some reflections on the draft national land policy, 2016 by youjinbchung


Earlier this year, the Tanzanian government launched the review process for the National Land Policy (NLP), 1995. I have had the privilege of observing (from the backseat) the unfolding of this process, particularly the ways in which non-state actors were struggling for voice and space in civic engagement. Some of my colleagues have already provided some great insights on the draft NLP (see this, this, and this), but I want to share some of my raw reflections here.

1. Shady Statistics?  

Some of the statistics used in the draft NLP are questionable. On p. 24, it states: “About 80 percent of all villages in the country are surveyed". But elsewhere on p. 19, it says: “In general it is estimated that only 15 percent of land in Tanzania is surveyed”, and that "70 percent" of all land in the nation is village land. These statistics don’t add up.

Also, the '70% village land, 2% general land, 28% reserved land' thesis should be used with qualifications, especially given that these data are from two decades ago, and thus (probably) not reflective of the status quo. An unpublished 2012 report for the USAID states that the aim of the Tanzanian government is to transfer 17.9 percent of vilage land into the general land category (in how many years?) to allow for the commercial development in the Southern Agricultural Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). The SAGCOT Centre highlights that its aim is to turn "350,000 hectares of land into profitable production"by 203o. With such increasing commercial pressures to transfer village land to general land, the extent of involuntary displacement and resettlement will become more ubiquitous.

This brings me to the issues of valuation, compensation, and resettlement.

2. Whose and What Kind of Value? 

'Land value' in the context of the NLP strictly refers to the market value of land. By extension, it refers to the market value of unexhausted improvements on the land, such as permanent dwellings, structures, and perennial crops like fruit trees. What is excluded are common property resources, such as non-commodified indigenous trees, forests, bushes, grasses, water, dams, ponds,meadows, pasture, and etc.

These common property resources provide essential material benefits for local users, as sources of food, fuel, fibre, building material, medicine. At the same time, they carry immeasurable cultural values and knowledges which are passed on intergenerationally. The draft NLP makes note of how the current policy falls short of meeting the 'international best practice' on involutary resettlement. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), for instance, in its 'Guidance Note 5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement', states that the loss of common property resources "has been identified as one of the primary impoverishment risks associated with involuntary resettlement and requires careful mitigation" (p. 7). Yet, it is unclear to me how the NLP aims to address this issue. The discussion of common property resources (and their multiple uses and values for rural communities) is critically wanting.

3. Waiting in Limbo for Compensation?

The draft NLP rightly acknowledges that, at present, there is no administative appeal mechanisms for those aggrieved with compensation, and that there are significant delays in compensation payments (p. 22). This is precisely the condition I've observed in Bagamoyo; there are many people who have been, and still are, waiting for compensation and displacement to make way for a large-scale agro-industrial project, an economic processing zone, a port, a tarmac road, an airport, etc. According to national land laws, people are entitled to be paid within 6 months of compensation valuation, and if it is delayed, they should be paid interest (6 percent per annum) until compensation is paid in full. However, what is significantly lacking in the current policy and laws is stipulations on the maximum waiting period. In other words, there is no statement, to my knowledge, that talks about for how long people are supposed to wait for compensation. According my interview with a Tanzanian legal scholar and professional who has written about the human right to compensation: "The only thing people can do, unfortunately, is to wait" (4 August 2016). Wait they shall, but for how long? And under what conditions?

This is a significant oversight in the draft NLP, because people are often prohibited from making long-term improvements on their land or face other land use restrictions after compensation valuation. At least this is what I have observed in Bagamoyo over the past few years. As one might expect, if compensation/displacement is delayed for a long time, people are likely to incur significant opportunity costs, economically, socially, culturally, politically, psychologically, and emotionally.

4. Delayed/Unpaid Compensation x Revocation of Title? 

It is in this context that I am puzzled by policy statement 4.6.3 Acquisition and Revocation of Rights of Occupancy. It states that the Tanzanian government will "ensure that revocation process is not initiated within first ten years of tenure for non-development of land". How and in what ways did the ten-year grace period come about? What are its social implications?

What if, for instance, the acquirer of the land (whether domestic or foreign) has received the Certificate of Title; has 'valued' the local populations and their property; has promised them compensation within six months; but failed to obtain the necessary funds to develop the land and failed to pay compensation for over ten years; and for all those years, restricted the local people from making long-term improvements on their land? Where does the liability of compensation payment fall? The government that is the ultimate landlord/custodian of all land the country? The private individual or company that acquired the land? What are the modes and mechanisms of redress for the people who have had to wait indefinitely for compensation payments?

