Mviwata reduces land disputes in Songea

In a country where almost 80% of her population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, knowledge on policy and laws governing land use has to be given paramount attention as well as priority in national plans.

Although the Government has the number one responsibility to ensure that its citizens are aware of land issues and peaceful land dealings take place, other development stakeholders, including the civil society organizations, have a role to play. An active nonprofit organization can complement government efforts in reducing land squabbles by disseminating knowledge and awareness on policy and laws which are related to land tenure.

In Ruvuma region, Muungano wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA) through grants availed by  the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS), has shown a green light to  the possibility of reducing land disputes among both families  and communities. The MVIWATA project—known as Stop Land Grabbing-Defend for Your Rights-- has been implemented in 13 villages from four wards of Songea Rural District since October 2016.

Endless land disputes, which in most cases ended disastrously, with heavy casualties suffered by some of those involved and propelled by lack of knowledge on land matters,  especially laws governing land ownership  and tenure, were factors which promoted the organization to seek  for grants to undertake the project in Mpitimbi, Magaguta, Muhulutwe and MpendaNgindo wards.

Graciana Ntango, one of the active project volunteers in Mpandangindo Village, had sufficient evidence to prove that the project--just in its third month-- was proving to be a resounding success. She was one of the 34 Trainers of Trainers (ToTs) who had been oriented on various land issues, including the Village Land Act No. 4 and 5 of 1999 as well as the rights of individuals and villages in relation to land tenure.

The role of trained ToTs, according to Denis Mpangazi, the organization’s communication manager, was three-fold: To engage villages in understanding the Land Act, provide a linkage between land tribunals and the local government authority in Songea Rural District and inform MVIWATA of the on-going cases of land dealings in their villages.

Graciana explained how the miracle occurred after only two months of intense work in the villages. “In one family, the father died leaving behind five children and a widow. Unfortunately, the man had other children out of wedlock, who were living in another village.  Children from the second woman demanded the right to acquire land in the village where their father originated, though they already possessed some plots in the village where their mother met their father some 25 years back. Efforts by the village land tribunal and later on the ward land tribunal could not salvage the situation”, narrated the paralegal.

“It seems most of the members in the land tribunals at village and ward levels had never come across the Village Land Act and other by-laws, this being one major reason why they could not sort out things for this family.”

Graciana said after MVIWATA had conducted training to 34 ToTs in early November 2016, she saw the missing link and factors behind existing land disputes in many villages of Songea Rural District.

“After the ToT training, we were charged with the responsibility to conduct hamlet and village seminars for members of the community, and later on, meet village land tribunals to enlighten them on the laws governing land matters,” she explained.

It was out of these continued meetings and tribunal sessions that the quarreling family members calmed down and decided to withdraw the case from the Village Executive Officer (VEO) and took it back to the land tribunal.

“Both the tribunal and family members agreed that children from the second family had the right to occupy some plots in the village where their late father had acquired as long as they also allowed their siblings to access land in their own village, something which was accepted by all family members. The land disputes between these family members are now history.”

Graciana also cited the case where two villages which were almost close to taking  arms against land grabbing involving another village, a case which deemed to make ward tribunals jobless. “My job is to mediate and create awareness to the feuding parties on matters related with land laws, by-laws and the right to land occupancy”, explained the jovial paralegal.

There was another vivid scenario of how the project had contributed to reduced land disputes between villagers and investors are the case of Mpokea Village.  The village government leaders had quietly sold100 hectares of land to a developer in the name of investment. The investor agreed in turn to build a school and dig three shallow wells for the village. Some 12 months later, the promise was never fulfilled, thus raising alarm among the villagers who now wanted to have their land back. The whole village government resigned and was taken to task.

Graciana faced both the village leaders and the investor, reminding them on both the rights of villagers and the investor in the land dealings in accordance with the Land Act. After only three weeks of Graciana’s intervention, the investor agreed to return half the hectares to the village, a proposal which was gladly accepted by the villagers. The investor signed a document committing himself to construct a school as well as digging some shallow wells within 24 months.

Laika is MVIWATA’s Filed Officer who has facilitated several capacities building sessions for legal volunteers. She had witnessed some of the land disputes being amicably resolved. “There is a lot of awareness these days. This is a wakeup call for violators who were used to infringing on land occupation rights before the project came into existence in October 2016. At that time, VEOs used to record an average of 10 to 20 cases of land disputes in a month. These days, they hardly have a case or two to deal with.”

MVIWATA produced and distributed some 200 copies of Land Law documents which were distributed to all volunteers and leaders. This was the first time literature on land issues was seen within the communities.

