Land Rights Improve Lives in Tanzania

In the District of Sengerema on the southwest coast of Lake Victoria, farmers can’t use their land as collateral or benefit from the work they do to improve it.

As in many other districts in Tanzania, the land is owned by the government, and the local farmers lack titles to it.

They are also at risk of being evicted from the land without compensation if the government, an agribusiness, or other farmers wish to use the land.

In 2010, World Renew began to work with its local Christian partner, the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA), to address this issue.

While Tanzanian citizens have been allowed to apply for land rights since 1999, an estimated 98 percent of farmers in Sengerema continue to lack legal title to their land, primarily because they don’t understand the process.

SISA worked with the local government to educate farmers about land rights and the application process.

Women do most of the agricultural work in the country, but men control land ownership.

With this in mind, World Renew and SISA paid special attention to widows, families headed by women, those caring for AIDS orphans, and families caring for people who live with HIV.

“God has called us to speak out on behalf of the poor and pursue justice. This program has enabled us to do just that,” said Chris Enns, World Renew Tanzania staff member.

As farmers in surrounding communities became aware of the project, the demand increased, expanding to 10 new communities.

In September 2012, the Prime Minister of Tanzania visited Sengerema and praised the project.

Joseph Shigulu, the program coordinator, says he has been getting email from all over the world about the land rights program and the improved agriculture practices being taught.

To assist these external organizations and spread the word to all communities in the area, SISA has begun working with its partners to create two manuals.

The greatest impact, however, is felt by the farmers and landowners themselves.

Through the project, Angelina Hobbas has gone from being a peasant farmer who could not afford to eat three meals a day to owning a five-acre farm and becoming a prominent food producer and processor in the district.

“With World Renew and SISA,” she said, “you will never be disappointed.”

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.

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