As I write this, I am reminded of a young man, who asked me in one inteview: "Imagine. If we take away your pen and paper now, what will you do? What if we take them away from you indefinitely?" (20 September 2016). This thought is anxiety-inducing to say the least for researchers like me, for whom the pen is indispensable for my livelihood. It's hard to imagine how farmers are expected to live with so many restrictions on their land, that is, their livelihood, with no end in sight.

5. Tackling 'Unplanned Urban Settlements'?

In the draft NLP, resettlement is often mentioned in reference to "Unplanned Urban Settlements" (Sections 2.19 and 4.19). I wonder: is this because those who are displaced and resettled from rural areas are expected to settle in urban fringes? Whatever the reasoning behind this may be, the draft policy seems to believe that the solution to the problem of informal settlements is to have more planned and orderly urban planning processes. This is needed eventually of course, but the policy eclipses a more fundamental issue: the structural causes of rural-urban migration and the (re)production of 'planet of slums'.

In my research, I have interviewed scores of migrants, who have left their natal villages in Tanzania's interior (as far as Kigoma and Kagera) to Dar es Salaam and then back to rural Bagamoyo. The primary reason? Because they failed to eke out a living in the city; they could not get a job, most of them being Standard 7 leavers, or with no education at all. In Dar, they lived in urban slums, such as Manzese, Mwananyamala, Mbagala, and Tandika--all of which would fall under what the draft NLP calls 'Unplanned Urban Settlements'. Many have left their natal villages in the first place due to lack of land--arising from increased land concentration and land grabbing by urban elites, investors, and even national parks. Yet, after having experienced abject poverty in the city, they ended up in rural Bagamoyo, through words of mouth, only to be faced with insecurity of tenure and the threat of (imminent) displacement due to a large-scale sugarcane project. Without tackling these structural issues first and foremost, planned settlements will soon again morph into a mosaic of ghettos.

6. Commodifying 'Land Rights Under Water Bodies'? 

To me Sections 2.26 and 4.26 are the least thought out. The drafters of the policy were concerned about lack of legal procedures for allocating and administrating "land rights under water bodies" for emerging activities like cage fishing, fish farms, floating hotels, jetties (p. 32 and 55). This raises the specter of water/blue grabbing, which is inextricably tied to land grabbing. The negative environmental and social impacts of the Blue Revolution and other water/land-based extractive activities are not at all raised in the draft NLP. The Sections on Environment (2.27 and 4.27) are thin and frankly, disappointing. When the NLP states that water resources remain underutilized, it ignores the fact that many rural people depend on rivers, ponds, streams, and other water sources for drinking water,  washing clothes, bathing, fishing, collecting clay for making cooking utensils, and etc.

Without adequate regulations in place for high-density aquaculture like fish farms and cage fishing, how can land rights under public water bodies be effectively allocated and administered? Data is relatively scanty in my knowledge, but commercial aquaculture (depending on species) will likely have environmental impacts that are similar to those of intensive animal husbandry. Most evident is the accumulation of waste (feces and unconsumed feed), which may lead to eutrophication, and the associated depletion of oxygen and the proliferation of toxic algae. Combined with the use of pesticides and antibiotics required of large-scale, high-density fish farming, the local marine biodiversity will be adversely affected, and could possibly introduce some invasive carnivorous species. [If you haven't watched Darwin's Nightmare, I highly recommend you watch it]. And as it is in all food production value chains, post-harvest activities in aquaculture will also lead to further greenhouse gas emissions. Just like commercial agriculture, commercial aquaculture will be promoted for their 'job-creating' effects, but the questions we need to keep asking is: Jobs for whom and under what conditions?

7. Adding Women And Not Even Stirring? 

In the foreword, the Minister writes that one of the objectives of the policy is to ensure equitable access to land for all Tanzania "irrespective of gender or ethnicity" (p. 6). Why just gender or ethnicity? These are not standalone categories or separated realms of experience. Nor are gender and ethnicity isolated from other axes of power, such as class, race, age, marital status, (dis)ability, and etc. These categories are hatched together; and together they shape the complex identities and subjectivities that mediate the terms of land access, use, and control.

Section 2.28 sadly refers to women as a homogeneous group, and later talks about two sub-categories of women: widows and those "experiencing hardship and poverty". What about single women and mothers--unwed, separated, divorced, widowed, or raped--and their idiosyncratic challenges in land access, use, and control? And what about the plight of poor rural men vis-a-vis rich urban women?

