Red tape in issuing title deed scares investors

Red tape in issuing title deed scares investors

Agriculture Council of Tanzania (ACT) member, Derangwa Mmari told a council meeting in Dar es Salaam over the weekend that getting a title deed for land has become a herculean task which frustrates both local and foreign investors. “Some of us know that Airtel was forced to relocate its Africa headquarters project to Nairobi because of the length period and cumbersome procedures to obtain a title deed for land here,” said Mr Mmari while debating amendments to the 1999 Village Land Act and General Land Act.

The two pieces of legislation are scheduled to be amended this year by parliament to address issues pertaining to ownership, investment and the process of acquiring land. Mmari said Airtel’s multi-billions shillings investment could have created over 400 permanent jobs and paid colossal sums of money annually as government revenue.

“Our bureaucracy has forced the project to relocate to Kenya, we need to address this urgently as we seek to amend the two laws,” Mmari emphasized. ACT Chairman who is also Katani Limited Managing Director, Salum Shamte said bureaucracy in issuing title deeds for land has badly affected smallholder rural based farmers who cannot afford the process which starts at village level to district and sometimes ministry level.

Because of such bureaucracy, few title deed holders pay hiked land related taxes while the majority especially smallholder rural farmers who use it informally don’t pay taxes which denies the government revenue. “The process of getting land for farming is very bureaucratic and as a result most rural farmers simply cannot afford,” Mr Shamte said while pointing out that allowing private investors to go directly and seek consent of villagers through their general assembly to acquire land is dangerous and unsustainable.

“We can’t set these poor villagers against the mighty private investors, it’s wrong because there is no capacity at village level to accommodate this,” Shamte argued saying the government should ensure that each village has a detailed land use plan with investment land clearly allocated.

Recommending that issues of contract signing should be handled at district level where capacity is available to address complex investment issues which are often crafted by investors who have qualified lawyers, the Katani MD said such arrangement should however actively involve communities.

He also argued that land should be used as capital which will enable rural communities own shares in joint venture projects with investors so that villagers can have sustainable income other than the current arrangement which allows investors to build schools, roads and hospitals once and for all as part of deals to obtain land for between 33 and 99 years.

“In most cases these charity offers in construction of infrastructure are piece meal which only last briefly while investors leap benefits from the land for several years,” the ACT chairman argued. ACT Vice Chair, Dr Sinare Sinare warned against alienating villagers in endorsing any investment on their land saying dishonest and corrupt district council and ministry land officers will strike it rich overnight by indiscriminately giving away tracts of land to the investors who are willing to part with some bribes.

“To allow district land officers or those at the ministry endorse investment on village land without approval of the villagers will be counterproductive. Someone in Dar cannot be custodian of land in rural areas except communities themselves,” argued Dr Sinare. He pointed out that it is still necessary for village assemblies to endorse any investment on their land as the 1999 Village Land Act states saying current arrangement is good because it has put in place check and balances.

“There is limitation to what village assemblies can provide to investors as per the law, so too district authorities and even the ministry,” he argued. According to the law, villages can provide not more than 50 hectares while district authorities cannot do more than 500ha.

Sokoine University of Agriculture Director of Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, Professor Deogratias Rutatora said there is need to have legislation recognizing agriculture land which should clearly stipulate farming, pastoralism and fisheries land portions. “Agriculture land is not recognized legally as conservation land or forest land or wetland which works against investment in the sector,” Prof Rutatora noted.

He urged stakeholders to carefully study the existing two pieces of legislation and make constructive input so that the amended laws play a bigger role in ensuring that agriculture is a commercial business with land as main factor of production.

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