23 January 2013

Tanzania: Does Land Use Policy Help Small Farmers in Zanzibar?

Zanzibar — WITH increasing demand for land including foreign investors buying plots mainly close to the beaches, Zanzibar is seeking views from stake- holders to assess the benefits of the new policy.

Land is critical to the economic, social and cultural development of Zanzibar. It is crucial to the realization of economic growth, poverty reduction and gender equity.

Its importance is recognized by various Government initiatives including the initial Poverty Reduction Strategy under MKUZA programme and the proposed current land use policy.

Historians and politicians say that land was among major reasons for the 1964 revolution in Zanzibar. Land issues therefore remain politically sensitive, prompting the government to come up with its review to write a new land policy of the 1992, in efforts to minimize improper land use.

In policy, land-use planning is the term used to regulate land use in an efficient and ethical way, thus preventing land-use conflicts. Governments use land how to plan to manage the development of land within their jurisdictions. Zanzibar is mainly using land for housing, tourism investments, agriculture and forestry and the objectives of the draft land policy include preparing a National Land Policy that will provide for a sustainable growth and investment and the reduction of poverty.

Reduction of land conflicts among different users assures farmers of easy and timely access to it without compromising their agricultural operations. Balancing interests of all users and ensures inclusion of all members of the society, especially women, poor and disabled persons and maintain political stability are other objectives. The government argues that Zanzibar is running out of land and the available small land is not currently being used effectively.

Not everyone agrees that the new land policy will benefit local communities, although not everyone agrees. The other problem facing the country is the increase of improper use of arable land. After more than 20 years of waiting, Zanzibar land policy seeks to introduce far-reaching reforms that will pave the way for the permanent resolution of Zanzibar persistent land problems.

Zanzibar's political elite and investors who occupy huge chunks of land may reluctantly support the new land policy which aims to make changes in land usage and ownership. In Zanzibar, almost 50 years after revolution, land is still a touchy subject! According to Dr Juma Ali Juma, Deputy Principal Secretary (DPS) - Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the policy emphasizes control of the use of and access to land.

Food production and security is a priority. Although currently land is owned by the government, the policy aims to give the government powers to make sure that land use is properly planned. Many land users have welcomed the policy, as some land-lobby groups such as Organic Farming Association (OFA/UHAI) want the policy to favour small farmers.

"If we are serious about our future including housing and feeding the people, we risk facing critical shortage of water and reduced food production in the near future, should the proposed plans for promoting proper use of land fail. He emphasized. "We must act now.

Proper land use for Zanzibar is inevitable or faces the risks." Alarmed, Juma added that, "Uncontrolled land use mainly by constructing houses and infrastructure on arable land should stop. Invasion of water sources should stop because water is declining in the islands." In efforts to overcome emerging challenges on land use, the Zanzibar government is conducting a series of meeting with stakeholders including farmers, lawyers and members of the business community to give their views and suggestions on the draft of land use policy of 1992.

The DPS said that in Zanzibar land has been decreasing due to sea-rise, causing salinization of fresh water wells and erosion that affects farms in coastal areas. "We need to change and protect the small land we have," he said at the meeting organized by OFA/UHAI with support from BEST-AC from Dar es Salaam. Mr Saleh Pandu from UHAI and Ms Asha Mbogora from BEST- AC said that land use was a cross-cutting issue, which needs workable plans to use before it is too late.

Mr Ramadhani Othman, a facilitator from Agricultural department pointed out that farming land has been declining. "Farming land, for instance, was 78,272 hectares in 2003, but has decreased to 52,457 hectares in 2008. This is scary!" He said that 80 per cent of Zanzibar (about 1.3million People) depend on agriculture, while agriculture exports contributes 75 per cent of foreign currency and accounts for 32 per cent of GDP.

Zanzibar is now among the densely populated areas with 389.4 persons per square kilometre, while the islands' 2,654 square kilometres land is steadily decreasing. Othman attributes ongoing improper land use to lack of awareness/knowledge, lack of cooperation from land officer, poverty, shortage of funds and laxity in implementation of land policy.

He proposes that the new land policy should consider "gender balance, increase of population growth and environment protection." Mr Omar Sururu, a lawyer from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) said that land conflict is a result of violation of the regulations, including turning agricultural land turned into housing land and that proposed policy aims at reducing conflicts and to balance the interests of all users.

He said that land law has many shortcomings which must be addressed, citing an illustration that the law does not set limit of land ownership. "This has allowed few elites to own land in Zanzibar," he said. Mr Sururu futher said: "It has been experienced that availability and distribution of land is a major obstacle and hamper agricultural development in Zanzibar.

Farmers in Zanzibar are faced with a challenge of accessing and owning land for agriculture activities and conflicts among different users bringing fights and disharmony." He also said that the need to establish a policy framework to accommodate the above objectives was necessary.

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