Source: Desmarowitz/Welthungerhilfe
Sierra Leone. At "Millennium Cocoa Growers" in Ngeihun, Finda, wife of the cocoa farmer Tamba Kaitongay, produces palm oil, 2008

2012 Global Hunger Index

“Equitable access to land and natural resources is an essential element of the right to food for rural populations in general and for vulnerable and marginalized groups in particular.”
- FAO Right to Food, 2008

Smallholder farmers are among the poorest and most food-insecure people in the world. They live in the most ecologically and climatically vulnerable regions of the world and must draw their livelihoods from these same conditions. In the face of multiple challenges, it is small-scale farmers who feed the majority of the world, producing food for about 70 percent of the world’s population (ETC Group 2009). For many of these farmers, scarcity scenarios are nothing new.

Because of the neglect of agricultural and rural development over past decades, secure land tenure and access to safe water and energy supplies have remained out of reach for many people, while national agricultural sectors have suffered structural deficits and low productivity.

The “triple-F” crises (food, fuel, and finance) and the emerging scarcity scenarios discussed in Chapter 3 have helped push agriculture to the top of the global policy agenda, forcing governments and international institutions to rethink the ways in which the world produces and distributes food. This is resulting in a renewed emphasis on the potential of agriculture, and governments in recent years have intensified efforts to commercialize their agricultural sectors.

Such initiatives can already be observed in Sierra Leone and Tanzania, where Welthungerhilfe, Concern Worldwide, and their partners cooperate with farmers in the areas of agriculture, rural development, and food security. The governments of both countries have adopted initiatives to accelerate agricultural growth through both the commercialization of smallholders and the promotion of large-scale corporate farming. As these initiatives gather pace, the situation in which smallholder producers find themselves is becoming increasingly precarious.

In Sierra Leone, local farmers have already lost land to large-scale investors. Civil society is organizing itself, demanding transparency, and challenging the dominant notion of “agricultural modernization,” which has already resulted in the acquisition of approximately 20 percent of the agricultural land available by foreign enterprises. In the case of Tanzania, Concern is supporting smallholders to secure land title and improve their access to water as the government advances a wider program to transform the agricultural sector.

How Pressure for Land Transforms Rural Livelihoods in Sierra Leone

Since emerging from a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone has been working to overcome severe poverty and food insecurity. In spite of those efforts, the level of food insecurity remains alarming (the country’s 2012 GHI score is 24.7). Domestic production of a range of food items falls short of local demand and—in contrast to the decades before the war—Sierra Leone is a net importer of food. At the same time, 50–60 percent of the population depends on farming for its livelihood. These are mostly small-scale, peasant farmers who rely on the bush fallow system, in which fields are cultivated for a few years until soil fertility is depleted and then left fallow for 10 to 15 years.

Vast Lands Available for Smallholders as Well as for Large-Scale Foreign Investment?

To deal with low productivity and food insecurity, the government of Sierra Leone is promoting agricultural modernization by means of mechanization and commercialization. In 2010, a five-year US$400 million Smallholder Commercialisation Programme (SCP) was launched with the aim of linking smallholders to markets and commercial value chains.16 A new emphasis on large-scale, commercial agriculture has also emerged, with the government campaigning to attract foreign direct investment in agriculture. Investment delegations from China and elsewhere were received by the president; trade and investment forums were held in London and Freetown in 2009 and 2011 respectively; and the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), supported by the European Union and other donor funding, promises investors “easy access to land with smooth facilitation process” (SLIEPA 2012a).

SLIEPA argues that there are vast areas of available land with “only 15 percent of the country’s 5.4 million hectares of cultivatable land being farmed as recently as 2003” (SLIEPA 2012b). These figures contrast with a study by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) indicating that much of the land is already overused and little room exists for agricultural expansion (Bald and Schroeder 2011).

The “Big Push”—For Whose Benefit?

Between 2008 and mid-2012, almost 1 million hectares of farmland across the country were leased or under negotiation for lease.17 Investors are predominantly interested in oil palm, sugarcane, and food crops such as rice—evidence of the extent to which land acquisitions are driven particularly by the food and fuel crises. Most of the projects are export oriented, and at least one investor—the Swiss-based Addax Bioenergy, leasing 44,000 hectares in the northern Bombali District of Sierra Leone for the production of sugarcane—aims to produce ethanol for export to the European Union and to sell electricity from the by-products in Sierra Leone (Anane and Abiwu 2011).

