Many people own land due to its necessity in most social and economic activities, but not all of them know the laws governing land ownership. This has caused many land conflicts that can be challenging to solve. In Morogoro, a CSO called Morogoro Paralegal Center, funded by Foundation for Civil Society, implemented a project to address this issue.
In Mngazi village, one of the villages where the project was implemented, land conflicts were the order of the day. According to Octavian Kobelo, the Village Executive Officer before the implementation of the project, in a day, an average of 6 to 7 cases would be brought to them and many cases would also be taken to the Ward Council. This wasted a lot of valuable time that would have otherwise been spent in more forward-leaning development activities. These challenges were also influenced by the fact that most people did not have title deeds for the lands they owned.
Morogoro Paralegal’s intervention included creating a team of 15 mobilizers and educating them together with village leaders on the importance and the process of obtaining a title deed. These mobilizers would then go house to house educating their fellow villagers on this issue, and even addressing the challenge of land ownership for women. At first, some people resisted but as more and more people bought into the idea, the whole village was caught up. Up until the end of the project in March this year, Morogoro Paralegal had facilitated the availability of 100 title deeds.
Mr Shaaban Kimwaga, the Village Chairperson says the education they received and the mobilization done by the team has greatly influenced their village. After the project, the village leadership receives one or two cases as a daily average, a drop from the 6 to 7 cases they used to get before the project.
The attitude toward land ownership by women has also changed. Previously, men wouldn’t let women register their names on title deeds making it even easier for men to kick women out of their homes when they differed in thoughts. Ms. Sinahamu Swala, one of the community mobilizers that was trained by Morogoro Paralegal says, “my motivation to join this was the injustice I had seen my fellow women go through in being denied land ownership and the unfair treatment that arouse from that.” After the project, however, as Mr Shaaban, the Village Chairperson attests to, the situation has changed. “These days both the man and woman come in together to begin processing a title deed. In a few cases when men come alone, we advise them to bring their wives along in the process,” says Mr Shaaban.
This wave of women owning land was greatly influenced by the case of Ms Asha Ali Kitogo, a mother of two, who separated with her husband and went to court to demand her share of the assets. Having won in Primary Court, the former husband took the issue to a district court and Ms Asha had to get support from Morogoro Paralegal and the trained mobilizers in Mngazi village as well as the village leadership. She won this case as well and the husband has had to give her 3 acres of farmland, 1 mill, 2 bicycles and get her a house.
The education on land ownership and the mobilization done by volunteers such as Ms Sinahamu has motivated the community to come together and contribute bricks and money to build a registry office to keep documents for the village as well as provide space for their Ward Land Council to meet.
This is the impact of education in solving what is on the onset a legal issue. This intervention by civil society has been able to not only affect the land conflict challenge but also spearhead development in land rights for women and the involvement of the community in development.