Section 5.2.1 is slightly more satisfying, where the following statement appears: "Both women and men experience gender based insecurity of land tenure depending on ethnicity, rural or urban, education attainment, poverty status, age, tribe, and knowledge of the legal system". How intersectionality mediates (and complicates) access to/control over resources must come more front and centre, so as to avoid the pitfall of reducing the 'gender issue' in land tenure to merely an issue of 'women's access to land'.

Lastly, while gender is highlighted as a cross-cutting issue, more work needs to be done to demonstrate how and it what ways it crosscuts with other policy issues. I want to talk about one issue in particular: the gender dimensions of compensation valuation. In my study, I have found that when it comes to valuation, those who were registered by government valuers were essentially all men, as they are perceived to be the 'heads of households' and/or the de facto owners of land. Of course there were exceptions, such as widows, divorcées, and other 'women without men', who were responsible for finding food and caring for their families. This male-bias occurred even when the Chief Valuer and authorized land valuers are/were women. Promoting 'equal representation of both women and men in land administration' may balance the gender ratio in the workforce, but that won't necessarily transform patriarchal bureaucratic practices.


The joys (?) and tribulations of becoming a permanent resident in TZ by youjinbchung


Oh where do I begin. 18 Sep 2015: On this day, I made my first trip to immigration services (Uhamiaji House) in Kurasini to apply for my Class C permanent residence permit. An immigration officer, whom I will call E, advised me to come back after 12 days. When I was submitting my application though, E gave me a hard time for having paid the $500 fee in advance; she said the fees are paid only when the applications get officially approved. I was discombobulated -- what she told me was contrary to the information posted on the immigration services website. According to Government Notice No.262 of August 03, 2012, the the $500 fee for Class C Permit (researchers) should be deposited through direct banking, which I did. The website also indicates: "Services are provided after the customer's presentation of the Bank Slip to the respective office where the service is sought" (Part 2 of the website). E took my documents anyway and gave me a receipt acknowledging my application, but she wasn't convinced that the accountant would accept my deposit slip...

6 Oct 2015: I made my way to Uhamiaji House early in the morning, already stressed out after having spent so much time and energy haggling over the taxi fare with dishonest drivers, and having been stuck in traffic for I don't know how long. *Oh, also just a word of caution, there is a dress code at Uhamiaji House -- no skinny jeans, or "skin jeans" as they call them here. A woman in front of me was stopped at security point; she eventually had to drape a kanga over her legs. It doesn't make sense though, because the security officers didn't say anything about guys who wore jeans that were as tight or that were practically sliding off their asses, ugh.*

Anyway. I went directly to counter no. 13, which serves Class C permit applicants. I showed the officer on duty, whom I will call M, my acknowledgement receipt from September. She told me to wait - her expression impassive. After having waited half an hour or so, officer E appeared at the counter. She told me the same thing she did back in September: it was wrong that I paid the fees in advance. This time, I had a printed copy of the immigration services website. E acquiesced to my surprise: "Oh, well... maybe the weakness is on our part". She took me across the ground floor to the accountant. Having examined my deposit slip from NMB Bank, he told to go up to the 3rd floor to the Revenue Office so that they can verify that my $500 had in fact been deposited. I did what I was told, and brought the verified (signed and stamped) deposit slip down to the accountant. He now told me to go across the street to get a photocopy of the slip and come back. To the closest stationery store I went -- only to realise that there was no power. I walked further down the road to another shop, which charged me five times the usual price, because of the generator. I walked back to Uhamiaji House, waited in a long line under the scorching sun, went through the security point again, and went back to the accountant with my photocopy. The accountant kept the original and he told me to give the photocopy to the officer in the next counter. I waited and waited...

About half an hour later, the officer who took the photocopy called me over and asked why I had given it to him. What was I supposed to say other than "I did what the accountant told me to do"!? The accountant called me over again; he told me to go across the hall and find E. It took me an hour to find E. When I did find her, she said I needed to pay $50 extra dollars for a "re-entry fee". She said without it, my permit will terminate if I leave the country temporarily within the two years of my residency. I was baffled why she hadn't told me this earlier. She took me back to the accountant, who told me to go to another counter across the hall to pay the additional $50. I was getting exasperated. I had spent three hours at this place already; been dragged from counter to counter, from floor to floor; put up with people pushing and cutting in front of me in line; and the heat. When I went to the payment counter, there were just SO many people and no space to even stand and wait. I was trying really hard to be patient and stay positive, but I couldn't stop the tears that were starting to cloud my vision. I choked up.