Although investors are looking to satisfy consumption needs in the global North, it is argued that large-scale foreign direct investment in agriculture can also have benefits for the local population (see, for example, World Bank 2011a). The following case study by Welthun­gerhilfe and the Sierra Leonean nongovernmental organization Green Scenery takes a closer look at the reality behind the rhetoric and the impact of large-scale land investments on the food and livelihood security of the rural poor in Sierra Leone.18

Case Study: SAC Investment in Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District

Welthungerhilfe had been working in Pujehun District since 2007, engaging with smallholder farmers to rehabilitate rural infrastructure, increase incomes, and foster food security through efficient and environmentally safe use of available natural resources. In 2011 Socfin Agricultural Company Sierra Leone Ltd (SAC)—a subsidiary of the corporation Socfin registered in Luxemburg—leased 6,500 hectares of land in the area to grow oil palm and rubber for export. The lease covers approximately one-quarter of the area of Malen Chiefdom and includes 24 villages (see map). It is effective for 50 years, with the possibility of extension for another 21 years. As a direct result of this lease agreement, smallholder farmers no longer have access to agricultural land and forested areas, and most project activities that Welthungerhilfe had undertaken in partnership with local farmers have had to stop.

In this case, as in many others, there are two major concerns relating to the land deal: the way in which the acquisition is decided upon and the impact on local food and livelihood security (Anseeuw et al. 2012b).

“There was never a chance to say ‘no’ to the land deal; we felt coerced.”

Rural land in Sierra Leone is held by landowning families, with a chieftaincy structure that plays a significant administrative and custodial role. There exists a strong, pervasive notion of the fundamental inalienability of land from the landowning extended families and chiefdoms. Thus, traditionally land is not leased but allocated. Statutory law, however, provides a procedure for non natives to acquire leaseholds, requiring the consent of both the chiefdom and local councils. Investors can either lease land directly from the landowners or sublease from the government as the primary leaseholder.

In Malen Chiefdom, the SAC investment was presented as a far smaller deal than was actually the case. Local landowners and users were informed only after the decision had been made by the tribal authorities and were told to thumb print or sign without knowing or understanding the details of the agreement. Indeed, it was a full three months after the contract had been signed that it was fully read out publicly with ad hoc translation into the local language (see Box 4.1).

Box 4.1 - Timeline of the investment of SOCFIN Agricultural Company Sierra Leone Ltd. (SAC) in Malen Chiefdom

Feasibility study was conducted in the area (involving, for example, soil samples and surveying). The general population was not informed.

September 2010
At a chiefdom meeting in Sahn Malen, the paramount chief informed representatives of the local communities that a company would come and take over the former government plantation.

February 2011
At a chiefdom meeting in Sahn Malen, the paramount chief informed community representatives that all the land in the chiefdom would be taken over by SAC to plant oil palm and rubber. Malen landowners expressed unwillingness to lease land.

February/March 2011
Village chief of Semabu held meeting. The community expressed concern about what would happen to their plantations and food production. Paramount Chief (PC) said that all land would be taken by the company, with or without consent. When people asked where to get food, the PC said they should buy it using the money that they receive.

March 5, 2011
At a chiefdom meeting in Sahn Malen, the lease agreement was to be signed. Armed police were present. Village chiefs who signed got money to redistribute to the landowning families in their village. Villagers and village chiefs who did not want to sign kept away from the meeting. According to the lease agreement only five of the nine sections of Malen signed.

From April 2011 onward
Farmers’ oil palm plantations were measured to determine compensation. Existing oil palm plantations were cleared. Operations in nursery started. Infrastructure was prepared.

May 30, 2011
At a stakeholder meeting in Pujehun, the conflicting parties reconciled and expressed their intention to work together for the well-being of the people.

June 4, 2011
At a chiefdom meeting in Sahn Malen, the contract was fully read publically for the first time and partly translated into the local language Mende. The legality of the contract was questioned.

October 2011
Concerned landowners published a statement detailing their grievances (Malen Land Owners Association, “Grievances of Land Owners in Malen Chiefdom,” letter to district officer of Pujehun District, October 2, 2011, accessible at More than 100 landowners blocked access to the area leased by SAC. Forty were arrested; 15 were charged on counts of riotous conduct, conspiracy, and threatening language.

