This blog post was originally published on the DAI website.
After Monika Lalika’s husband passed away, her in-laws did not allow her to use the land he had left her and she used to worry that they would one day claim the property for themselves. For Martha Paulo Mwilongo, a land dispute with her neighbor kept her from selling or renting part of her 11 acres to pay her children’s school fees. Joti Kihongo wanted to expand his general store, but could not get a large enough loan because banks would not recognize his undocumented land as collateral.
This lack of official land documentation is not unusual in rural Tanzania, since property in most villages is handed down from generation to generation, typically through male family members. However, for Monika, Martha, and Joti, and thousands of Tanzanians like them, this historically informal system of land ownership had become an impediment to their ambitions.
All that started to change after the Feed the Future Tanzania Land Tenure Assistance (LTA) project began holding meetings in their villages. The U.S. Agency for International Development project works with 41 communities in central Tanzania to register land and issue Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy to individual landholders, with a focus on increasing women’s inclusion in property ownership. LTA has worked with villages to demarcate and digitally map and record almost 63,000 parcels. These previously undocumented parcels are now registered in the country’s official land registry system, providing secure property tenure to 21,000 Tanzanians.