When Tanzania gained independence in 1961, President Julius Nyerere used the political ideology of Ujamaa ‘African Socialism’ as the basis for transferring customary land right to elected village councils and encouraging collective cultivation. Today, 75% of the country’s population lives in rural areas, with agriculture accounting for 45% of the total GDP.
The Constitution of Tanzania recognizes the right to own property for every person and the right to protect this property in accordance with the law. The Land Act and Village Act of 1999 set the principles for the classification of land and governance of village land. The 1999 Land Act facilitates the granting of mortgages to secure loans, while making is easier for lenders to take possession or sell mortgaged land. In Zanzibar, the Land tenure Act of 1992 established that government can give the rights to occupation that are perpetual and transferable.
Land disputes in Tanzania are mostly due to the uncertainty of tenure caused by the occupation of lands that had been abandoned during the ‘villagization’ program and the occupation of these same lands. Therefore, conflicts are generally between people that occupied land and people returning to the land they historically held. Competition for natural resources, land use, village boundaries and the allocation of common resources, and access to development plans that deny access to land and resources for local communities are all sources of conflict. In Tanzania, both formal and informal tribunals are empowered to resolve land disputes according to Tanzania’s formal law.