Securing a right to city space

Gemma Todd, Dar es Salaam Community Manager
Dar es Salaam, 11 November 2014

Informality and land remain a common theme in discussing many of the cities across the Global South. We are presented with the association that informality emerges as a result of inadequate land markets. In this case the arguments for improving land policy, planning, and markets, remain a crucial method to resolve 'informality'. Many solutions applied focus on a De Soto perspective: the poor have access to land, land is an asset for the poor, and in order to release the asset potential, within a capitalist economy, the poor need their titles. Through such thinking land-title schemes have been initiated across Dar es Salaam, and remain a key goal of the Dar es Salaam Institute of Land Administration and Policy Studies. More recently the government set up a 21-day limit, whereby within 21 days all landowners should have their land titles granted. However, many complain that this has not been achieved. Further, the land-title approach raises criticisms: for example, to what extent do women benefit from land titles when gender norms remain unfavourable? Additionally, the formal benefits (i.e. credit) of holding a land title are not always granted. Nevertheless, land-titling programmes crucially recognise land is an asset. But within this discussion I want to focus on how to 'unleash' such potential land holds: security of tenure is required. Land policy needs to incorporate the subjective nature of 'security of tenure'. Security of tenure means an individual is able to secure their right to land.

Within Tanzania's land policy, a feminist perspective is key. Women's power over land has historically remained ruled by customary practices whereby a man connects, and enables, a woman's access to land. Further, women's inferior access has left them vulnerable to discrimination with regard to land use and rights. Women have been unable to control their power over land, or what land as an asset entails.

In response, Tanzania has raised a national focus on women, land ownership, and rights in their new constitution, which is planned to be rolled out in 2015. Within the constitution women are allowed to own and inherit land. Ultimately the new constitution trumps customary laws, and provides women with security of tenure.

At a local level, governments have worked in collaboration with communities to profile and map their land. Such community profiling programmes enable recognition, and have led to the sustainable provision of water.

Finally, NGOs are playing important roles within Dar es Salaam to ensure security of tenure. WAT Human Settlements Trust promotes regularisation, formalisation, and micro-financing of settlements and is thereby revising land policy and ensuring security of tenure. Microfinances provided to clients enable them to upgrade properties. Taking the case of Mrs. Msunga, the provision of microfinance has enabled security of tenure, the security by which she knows she will be able to stay on her land and utilise her land. Empowering individuals to design and upgrade properties provides them with an opportunity to gain an additional source of income through rent, and to further obtain formal recognition. WAT Human Settlements Trust offers assistance throughout the process of land negotiation, payment, planning, and finalisation. Working with individuals to have the opportunity to acquire land, design and plan their land, gain titles and formal recognition, but ultimately to be able to utilise their land.

Land policy cannot simply focus on bringing the informal into the formal land system. We need to focus on security of tenure. Policies and planning need to look at the processes involved in land deals, markets, and transactions; to connect to stakeholders ensuring a right to claim space; and to ensure people are able to use land and maximise its potential.

Photo: Peter Blapps

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