Source: Melbach (2012).

S. J.
Sinjo village, Malen Chiefdom,
Sierra Leone

“Today I have a quarter of what I used to have. The food situation is far worse than before because there is no more farming. We used to eat two times a day; now we eat only once a day and we have to buy everything. I paid 200,000 SLL to the Socfin [SAC] foreman for my four children to get employment. I told them [my children] I am going through challenges and that they have to work; four sons work now for the company. One son I have taken out of school to work in the plantations instead.”

Betty Sengeh
Sinjo village, Malen Chiefdom,
Sierra Leone

“Sometimes our family has to take credit or a loan; currently our debts amount to 1,100,000 SLL. Out of this, 200,000 SLL are food debts. It is the first time that we have had food debts. For the past two months I have not been able to pay back any debt because my children who work with the company were inadequately paid. We expected annual payments for the plantations we owned, but this did not materialize.”

“I was employed by Socfin, but then I got sick and had to stop. Previously I used to work on our own farmland, now I am just sitting at home.… For the short term, I do not see any benefit in this development. For the long term, I don’t know. I have little understanding of what they want to achieve. If I do get that understanding, it may help me to determine whether there is future benefit. We don’t understand much, because we see how the chief, the company, and the authorities are more together than they are with us.”

The land lease rent, amounting to US$5 per acre (US$12.50 per hectare) per year, was fixed by the government rather than ­negotiated with farmers. Landowners receive only 50 percent of the yearly lease payment, while the other half is divided between the different levels of government administration (the district and the chiefdom each receive 20 percent, and the national government receives 10 percent).

At the time the agreement was concluded, some villages, hoping for new employment and education opportunities, accepted the terms imposed. The anticipated opportunities, however, did not materialize. By August 2011, two more villages that had been more favourable toward the deal initially, had become critical.

“We used to have far more food.”

In times gone by, Malen Chiefdom was a farming society with a considerable degree of self-sufficiency. Today, it is a quasi-landless society dependent on uncertain and irregular demand for labor and suffering all the anxiety and uncertainty that comes with such dependency.

When SAC took over the land, farmers received a one-time payment amounting to 1 million leones (SLL) (approximately US$220) for every acre of oil palm plantation lost. No compensation was offered for other crops. This amount is relatively small compared with the annual income farmers would otherwise have earned—income that many families used to pay to send their children to school.

In the smallholder cultivation system, each family member contributed to the farm’s success. Today, the large-scale plantation requires less labor, and former farm households must rely on the income of individual family members. Jobs are largely casual, and labor is recruited on a day-to-day basis. While the plantation attracts a lot of laborers from outside the area, no provision is made for the employment of those women and men who have leased their land.

Although payment levels at the plantations are in accordance with similar investment projects in Sierra Leone, a daily wage of US$2.20 (SLL 10,000) is insufficient to cover the food needs of a family, especially in view of rising consumer prices. Between May 2011 and May 2012, market prices for food in the region affected by the large-scale land acquisitions have risen by 27 percent, on average (see Table 4.1).

Table 4.1 Prices of selected foods in Pujehun District, Sierra Leone, 2011–12

Product Unit Prices (SLL) in May 2011 Prices (SLL) in May 2012 Average price change (%)
    Village market Local market Regional market Average Village market Local market Regional market Average  
Local rice Cup 1,000 n.a. 1,200 1,100 1,100 1,200 1,200 1,167 +6.1
Imported rice Cup 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 933 978 -2.2
Raw cassava Kg 500 n.a. 1,000 750 917 2,000 1,333 1,417 +88.9
Processed cassava (gari) Cup 250 250 200 233 400 300 n.a. 350 +50.2
Local palm oil (dura variety) Pint 1,000 1,000 1,200 1,067 1,400 1,500 1,433 1,444 +35.3
Masanke palm oil (tenera variety)


700-800 800 1,000 850 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 +17.7
Sweet potato Pile 500 n.a. 1,000 750 917 1,000 1,333 1,083 +44.4
Flour Cup 1,000 900 1,000 967 n.a. 1,100 1,500 1,300 +34.4
Salt Cup 700 800 n.a. 750 1,000 500 500 667 -11.1
Sugar Cup 2,000 2,200 2,000 2,067 2,000 2,000 2,500 2,167 +4.8
Note: n.a. = not available.
Source: Prices were recorded by Welthungerhilfe project staff. However, village-level prices were taken in different locations within the region affected by the lease in 2011 and 2012. The inflation rate
of 2011 was 18.5 percent and is estimated to decline to 8.5 percent in 2012 (World Bank 2011a).