When I was wiping the tears away with my handkerchief, I locked eyes with officer M. I was pretty embarrassed. She kept looking at me - still impassively - and it just made me cry even more. I swiftly wiped my tears, blew my nose, and took a deep breath, reciting "Om Mani Padme Hum" silently in my head. When I locked eyes with M again, she called me over to her counter. I didn't know what to do, because I was starting to make progress, albeit slow, in this long queue to pay; I didn't want to lose my spot. She was insistent that I come see her. I eventually relinquished my spot in line and went up to M. She asked: "What's wrong?" I wish she hadn't, because my tears started gushing out. Once I regained my composure, I told her I was just getting flustered with the lack of clarity with this whole process, all the back-and-forthing, and the hours of waiting. Her look was still impassive, but she told me to wait; somehow, she had managed to expedite my $50 payment. I was beyond grateful. She told me to take the payment receipt back to the accountant, who then told me to go outside again to make two photocopies. It was the same process again -- overcharged photocopying bill, long queue under the sun, security check, and more waiting to see the accountant. I got an official receipt of payment from the accountant when I came back. I was so hopeful I would be able to get my permit on the same day. Instead, I was told to go back home, wait, and return after 10 working days. Inshallah!

*Update* 22 October: I waited 10 working days and went back to Uhamiaji House; I left my house at 7 am to beat the morning traffic and arrived just before 8 am, when the offices opened for business. When I brought my receipt to counter no. 13, the officer, without saying a word and without even looking at me, pointed to the next window (no. 14), at which there was no one. There was really no point in me arriving early, because no one showed up to serve counter no. 14 until around 9.30 am.

I imagined this trip to Uhamiaji House to be my very last one. And because I thought everything would go smoothly and quickly this last time (I mean, what could go wrong?), I hadn't brought anything to read... I hadn't expected to wait for so long...

When the officer finally arrived at counter no. 14, I showed him my receipt. I could see that he was typing my name on the keyboard. He typed my name over and over. Frown lines appeared between his eye brows. I started to panic. He said, "It's not ready. Come back tomorrow and check." No explanation as to why it was not ready. My heart started racing, my blood started simmering. There was no way I was coming back here. There was no guarantee that my permit would be ready tomorrow. "Come back tomorrow and check"!? I sat down and mulled over my course of action, while trying to suppress the tears of frustration. I think I sat there for another hour. My head was blank. I should have asked my friends for help; I knew at least three friends, who either new people working at Immigration, or people who could help expedite my application. I observed the world go around me. I saw so many people (mostly men) holding other peoples' passports; filling out other peoples' paperwork; and quietly exchanging words (and cash) with officers in corridors and stairwells...

A petite Indian Catholic nun sat next to me. She grinned at me and I returned a meek smile. She gently touched my arm and asked if everything was okay. I vaguely told her my situation. She whispered in my ear: "Don't worry. I'll take you to an "officer"". It was a bizarre situation. I felt quite uneasy, and yet somewhat hopeful. After she received her permit (she submitted her application 3 weeks after I had, and she had already gotten her permit!), she took me to a room on the first floor, where a heavy-set man in a navy blue uniform sat. The nun went into his office, shook his hand vigorously, and said thank you repeatedly. Then she introduced me to him, as "a sister needing help". Without any question, he asked for a copy of my receipt, and told me to wait downstairs. I asked for his name, and he said I didn't need to know his name. Just "Officer", or "Ofisa". I left the room, and the nun stayed with Bwana Ofisa. For a fleeting second, I thought of attending mass this Sunday and reviving my foregone Catholic beliefs...

I waited for another hour. At this point, I was bored, I was hot, I was vexed. I didn't know for how much longer I could wait. Then a male officer called me at counter no. 13. He said they were now going to process/print my permit, and that I should wait for an hour. Of course I waited more than an hour. Exactly 5 hours and 30 minutes after my arrival, I received my Class C permanent residence permit. I can now legally reside in Tanzania for the next 12 months...!

So, I've written this post to both let off steam and to help other researchers in the future. I succeeded in doing this immigration business under my own steam (well, except for the unexpected help from the nun and Bwana Ofisa), at the cost of completely running out of steam. As frustrating as it was, I did learn something about Tanzanian bureaucracy.

Weber once said:

"The nature of bureaucracy, which is welcomed by capitalism, develops the more perfectly the more the bureaucracy is 'dehumanized,' the more completely it succeeds in eliminating from official business love, hatred, and all purely personal, irrational, and emotional elements which escape calculation" (see Weber, M. 1946. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, pp. 215-6).

