By Khadija Mrisho, Land Tenure Analyst, Landesa
Across the world, land is a vital source of income, livelihood, status, and security—especially in rural communities.
Secure land tenure is also fundamental to a career in agriculture, and today there are increasing efforts to secure land rights for groups with historically constrained access to land, such as women and indigenous peoples.
However, young women and men are often excluded from land governance and efforts to strengthen land rights for historically marginalized groups. In Tanzania, youth between the ages of 15 and 35 have been identified as key drivers for economic transformation, not unlike other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tanzania’s youth form the largest part of the population and labor force, amounting to over one-third of the total population. Harnessing the potential of youth through agriculture, a vital sector in Tanzania’s economy that employs as many as three-quarters of Tanzanian youth, is paramount for the country’s development and economic growth.
Without secure land rights for youth, Tanzania will continue to miss this valuable opportunity to both strengthen human rights and bolster rural economic growth.
The Struggle for Youth Land Rights in Tanzania
According to an in-depth youth land rights assessment conducted by Landesa in 2020, Tanzanian youth access land through five common mechanisms: land purchase and rental, municipal allocation, inheritance, and family land allocation.
However, each mechanism comes with its own host of challenges and barriers that weaken its success in addressing youth landlessness. Youth commonly struggle to acquire land through rental and purchase because they lack finance to buy or rent, and restrictive lending conditions that constrain youth access to capital and finance.
Young people, especially young women, also tend to be excluded from vital information and social networks that enable others to participate in land markets.
Additionally, land markets are underdeveloped, resulting in costly and complex procedures that make it difficult for youth to access land though market. Land granted formally through municipal, or village level allocation programs is often not accessible to youth.
Rural land administration happens at the village level, but most decisions are made by elders, who traditionally favor older adults in land allocations.
Additionally, resource limitations, costs, cultural norms, and lack of specific policy provisions that prioritize youth, all contribute to low youth participation in land allocation programs. As a result of challenges faced when buying, renting, or receiving allocated land, Tanzanian youth often depend heavily on family inheritance or family allocation to access land.
This reliance on inheritance can be problematic, as the process is usually governed by customary practices that mostly limit and discriminate against youth, especially young women and girls. Additionally, inheritance of land is often delayed due to longer life spans, and prohibits youth from choosing the size, quality, and location of their land.
However, these barriers and challenges to secure land for Tanzanian youth are not insurmountable.
There are actionable steps that stakeholders, from national and local level government to local communities, can carry out to facilitate youth inclusion in land governance and agriculture.
The Way Forward for Youth Land Rights
Tanzania has already made some strides toward increasing youth involvement in agriculture and access to land. The National Agriculture Policy (2013), the National Strategy for Youth Involvement in Agriculture (2016- 2021), and the National Youth Development Policy (2007), all acknowledge youth challenges and the important role of youth access to land and finance for agricultural growth and youth economic empowerment.
This progress so far is a strong foundation for current and future endeavors to harness youth’s potential in the sector. There are myriad policy and programmatic options that could support the Government of Tanzania’s efforts to strengthen land rights for youth and bolster agricultural growth.
To build on previous national plans and policies already in place, the Government of Tanzania should undertake land policy reform that recognize youth challenges and favor youth needs.
This includes adding specific provisions for youth into the National Land Policy, the Land Act, and the Village Land Act.
These youth-specific provisions would ensure policy consistency and efficiency as well as encourage Local Government Authorities (LGAs) and other actors to prioritize youth in land allocation programs, and set aside land for rent for youth aspiring to become involved in agriculture, in accordance with the existing national strategies that aim at increasing youth involvement in agriculture.
Additionally, the Government of Tanzania should prioritize amending gender-discriminatory inheritance laws, promoting youth engagement in land governance and administration through capacity-building and youth representation on village councils, creating pro-youth credit and finance facilities, and facilitating media campaigns focused on behavior change awareness.
Overall, the approach to strengthening youth land rights and youth empowerment must be holistic and cross-sectoral to create lasting change.
A standalone youth land rights approach, focusing solely on land rights legislation, is unlikely to yield significant youth engagement in agriculture without also improving the enabling environment for rural youth economic empowerment.