SHISHIYU, Tanzania, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
W ith six wives, 16 children, 60 grandchildren and 500 acres of
land, 80-year-old Tanzanian traditional healer Kuzenza Magoso
worries his descendants could start fighting over his estate
when he dies.
Family land disputes can turn violent in Tanzania, where
property is traditionally passed on from one male to another
without title deeds or written wills.
"To avoid conflict, I thought it was better for each wife to
have her own house and property," said Magoso, a tall man with a
white beard, wearing a red felt hat and an oversized jacket.
"I don't care what people say about me. What's important to
me is to make sure I have done the right thing for my family."
Magoso's six wives each have a title deed showing they
co-own their land with him. This is highly unusual in Tanzania
where most rural land has not even been surveyed.
Recognising the problem, the government has announced plans
to issue titles to 2.5 million people by 2020 to protect rights
and reduce land disputes, lands minister William Lukuvi told the
Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Undocumented tenure, which the United Nations estimates
accounts for 70 percent of land ownership in developing
countries, is rapidly being replaced by individual titling
throughout the world.
Women and the poor risk being left out, as savvy investors
and elites better understand the importance of title deeds and
how to get them, land rights experts say.
"If formalisation is going to happen, it's so important that
it happens equitably and inclusively," said Jennifer Duncan, a
lawyer with Landesa, a Seattle-based land rights charity.
"Land is still a critical asset of production for about 50
percent of the world."
Tanzania has been embroiled in a series of controversial
land acquisitions, as foreign companies jostle for land that
villagers and indigenous people claim as theirs.
"WOMEN ARE PROPERTY"
Experts say giving women land rights unlocks enormous
benefits for them, their families and the nation but they are
often excluded because of culture, poverty and ignorance.
"It was not easy to convince a husband to own land jointly,"
said Haji Kihwele, programme coordinator in northwestern
Tanzania for Oxfam, which has supported the issuance of more
than 500 titles in five villages in the region since 2015.
"They said that women are property, so property cannot own
Women own one-third of the 500-odd titles issued through the
Oxfam project, usually jointly with their husbands, he said.
The African Union is campaigning for 30 percent of
registered land to be owned by women by 2025, which could reduce
poverty and exposure to domestic violence as well as providing
collateral for loans and security in old age, experts say.
Women with strong land rights in Tanzania earn up almost
four times more income, according to 2011 research by the
Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.
"If they don't own the land, they don't make the decision on
what they are growing," said Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu, a researcher
on women and land with Human Rights Watch.
Men tend to grow cash crops that are profitable and
marketable, and may not allow women to plant slow-maturing
foods, like cassava, she said.
BEST IN AFRICA
The bigger challenge for Tanzania is to find the money to
issue title deeds at all.
The East African nation has model land laws, drawn up after
"It's the best example in Africa... of how it could be done
well," said Duncan.
"Under the legal framework, the communities should know
where their boundaries are and have the right to decide what
happens within those boundaries."
As a first step, most of the borders of Tanzania's 14,000
odd-villages have been demarcated and mapped, she said.
But only 10 percent of villages have completed the second
stage of drawing up land use plans, according to Tanzania's Land
Rights Research and Resources Institute, which must be done
before title deeds can be issued.
Land use plans show what parts of a village are needed for
agriculture, public facilities and conservation and, critically,
what idle land could potentially be sold to investors.
"The government is still reluctant to promote this exercise,
seeing as it's very expensive," said Kihwele, adding that the
government requires 9 million Tanzanian shillings ($4,000) per
village, although Oxfam has done it for half this cost.
"To make sure that food production is sustainable, this land
should be legalised."
Lands minister Lukuvi said the registration process has been
moving slowly especially in rural areas due to lack of
operational capacity and financial constraints.
Tanzanian farmers whose land has been taken by the
government and leased to mining companies and large-scale food
producers have received minimal compensation, he said.
Seif Hussein, assistant administrative secretary for
infrastructure in Tanzania's northern Mwanza region,
acknowledges the problem but said local governments are short of
The government's budget is focused on developing land use
plans for fast-growing urban areas to stop slums mushrooming, he
said, rolling out a glossy Mwanza city plan on his office desk.
Mwalu Daudi, 41, a divorcee, is glad to be among the lucky
few single women in Shishiyu village with a title deed.
Her aunt was macheted to death in an inheritance dispute.
"Women are suffering when their husbands die or they
divorce," said Daudi, a solidly-built woman with plaited hair
and a pink shawl around her shoulders.
"No one can come and disturb me."
The International Women's Media Foundation supported Katy
Migiro's reporting from Tanzania
($1 = 2,230.0000 Tanzanian shillings)
(Reporting by Katy Migiro Additional reporting by Kizito
Makoye; Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson
Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that
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