IN THE NEWS: Why Pawaga residents marred by land conflicts

By Gerald Kitabu

Pawaga division is one of six divisions in Iringa District Council (IDC) in Iringa Region.  In recent years, the division which has a total area of 684.3 square kilometre with 12 villages and 60 harmlets has been marred by several conflicts. 

These conflicts prompted the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) to conduct a baseline study on the impacts of land-based investment to rural communities in Tanzania. Our columnist GERALD KITABU who has just arrived from Pawaga interviewed Programmes Coordinator for Land based investments for TNRF, who is also a lawyer, Godfrey Eliseus Massay on the findings.
Q: Sir, could you tell us in brief, why did TNRF conduct this study in Pawaga division?
A: This is part of the baseline study on the impacts of land-based investment to rural communities in Tanzania. The study was conducted in Pawaga division in Iringa District Council (IDC), Iringa Region, another one was conducted in Chemba division, Chemba District Council (CDD), Dodoma Region. The study was conducted in the last half of September 2014 as an initial stage of developing the scope of the programme which is funded by CARE International, coordinated by CARE Tanzania and implemented by TNRF.
In fact this study has its background from the many observed land conflicts in Tanzania. Generally, there have been a number of land-based conflicts between and within several groups. 
These include conflicts between large scale investors in various sectors such as mining, agriculture, tourism, construction and other sectors on one hand and local communities on the other. 
These conflicts tend to result from, among other things, land grabbing, environmental destruction, inability of local communities to access natural resources. Land-based conflicts have also been caused by fight over such resources as water between upstream and downstream water users. There are also land-based conflicts between and within various land users such as pastoralists and farmers.
Pawaga was chosen for this study because it is one of the epitome of land conflicts in Iringa District. The fact that Pawaga has plains and valleys that attracts pastoralism and agricuture, along with the fact that it borders Ruaha National Park has made it the terrain of struggle and competing interests. These have fueled conflicts among different groups over the resources available. 
The study was therefore meant to explore the causes and extent of land conflicts along with mapping of stakeholder who can contribute toward finding a sustainable solution in Pawaga.
The overall objective of the baseline study for the programme was to identify existing channels, challenges and opportunities for mitigating land and natural resources related conflicts in Tanzania at the national level based on case studies that have been done in the two target areas.
Through this study, TNRF seeks to gain an updated overview of the key players, processes and platforms that are currently engaging in policy research and dialogue on the question of land-based investments.  
Q: What are the factors that fuel these land based conflicts?
A: There are various factors that trigger these land-based conflicts. They include but are not limited to economic growth and various development strategies, land law reforms and a renewed focus on formalisation of land ownership. These and other factors appear to be combining to intensify existing disputes and at times create ones including those between both local and foreign investors on one hand and existing land holders or users on the other.
Q: What are your findings?
A: According to the field findings, the main economic activities in this division are agriculture and pastoralism. Agriculture is mainly undertaken in the Pawaga valley. Crops that are cultivated include paddy farming about 90 percent of crops produced in the division; maize; fruits; sunflower and vegetables.
Following huge improvements in agricultural infrastructure in Pawaga, the division has turned from food deficit area to food surplus area. 
The division now sales paddy while it used to receive food aid a few years ago. Paddy farming is done by small holder farmers. They do not process the paddy into rice. Instead, they sell paddy to middle businessmen who process and sell rice to traders in Iringa town. These middlemen and traders make more profit than farmers.
Q: So what do you think are the areas that require capacity building?
A: According to respondents, areas that need capacity building in Pawaga in the context of irrigation schemes include but are not limited to the following, organisational issues including leadership and constitution, Planning and implementation of projects, budgeting, basic financial management including revenue collection from irrigation schemes. 
According to respondents, each water user is supposed to pay 5 percent of own revenue to the irrigation schemes, understanding of water use policy issues.
Q: What is their status now?

