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Historical Context Of Land Tenure System History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Tanzania is one of developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa located in the eastern part of Africa continent. Likewise, other developing countries, the Tanzanian economy are characterized by a large traditional rural sector and a small modern urban sector. It is heavily depends on agriculture, which accounts for about 35% of GDP, provides 85% of exports and employs about 75% of the work force. The industrial and construction sector is still contributing less than 20% of GDP and mainly produces consumer goods such as beverages, food stuffs, detergents, home appliances, and building materials. Tourism sector is a leading source of foreign currencies, accounts for about 45%. Other service sectors are banking, insurance, social security funds, hotels, business and entrepreneurship. For the long time now, Tanzania has been experiences imbalance of trade mainly caused by relied upon traditional exports which has less value in the world market. The main exports are coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, cloves, and mineral (gold, tanzanite, diamond).

According to national census conducted in 2002 Tanzania population was 34.57 million including 98,625 in Zanzibar and an estimate of 2010 was approximately to reach 40 million. Women constitutes 51% of the total population and men hold the remained 49% (NBS, 2010) Local people are native Africans 99% (of which 95% are Bantu consisting of more than 120 tribes). The remaining 1% is Arabs, Asians, Americans, and Europeans. Tanzania located in Eastern Africa within longitudes 29° and 41° East and Latitude 1° and 12° South. It shares its borders with Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indian Oceans with a coastline length of 1,424 km. Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa in terms of size of land and population. The Land area is about 945,087 sq km, land coverage is 886,037sq km and water covers 59,050 sq km, this includes Lake Victoria (largest in Africa and 2nd worldwide), Lake Tanganyika (deepest), Lake Nyasa and Lake Rukwa.

1:2 Economic and Political Backgrounds.

It got its independence in 1961 from British colonial rule and become one of the few countries which struggled and gained independence without bloodshed. In 1964 Tanganyika (by then) united with Zanzibar and formed the United Republic of Tanzania, one of unique union between two countries still existing worldwide. In 1967 Tanzania underwent the major political and economic changes after announcement of Arusha Declaration which stated that Tanzania’s economy has to be attaining under self-reliant socialist state follows the socialism and self-reliance policy. The government controls all means of productions including land.


2:1 Historical Context of Land Tenure System.

Land is a basic resource from which all human beings and other living creatures depend upon their survival. In Tanzania over 80% of population who living in rural areas depend entirely on land through farming, livestock keeping, mining, fishing, hunting and gathering, or doing varieties of related activities such as tourism. In Tanzania land tenure system was passed through three phases as follows, pre-colonial era, during colonial rule and after independence.

Before colonial rule, land was owned basing on tribes and clans with different ways of accessing, using and controlling according to their customs and traditions. Tanzania (by then Tanganyika) was colonized by Germans from 1885 to 1918, and then British from 1919 to 1961 when Tanzania got independence. During German rule the land was vested in the empire under king Kaiser of German.

The British after took over the rule from German went further to enact the first land law, ordinance no. 31 of 1923, which declared the land public but gives ultimate ownership and control in the hands of Governor. The colonial law recognized deemed rights of occupancy but, also introduced granted rights of occupancy to enable the foreigners to access to and ownership of land through granted title deeds. The implication of this land act is most of indigenous people lost the ownership and control over their land which shifted to the political sovereign. Small producers had to turn into casual labourers in settlers’ farm which formerly they used to own.

After independence no fundamental changes happened rather just replacement of the governor to president now become the custodian of all land. The country underwent in different period of changes in policies, laws and development plans and programs. This included Arusha Declaration in 1967 which proclaimed the socialism and self-reliance policy, Land Acquisition Act of 1967, all land is considered public, with the president serving as trustee for the people. The village and ujamaa village act of 1975 which stated village land will be owned collectively by the villagers.

In Tanzania most of developments in the social economic and political realm of the state were first influenced by colonial legacy which was believed to be more oppressive and exploitative on one hand and patriarchy on the other hand. For instance, the Village and Ujamaa Village Act of 1975 vested the administration of land in the head of household who are traditionally men. In 1994 and 1995 the government made major reforms in land sector by enacted new two land laws to replaced the land ordinance no. 31 of 1923 after emerged of contradictions which led to conflicts, evictions, alienations, double allocations, corruptions and failure of judicial system to handle the land conflicts across the country.

The new land laws, the Land Act of 1994 and the Village Land Act of 1995 established with compliance to regional and international agreements and treaties for women like Conventions of Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Furthermore, the new act recognizes the customary and statutory tenure systems, gender balance in land ownership and transactions as well as provides rights for women to access, own and control as equal as men. It also gives women rights to take part in decision making bodies pertaining to land matters as well as right to dispose land and properties therein (GOT Land Policy,1995).

2:2 Women and Land Rights: A Situational Analysis.

In 2010, the population of Tanzania was estimated at 42 millions, of which 51 percent were women. Statistics shows that 75 percent of the total population lives in rural areas. Women account for at least half of the workforce in agricultural production and contribute 58 percent to country’s GDP (NBS, 2009). Statistics illustrate that 51% of women in rural areas are agricultural producers and food providers. But, they do not have control over the benefit of land. It is husbands and heads of clan who have final say on control over land (NBS, 2009).

According to Tanzania’s 1999 Land Act, women have equal rights to obtain and use land, and that customary law cannot be used to discriminate against women. The legal framework for land rights also provides rights for women to represent in the governing bodies such as the Village Land Act of 1999 states clearly that three out of seven members in village land councils should be filled by women.

