Thursday, March 03, 2016

Coming together in Tanzania

For decades, farmers and herders in a village located 65 km from Iringa region in Tanzania’s southern highlands, have been vying with one another for water for irrigate fields or pastures for feeding animals; triggering many fatal conflicts. The Pawaga division is considered one of the bread basket areas of Tanzania where people grow maize, rice and vegetables in the valleys whereas others keep animals in the highlands. Despite a clear demarcation of the areas that are controlled by farmers and those controlled by herders, there have been frequent clashes. Deadly conflicts have been raging in Tanzania for years as farmers and herders scramble for resources as climate change continues to take its toll. The worst conflict between pastoralists and farmers occurred in December 2000 in Kilosa district, Morogoro region, where 38 farmers were killed. Hostilities re-ignited in 2008 and eight people were killed, several houses set ablaze. Pastoralists, who are considered more affluent than farmers, are often accused of influencing political decisions by bribing local leaders who allow them to let cattle graze in farmland and trample on crops. Tanzania has approximately 21 million head of cattle, the largest number in Africa after Ethiopia and Sudan. Livestock’s contribution is at least 30 per cent of agricultural gross domestic product.

At the remote village of Itunundu, farmers and pastoralists met to discuss the best way to share land resources while charting out a strategy to prevent unnecessary fights among themselves. No one in the village ever imagined that this meeting would ever take place as the two groups had for long considered themselves enemies: they often clashed for water and pastures to feed their animals thus causing deaths and loss of property.

There are now promising signs that hostility between the two groups may be coming to an end, thanks to an initiative by Tanzania Natural Resources Foundation (TNRF) – a civil society-based initiative on land-based resources that has brought farmers and herders to the negotiating table to build an understanding of the political economy of resources-based conflicts and suggest alternative solutions. Godfrey Massay, TNRF’s land-based investment coordinator, said “Farmers and herders need to know that there are people who benefit from their conflicts and do not wish to see the conflicts resolved.” Massay said the recurring fights is a symptom of a bigger problem that requires joint efforts to resolve them because they involve externally- driven factors of bigger agricultural and conservation interests. A study conducted by TNRF in the area in 2014 revealed that resource-based conflicts in Pawaga are caused by the lack of land use planning, ‘green’ grabbing, increased large-scale agricultural investments, weak policy, corruption and scepticism toward pastoralism as a viable livelihood option. According to Massay, TNRF separately initiated talks with village leaders, farmers and pastoralists group last year to understand their point of view and establish a common area of interest. Both groups have agreed to allow pastoralists graze on rice husks after harvesting seasons for a small fee which is payable to the village government. This innovation has succeeded in eliminating the existing animosity between rival groups.  The number of violent clashes have dropped, Pawaga division officials said. “This shows that no matter how deep the conflict is, it can be resolved by just talking”said Donald Mshauri, Iringa district land officer.

Henry Mahoo, professor of agricultural engineering at Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, told IPS that in order to resolve tensions between the two groups, a land use plan, which will clearly identify areas under pastoralists’ ownership and those controlled by farmers, should be drawn up. “All concerned parties must be involved in the negotiation process, and there must be a forum where farmers and pastoralists openly talk about their problems,” he said.

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