Monday, March 20, 2017

Recurrent clashes over land need new approach

By The Citizen

It seems that the longstanding problem of conflicts pitting smallholder farmers against pastoralists has refused to go away.

On Saturday, President John Magufuli directed Bagamoyo District Commissioner Majid Mwanga to intervene and end intermittent conflicts between the two communities in the area in yet another reminder of the scale to which the problem has grown over the years.

It is time the government and civil society came up with a coordinated national initiative to end once and for all the scourge that has reared its ugly head for over two decades. We are where we are precisely because conflicts over land have largely been dealt with at the district level despite it being amply clear that this is now a national problem.

Whenever farmers and pastoralists clash, the invariable kneejerk response by district commissioners is to send in police to restore peace and keep the warring sides apart. Police usually leave once the district administration is satisfied that a semblance of law and order has been re-established.

With the underlying root causes not addressed and a permanent solution found, it is just a matter of time before the cycle of violence resumes, sometimes with deadly consequences. This is what is happening in the affected areas almost without exception – authorities opting for a simple solution to a complex problem.

The causes of recurrent clashes between farmers and livestock-keepers are well known and have been debated at length. It is time the government through the relevant ministries in collaboration with civil society came up with a blueprint aimed at ensuring that farmers and pastoralist peacefully coexist again in areas that have experienced recurrent clashes in the past two decades or so.

The current approach of issuing threats and sending in crack police units to restore order through brute force is ill advised at this time when land is becoming an increasingly scarce resource.

GIVE RESEARCH GREATER PRIORITY

Research is crucial for any nation to unlock new potential and open the doors to innovation to improve the quantity and quality of production in various sectors. There is a need therefore for Tanzania to invest more in research in agriculture, medicine, science and technology.

By identifying the true needs of the various sections through research, it is easier to attract foreign investment and in the long run create more jobs for Tanzanians to spur economic development. With agriculture still a key component of the economy, research on better seeds, plant adaptation to regions, crop diseases, pest control, new farming methods and so on, is needed, if we hope to boost food production.

Also, investment in medical research is a must to tackle diseases and other health-related challenges and free human resource for productive engagement. Human and animals diseases hamper development. But research is useless if the findings are not put to productive use. A number of institutions, including universities, which invest heavily in research, end up with a lot of information in files in libraries and laboratories, which, if implemented, could make a huge difference.

The resources invested in research must be recouped by making use of the knowledge to improve the lives of the people and society in general. We must give research its rightful place by implementing those findings instead of letting the knowledge gather dust on shelves.