As the level of self-sufficiency falls and the price of food rises, access to sufficient food is becoming an issue of concern for many. All those interviewed in May 2012 cited a fall in both the quantity and quality of food available to them since the SAC deal. In particular, interviewees said that they consume less meat since bush meat is much harder to find following the clearing of forested areas for the SAC plantation.

Sama Amara
Kortumahun village,
Malen Chiefdom, Sierra Leone

“The resources we had from the plantations are depleted. For example, cassava and rice were available all year round. I used to store palm oil and groundnuts throughout the year and would sell some whenever food was needed.… Today, our family consumes 8 cups of rice a day; previously we used to eat 20 cups. Still we try to eat two times a day.”

Memai Charles
Kortumahun village,
Malen Chiefdom, Sierra Leone

“There is no alternative to earn a living. If there were an alternative, I would not be working with Socfin [SAC]. When I was farming independently, I could decide how much I would eat and how much I would sell. This was good. Now, I am constricted with a small amount of money, and I have to buy everything.”

“It is pretty difficult now, because all things are being measured. When we did our farming there was no need to measure. And the cost of living is increasing.”

The conversion of former agricultural areas and bush land into plantations has had other serious consequences. People are increasingly concerned about the loss of firewood (the primary source of domestic energy, as in most of Sub-Saharan Africa; see Chapter 3) and more difficult access to herbal medicines.

Promoting Dialogue about Alternative Forms of Investment

National governments are responsible for respecting and protecting their citizens’ right to adequate food. In many settings, however, the voices of those who caution against misguided developments that threaten food security are marginalized. It is essential in these cases to support the efforts of civil society organizations to engage their own government representatives in a dialogue about the observed consequences of policy decisions.

To collect evidence about the impacts of the SAC investment in Pujehun, Welthungerhilfe and Green Scenery have assisted in setting up a community-based monitoring system and are supporting the local population in Malen Chiefdom in assessing longer-term livelihood changes. At the time of writing, Green Scenery is setting up a database to register all large-scale land acquisitions in Sierra Leone as part of a larger initiative with other civil society organizations to increase transparency of large-scale investment deals. The information collected will be used to engage with national-level politicians and the national media about the consequences of large-scale land deals. This initiative and many more aim to raise awareness about the risks of large-scale foreign direct land investments and to promote alternative models of agricultural investment.

In eastern Sierra Leone, smallholder cocoa and coffee farmers face similar constraints as those observed in Pujehun and elsewhere in rural Sierra Leone. Yields are low because of the reliance on low-productivity varieties and techniques, as well as the advanced age of many trees. Because of poor quality, farmers are paid low prices by middlemen. They lack incentives to invest in proper harvesting, fermenting, drying, or marke­ting, and many are tied into a credit system that maintains the status quo.

While policies are clearly formulated at the national level, the role and functions of the local government in terms of rural development are not yet well understood or implemented. The introduction of farmer field schools under the Smallholder Commercialisation Programme, for example, has yet to reach the majority of households. The cocoa sector is neglected in terms of extension services, and cocoa exports have remained stagnant for many years, far below their pre-war levels.

Against this backdrop, the experiences of Welthungerhilfe in Sierra Leone show that—with adequate support—smallholder agriculture has commercial potential that goes beyond increasing food availability in local and regional markets.

Figure 4.1 - Quality of cocoa exported by three cooperatives in Sierra Leone, 2008–09 to 2011–12

Download a larger version of Figure 4.1

Supported by the European Commission, Welthungerhilfe, the Agro Eco Louis Bok Institute, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have worked with three national cooperatives “to improve income and well-being of farm families through improved production and marketing of cocoa and coffee” in eastern Sierra Leone. This work, which began in 2007, has involved approximately 10,000 small-scale producers cultivating an average farm size of 2.4 hectares. It has shown that substantial improvements in both quantity and quality are possible, even in contexts where production is “atomized” among thousands of smallhol­ders. Between 2007 and 2009, average household income from coffee and cocoa increased by 81 percent (US$190), and 15 percent of this increase can be attributed directly to the project (comparing prices in project and nonproject villages). The quality of the cocoa exported through the three pro­ject cooperatives has also improved considerably (see Figure 4.1).

