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Open data for better land governance and capital city prospects in Tanzania

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Data on land ownership is essential for enabling smallholder farmers to gain secure access to and control over their land

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Tanzania declared its intention of shifting the national capital from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma in 1973. This declaration, along with the establishment of large institutions, fueled the expansion of Dodoma from a small town of about 45,000 people in 1973 to 410,956 people in 2012. This development has culminated in increased land demand for various urban and agricultural functions.

It is widely understood that effective land use, sustainable food production and development are linked. Data on land ownership is essential for enabling smallholder farmers to gain secure access to and control over their land, which provides the basis for investing in their operations. Yet, creating effective policy that takes into account broader notions of, for instance, economic prosperity and social justice, especially in the context of competing land use claims and titles, still presents significant challenges. These difficulties are compounded by the fragmented nature of available information regarding land ownership.

Increasing awareness of land data application

Land acquisition processes have been marred in Dodoma by resistance from local communities on account of not being fair, prompt and participatory. Serious measures and initiatives in good governance are thus be required for smooth land operations. It is in this regard that a workshop on ‘Open data for the better land governance and capital city prospects in Tanzania’ was conducted on 19 January 2019. Led by the University of Dodoma and in partnership with CTA, the workshop aimed to increase the awareness of participants on land open data and the usefulness of this information at the management level of land planning to help address land-related challenges.

The workshop organisers initially invited 30 participants from Dodoma council, however, it garnered much more interest than was expected and, in the end, was attended by 59 participants – 49 of whom were councillors, five were land officers (surveyors, planners and statisticians), and the other five were members of the media. Thirty-nine percent of participants were women.

Pre-training meetings were held to identify the levels of open data knowledge and skills of the workshop participants, as well as the preferred language of communication. Only four participants said they understood what open data was. A majority of the participants indicated they would prefer the training to be in Swahili and as such, the workshop was delivered in vernacular.

The three major topics of the workshop were as follows:

  • Open data and its impact on Dodoma city planning and agriculture;
  • Open land data use cases; and
  • Open land data publications.

More specifically, the workshop sessions taught participants about open data and its publication in government data portals, citizen-generated community mapping data, and the inclusive and open approaches to data collection and management. It was also explained how open data and access to information on ownership could ultimately be used to improve land governance and for solving land-related conflicts.

The participatory approach of the workshop, which involved group discussion, reflection activities and brain storming, helped participants to critically analyse the situation of land data in Tanzania. They were able to draw several lessons from their discussions:

  • Land data exists within government, but it needs to be assessed against open data frameworks and the principles of accessibility, interoperability, and re-usability for it to be made use of;
  • This will require collaboration with other stakeholders to develop institutional capacity and systems that allow the government to generate, manage and publish open land data and information, and ultimately, enhance informed decision making;
  • Engaging with data actors in the land sector across Tanzania – and worldwide – is essential to identify best practices and opportunities for synergies to effectively address land conflict, native alienation and land misuse.

Lessons learned

The evaluation survey completed by participants at the end of the workshop demonstrated that 95.9% agreed and strongly agreed that they had gained new knowledge and skills. “According to the population growth rate, it is important for us planners to keep track of data. We have been discussing how to make data easily accessible to inform everyone about the planned land use. For example, if all plans were data-driven and every piece of land was planned for, and if all the information was available at all levels, it would easier to match the plan to the actual land use” - Augusta Alfred, urban planning officer for Dodoma.

In his remarks during the closing ceremony of the workshop, the Lord Mayor of Dodoma city, Davis Mwamfupe, referred to the activity as an exceptional opportunity for Dodoma. He stressed that as one of the fastest growing regions in the country, to manage rising issues around land in Dodoma and to enhance satisfactory decision-making, open data would be an important part of the solution.

Data developments

Since the workshop, other related activities have taken place to continue building the capacity of Tanzanians to access and use open data. These include two CTA and FAO open online courses on farm data management and sharing, and services for agriculture development, which were completed by 176 Tanzanian participants.

The Land Portal Foundation, GODAN Action thematic leads on land data, published a report State of Land Information: Uncovering the Information Ecosystem which makes concrete recommendations to data and information providers to improve their data sharing practices, to help establish a functioning, inclusive and democratised ecosystem of data. They also ran a workshop whose purpose was to uncover the land data and information ecosystem in East Africa in May 2019.

The government of Tanzania, together with development agencies and agricultural stakeholders alike, are increasingly recognising the need for land data in support of secure property rights as a means to ensuring sustainable economic development and are committed to improving access.

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