On solid ground: armed with land titles, Tanzania’s slum dwellers tackle poverty


On solid ground: armed with land titles, Tanzania's slum dwellers tackle poverty

In Summary

  • “Policies and plans to upgrade unplanned settlements have nothing to do with the elections,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
  • In January, Lukuvi told reporters that the program would help more than two million residents of Dar es Salaam, with the ultimate goal to provide title to all residents of informal settlements nationwide.
  • For Mkwawa, holding the residential license provided proof that she was the rightful owner of the property. It also meant that nobody could demolish her home with impunity.

For Maria Mkwawa, the Tanzanian government’s decision to issue her with a formal land title to her home in January was a pleasant surprise. “It will help me in many ways,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “My family has a bright future.”

Mkwawa is one of hundreds in the impoverished Magomeni ward of the East African nation’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, who recently received what are known as residential licenses.

The documents, which are equivalent to land title, form part of a nationwide program that began in June 2018 to secure property rights for home owners in informal settlements. It is currently focused on Dar es Salaam.

As one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities, and home to about five million people, Dar es Salaam is rapidly urbanizing.

About 70 percent of its residents live in informal settlements without clean water and decent sanitation, according to UN-Habitat, the U.N. agency for urban development.

Until recently, the government regularly demolished homes in informal settlements. In October 2017, housing minister William Lukuvi announced a nationwide program to knock down such dwellings.

But, in January, Lukuvi said that had changed: a new policy of providing land tenure would help the urban poor.

“We will no longer demolish informal and unplanned settlements. The government will instead recognize and license property owners in those areas,” Lukuvi was quoted as saying in local media.

He said the policy shift was a directive from President John Magufuli, who held that it was not the fault of poor people that they built homes in such areas.“A property without a land title is worthless. Once these properties are formalized, rightful owners can use them as loan security,” said Lukuvi.

The program follows on the heels of a 2016 effort to seize agricultural land left undeveloped by investors and return it to poor farmers, in a bid to quell conflicts between farmers, herders and developers.

Although critics have accused the government of acting simply to garner votes from the poor ahead of next year’s general election, Nathaniel Mathew, a deputy land commissioner, said that was not the case.

“Policies and plans to upgrade unplanned settlements have nothing to do with the elections,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In January, Lukuvi told reporters that the program would help more than two million residents of Dar es Salaam, with the ultimate goal to provide title to all residents of informal settlements nationwide.

For Mkwawa, holding the residential license provided proof that she was the rightful owner of the property. It also meant that nobody could demolish her home with impunity.

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