- Nov 14, 2006
'Unrest' as Hanang Residents Rush for Abandoned Wheat Farms.
Walio Arusha kwenye matukio tunaomba mtueleze kinachotokea huko. Inasikitisha kuona tabia hii inaanza kujitokeza na Serikali haichuku hatua madhubuti kuona kuna amani huko. Whats going on?Valentine Marc Nkwame said:Arusha Times (Arusha)
1 March 2008
Posted to the web 2 March 2008
At least three houses have been burnt down and others demolished in a simmering land conflict in Hanang' district which is pitting local residents of Katesh area against each other.
Threat notices are also being distributed in the locality to instill fear among residents of Mogitu village so that they vacate the lush-green maize farms which now have to be shared by various other 1000 locals. There are reports that people who used to live up mount Hanang are now reclaiming what they described to be their rightful land after being evicted from the highlands due to environmental reasons.
The farmers who live around the controversial farms also claim the right to the farms and feel that those from the hills should find other places to go. But with the government insists that both parties should share the farms along with hundred other peasants. "My family and I were sleeping at night when our houses erupted in flames, we managed to escape with minor injuries but my new bicycles, furniture and bags of maize in the rear room were destroyed," lamented Daniel Magagn a peasant of Mogitu.
Petro Gechame also suffered the same misfortune, "I have sent my family to live with my parents far away from here," he said, while Maria Gambadai whose house got demolished by an irate mob said she was being put up by relatives. The discord according to the area inhabitants is due to the argument on who should occupy the farms formerly owned by the National Agriculture and Food Corporation located at the foot of Mount Hanang' in Manyara region.
District Commissioner, Retired Captain Geoffrey Ngatuni admitted that there were some misunderstandings regarding the allocation of the farms, but refuted all claims of 'unrest' in the area. "I have never heard of any house burning down but then this area is full of mysteries, the conflicts if any could be caused by a number of other reasons," he said. Recently district officials decided to relocate the people living on the slopes of the mountain to the estates in order to preserve the land feature. However as it seems, the farms were already being occupied by people from Mogitu village.
Now the conflict is between Mogitu villagers and Gendabi from the hills, the former claim the right of occupancy, arguing that they have been farming in the location since time immemorial, while the former boast of having official blessings from the District headquarters to take over the estates. "Mogitu villagers have owned these farms long before even NAFCO set foot here, when they came our people were ordered out, but when the wheat project failed, we returned to our former land, the district has no right to snatch it away from us," said the village chairman Israel Dawi.
Leonard Gidaka the ward counselor stated that, when the government took the farms in the late seventies, former residents were left without even being given compensations so it was just fair for them to resume farming without any further interference. According to Gidaka, the hillbillies who are now being sent down from Mount Hanang' to occupy parts of the farms, should be relocated elsewhere because their presence in the vicinity can only spell disaster in form of community conflicts.
"As you can see, houses are being torched down, and other properties being vandalized by the displaced hill dwellers of Gendabi," he complained. But Gendabi people claim the farms used to be theirs having left them to NAFCO before taking up residences on the mountain slopes.
At least 270 households have been living around Mount Hanang' until recently when the local government decided to evict them and stop human activities around the mountain in an effort to conserve the environment.
Mount Hanang which is the fourth highest peak in Tanzania at 3417 meters, has for years been suffering from environmental degradation resulting from human activities such as land tilling, animal grazing and construction. The farms of the former NAFCO were earlier on earmarked for a proposed wheat complex in Hanang district but the condition to grow the crop became unsuitable after a while and the corporation decided to give up both the project and the related estates.
The district government on the other hand resolved to release Gawal and Warret farms that cover about 14,000 acres to be utilized by the communities around the area. Hanang' residents comprise peasants and pastoralists. The move was made official last December during a councilors and political party leaders' gathering in Hanang' district. The meeting was presided by the then Minister for Law and Constitutional Affairs, Dr. Mary Nagu.
Dr. Nagu had explained that the move came after a request that was sent to President Jakaya Kikwete by the Hanang District officials was accepted and hence the relocation of two of the six farms in the former NAFCO wheat complex. It was decided during the meeting that the peoples need for land in the area wouldn't be met by distribution of the two farms but rather priority would be given to the residents living near the farms and those evicted from the Mount Hanang' slopes for environmental reasons.
The minister said the government could not "release" all the six farms for distribution to the people because companies and private investors were still needed in the area to spearhead modern farming and livestock keeping. The Hanang's District Commissioner said the council's special committee for land relocation was about to finish demarcation work. The council has decided to split the two farms area into two equal halves, one for peasants and the other for livestock keepers.
After the demarcation work, Captain Ngatuni said, the village governments would identify those who lacked land in the area. It is estimated that there about 1,000 residents within the surrounding five villages in the area who are badly in need of land to support them. The other four farms of Gidamond, Marjanda, Setchet and Mulbadow were sold to individuals and investment companies.