A: Taking example of pastoralism in Pawaga and sources of conflicts, apart from agricultural activities, another substantial economic activity in Pawaga is pastoralism. According to respondents in the field, before independence Pawaga was a pastoralist area due to its huge plain areas although semi-arid.
There are huge herds of cattle in the division. The pastoralists in Pawaga in general and Ilolo Mpya ward in particular originated from several places. 
Majority of pastoralists used to live and undertake pastoralism activities in the area that has been turned into a game reserve (777 square kilometres) adjacent to Ruaha National Park. 
When the area was turned into a game reserve and part of it turned into Mbonipa Wildlife Management Area (WMA), the villagers in the former Ilolo including pastoralists were evacuated and moved to the Ilolo Mpya village. 
Therefore, they had to share the relatively little land with the existing villagers. Over years, the heards of cattle grew to above the carrying capacity of the area. 
Necesarily therefore, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers arouse. Another explanation behind the huge flocks of cattle in Pawaga is related to pastoralists’ eviction from Ihefu valley in Mbarali partly to avoid water shortages for hydroelectric dam at Mtera. 
According to respondents, when the government evicted pastoralists from Ihefu, they were supposed to travel with their cattle and settle in Mtwara Region. When passing through Pawaga, there was huge and prolonged rain and floods. Pastoralists and their cattle were unable to keep on moving to Mtwara. They were therefore allowed to settle in Pawaga on temporal basis until when the rain and flood conditions would allow for safer movements of pastoralists and their huge herds of cows. 
For various reasons including bad governance on part of local leaders, the pastoralist did not move on to their pre-determined destination. According to respondents, some pastoralists bribed local leaders so that they would allow them to settle in Pawaga.
As if this was not enough, some of the pastoralists who settled in Pawaga invited their friends and relatives who also arrived with herds of cows to settle in the already stressed small land area in Pawaga. This partly reflects inability and unwillingness of leaders to see to it that only those allowed to settle in the area based on the carrying capacity of land are allowed to do so.
It also shows weaknesses in leadership and governance including lack of proper decision making on how many cattle should be allowed to settle in the area. Over years, the cattle have increased both through migration and birth. The result is land conflict between pastoralists and farmers in the area.
Whereas agriculture mainly takes place on the Pawaga valley, pastoralism takes place in upper lands. However, this upper land reserved for pastoralism does not have adequate pastures and has no water for the cattle. Therefore, cattle have to be taken to the Pawaga valley for watering. They necessarily pass through farms before reaching the watering points. 
In the bid to find solutions to the conflict in Pawaga, the Minister responsible for Policy, Coordination and Parliament in the Prime Minister’s Office William Lukuvi wrote a letter dated 11th June, 2013 with Ref. No. 1/CFC.82/215/01 to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism. This, along with other efforts taken by the community in Pawaga has not resulted to any fruitful result. 
Q: You have hinted on the conflict between farmers among themselves, how does this happen? 
A: Although the conflict that dominates in Pawaga is that between pastoralists and farmers, there is also a conflict among farmers themselves. The conflict is based on struggle for water due to the scarcity of this precious resource. According to one respondent in Pawaga, “You cannot farm near your in-law because you will fight over water resource.”
The water-based conflicts are due to poor irrigation schemes in the area. There is only head works (intake) and main canal (not yet completed in all schemes). Secondary and tertiary canals are not yet well developed. At times, people living upstream do block canals and make water inaccessible to those downstream thereby triggering and fuelling conflicts between different water users who are all farmers.
Q: What is your call to the government, Pawaga villagers and other stakeholders?
A: TNRF has so far managed to conduct three inception workshops. The first was for village leaders and the community in Pawaga, the second was for community based organisations and civil society organisations in Pawaga and Iringa District. 
And the third one was for decision makers and other stakeholders at the District level. One of the objectives of such inception workshops was to identify areas for multi-stakeholder interventions and to synergise efforts of different actors. 
Throughout the workshops, what came clear was lack of platform that could unite voices from different actors. It was therefore, agreed that a district multi-stakeholder forum which could bring together media, victims of land conflicts, civil society organisations, investors, government officials, and policy makers be formed. 
Similarly, it was agreed that a loose consortium that unites community based organisations that advocate for the rights of pastoralists and those that advocate for the rights of small-scale farmers be formed.  TNRF through its development partners such as CARE International will see how these two major recommendations can be pushed forward for action. 
I was very impressed by a comment from one of the participants during multi-stakeholder forum which called stakeholders to stop blaming others when things are not moving well but to play their roles accordingly toward finding solution. This comment was raised when blames were leveled against investors and the government. 
While the call is genuine and relevant, it is equally important for identified issues to be worked out by specific parties. 
In that regard, the government should recogise pastoralism as a livelihood economic activity and put in place infrastructures to support blossoming of the same. Of the 16 agricultural schemes in Tanzania, only four are in Pawaga division. This is a clear evidence that agriculture is expanding and so is the population and pastoralists. 
Interestingly both Ruaha National Park and Mbonipa WMA have taken a substantial size of land from Pawaga. In the situation where pressure on land has increased this way, the government should work toward improving infrastructure and institutions. 
Both Pastoralists and Farmers should unite as they seek solution. The practice on the ground is that their efforts are disjointed and they give different voices on the same problem. They need to stop fighting because none of them has caused the problem they are facing. After all they all belong to the same class and they are victims of the system. 
Investors need to realise that in order for their investment to be sustainable, they need the support from the surrounding communities. It is unfortunate that some investors have allowed wealthy pastoralists to graze on their hunting blocks at a fee; excluding the poor who are majority. 
Though laws and politics surrounding wildlife conservation areas have been against pastoralists, science shows that pastolists can co-exist with wildlife. The fact that some investors have allowed pastoralist to graze in their land proves that science. It is high time to have a friendly dialogue between communities and investors and the government with the view of supporting the interest of each group. 
Behind the veil of government and corporate companies are people who have hearts, feelings and who make decisions. Involving them in a friendly discussion can surely be a step towards reaching a sustainable solution in Pawaga. The media, civil society organisation and researchers have a role and space in this struggle.