On one hand, I observed and experienced many "human" aspects of the Tanzanian immigration system. The application process is non-automated; there are heaps of manual files stacked on officers' desks; the receipts are hand-written; and the overall process is based on direct, face-to-face interactions. And yet, this human interaction, as I experienced it (as a foreigner), was very "dehumanising", in the sense that it was emotionally offensive. In many instances, I felt ignored, disrespected, "othered", helpless, powerless, and the list can go on. But on the other hand, the pervasiveness of middlemen, personal favours, and petty corruption, all seem to successfully reproduce the bureaucracy... And what alarms me is how these practices are naturalised and rationalised. Many of my Tanzanian friends/colleagues/acquaintances acknowledge the adverse nature and extent of petty corruption in the country, and yet, they all partake in it, because it saves them time and energy. Tanzanian bureaucracy seems to reproduce itself in spite of - or thanks to - its inherent contradictions. It is impersonal yet personal, and irrational yet rational.

Applying for a research permit in Tanzania by youjinbchung


One of things that worried me the most about starting my fieldwork was obtaining a research permit from the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH). I have heard so many nightmarish stories about the research clearance process -- how it's so difficult to get in contact with COSTECH, how the overall process is unclear, how there's so much bureaucratic red tape, etc. There's actually a lot of information about the research clearance process floating on the web -- some useful, some not useful...  I'll just write about my own experience here (while my memory is still fresh), with the hope that it will help other researchers in the future.

Here's what I did:

1. Apply for a research associateship with the University of Dar es Salaam

As I was conducting my pre-dissertation fieldwork (2013-2014), I spent a lot of time building relationships with local academics and researchers. In summer 2014, I established an informal affiliation with the Department of Geography at UDSM through a faculty member, with whom I had shared research interests in land/resource politics. I got in touch with her again around May 2015 (once I had secured my fieldwork funding) and asked if she could serve as my local advisor in support of my formal affiliation at UDSM (the affiliation is officially called 'research associateship').

Here are the documents required for applying for a research associateship at UDSM:

  • Application Form (let me know if this link doesn't work)
  • Research Proposal (one page in length, 4 copies)
  • CV
  • Names and Addresses of 2-3 Referees
  • Photographs (no specific size requirement, 2 copies)
  • Invitation letter from a local advisor

I sent these documents via email to Noela, the administrative assistant at the Vice Chancellor's Office for Research, on 11 July 2015, and mailed a hard copy to the following address the next day:

The Deputy Vice Chancellor Research University of Dar es Salaam P.O. Box 35091 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I heard from my local advisor about a month later (18 Aug), who said I needed to transfer the $200 application fee. The Bank details for UDSM can be found in the application form. I transferred the funds online through Bank of America; it went through in about two days (N.B. BoA charged me $35 fee for international transfers). About three weeks later (9 Sep, two days after arriving in Dar), I was informed by Noela that my research associateship was approved.

A week later (16 Sep), I met with my local advisor who handed me a packet of documents to take to COSTECH to apply for an official research permit. The packet included a letter from UDSM introducing me to COSTECH, and the other documents I had submitted to the university back in July (i.e. one copy of the photograph, one copy of my research proposal, CV and references, invitation letter from my local advisor).

2. Apply for Research Permit at COSTECH

I saved some time by depositing the research permit fee ($300) before going into the COSTECH offices. If you want the bank account details, let me know and I can share this information with you. You just need to go to any National Bank of Commerce (NBC) branch, fill in the cash deposit slip, and deposit the fee in US dollars. Remember to keep the receipt!

Once you arrive at COSTECH, you will sign a guest book at the entrance of the building. The building itself isn't really welcoming, and the offices are not signposted. Walk up to the the second floor, go through the corridor on the right, and enter room number C1. There was one lady processing the documents and one man (Mr Mushi); I don't know his exact title, but he is the one who has the authority to issue the research permits on behalf of the Director General (I think). They were both very lovely -- speaking Swahili helped a great deal. After reviewing my documents, Mr Mushi directed me to go downstairs to room B6 to submit the receipt I got from NBC. This took maybe 5 minutes. Once I came back with my receipt, my research permit was all ready to go! I was given three documents:

  • Research Permit
  • Cover Letter from COSTECH to Immigration Services
  • Tanzania Immigration Department Residence Permit Datasheet

I need to take all these documents to Immigration Services Department HQ in Dar (Kurasini) to apply for my Class C Residence Permit. I'll more about this later...

In sum, the research clearance process isn't so complicated as long as you have a good institutional affiliation, have a lot of patience, pay the fees in time, and try to do things face-to-face once you are in the country (and speak Swahili as much as you can!). Another important tip is to bring a lot of US$ with you for the initial months. It doesn't sound so safe to be carrying thousands of dollars, but a lot of these official documents require fees to be paid in US$, and the ATMs here charge a lot of fees (BoA charges something like $11 every time I withdraw cash).