tract of land set aside by the government for rice and sugarcane growing in Gwata area. The visit was part of an Agribusiness Investment Showcase organized by Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) in collaboration with the Prime Minister's Office and the Southern Agriculture Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) Centre.
"Land grabbing is not our policy," the minister told villagers who turned up to listen to him during the visit. He added that the government is keen on helping the wananchi in their development pursuits. The initiative, he said, includes ensuring that land was used properly in the best interest of villagers and the nation in general.
Some human rights activists and institutions claim that tens of thousands of people in some African countries are being driven off their fertile ancestral lands so that governments can lease or sell large tracts of farmland for commercial agriculture to investors, including foreign investors.
The minister emphasized that large scale farming will not replace small holder farmers in Tanzania and that the government was keen on that. He said that instead, big investors will work with small holder farmers in contract farming arrangements whereby villagers surrounding plantations will also be engaged and contribute a percentage of their produce to investors.
The minister said that villagers were poised to benefit from new knowledge and infrastructure development that would come with huge agricultural projects. He assured them that the government would always monitor if those investors, both local and foreign, would be operating according to agreements.
The Ward Executive Officer for Mafizi, Mr Ali Kiseto, welcomed the idea saying that villagers were banking on their government. He called on the minister to arrange more sensitization visits and seminars for more villagers in localities where plantations would be located in a quest to eliminate any doubts residents could have.
One of the prospective investors, Mr Anil Lodha from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said that he was overwhelmed by the kind of reception and treatment he and other potential investors got from the government. "Tanzania has shown seriousness. We are very grateful," he said, adding that the two-day conference has opened up investment opportunities in Tanzania for prospective investors.
Another prospective investor, Mr Cas Human from Intabazwa Farming in South Africa, said that SAGCOT is about living Julius Nyerere's dream. In that dream, he said, Nyerere saw agriculture as the main backbone of the country's economy and development.