In the early 2000s, Tanzania struggled to protect the land rights of the 75% of its citizens who lived in rural areas. Rapid population growth and rising investment in commercial agriculture had increased land scarcity and created the potential for violent conflict in parts of the country. In accordance with the provisions of a new law, the national lands ministry launched a pilot project in 2001 to title 158 villages and more than 1,000 individual parcels. Building on lessons from the project, the government passed a new land-use planning act, created a new implementation program, and drew up a strategic plan to title rural land throughout the country. Starting in 2008, the lands ministry worked with community leaders to grant villages and their residents title documents that protected them from land grabbing. Villages also decided how they would use communal land and how they would set up committees to resolve boundary disputes. Officials constructed registry buildings in villages and districts to house title documents before surveying individual land parcels and handing over titles to village residents. By 2017, more than 11,000 of Tanzania’s approximately 12,500 villages had mapped their outer limits, and about 13% of villages had also adopted land-use plans. Of the approximately 6 million households located within rural villages, about 400,000 also had obtained individual title documents.
Leon Schreiber drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, Tanzania, in April 2017. The British Academy-Department for International Development Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Program funded the development of this case study. Case published June 2017.