The above data demonstrates the economic potential of smallholders. With appropriate and adequate support and inexpensive training methods such as farmer field schools, small-scale producers can overcome constraints along the value chain while maintaining the diverse and sustainable structures of the cocoa agroforestry systems.

However, the up-scaling and sustainability of such successes rely to a large extent on the vision of “agricultural modernization” promoted by the government of Sierra Leone and the priority and support given to smallholders in that vision.

Land Title and Water in Rural Tanzania: Protecting the Livelihoods of Poor Farmers

Tanzania is a country of contrasts. In recent decades, it has experienced a healthy economic growth rate, with annual GDP growth between 2012 and 2016 set to exceed 7 percent. At the same time, it suffered from drought and food insecurity in 2009 and 2010. In addition, the year-on-year rate of food inflation remains unchanged at 25.3 percent, and the food component of the consumer price index, which accounts for 47.8 percent of the basket of goods used to measure inflation, has also seen an increase. In 2012, an estimated 1 million people are food insecure while 42 percent of households regularly have inadequate food. Tanzania ranks 54th in the 2012 GHI out of 79 countries.

Sinaraha Adam Ng’omwa
Iringa District, Tanzania

“Today or tomorrow I might not be here, and neighbors could encroach if the boundaries are not clear.”

Mustafa Kibibi Balizila
Kibondo District, Tanzania

“Having the certificate is a security for the children so that if I die, they can keep the land. I also added my wife’s name to the certificate, as she is my first wife. I included her because we have worked the land together since we were teenagers, so it is her right as well, and for her children. I think it is important to have her included.”

Ali Mtuli and Edna Mafunde
Pawaga Division, Tanzania

“When we have the money we would be interested in getting one [a CCRO] to ensure security of our land. Previously land was not valued, but demand is increasing now, and we hear on the news that people are beginning to grab land, so it is worth protecting.”

Farming is the mainstay of Tanzanian life, with more than 80 percent of Tanzanians relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. Of the estimated 2.1 million hectares under production, 95 percent is cultivated by smallholder farmers with holdings of between 0.9 and 3.0 hectares. These farmers use traditional methods and produce primarily for subsistence.

These farmers face many challenges including low productivity, dependence on rainfed agriculture, underdeveloped support facilities, inappropriate technology, impediments to food market access, and low levels of public expenditure. But there is one underlying challenge of which many are unaware. Although more than 90 percent of farmers claim ownership, the reality is that less than 10 percent of Tanzanians hold official title to their land.

Tanzania’s 1999 Land Act No. 4 and Village Land Act No. 5 were established to allow smallholder farmers to formalize their landownership by acquiring a certificate of customary right of occupancy (CCRO). The acts recognize occupancy of land and seek to legally secure existing rights, especially the customary rights of smallholders. They give women the same rights as men to acquire, hold, use, and transfer land, either in their own name or jointly with men, regardless of customary and religious restrictions. Aside from securing land tenure, CCROs were also intended to be used as collateral, enabling farmers to purchase equipment and inputs in order to increase production, food security, and livelihood standards.

There have been challenges, however, in implementing the acts. Most occupancy rights have not been registered, and as CCROs are not recognized as instruments of mortgage, financial institutions are reluctant to recognize them as collateral. In addition, while the land laws recognize women’s equal right to secure tenure, customary law and traditional practices can mean these provisions are not realized. Married women are not allowed to transact property without their husband’s permission, and attitudes and behaviors can be such that women prefer not to be involved in land issues.

Given these difficulties, the government initiated a Strategic Plan for the Implementation of the Land Acts in 2006. The issuance of land title is also a pillar of Kilimo Kwanza, the national strategy that attempts to transform Tanzanian agriculture into a modern commercial sector. The challenges remain, but the need to accelerate the process grows as the government actively pursues initiatives to increase production and encourage commercial investment in the sector.

Download a larger version of this map

Concern’s Work on Land Title and Irrigation

Concern Worldwide has been working in Tanzania since 1978, when it was invited by the first president, Julius Nyerere, to implement community development projects in Iringa. Located in the southern highlands, this region was once the breadbasket of Tanzania. Over the past 20 years, however, Iringa has suffered persistent periods of drought. In 2011 alone, more than 43,000 of its population of 245,000 required food assistance.

