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The 1999 Tanzania land acts as a community lands approach: A review of research into their implementation

Biddulph, Robin
Land use policy 2018 v.79 pp. 48-56
community development, land use, laws and regulations, research, Tanzania
In sub-Saharan Africa, securing community lands has often been proposed as an alternative to programmes of individualisation, titling and registration (ITR). Recently, community lands proponents have advocated a hybrid approach incorporating statutory recognition of individualised tenure within community lands. Whether the ideological and practical tensions between communal and individualised approaches can be resolved in a coherent implementable programme remains open to question. The 1999 Land Acts in Tanzania prefigure the hybrid communal lands approach. This article reviews research on their implementation to draw lessons for the approach.The studies reviewed find that implementation has not been resourced as a national programme. The piecemeal efforts of donors and government have prioritised individualised titling and have paid limited attention to community institutions and community management. Titling has been promoted with unrealistic promises of increased access to credit, often leading to disenchantment once titles are delivered. Dispute resolution mechanisms, requiring less external resources than titling, have proven somewhat effective as hybrid mechanisms.I argue that by prioritizing individualised titling, donors and government are fruitlessly chasing a de Soto inspired chimera. Tanzania thus represents a missed opportunity to find out whether a hybrid approach implemented through village institutions could effectively strengthen both local property relations and state legitimacy at the village level. For the Village Land Act to realise its potential, there is a need for state-led investment in a genuinely hybrid approach. At this juncture research could usefully focus on the existing ways that village institutions mediate social relations around land.