Farmers’ Fight bears Fruit Villagers in Mbarali entered 10 years ago into a land dispute with Kapunga Rice Project Limited. The dispute started when the investor grabbed the land of the village, inhabited by over 4,500 people. In 1995 villagers provided 5,500 acres of land to the National Agricultural and Food Corporation (NAFCO) for special rice production. In 2006, NAFCO handed over to Kapunga Project Limited, and to every one’s surprise, the title deed showed 7,370 acres of land instead of the 5,500 agreed by the villagers. This meant that hundreds of villagers on the land that was now given as a bonus to the investor.
The conflict grew from a local conflict to the national spotlight. The then Minister of land Professor Tibaijuka tried to resolve the conflict but with no success. By that time the Journalists Environment Association (JET), currently one of AYP’s partners, became aware of the issue and started training local CBOs and other groups on their land rights. JET also used its network of journalists to explain the conflict to the general public, stating that this was a clear case of land grabbing by investors and misuse of public powers by the government officials in the region. Last year 2015, AYP team and JET visited Mbarali, listening to the same frustrations as the dispute remained unresolved. We said we would stand by the farmers! During the gender festival in September 2015 we managed to have the issue covered by national media. A break through! Late 2015, the Minister of land William Lukuvi announced that the 1,870 acres of land taken from the villagers will be given back to the villagers. In January 2016 the president revoked the title deed and the 1,780 acres were given back to the villagers.
For AYP and partners, this is a victory and an indicator that advocacy works, even though it took 10 years to see victory. But the victory is not yet complete. Some of the farmers’ assets were destroyed by the investor and they are seeking compensation. Also for this we will be stand by! Kapunga gives us hope that other conflicts can also be resolved favorably, such as those in Kilosa, Mvumero, and other places. We just need to be strong and ensure that farmers can invoke their rights.