The value for land has soured more than the time when peasants could sell a 70 by 70 metres plot for a meager Tsh. 250,000. After the awareness campaign had taken place, the villagers realized that land was a precious property. Some were now selling similar plots at between Tsh.700,000 and Tshs1,000,000. With this market price, villagers can now invest in other economic ventures, thus boost their means of livelihood through land ownership in far better terms than was previously the case.

CHAVITA: Bringing closer health services to people with hearing disabilities

People with hearing disabilities are experiencing a new way of life after some healthcare providers have attended sign language training. The short course was conducted by the Tanzania Deaf Association (CHAVITA), Tabora Branch.

CHAVITA branch chairman Ramadhan Rajab told the FCS correspondent that the sign language project for health care providers marked a big milestone for people with hearing disabilities in  accessing health services. The project has so far covered some 53 health facilities in Tabora Region. It was funded by the Foundation for Civil Society.

“The situation now is better. People with hearing disabilities are also happy. It was previously difficult for them to communicate with health workers,” Rajab said.

Rajab said they had concentrated on providing sign language training to health workers at both the Regional Government Hospital and Milambo Military Hospital. “We did this because these two facilities are pillars of healthcare in Tabora Region,” he says.

Dr. Joel Hoza of Kitete Regional Hospital said the training had helped quite a lot because they lacked the required knowledge on how to properly handle the deaf patients.

"One such difficulty was how to inquire the health history and symptoms from a deaf person in relation to the illness and then decide on the required treatment. The training has helped show us the way to communicate with the deaf," said Dr. Hoza. He added:

"Here in Tabora, we have Kazima Secondary School, which has some deaf students. These come to our hospital for treatment. One day, after I had attended the sign language training, three female students came here.  I told them to use sign language. They were quite excited. They requested us to place a person a teach unit who could communicate through sign language," says Dr. Hoza

Referring to the difficulty of learning sign language, Margret Kanola, a health worker at Kitete Hospital, says it was rather challenging to grasp it because there was hardly sufficient time to practice it on daily basis.

"Learning sign language at adult age is even more challenging. We are trying to cope and are somehow improving on each coming day," she says.

NGOs fight entrenched stigma against people with disabilities in Biharamulo

Disability is not inability’. This is a brainy phrase that normally encourages persons with disabilities to realize that their condition cannot make them fail to attain  their ambitions.

The quotation also aims to change the perception of people who are not disabled to see persons with disabilities as fellow human beings who can realize life goals  just like other people. Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, during a meeting in 2013, said: “Disability is part of the human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life.”

According to the former UN secretary general, there were more than a billion people with disabilities around the world, this being around 15 per cent of the global population at that time.

Figures on the total number of people with disabilities in Tanzania are  not updated  due to the fact that the 2012 Population and Housing Census (PHC) did not give include data on the number of people with disabilities in Tanzania. However, until mid-2010, Tanzania was estimated to have 3.7 million people with disabilities.

The 2012 national census showed that Tanzania had a total population of 44, 928,923, with 43, 625,354 being on Tanzania Mainland and 1,303,569 in Zanzibar. The male population constituted 21,869,990 people as the female population amounted to 23, 058,933.

Much as figures related to  people with disability in Tanzania are important, the rights and responsibilities of this group are even more crucial, given the appalling level of stigmatization which is prevalent in  certain communities. 

In Biharamulo District, Kagera Region, a non-governmental organization known as The Registered Trustee of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rulenge-Ngara, through the  financial sponsorship  of The Foundation for Civil Society, is sensitizing  people with disabilities, decision makers and government leaders  on the rights and responsibilities of the marginalized group.  

The organization has chosen to carry out the task after realizing that stigmatization against people with disabilities in Biharamulo District  is so rampant to the extent that individuals are identified  by their form of disability rather than  their actual names.

The sensitization work was preceded by a baseline survey which aimed at identifying all people with disabilities in the whole district of Biharamulo, prior to the gathering of thegroup of stakeholders   who would attend sensitization seminars. The district consists of 17 wards holding 79 villages. So far, sensitization campaign has taken place in nine wards during  the first quarter of project implementation period.

Father Honoratus Ndaulla, Project Coordinator of Trustee, said some politicians had joined local government executives in attending the sensitization seminars. The participants included the chairman of Biharamulo District Council, the local legislator, district executive directors well as local councilors.

According to Fr. Ndaulla, it was necessary to involve both the politicians and government executives simply because they were the ones charged with the responsibility of serving people with disabilities in their areas of jurisdiction.

He said during the survey, they noted the existence of a discriminative and non-caring attitude of community members towards people with disabilities, prompting Trustee to intervene as a way of reversing the trend.

Giving an example, Ndaulla observed that people with physical disability in Biharamulo District were not taken into account by the local and central governments when designing the infrastructure of public buildings. “Go to the courts, hospitals, schools, police stations and other government buildings. People with physical disabilities encounter serious trouble in accessing them,” he said.

