A Coalition of Farmers and Pastoralists; An Alternative Paradigm to Resolving Land Use Conflicts


Land use conflict between pastoralists and farmers in Tanzania has existed for many years (Maghimbi et al., 2012). The causes and effects of these conflicts have varied from one place to another. Researchers (HAKIADHI, 2010; PINGOs 2011; Maghimbi et al., 2012; Massay, 2014; TNRF, 2014; and Ngowi, 2015) have identified absence of land use planning, the wave of green grabbing, increased large scale agricultural investments, weak policy and institutional framework, corrupt leaders and skepticism toward pastoralism as viable livelihood option as some of the contributing causes of the longstanding conflict between these two groups of producers. Over the years, the media has often reported killings of people and livestock and the loss of properties due to these conflicts. Efforts have been made by different actors, including civil society organizations, to address this problem through mass education, land use planning, organizing communities and building citizen voices, and through policy reforms. However, these efforts have not yet managed to end this problem.

This brief, tries to document the work that Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) has done in addressing farmer-pastoralists conflicts in Pawaga division in Iringa District. The approach that TNRF used was building an understanding of the political economy of the conflicts among the victims which then created debating community of farmers and pastoralists. Finally, the movement that brought together farmers and pastoralists started.  This peasant movement has provided an alternative option to deal with the problem. We have shown in this brief some of the early successes of this approach.

The findings of this brief are based on the field works conducted by TNRF between October, 2014 and November, 2015.TNRF’s intervention in Pawaga division started by a baseline study which was conducted in September 2014 and was followed by field works which include stakeholder meetings and trainings from October, 2014.  The brief has four parts: the introduction, Pawaga as the epicenter of farmer-pastoralists conflicts, epistemic community of farmers and pastoralists, and the way forward. Throughout this brief, we argue that conflict between farmers and pastoralists are often caused by factors that are beyond their control. We also maintain that there are groups that instigate and benefit from these conflicts and thus want the conflict to continue. Moreover, this brief urges that the understanding of the political economy is very important before addressing such conflicts.  We conclude that the state has a key role to play in seeking a sustainable way to end these conflicts. However, we underscore that farmers and pastoralists can reach a lasting solution to their problem by discussing their issues openly and in united groups. The subsequent parts of this brief discuss these in details.

Pawaga Division; the Epicenter of Farmer-Pastoralists Conflicts

Brief description of Pawaga division

Pawaga division is one of six divisions in Iringa District Council in Iringa region. The division head office lies about 70km from Iringa town but the first village of the division is located about 35 km from it. The division has smallest land area in the town, being just 3.3% of the total district land area. The total area of the division is 684.3 square kilometer. It has a total of twelve villages and 60 hamlets. The main economic activities in this division are agriculture and pastoralism. Agriculture is mainly undertaken in the Pawaga valley and pastoralism in the highlands. The main crop cultivated in this area is rice. In the last ten years, the government of Tanzania has invested in improving agricultural irrigation schemes and established four pilot irrigation schemes in Pawaga (TNRF, 2014). This made Pawaga one of the bread basket areas of Tanzania. On the other hand, the number of livestock has been increasing in the division. The unofficial number of cattle in Pawaga is greater than 35,000[1].  The division also borders Ruaha National Park and some of its villages form MBOMIPA Wildlife Management Area.

Causes of Farmers and Pastoralists Conflict in Pawaga

As pointed out in the introduction, most of the causes of the conflict are directly caused by farmers and pastoralists in Pawaga. These drivers for conflicts are categorically discussed here below;

Green Grabbing: Land acquired for green purposes such as protected areas has been described by researchers as a “green grab”( Blomley et al., 2013 and  Ykhabai  et al., 2014). Parts of Pawaga division which were used for many years by pastoralists were taken by Ruaha National Park (which expanded its boarders from time to time) and MBOMIPA Wildlife Management Area[2]. This caused land pressure and contributed to the conflict.

Investment in Irrigation Schemes: The government of Tanzania has in the last ten years invested in improving irrigation schemes in Pawaga. Out of 16 agricultural schemes that have been piloted by the government under Kilimo Kwanza Policy, four of them are found in Pawaga (TNRF, 2014). This has renewed interest in Agriculture and further encroachment to areas that were used by pastoralists for grazing and or routes. Pastoralists are viewed as unfriendly to the growing agricultural interests.    

Topographical Factors: The landscape of Pawaga is not homogeneous, as agriculture is heavily practiced in the valley and pastoralism in the highlands and rangeland plains. However, during dry season, resources in the highlands and plains do not fully support pastoralism. Pastoralists move with their livestock in the valley in search of pastures and water. Thus, conflicts are more present during dry season.   

