TNRF's diary from knowledge to action: experience with the Community Land Initiative

Digna Irafay, TNRF
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

While villagers still struggle with using current legal frameworks to access land rights in Tanzania, the government plans to trigger yet another revised national land law. Our team learnt how to help communities make the most of the upcoming legislation. 

In Nyeri, Kenya a community land protection-learning initiative teaches land activists, including two of us from the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) how to help villages access and secure lands using varied approaches.

“Indigenous people do not know laws and legal systems that permits them to understand their rights,” says Gonzalo Varillas, a lawyer and land rights activist working for the Environmental Management and Law Corporation (ECOLEX) in Ecuador.

Gonzalo’s over 15 years of working with indigenous communities in the Amazon helped him establish legal systems are out of touch with communities. “Legal systems are for people living in the cities,” he says.

Digna Irafay TNRF

Ecuador is about 8 000 miles from Tanzania. Yet, problems villagers face in the Amazon is somehow close to what our people in Dodoma, Iringa and Chemba in Tanzania witness. With goals to learn better ways of teaching men and women in villages how to claim and protect their community lands, my colleague, Masalu Luhula and I (Digna Irafay) from TNRF joined the community land co-learning initiative workshop.

A learning workshop

Held in Nyeri, Kenya at the striking-steep forested Aberdare Country Club from 3rd to 11th February 2018, the workshop brought together 14 experts, representing interests of communities in Peru, Ecuador, Indonesia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, USA and London.

Supported by the International Land Coalition (ILC) and facilitated by Namati and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the workshop demonstrated that problems of land rights are universal and how simple techniques, neglected in one part of the globe could be useful in securing community land rights in another.

While at the workshop, participants said community exclusion in decision-making processes is promoting public ignorance to existing legal frameworks. “Social exclusion is the main source of poverty and partly cause land rights challenges,” says Jitar Christain Taku, Coordinator of Community Assistance in Development (COMAID) in Cameroon.

Several strategies discussed looked at community inclusion, but one key approach, which I found easy to apply in Tanzania’s village governance and natural resource management context, is the Namati community land protection programme and strategies.

An approach worth trying in Tanzania

The Namati methodology appeals to us because it is designed to go through an intensive practical community formulation and drafting of bylaws that involve actual realities of communities. In fact, the process is community driven and involves all stakeholders.  Other knowledge techniques learnt include the Namati visioning and valuation of land and natural resources approach. The former enables you to map out the past, present and future of the community with villagers, while the later helps to value each resource found in community lands. These steps are essential in highlighting possible scenarios that enlighten previous value of natural resource to livelihood, reveal mismanagement, draw logic for conservation, equitable use of natural resource and show the need for sustainable land use.

Taking learning techniques to our communities

We concluded the workshop with two main ideas and innovations for our activities.

Firstly, we will use the Namati approach in our work to practically engage local village leaders, district and community members in laying participatory community land protection through influencing draft of bylaws to begin with the people whilst village councils monitor and supervise the implementation.

To keep the knowledge alive, we will lastly engage and share the knowledge obtained from the workshop with other Civil Society Organisations and partners. In doing so, we hope to expand the value chains of the network of land rights and natural resource governance protectors. 

Digna Irafay is a project officer at TNRF. Digna and Masalu started sharing their knowledge with communities immediately after the workshop. Stay connected to discover her next blog on how villagers are benefiting from the new knowledge they are sharing with them.