Tanzania land policy and genesis of land reform sub-component of private sector competitivess project

Hayuma, M. & J. Conning

Before colonialism landholding was based on customary laws of the different tribes in Tanzania (in all 120). Title to the land was based on traditions and customs of respective tribes. Ownership of land was communal, owned by family, clan or tribe. Chiefs, headmen and elders had the powers of land administration in trust for the community. These powers continued through the colonial era though they were limited by the newly introduced German and later British land tenure system under which all lands were declared to be crown and public lands respectively. The customary land tenure is still in place, but since 1963 the chiefs, headmen and elders have been replaced by elected village councils. Tanzania was under German colonial rule form 1884 to 1916 and British rule from 1917 to 1961. The country attained its Independence in 1961. The Germans issued an Imperial Decree in 1985 which declared that all land, whether occupied or not was treated as unowned crown land and vested in the Empire, except claims of ownership by private persons, chiefs or native communities which could be proved. A distinction was made between claims and rights of occupancy. Claims were to be proved by documentary evidence while occupation by fact of cultivation and possession.In practice only settlers engaged in plantation agriculture such as sisal, coffee, rubber and cotton, etc, could prove their title and enjoyed security of tenure. The indigenous people could not prove ownership. Hence, they were left with permissive rights of occupancy. The policy of the German colonial administration vacillated between plantation agriculture ran by settlers and African small peasant cultivation. Generally the policy favoured alienating land to the settlers by outright sale or lease. By the end of First World War some of the best lands in the highlands and farm amounting to 1,300,000 acres had been alienated to foreigners. After the First World War Tanganyika became a Trust Territory under British Administration which by International Agreement was required to take into consideration native laws and customs in framing laws relating to the holding or transfer of land or natural resources and to respect the rights and safeguard the interests present and future of the native population. No native land or natural resources could be transferred to non natives without prior consent of the competent authorities. The British passed their major land tenure legislation in 1923 called the Land Ordinance Cap. 113 which declared all lands, whether occupied or unoccupied as public lands, except for the title or interest to land which had been lawfully acquired before the commencement of the Ordinance.

Event: Land Policies Legal Empowerment of the Poor

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Document type:Tanzania land policy and genesis of land reform sub-component of private sector competitivess project (48 kB - pdf)