He added: “Government officials have the responsibility of ensuring that people with disabilities get fair and at times special treatment in service delivery. That’s what we also tell them whenever we meet at the workshops that we usually organise.”

Testimonies from people with disabilities

Some people with disabilities also testified about the support they had received from the organization.  Paul Makene, a person with physical disabilities, recalled the benefits of the Trustee project, saying that for years,the disabled people in Biharamulo had faced problems that  required the attention of district leaders, yet they  always failed to secure the platform to air their grievances.

He said for people with disabilities, face to face meetings with the district executive director, members from the office of district commissioner, the local legislator as well as their councilors, availed them the opportunity to present their cases. Giving an example, Makene said: “Some government buildings in Biharamulo District are not user-friendly for people with physical disabilities such as myself. However, we are happier today because government officials are making efforts to rectify such anomalies.”

Makene, who once attempted to vie for the post of local government leader, said his opponents had capitalized on his physical disability by waging a campaign that aimed  towards creating  a picture to the voters that projected training for  the disabled people could not deliver anything. ( Disability is inability!).

FCS bids farewell to its employees

FCS has bade farewell to 8 of its employees following completion of their term of service.

The employees who left office include: Tadeo Lupembe (Finance &  Operations Manager), Marilyn Elinewinga (Head of Internal Audit), Vicent Nalwendela (Head of Communications), Nestory Mhando (Senior Programme officer—Grants), Kemilembe Mpinga (Assistant Programme officer –Grants), Gladys Mkuchu (Programme Officer—Communications), Chrispina Mwacha (Program Officer-Capacity Development) and Kasoga Kasika (Internal Auditor).

Speaking during a special occasion to say goodbye, FCS Executive Director Francis Kiwanga said, the organization is proud of their exemplary service adding that they are leaving with enough experience and qualities to be good ambassadors.The farewell function, which was held at FCS offices Friday February 3, 2017 was attended by all employees.

Ugandan businessmen find lucrative maize market in Tanzania

Ugandan businessmen have now found lucrative maize market in Tanzania, thanks to the food shortage that has hit several parts of the country.

A comprehensive survey conducted by the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) at Mutukula border between Tanzania and Uganda and Bukoba Municipality over the weekend has established beyond reasonable doubt that maize dealers are now reaping huge profits from the business.

Uganda businessman, Edger Kizito, told FCS that maize dealers from Uganda side, mainly from areas of Rakai, Chotera, Mbarara and Murongo are now enjoying doing business with traders from Tanzania side simply because the market is reliable.

“What we do is that we communicate with Tanzanian traders on the amount of tons of maize they need before we transport the produce from our stores to Mutukula border,” Kizito said while refusing to divulge names of Tanzania traders whom he trades with.

According to Kizito, the mode of business is carried out per kilogramme, insisting that a kilogramme of maize at Mutukula border was trading at between TSh 720 and 850.

The Foundation or Civil Society (FCS) witnessed lorries from Uganda offloading tons of maize at the border while trucks from Tanzania side loaded the produce, transporting  it to other  regions. At the border it was difficult to spot Tanzanian traders from whom we could extract information besides casual laborers and drivers.

A woman who neither refused to mention her name nor be photographed but runs a milling station called ‘Muganyizi Millers’ in Bukoba Manicipality said maize has now become a ‘golden  commodity’.

“We buy maize at Mutukula border at TSh820 per kilogramme and sell the same kilogramme at Sh 1,000 here in the Municipality. When the same kilogramme of maize is milled we sell the flour at between Tsh 1,100 and TSh 1,200 she said while looking nervous.

According to her, consignments of maize purchased by traders at Mutukula border were transported as far as Shinyanga, Dodoma, Mwanza, Singida and Mara regions.

Meanwhile, the Foundation for Civil Society has established that textile business between Uganda and Tanzania through Mutukula border has substantially declined due to what traders described as stringent taxation measures.

A small trader who identified himself by a single name as Shafii told FCS that most textile traders have ceased to import their goods from Uganda after some of their colleagues underwent stringent taxation procedures at Mutukula border in the previous days.

A woman in Bukoba Municipality who runs the Baby cloth shop christened ‘Aivan Shop’ but preferred anonymity said she found it easier to buy her merchandise from either Dar es Salaam or Mwanza rather that Uganda due to taxation hassles.

“Bus passengers crossing to Tanzania from Uganda are thoroughly inspected including their luggage, one after the other. Their nationality is also scrutinized,” she said.

This reporter’s bag was searched by custom’s officials at Mutukula border as he was returning from Uganda side where he had crossed to, obviously in search for commodities they thought were purchased on Uganda side of the border.

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