This article focuses on recent policy changes implemented by the Government of Tanzania. The Government has been criticized in local and international media for supporting harmful large-scale land acquisitions. In response, policy makers have placed a cap on transfer size: investors can acquire no more than 10,000 hectares for sugar production and no more than 5,000 hectares for rice production (two key agricultural commodities in the country). But will a cap stop harmful transfers? Maybe, but caps are not necessarily the “major step” that the article suggests. For one, investors may be able to apply for multiple parcels and still accumulate large holdings. For another, caps simply do not address a key concern in Tanzania: improving the process of community consultations that occur when lands are shifted from control by villages to control by investors. Improving this process so that it is more transparent, more participatory and includes clearer benefits and obligations for villagers and for investors is essential to limit conflict and improve economic opportunity for local people. Nor do caps address a somewhat technical issue under Tanzanian law: the need to develop a land use plan before villages can apply for a certificate that recognizes and secures their legitimate claim to lands. This process is time consuming and expensive so many villages lack certificates, making it easier for some investors to lease land already occupied. While capping transfers will raise the cost of acquiring rights to large parcels in Tanzania, for villagers the risk of unwanted and harmful transfers remains.
January 7, 2013