Land remains of vital importance to the people of Iringa, with 90 percent of the population earning its living from agriculture and livestock production. Much of the potential remains untapped, however, and while 40 percent of its land is suitable for agriculture, just over 23.3 percent is actually cultivated.

Securing land title and irrigation are two core elements of Concern’s work in this region and beyond. Since 2006, Concern’s livelihoods programs have focused on the fulfilment of the right to an adequate standard of living for poor and vulnerable citizens in Iringa, Kilolo, and Mtwara districts. A key objective of its programs is to increase access to, and control over, land by formalizing ownership through acquisition of CCROs. These efforts have borne much fruit. Concern has supported the issuance of more than 9,500 CCROs, equal to approximately 16 percent of the total number issued across Tanzania since the Land Acts first came into force in 2001.

Since 2009, Iringa District has demarcated 103 of its 125 villages and issued village land certificates to each in preparation for demarcation and issuance of individual CCROs to households. Concern has supported the development of village land use plans in 12 villages and provided support for all other steps in the titling process with the exception of demarcation and survey of boundaries, for which the District Land and Village Council is responsible. More than 8,000 land titles have been issued in Iringa District, of which more than 6,000 were supported by Concern.

The key steps in the CCRO process are as follows:

  • Providing resources to district land officers, including GPS stations, computers, registry boxes, land seals, and software;
  • Holding awareness-raising meetings on Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 and Land Dispute Act No. 2 of 2002;
  • Forming land tribunals and committees;
  • Training tribunals and committees on their responsibilities;
  • Preparing village land use plans in collaboration with the Village Council and Village Assembly;
  • Demarcating and surveying village boundaries in collaboration with Village Land Committees;
  • Preparing and issuing the certificates of villages;
  • Carrying out land adjudication of individual land parcels within the village;
  • Establishing village land registries and equipping registries with facilities such as seals, village land registers, and cabinets;
  • Establishing a database of land-related information such as GPS coordinates for land parcels;
  • Registering and issuing CCROs to individual owners; and
  • Paying the cost per CCRO, per household, as set by the District Land Council of TSh50,000 (US$31.60).

The Benefits of Land Titling

This collaboration has been among the most successful of its kind in Tanzania in terms of the number of land titles issued. For individual farmers, the overwhelming benefit is security. Land titles give farmers legal recognition. If land is appropriated thereafter, compensation must be paid. This is particularly important in light of a new government initiative launched at the World Economic Forum Africa Summit in 2010. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) encompasses one-third of mainland Tanzania, stretching from Dar Es Salaam in the east to Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Sumbawanga in the west. It is a strategy designed to empower both smallholder and larger-scale farmers to make a commercial success of farming through partnership with government, businesses, and donors. Over time, this initiative is likely to have a significant impact on smallholder farmers as commercial enterprises look to invest in Tanzania. Ensuring that those farmers have secure tenure is an important step in strengthening their position in the future.

Access to loans, which enable farmers to invest and increase their yields, is a second tangible benefit of land titling. The process has also clarified the amount of land actually available. Many villages and local authorities have discovered there is not as much land as initially thought. According to the Assistant Commissioner for Land, Southern Zone, Msigwa Malaki, “When the land was demarcated, we thought there was enough; we thought there was idle land. But when it was surveyed, the villages found that they did not have enough land for inclusion under SAGCOT” (Msigwa Malaki, personal communication). Clearer boundaries and ownership of natural resources have reduced the opportunities for exploitation as well as the number of ongoing disputes.

The Challenge of Irrigation

Hamidu N’gulali
Ruaha Village, Tanzania

“Growing onions is very demanding, and lack of labor has been a big constraint. It is not possible to prepare your farm and plant on your own. And despite cultivating the whole acre of rice this year, I was still only able to manage 10 bags as the rain stopped earlier this year.”

Safia Mohamed Kikwebe
Kibondo District, Tanzania

“I feel even if I die, I know the land is safe as I have written the names of four of my children on the certificate, two girls and two boys. (Four was the maximum number I could include.) I have 6.23 acres of land, and I grow maize, beans, potatoes, and cassava.”

“One of my sons is married, so I farm and my son helps me. We also exchange crops, so if either of us has a problem we share the harvest (cassava or maize). I eat two meals a day, lunch and dinner, as I go to farm very early.”

