Decentralisation and Local Governance of Land in Africa. Land Reform Implementation and Citizen Participation in Tanzania

Partner Institution(s): 
Roskilde University, Denmark
Ardhi University, Tanzania
Start Date: 
October 1, 2009
End Date: 
June 30, 2013
Project Type: 
Smaller projects: PhD
Project Code: 
Total grant: 
DKK 2,820,437
Contact : 
Rasmus Hundsbæk Petersen

Improved tenure security can help improve food security for the 75% of the world’s poor who live on the countryside and depend on access to land. The project investigates implementation of decentralised land administrations, which is a key element in most land reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through comparative case analyses of two rural districts in mainland Tanzania it assesses how reform implementation affects access to land, especially for women and vulnerable groups. Particular attention is paid to whether increased participation, as claimed, can improve implementation and access. Empirically, the project gathers evidence about implementation of decentralised land administrations in Tanzania, which has only been surveyed sporadically. Theoretically, it aims at qualifying debates within land rights studies about the interrelationship between decentralisation, formalisation and citizen participation. Policy wise, the project produces knowledge about how to improve implementation and access to formal land administration services. The project will be attached to an emerging World Bank sponsored research program about decentralisation and social accountability, but can be accomplished anyhow if financing of the program fails. The PhD student is enrolled at International Development Studies at RUC. In Tanzania he is attached to Ardhi University. Within academia knowledge is communicated through a PhD dissertation, articles and workshops. MS and donors receive reports on findings. A blog ensures dissemination of knowledge to the public.


Project Completion Report:
The project has aimed to research the implementation of Tanzania's land reform from 1999 in rural areas. The reform is one among a series of similar reforms that have been introduced to streamline land legislation, land administration and land court systems and facilitate markets in land in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the outset of the project not much was known of their impact at the local level.

Overall, the project concludes that despite being slow, uneven and often project-driven, there are examples of successful interventions to implement the reform. The more formal institutions - those characterized by some regularity and which have the backing of the state - become more important in mediating access to land. The change is reinforced by a demand from below for land administration and land dispute settlement services caused by the increased competition for land. But changes are gradual and more could be done to support local level institutions, in particular at the village level.

Theoretically, the project has contributed to debates within land reform studies about reform implementation, decentralisation and formalisation. Policy wise, the project has produced knowledge about how to improve implementation and access to formal land services. It has disseminated knowledge through a number of seminars, papers and articles in Denmark as well as in Tanzania.

This page was last modified on 17 February 2014

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