Nevertheless, regardless of these legislative assertion and programmatic efforts, women hold only an estimated 20 percent of the land registered in Tanzania. The percentage of women holding primary rights to use and control land under customary law is likely far lower. There are number of reasons behind this notion, for instance, still there are culture belief among many tribes in Tanzania who believe that, land ownership to women is transferring the family resources to other families. Their false conception relied up on the idea that, one day girls can get married to other family and if she owns land will going to benefits others. Addition to this, the same culture belief restricts the women to inherit the customary owned land, while they are the ones who carry the productive activities in many families.


In rural areas in particular, knowledge of land law is not widespread, and even where the formal laws are known, customary law and religious practices continue to govern how land is accessed and transferred.

In the rural areas, there is a profound shortage of resources available to support women seeking to enforce their property rights. The vast majority of advocates resides and works in urban areas leaving remote women without legal support. Furthermore, one of the practical impacts of this shortage of lawyers in the rural areas is that women seeking to exercise their property rights lack resources and support. Likewise, their rights upon divorce, domestic violence and other events are significantly underserved.


Considering the fact that land is one of the most important resources to women’s living conditions, and economic empowerment. But, due to economic, legal, social and cultural reasons and practices their rights to access, control, and transfer is weaker as compared to that of men. Despite all those legal provisions that guarantee women access to, ownership and protection of their rights to land, the situation on the ground is proving otherwise as many women are still discriminated upon and denied their rights to land. This scenario result to horrible situation for women especially those living in remote rural areas where absolute poverty persists. For instance, about 60 percent of women in Tanzania live in absolute poverty and the gap is very wide among the rural population.

Table: Economic Status of Women in East Africa Region, 2006.


Female legislators, senior officials and managers (as % of total)

Female professional and technical workers (as % of total

Estimated earned income (PPP US$), female

Estimated earned income (PPP US$), male

Ratio of estimated female to male earned income

Contributing family workers, female (as % of total)

Contributing family workers, male (as % of total









































Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: OECD.stat, 2012

Furthermore, land ownership could facilitate an access to bank loans and other resources required for food production. Having equal access to land and other resources rural women could become ‘leading actors’ in poverty reduction and economic development.


In most of developing countries land is a crucial agricultural asset which could be used as a tool for rural women’s empowerment. Different stakeholders should take measures to increase women’s control over land that will lead to the empowerment of rural women, will improve their participation in the decision-making process concerning food production and improve their access to credit.

Lack of reliable and accuracy data is one of the major problems in developing countries. This becomes serious impediment during process of policy formulation and program development. Government agencies and other stakeholders are the key players in the process of collecting, analyzing and disseminating key information. Thus, it is recommended that more attention should employed to collect sufficient and detailed data related to gender issues such number of women own land versus men own land.

For instance:-

Most women have access to land through their spouses or male relatives but do not own on their own.

Unmarried daughters, widows and divorced women have been a subject of stigmatization discrimination and harassment by their male relatives in different ways.

In some cases, husbands have been using title deeds to secure loans without first consulting their wives causing evictions and or loss of their land and properties.

In matters of inheritance there has been unequal distribution of wealth as between men and women where women are always considered second.

As customary marriages are not a subject of registration, women are disadvantaged in that upon divorce or death of their husband they find themselves losing almost everything, key among them being land

Due to the above situation

Rural women need secure access to land. This must be beyond customary systems that regulate access based on membership of a lineage, community or household. Measures to increase women’s control over land are important strategies that will lead to the empowerment of rural women, will improve their participation in the decision-making process concerning food production and improve their access to credit. To this end joint titling of land might be encouraged to improve a rural woman’s rights to claim a fair share of land acquired through her husband in the event of death, divorce or separation. Policies covering civil and customary laws should be established to protect a woman’s right to land where husbands have more than one wife. These rights should be protected in the event of death, divorce or separation.

This inequality in land tenure, recognized by development scientists and several policies, is

identified as an impediment to women’s access to owning land and their involvement in

formal-decision making in natural resource management.

How does discrimination in access to, and control over, resources such as land and property influence rural women and girls’ social and economic outcomes?

How does discrimination against rural women and girls relate to broader policy challenges such as food insecurity, climate change and poverty?

What actions should governments, donors, UN bodies and civil society take to address discrimination against rural women and girls?

In most developing countries land is a crucial agricultural asset which could be used as a tool for rural women’s empowerment. Equal land rights, customary and formal, could provide rural women with access to markets, productive resources and improve social status of female landowners within community. However, access to land is usually undermined by gender discriminatory social and legal practices, particularly inheritance law which varies considerably from country to country. Though some regions (e.g. Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America) have enacted legislation to guarantee women’s property and inheritance rights, on average women still experience discrimination in access to land. For example, Food and Agriculture Organization reports that women represent less than 5 percent of landowners in North Africa and West Asia and 15 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

I think elimination of gender gap in access to land could bring significant social and economic benefits. Provided with solid agricultural plots, women could increase their bargaining power within household that would ensure greater investments in children’s nutrition and education. Furthermore, land ownership could facilitate an access to bank loans and other resources required for food production. Having equal access to land and other resources rural women could become ‘leading actors’ in poverty reduction and economic development.

Source: OECD.Stat. 2012

Employment Status, by Gender, 2006

Source: Tanzania Gender Indicators Booklet, 2010.

Smallholder Households Receiving Credit, by Source of Credit and Gender of Household Head,

Source: Tanzania Gender Indicators Booklet, 2010.

Economic Empowerment of Women and Poverty Eradication

In Tanzania about 60 percent of women in Tanzania live in absolute poverty. This is a result of the increasing poverty among the rural and urban population generally, the growing gap between the rich and poor; women and men; and among women themselves. In the rural sector and the poor urban suburbs, women carry a heavier burden because by tradition, women lack property rights and they also lack adequate knowledge on existing credit facilities. Due to their low education level, their knowledge and skills on how to manage their work is generally low. Most of women also depend on poor technology, which consume their time and energy

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