“I think the certificate is important. One advantage is that you can rent your farm out for money. I plan to do so if there is an emergency. I can rent the land out so I can still pay for the children to go to school.”

Securing a land title is part of the solution. Water is also a major issue for the farmers of Iringa. With rainfall patterns becoming increasingly unpredictable, reliance on rainfed agriculture is becoming too risky. Less than 40 percent of the district has irrigation, and many farmers are unable to cultivate their land. For this reason, irrigation is a key component of Concern’s Integrated Livelihood Programme, which works with the District Ministry of Agriculture to improve irrigation infrastructure by supporting improvement of canals and construction of water gates. The introduction of drip irrigation has also become a key strategy for Concern.

In Luganga, for example, gates have been installed along the canal to help regulate the amount of water flowing to farmers. Concern has supported the strengthening and training of water user groups and their management committees—consisting of and elected by the villagers themselves—who are responsible for monitoring water usage, collecting fees, and overseeing maintenance of the canal. This canal provides irrigation to 300 farmers, who are able to cultivate their farms, increase their food security, and improve their livelihoods.

This progress is not without problems though. Loss of water through seepage along the canal has been a challenge that, if addressed, could enable a second harvest, improving food security and incomes. Water loss also affects the value of the land, which decreases as production falls. Conversely, the value of land increases with access to water. At the beginning of 2012, a temporary connector was put in place to facilitate the flow of water to an additional 450 farms. Since its construction, the volume available to all farms has fallen, reducing the level of production.

Water-related tensions between pastoralists and farmers in the district are also becoming more common. Although pastoralists may have designated land, their land may not have a water source, leaving them at times with little choice but to encroach on farmland and accept that they will have to pay a fee to the relevant farmer to allow their animals’ access to pasture and water.

Moving Forward with Land Titling

While benefits of the land titling process in Iringa are beginning to emerge, progress rolling out the Land Acts has been extremely slow since they first came into force in 2001. According to the Iringa District land officer, land has not been given priority in national budgets, and sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure have been prioritized instead. Iringa has a total district budget of TSh189 million. Of this total, TSh10 million have been allocated to come from the national government. The District Land Office estimates that in reality, they are likely to receive just one-third of what has been allocated. Furthermore, the amount for land administration in Iringa has been capped at TSh5.4 million (US$3,412) for 2012/2013. Pressure on overall budgets and limits on the budget for land administration raise questions and concerns in relation to the priority being given to the issue of land title. More investment is required if more communities and farmers are to get titles.

Over the past 10 years, the government has made agricultural investment an increasing priority. With the high-level promotion of SAGCOT, it is particularly important that similar support, both technical and financial, be given to land and the land-titling process. People must be protected through land title before companies enter into areas that are being utilized already. Titles should precede determination of SAGCOT areas.

Kaleta Sharaba Kabika
Kibondo District, Tanzania

“We own the land, cultivate it, and get food for our children. I would feel bad if my name was not on the certificate. If my husband died this would be a risk to me and my children. Another risk is that my husband could sell the land or rent it without my knowledge. Now because the certificate is in both our
names, it has to be a joint decision if we wish to sell or rent it.”

There is a need for more communication and information in relation to land titling on the part of both the community and local Village Councils too. There remains a great deal of uncertainty about the process and who has responsibility for instigating it. Official procedures call for farmers to apply to the Village Land Council and have their claim verified by the Village Land Tribunal; then a batch of applications is sent to the District Land Department. At times, though, Village Councils were waiting for the District Land Department to approach and notify them of their next visit to demarcate land.

Concern’s experience with the titling process highlights the need for strong political will, alongside complementary policies and integrated programming initiatives, including supportive financial and extension services and water programs. Each of these elements is as important as the other. In the absence of any one, the overall impact will be diminished while together, they can sustain and strengthen the considerable investment in and impact of the land-titling process in Tanzania in the years to come.


The examples from both Sierra Leone and Tanzania show the particular vulnerabilities of smallholder producers given scarcity of resources and increased competition. Though national policies such as the Smallholder Commercialization Programme in Sierra Leone and the Land Acts in Tanzania may be in place, the actual benefit to small-scale family farmers appears limited. Findings suggest that such policies can reach their full potential and respond to the rights and needs of smallholder farmers only if they are accompanied by the appropriate resources and capacities and recognized as part of a wider vision of “agricultural modernization” that is explicitly and implicitly supportive of smallholder farmers.

