Credit: CIFOR










Tanzania is rich in natural resources, including abundant agricultural land, forests, water, and minerals. Seventy-five percent of the population is rural, and agriculture employs nearly 80 percent of the Tanzanian workforce. 

But the agricultural sector has lagged behind the country’s overall economic growth in recent years.  Growth requires not only improved seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation for smallholder farmers, but also secure land rights. 

The Tanzanian government has undertaken major reforms of land governance, both after the country gained independence in 1961, and more recently.  In 1961, the government put in place "African Socialism," which included the forced movement of people into villages (ujamaa) and the collective cultivation of the land.  Despite some gains, such as in education and social services, Tanzania remained one of the world’s poorest countries.  By the 1990s, it was clear that the country needed a new approach to land governance. 


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The OECD Investment Policy Review of Tanzania for 2013 notes that efforts to increase small and large-scale agricultural investment have been hampered by overlapping land governance authorities and complex land registration processes, leaving ninety-seven percent of the country’s land unregistered.

Reported by IPP Media’s The Guardian. February 8, 2014.

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Land laws passed in 1999—notably the Land Act and Village Land Act—recognized customary tenure and supported some private property rights.  Under this framework, almost 70 percent of all land in Tanzania is “village land,” and about 28 percent is “reserve land” (set aside for purposes such as forest reserves, game parks and public utilities).  Property rights are based on recognition of long-term occupancy and use rights. 

At the same time, all land in Tanzania is considered public land, which is held by the President of Tanzania, in trust for the people.  As such, it is vulnerable to expropriation by the government if it is deemed necessary for the public interest, although in recent years the government has been reluctant to exercise this power widely. 

Tanzania’s National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty 2011-2015 identifies urban growth and agriculture as priority areas.  It plans to improve irrigation and support access to land for agriculture, for both large- and small-scale farmers.  A land rights formalization program aims to bolster land tenure security, encourage investment in land, and support development of a land market.  A variety of international partners, including the World Bank and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, have supported this program.

Tanzania infographic

Total population 46,218,486
Rural population / rural poverty rate 33,858,554/37.40%
Share of women in agriculture 80.00%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 12,359,932/21.80%
Internally displaced People N/A
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 885,800/42.11%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 27.53%
Forested land (as % of total) 37.28%
Annual deforestation rate -1.16%
Land rights and access rating 0.733
Time required to register property (days) 68,00%
Women's ownership rights 1.0
Large-scale land holdings 354,183
GDP per capita (current USD) 532
Agriculture as % of GDP 27.68%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 8.36%
Major natural resources hydropower, tin, phosphates, iron ore, coal
Tourism as share of GDP 12.86%