The 1999 Land Act and Village Land Act are arguably among the laws that most directly impact on the well-being of most Tanzanians. They occasioned considerable debate when they were enacted, particularly on aspects pertaining to gender. After enactment, the Land Acts have made occasional appearances in the policy debates. Enactment on the Land Act was one of the trigger points in the HIPC process and there was also considerable debate surrounding the recent amendment of the Land Act that sought to make titled land more useable as collateral.
Notwithstanding the centrality of land to Tanzanian socio-political and economic life and the sporadic appearances of land law in the policy debates, it is striking how little the Land Act and the Village Land Act has changed the way that land is administered on the ground. There is also a comparative paucity of technical or academic analysis of the Land Acts. Although policy makers often refer to the Acts, it may be surprising to some how little they actually know of the substance of the Acts. Part of the reason for the substantial vacuity (excuse the term!) of the discourse around the Land Acts, especially the Village Land Act, may be that they to a large extent still aren’t being implemented. The purpose of this essay is to venture a modest analysis of the Acts. The focus will be on the practical aspects of the Acts, in order to provide a guesstimate of the Acts’ likely impact on the administration of land in Tanzania.
The next part of this essay provides the background to the Acts and a general discussion on their adoption. This is followed by more detailed discussions of first the Land Act, and then the Village Land Act. The last two sections of the essay considers alternatives to the existing legislation and some strategic observations on how the debate and policy process concerning land may be taken forward.