TALA's diary from the: Africa Organisational Leadership Programme

Cathbert Tomitho
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Cathbert Tomitho, board member of Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA) was part of the first Africa Leadership programme. Here is his snapshot of the programme. 

TALA is a leading land rights organisation that seeks to enhance equitable access to, control and ownership of land through coordination, joint advocacy, and sharing of knowledge and information. The Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (LARRRI/Haki Ardhi) is a steering committee member of TALA. Formed in 1994, LARRRI/Haki Ardhi works to ensure land rights at the national level via advocacy.

Since 2015, the government of Tanzania has embarked on a vast industrialisation journey. The time has come ‘to think big,’ said H.E. Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, Tanzanian President on April 24 2018 during an East African Legislative Assembly meeting.

As it happens, gigantic industrial projects often require huge sizes of land. In Tanzania, the land is quickly getting in short supply. In fact, the tenure situation is tattered with sad episodes of land rights violations, swelling land conflicts, land grabbing, disregard for local community voices in decision making, discrimination of women and other marginalised groups in land governance and more.

.Africa leadership programme/ILC/Bernard Baha

My organisation, just like TALA, works to ensure tenure security to small producers of the country. Without astute leadership in the civil society, government excesses cannot be checked. The civil society has a role in protecting people’s rights and need to continually renew itself to stand strong to various pressures and strong currents blowing across our ever-changing landscape.

An opportunity to build capacity

To refine my leadership skills, I attended the “African Organizational Leadership Programme” organised in Kenya in May and July 2018 by the International Land Coalition and Maliasili. Campaigning and lobbying elective officials is part of my job, thus my interest in the workshop was, therefore, to improve on how I advocate for the land and resource rights of small-scale producers; mainly peasants, pastoralists, artisanal miners, hunter-gatherers and other disadvantaged groups; such as women, girls and disabled.

Because the establishment praises industrialisation, large-scale investment is creeping to rural areas, causing waves of violent and deadly conflicts. Historically, CSOs are used to dealing with issues between pastoralists and farmers in rural areas. Today, resources for civil society actions are limited, yet the land tenure situation is rapidly changing; with new difficult challenges to tackle. To deal with such a challenging environment, special skills are required. At the programme, I met like-minded people working with vulnerable communities trying to strengthen their leadership skills, so that they too can advance their advocacy strategies and enhance their commitment to bringing intended changes and results.

Skills and tools

As a leader, you sometimes neglect things relevant to emotions and focus on facts and strategy. I realised at the workshop that building trust and improving team performance needs a mix of emotional intelligence and strategy. These are things I was familiar with, but sometimes take for granted. The programme shared techniques directly relevant to our daily business such as building trust among co-workers and communities, how to deal with resistance in the workplace and understanding leadership strengths and weaknesses. These leadership skills are at the core of organisational growth and project management.

Taking the knowledge to communities

In Tanzania, we support small-scale producers- vulnerable men, women, girls and disabled to access land and related resources. Community leaders also need capacity strengthening to stay enthused and motivated to fight for the land course. Our organisation wants to better livelihoods through land governance and sharing knowledge from the leadership programme is one approach we want to take to support community-based organisations we collaborate with.