Experts Question Land Laws in Agric Investments

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Originally published by Guardian on Sunday

 

By Gerald Kitabu

 

President Jakaya Kikwete  is set to inaugurate a high profile Lake Tanganyika zone investors’ forum tomorrow in Mpanda District in the new Katavi Region.

However, academicians, economists, politicians and other stake holders have warned that under the current land laws and policies, the investment amounts to exploitation and a form of colonialism.

They said outdated laws that require investors to pay Sh200 as land rent per hectare per annum and Sh500 as revenue for the respective district councils aim to exploit the resources at the expense of poor people.

Professor Haji Semboja of the University of Dar es Salaam Economic Research Bureau said he was dismayed by the decision to apply exploitive laws and policies in the venture.

He said the application of laws that are exploitative in nature only shows the level of peoples’ ignorance with regard to their own resources while the investors take advantage of the weak laws to get super profits.

The forum whose theme is “Promotion of Lake Tanganyika Zone Investment Potentials” will involve Rukwa Region, Kigoma Region, and the new Katavi Region.

Semboja underlined the fact that investors do business according to Tanzania’s laws. “The Lake Tanganyika investors’ forum is a good idea but we should have changed the laws first before inviting the investors.”

Professor Marjorie Mbilinyi, Principal Programme Officer – TGNP, explained there is a big influx of large foreign investment companies in East Africa and Tanzania in particular, adding that the government should be very careful when dealing with them.

 

“I think the government should empower small scale farmers and establish local markets; it is only through developing local farmers and livestock keepers that the country will realise food security,” she explained.

Dr Bashiru Ally of the University of Dar es Salaam said there is no developing country where foreign investors have been able to ensure food security through large scale farming because usually the foreign investors are after returns.

He said once a land is leased to foreign investor, all associated resources such as forests which are the sources of water are also controlled by the investors.

“Foreign investors will not come here to solve the problem of food security or provide jobs and markets; they are after investment climate and one may think they are attracting investors in land, but in actual fact they are allowing them to grab all biodiversities and other resources,” he said.

Simanjiro MP Christopher ole Sendeka (CCM) said the government should make thorough study of investors’ plans before allocating foreigners land to ensure that they benefit the majority of Tanzanians.

“If the government will not be careful on foreign investment by making sure the investment benefits locals, people will be reduced to slavery in their own country which is another form of colonialism,” he said.

A member of East Africa legislative, George Nangale, suggested that for better foreign investment, the government should be reviewing all the contracts after every three years because life is changing and the currency is also changing from time to time.

A few months ago, Mpanda district authorities signed a controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with American-based AgriSol Energy LLC, under which the latter will be charged Sh200 per hectare per annum for huge tracts of land on which it will operate a large-scale agricultural project,

The AgriSol activities were expected to be undertaken at Katumba and Mishamo that have for 30 years been home to Burundian refugees (currently numbering over 160,000). The refugees are to be re-located elsewhere, after being granted Tanzanian citizenship in 2009.

According to the already signed AgriSol Energy LLC-Mpanda District Council MoU, the investor will, on top of the Sh200-per-hectare-per annum land rent, pay Sh500 as fee to the council per hectare per year.

Meanwhile, local leaders have been accused of being insensitive to land’s value.

Article 4.4 of the MoU says the initial term of the certificate of occupancy shall be 99 years lease, and already AgriSol is conducting a feasibility study, including examining soil samples for agriculture.

Under the contract, for any disputes that may arise, arbitration shall be held in London, pursuant to the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).