Chapter 5 puts forward recommendations detailing the requisite policies and frameworks for responsible governance of natural resources. It presents technical advances and approaches that have successfully managed to address the interconnectedness of land, water, and energy policies, as well as the measures that should be taken to address the drivers of the rush for resources.

Box 4.2 A case study of land titling in Iringa District, Tanzania

Anna Mdeka proudly holds up her certificate of customary right of occupancy (CCRO).

Anna Mdeka proudly holds up her CCRO. For her, this title represents important security and independence. Some years ago, Anna lost one of her legs, and her life changed in a number of ways. Whereas she used to engage in trade, she now relies solely on her farm for her livelihood. Concern Worldwide first started supporting the CCRO process in Luganga village, Pawaga Division, in 2006, working with the Village Council to raise awareness about the process and to survey and demarcate land. Anna’s was among the first farms to be surveyed in 2008, and a year later, she was one of the first five people to receive an official CCRO.

“It was my son who first told me about the CCROs. He had been at a meeting where they were talking about it, and when he came home he encouraged me to apply. He explained that the CCRO could be used to apply for credit, and I liked the thought of avoiding being harassed about my farm. As I am married, I had to approach my husband about the application. He has two other wives but agreed to give me two acres of land, and I applied for the CCRO in my name only.”

Concern supported Anna through the process, covering the fee of TSh50,000 (US$31.60) estimated by the Iringa District Land Office for demarcation and preparation of the title. For Anna, the main benefit of having a title is a feeling of security, as she knows those two acres belong to her and cannot be taken away. As one of three wives, Anna also now has more independence and protection over her own livelihood.

Although Anna has had her title for four years, she has not used it to obtain credit. But she knows exactly what she would do with a loan: “I would like to borrow TSh500,000 to buy pigs and grow more crops. I would like to diversify the crops that I grow and earn more money, but I am not sure how to go about getting a loan.”

Uncertainty about using the titles to obtain credit is a common challenge in Iringa. So far only 21 of the more than 8,000 people with titles have been able to use their land titles as collateral. Furthermore, these farms were generally well developed, grew cash crops, and were more mechanized. Financial institutions look for these characteristics and thereby limit opportunities for smallholder producers.

In addition, the titles are not yet fully recognized as instruments of mortgage, and as a result financial institutions are reluctant or unwilling to accept them. While the Ministry of Land is currently working on getting titles included in the Land Registration Act, this will take time. In the meantime the benefit of the asset is being limi­ted, given the lack of additional relevant information and complementary supportive policies.

Water is an additional challenge for Anna. “If I don’t get enough water from the canal, weeds sprout on my land. The canal is not in good shape. If Concern had not been rehabilitating it over the last three years, we would not be able to farm in this village.” Anna’s plot is on the canal, and she can grow rice, harvesting between 26 and 30 bags of rice a season. Once the main harvest is over and the land becomes drier, she grows maize. On average she earns TSh600,000 (US$380) a season. She also trades some of her rice for maize and meat.

Before leaving, Anna explains that her CCRO inspired her husband to look into the process, and he has since secured his own. Concern’s support of the titling process is expanding, empowering many within the community to secure control over the land they have farmed for years. In 2011, a further 119 parcels of land were surveyed and demarcated in Anna’s village.

16. The program has a planned budget of US$403 million. However, as of July 2012 the SCP had been accorded US$50 million from the multi-donor Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), administered by the World Bank. Furthermore, the Islamic Development Bank had announced a contribution of US$20 million. A number of other programs, with a joint volume of US$83 million, are understood as forming part of the SCP because they support some of the program’s components (the World Bank’s Rural Private Sector Program, the African Development Bank’s Agricultural Rehabilitation Program, and the Rural Finance and Community Improvement Program and Community-Based Poverty Reduction Project of the International Fund for Agricultural Development).[Back]
17. These monitoring data are from the Sierra Leonean nongovernmental organization Green Scenery ([Back]
18. In August 2011 Welthungerhilfe commissioned an independent case study to get a better insight into the perspectives of local farmers on the deal and to understand the early impacts of the land acquisition. The full study can be accessed through Welthungerhilfe’s webpage (Melbach 2012).[Back]