Govt: `Forest investors` grabbing villagers` land
The government yesterday expressed concern over the increasing wave of investors illegally buying large chunks of land from villagers for forest farming and management, apparently to engage in carbon trade.
“If the situation is not arrested, it will cause land conflicts in future, because most villagers do not understand the intricate international contracts,” said Richard Muyungi, Assistant Director, Division of Environment, in the Vice President’s Office.
Muyungi was speaking during a stakeholders’ forum on climate change, which involved participants from Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Manyara regions.
He said some investors have been engaging directly with villagers, grabbing large portions of land for forest investment through questionable contracts, which was against the country’s laws.
“These people (investors) should follow procedures in acquiring land, to ensure that villagers are fairly compensated through proper contracts,” he said, adding that contrary to that the move would create endless conflicts between investors and villagers in the future.
He stressed: “It is true we encourage investors to put money into the sector, but they should follow the set procedures and guidelines.”
Muyungi noted that most investors have been motivated by forest management and reduction of green house gas emissions associated with the deforestation in developing countries as well as the carbon trade.
“But our people are not well versed in the business,” he said, calling for more education among villagers especially on how to deal with investors, who wish to invest in their areas.
He acknowledged that most people in rural areas are unaware of land laws, a weakness that needs to be addressed by different stakeholders within and outside Tanzania.
On the impact of climate change, Muyungi explained that 60 per cent of Tanzania’s land mass is susceptible to desertification and that water resources are becoming scarce as frequent droughts impact negatively on water catchments and other ecosystems.
“This threatens power production in the country as water sources dry up,” he said, stressing that least developed countries are hardest hit by the adverse effects of climate change.
Earlier, opening the forum, Acting Arusha Regional Administrative Secretary, Twalieli Mchome admitted that climate change is a worldwide threat that is already being felt everywhere but more intensely among poor communities in Africa and Tanzania in particular.
He said that like other countries in the world, Tanzania is already a victim of the impacts of climate change.
Citing examples, Mchome said that prevalence of malaria, a climate related disease, has been reported in high altitude areas like Mbeya Region, Lushoto and Amani in Tanga region.
“Malaria wasn’t common in those highland areas of Tanzania,” he said, adding that spring wells that are sources of fresh groundwater in some parts of Bagamoyo and Pangani along the Indian Ocean Coast have been abandoned because of rising sea water levels.
He further explained that the north-eastern shores of the Indian Ocean at Pangani and Mziwe Island have been submerged.
Many lake basins such as those of Lake Victoria and Rukwa forming important components of the ecosystem have also been affected by the adverse impact of climate change.
“The impact of climate change has far reaching implications for the livelihood of Tanzanians, plus the country's social and economic development,” he said, suggesting the need for local government authorities to allocate enough funds in their annual budget to spearhead efforts to conserve the environment.