Migration of pastoralists from neighboring districts to Pawaga: This is common during dry seasons. Pastoralists from Dodoma and Singida districts migrate to Pawaga to obtain pastures and water for their livestock. Some farmers in Pawaga claim that village leaders have provided permits to allow pastoralists to get into their villages. Others claim that pastoralists in Pawaga have invited their friends from neighboring districts to come in Pawaga.  The center of the matter is that the number of livestock increase during dry season and this has caused loggerhead between the two groups of producers. While we appreciate that mobility is an important characteristic of pastoralism, we want this to be taken in the context of other drivers of land use conflicts in Pawaga.

Corrupt leaders: We have noted that some village leaders have been the cause of the conflict. They receive bribery from pastoralists and allow them to enter in their villages. We also noted that the same village leaders connive with farmers and police officers in arresting pastoralists who have trespassed in the farms. In the end, village leaders and police make pastoralism their source of income, thus making the situation worse for pastoralists. This also creates enmity between farmers and pastoralists.

Having discussed the causes of the farmer-pastoralists conflicts in Pawaga, it is clear that the victims of the conflicts have not heavily contributed to such causes. Most of the causes are externally driven and are factors of the bigger agricultural and conservation interest coupled with geographical and governance factors. In the next part, we will see how TNRF dealt with the problem.

Epistemic Community of Farmers and Pastoralists in Pawaga

Using the research findings which were informed by political economy perspectives, TNRF initiated the discussion with village leaders, farmers and pastoralists groups. These discussions were held separately to understand the perspectives of each group and to establish common areas of interest. It was then clear that, both groups were facing the same problems but used different approaches. Moreover, each group considered the other group as its rival. Furthermore, both groups could not clearly articulate the causes of their problems. The strongest entry point was that both groups had strong leaders who easily understood the bigger picture of the problems they are facing. Thus, it was easy for both groups to agree to work together and to develop joint strategy.

A loose coalition of farmer and pastoralists in Pawaga was officially formed in June 2015. However, the discussion started in November 2014. The coalition elected their leaders and developed rules of conduct and how they would run their work. They introduced the coalition to district authorities and started a close working relationship with village leaders. This became the platform that discusses issues that affect farmers and pastoralists openly without fear for favor. It is the first and the only platform in Tanzania that brings together farmers and pastoralists in one table. 

Barely six months since the coalition was formed, changes have already started. The coalition has developed some model bylaws which they want adopted in all villages in Pawaga, the number of cases involving violence between farmers and pastoralist drastically dropped, coalition has won confidence from both groups, and both groups agreed that pastoralists can graze of rice husks after harvesting seasons at a small fee which is payable to the village government. In one village, fee collections are now used for construction of one classroom for a village primary school.  

While there are things to celebrate, there are also a few challenges. We noted that leaders of the coalitions are considered by some politicians as a threat to their political carrier, thus they have not been welcomed by some politicians. This is understandable considering the fact that in October 2015, Tanzania held its general elections.  Coalition leaders have also requested financial support to do some of their work. TNRF could not support them and made it clear that they must never make the coalition dependent to any external support because such support could weaken their work.

The Way Forward

Loose coalition for farmers and pastoralists in the area where there are land use conflicts between the two groups is a very useful innovation that creates a debating community. Through debates community can reach consensus on issues and can develop a lasting solution. However, this innovation is still in a pilot stage and need to be replicated in other areas. We would like to stress the following points as the way forward;

  • The government should been keen in balancing investment interests and livelihood of its people. The ongoing green grabbing which targets rangelands and protected areas has excluded pastoralists. The business interests has taken over the interests of the people and thus bolstered the land use conflicts. Such projects must put the interests of the people at the center.
  • Strong institutions and good leadership are vital in addressing land use conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. Corrupt leaders have benefited enormously from such conflicts. This is an area that needs to be seriously scrutinized.
  •  Civil society organizations and other development actors should ensure that communities are organized and address their own challenges. This can be done by encouraging communities to openly discuss matters that affect them and ask difficult questions which demand accountability to their leaders.    


Blomley, T, Fiona Flintan, Fred Nelson and Dialys Rose (2013). Conservation and Land Grabbing: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution. IIED

Maghimbi, S, Razack Lokina and Mathew Senga (2010). The Agrarian Question in Tanzania: A State of the Art Paper.  Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan African Studies-University of Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam.

TNRF, (2014). Baseline Study on the Impact of Land-Based Investment to Rural Communities in Tanzania; A case of Pawaga and Chemba. TNRF.

For comments on this brief, please use g.massay@tnrf.org

[1] Interview with one of the leaders of the coalition

[2] A letter written by Hon. William Lukuvi, the then Minister responsible for Policy Coordination and Parliament in Prime Minister’s Office, dated  11th June, 2013 with Ref. No. 1/CFC.82/215/01 to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, provides the list of villages affected by green grabbing in Pawaga.