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I represent Concern here in Tanzania.
I am very gratified to see articles published that attempt to delve into some of the more complex aspects of development work in Africa. “The plight of small farmers against the might of big business”. It’s a familiar refrain.
But David Ralph’s recent article (Features, Mar 21)) tells just one side of the story. It describes the problem but stops short of offering any solutions. And yet that’s what people need and want — whether here in Dar Es Salaam or in Dublin. So, if I may take up the story where Mr Ralph left off, with the unanswered question: ‘What needs to be done?’.
Firstly, land title must be secured for small holder farmers, and especially for women farmers. The Government needs to move far more quickly on this issue and farmers need to understand the importance of gaining formal title. Secondly, donors must focus on protecting poor and vulnerable people. Their priority is not supporting or perpetuating the power of big business. Thirdly, investor lease agreements need to provide for situations like Sun Biofuels (where the company no longer operates or the land lays idle) and ensure the land can revert to the original owner. Fourthly, there are examples of large business working with small holders in a mutually beneficial way.
And finally, in the interests of transparency, local language should always be used when agreeing contracts.
Since 2008, Concern has supported over 10,000 farmers gain title to their land. Let’s look beyond the problem and consider the solutions.
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