Land Ownership in Hunter Gatherers and Pastoralists Communities
FCS grantee, Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) started a two-year project named “Promote Hunter Gatherers and Pastoralists Women Land Rights”. The project areas are in four villages of Lerug, Partimbo, Orkitkit and Amei in Kiteto District, Manyara region. Two hundred and forty (240) women were to be empowered under this project through Women’s rights and leadership forums with the expectation of having a total of a hundred women owning land through the Customary Certificates of Rights of Occupancy (CCROs).
Initial Situation and why the project?
The project was formulated to address women’s land rights and equality in a conservative culture where women did not have the right to own land and property, except through their children and relinquished custodianship to them upon maturity to manage their fathers’ properties. This resulted into many facets of women marginalization and maltreatment including economic marginalisation, gender-based violence (GBV), and a general lack of development among women.
UCRT introduced the project to Lerug, Partimbo, Orkitkit and Amei village leaders, local government officials and traditional leaders through community group facilitation and trainings. This was preceded by lobbying/advocacy activities to sell ideas to existing traditional leaders in order for them to buy the idea and participate fully in this project.
Traditional leadership structures that exist in these villages are; village chairpersons, traditional elders and village land councils.
Women’s rights and leadership fora were then formed with the aim of reaching out to more women to engage in the project. A total of 10 fora were formed in each project village with 24 women each, thus reaching 240 women. The women groups were trained on inclusiveness, gender equality, value and importance of land as per the Land Act, 1999. Other topics were on management of village resources, leadership, decision making and conflict resolution.
A total of a hundred (100) plots belonging to women have been surveyed in Partimbo, Orkitikiti and Lerug and awaiting CCRO issuance.
After the training, village and traditional leaders understood and accepted the idea of giving women land as part of community development. Women were encouraged to apply for land ownership in the village annual meetings and their requests were granted by the village councils. In villages where land plans had already been developed, women whose male partners had no land were given unallocated village spaces. For those whose male partners had land, their men were convinced to give them farms.
Partimbo Village, Partimbo Ward, Laalarkir Sub village
Some vivid examples of this project can be seen in villages such as in Partimbo where the empowerment programme resulted in a total of a hundred and fifty two (152) women applying for farms ownership and to date twenty (20) farms have been surveyed and women are now waiting for their CCROs, according to Mwanaidi Massawe, a Partimbo Village Executive Officer.
“Men will no longer sell family land as women are aware of their land rights and this has reduced the incidents of family conflicts over land,” says Mwanaidi. She adds that empowerment strategies are still needed in order to boost women’s self confidence in land ownership, citing an example where surveyors failed to do their jobs when women refused to allow them into their lands even after husband’s permission. This happened whenever surveyors appear for the exercise without the presence of the male partners.
James Mshana, a ward Executive Officer for Partimbo says the project has set a record in their village to see more women who are empowered, there is reduction in women discrimination and women are more respected now than any time before and the land ownership for women is a rare and historic occurrence in their village.
Despite the success, Mshana notes the need for traditional leaders’ inclusion in the women leadership forum instead of having separate meetings where women are now equally empowered as men and men are expected to comply and make decisions with what is agreed during meetings, regardless of gender.
According to Catherine Losurutya, Field Officer, Gender and Women from UCRT, men have been convinced to survey lands and get CCROs for their family land for themselves, wives and children. Women attendance, interest and participation in village meetings have increased and women voices are listened to now.
Women have become economically empowered and formed a saving scheme group in Lesuit village, drafted their constitution and are now in the process of group registration. They have started to farm seasonal crops on their farms to get money to construct houses on their land.
Challenges and lessons
Village land plans and boundaries are not clear to villagers which have made them encroach on protected land and later they had to reduce their land during surveys. Also, young girls have not applied for land despite the training and empowerment as traditions forbid them from inheriting family land. However, boys have applied for ownership.
Women had been oppressed by traditions. Interactions have shown that they have greater capacity and knowledge for development but lack empowerment. In order to discourage harmful traditional practices (HTPs) that hinder women inclusiveness and development, there is a need to invest in youth through by enhancing their involvement in women’s rights and leadership forums to understand their mothers’ plight and help them fight against discrimination.