Approximately 70 percent of Tanzanians rely on land and agricultural related activities. Agriculture forms the backbone of the economy contributing close to a third of the country’s GDP. In his 2017 budget speech, the Minister of Finance and Planning alluded to the fact that the rationalizing land tenure and land ownership rights would contribute towards increased productivity and sustained economic growth, therefore raising government revenue. Tanzania achieved 7.0% economic growth in 2016, putting it amongst the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the strong growth, Tanzania has unequal development with poverty increasing defined by geographic location and gender. This has resulted in unequal opportunities between regions, particularly urban and the rural areas. Poverty is more pervasive in rural areas. Limited access to land and obscured land tenure rights in rural areas are the main factors driving to rural poverty in Tanzania. This is compounded by poor infrastructure and limited access to finance for rural citizens.
In the pre-colonial period before the 1880s indigenous people had the right to use land as allocated by the traditional leadership following customary practices. The individual or family did not have ownership but rather only exercised control through delegated authority. Land disputes arising out of conflicts over land use and allocation were resolved through customary traditions that gave the traditional leadership custodianship. Therefore, land was largely administered through leasehold system where the traditional authority had supreme right over land. The government has maintained the customary land governance structure in some cases through section 180 of the Land Act No 5 of 1999. The downside was that women had had no direct entitlement to the land and could not in their own right be allocated land for use. This gender-based discrimination from land has continued from the pre-colonial to post-colonial period.
One of the first acts of colonial rule in 1885 was to decree that all land belonged to the Germany King without any regard to existing indigenous land ownership arrangements. This rendered the indigenous people as tenants of the crown with only rights to reside and to use the land. In 1923 the British became the administrators of the territory known as Tanganyika, current Tanzania. The British reversed the previous German decree by promulgating the Land Ordinance 113 declaring all land without deed of ownership as public land in the hands of the Governor of the territory. The British also distinguished between land for settler occupation and land for indigenous people.
The first post-colonial Tanzanian government implemented a village Land Act No 5 of 1999, which aimed at establishing large collective farms and modernization of agriculture. The programme involved the relocation of about 80% of the rural population of 95% from 1960 to 68% in 2016 as the Nyerere administration sought to create a new economic world order informed by a socialist cooperative approach to commercialization and industrialization dubbed Ujamaa in the Swahili language. In this thinking, the government did not create a new tenure regime in the post-colonial period neither did it seek to decentralize authority to local authorities. As a result, central government maintained a hold over land with villages only invited to participate in cooperatives. The land “allocation” took the form of informal public pronouncements without any formal government procedures being instituted. The government took a socialist approach where rural citizens were allocated land, prescribed what to produce and how to produce, and where to sell their produce. Government maintained a strong hold over ownership and the whole agriculture value chain in Tanzania and failed to create space for grassroots participation and empower rural communities. Former President Nyerere’s economic development model required strong state intervention with political elites and the bureaucracy taking over the planning and design work.
In 1995 the government embarked on a process of reviewing the land governance which resulted in Tanzania’s first National Land Policy in 1995. This was followed by enactment of the Village Land Act No 4 of 1991 and Land Act No 5 of 1991. These laws do not deviate very much from the colonial period because they vested the ownership of land in the state with the president as the custodian on behalf of the population. Under the customary tenure the government also has the authority to transfer village land to General Land or Reserved Land. Under the Village Land Act general land is used for residual purposes, and the reserved land is used for special purposes such as forest reserves, Game Parks and public utilities.
The 2007/08 National Sample Census of Agricultural indicates that, the rural household has shifted from farm to nonfarm livelihoods. The shift by rural households into nonfarm activities, in Tanzania, has been prompted by several reasons. Firstly, lower productivity in the agricultural sector caused by higher cost of production, lower producer prices due to world fluctuations in specific commodities such as maize, and reduced soil fertility over time. The activities vary from trading and selling of wares on vending stalls, brewing of local beer, bricking making and construction as well as another enterprise such as carpentry welding. There is also some level of service industry such as saloons, shoe repairs and barber shops. These activities are spread across the gender divide. The income generated from nonfarm activities is used to cover health service expenses, school fees, health care expenses and groceries. Furthermore, the income earned from nonfarm activities is also used to invest in agricultural activities to purchase farming tools.
Most rural nonfarming activities are hindered by lack of infrastructure such good roads in order to connect with urban centres and other regions of the country. The government in its five-year development plan recognizes the challenges nonfarming business and makes a commitment to invest in rural connectivity through the roads fund and rural energy fund. In addition to infrastructure development, the National Development Plan also talks of skills development as part of human capital formation for the country’s industrialization drive as well as for the purposes of transferring technical skills that could allow the rural poor to earn a living through self-employment. Through the National Development Plan the government intends to facilitate financial inclusion for the rural poor to increase their access to financing and financial services to the rural areas. The government envisages employing private-public partnership and working with philanthropic organizations to achieve universal financial inclusion.
The impact of land reform on economic growth is directly informed by the process by which decisions are made regarding who has access to land and the use of land. For agrarian-based economies like Tanzania, land reform is a key part of transforming structural impediments to poverty alleviation and also ensuring that a significant number of the rural citizens have opportunities to actively participate and enjoy the economic success. Security of tenure provides stability with regards to any long-term planning even with respect to nonfarming activities. Therefore, despite the progressive provisions of the Village Land Act, Customary land rights have not been effectively integrated into the land governance framework. Village authorities often lack the requisite financial and human resources to effectively perform their duties. Furthermore, given the current global demand for land, the ease by which the executive branch can appropriate Village land is also a concern.
 IMF 2016. Staff Report for the 2016 Article IV Consultation and Fourth Review Under the Policy Support Instrument, International Monetary Fund: Washington, D.C. Available At: https://imf.org/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 MFP 2017. Speech by the Minister for Finance and Planning, Hon. Dr. Philip I. Mpango (MP), Presenting to the National Assembly, The Estimates of Government Revenue and Expenditure for 2017/18, Ministry of Finance and Planning: Dodoma. Available At: http://mof.go.tz/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 IMF 2016. Staff Report for the 2016 Article IV Consultation and Fourth Review Under the Policy Support Instrument, ibid.
 MFP 2016. United Republic of Tanzania National Five Year Development Plan 2016/17 – 2020/21 Five Year Development Plan, Ministry of Finance and Planning: Dodoma. Available At: http://mof.go.tz/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 Sundet, P. 2005. The 1999 Land Act and Village Land Act: A Technical Analysis of the Practical Implications of the Acts, Policy Research for Development: Dar es Salaam. Available At: http://fao.org/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 Olengurumwa, E.A. 2010. 1990’s Tanzania Land Laws Reforms and its Impact on the Pastoral Land Tenure, Land and Human Rights Centre: Dar es Salaam. Available At: https://tnrf.org/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 Olengurumwa, E.A. 2010. 1990’s Tanzania Land Laws Reforms and its Impact on the Pastoral Land Tenure, ibid.
 Makamu, F. 2016. Land Reform, Poverty Rights and Private Investment: Evidence from a Planned Settlement in Rural Tanzania, Oklahoma State University: Stillwater. Available At: https://ideas.repec.org/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 Veit, P. 2016. The Precious Position of Tanzania’s Village Land, ibid.
 MoLHSD 1997. The United Republic of Tanzania National Land Policy, Ministry of Lands and Human Settlement Development: Dar es Salaam. Available At: http://tanzania.go.tz/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 MoLHSD 1997. The United Republic of Tanzania National Land Policy, ibid.
 MoLHSD 1997. The United Republic of Tanzania National Land Policy, ibid.
 NBS 2010. National Sample Census of Agriculture 2007/2008, ibid.
 Chamicha, S. 2015. Nonfarm Activities and Rural Livelihood in Tanzania: The Case of Njombe District, Institute of Social Studies: The Hague. Available At: https://thesis.eur.nl/ [Last Accessed: 27 May 2018].
 Chamicha, S. 2015. Nonfarm Activities and Rural Livelihood in Tanzania: The Case of Njombe District, ibid.
 MFP 2016. United Republic of Tanzania National Five Year Development Plan 2016/17 – 2020/21 Five Year Development Plan, ibid.