VI. Land Tenure in Tanzania


Interaction type Public -> Government -> Public
Trigger Event
Domain Land Tenure
Organisation(s) USAID, Cloudburst Group
Actors USAID, Tanzania’s government, local authorities and citizens,
Data sets in use Parcel data and land ownership documentation
Process Trained mappers collect and document the land tenure rights using mobile mapping devices in mutual agreement between owners so to support the governmental authorities
Goal Improve the land administration system
Side effects Social improvement and promotion of gender equality.
Contact Point Online resources.


The Land Tenure project in Tanzania run from 2014 to 2016. It was funded by the USAID with approximately $1,000,000 and it was implemented by the Cloudburst Group, a U.S.-based consulting firm. The aim of the project was to enhance economic growth in the country by securing land tenure rights.

The problem that citizens of Tanzania face is that there is no properly functioning land administration system in place. The existing processes are not cost effective, are poorly managed and corruption and lack of transparency are not uncommon. The result is that rural dwellers and marginalized social groups like women and children find it hard to secure and document their rights on their land. In turn, this create social tensions, poor asset exploitation and little, if any, investment in land. Of particular interest is the place of women in this context. As USAID reports, only 20 percent of women have secured and documented land tenure rights. This is due to customary norms and social prejudice that make it hard for the women to obtain land rights but rather these go through the males of the family or their spouses, meaning that women can easily lose any rights in case of a death or a family quarrel. Indeed, if women are not land owners inside a marriage, they are vulnerable and depended on their husbands and in case they become windows they might not inherit their husband’s land. In this context, the need to document existing rights in a participatory and efficient way has surfaced.

In an effort to help Tanzania’s authorities secure villagers’ land rights, USAID launched a project to map geographic and demographic data using mobile phone technology, with the aim of speeding up land rights registration. The “Mobile Application to Secure Tenure (MAST)” project enables villagers to identify property boundaries and gather the information officials need to issue land ownership documents. The MAST project was put in place to supports the Government of Tanzania to improve land governance. The project builds on a participatory approach for capturing land rights information so to build a database of land rights claims. MAST runs under a USAID umbrella project called Evaluation, Research and Communication (ERC) project with multiple sub-projects around the globe. The broader scopes of ERC are climate change and natural resource management, gender equality and women’s empowerment. The project which started in 2013 will be active until 2018 and will be funded with approximately $18,800,000.

The MAST has been used so to create a collaborative and participatory mentality through crowdsourcing for recording, documenting and thus securing land rights without excluding anyone. The land rights recorded will be linked to databases that Tanzania’s government can use to issue formal documentation in a more cost effective and time sensitive manner or serve as an independent registry of claims, thus, increasing land tenure security and transparency.

This approach taps on inexpensive and thus easy to reach mobile technologies and on the collaborative crowdsourced contribution of land owners. The citizens are trained to use the technological means and applications developed for this purpose so to gather land rights and tenure information. In order to increase acceptance and minimize interpersonal disagreements the local mappers have to ensure that land owners or their representatives and neighbors are present during the process. The information is then uploaded to an online database where officials can access and validate it to issue title deeds. However, this process needs to have people that are tech-savvy and comfortable in using applications in handheld devises (e.g. smartphones and tablets) to map and document land parcels.

This effort can provide multiple benefits to government and citizens alike. First, the participatory crowdsourced approach can help the Government of Tanzania to change the traditional, and more costly, land administration processes and considerably increase the speed of data collection. By lowering the cost of land certification programs the process becomes more inclusive and accessible and thus more transparent. In turn, this can minimize, or even eliminate land disputes. A well regulated and transparent land administration process will inevitably fuel the investing opportunities for land assets for the benefit of all stakeholders. In parallel, this process can help raising the awareness among women about their right to own and inherit land and help minimize social disputes and turmoil around land ownership.

Main lessons:

  • Deep rooted social problems can be easily solved through participatory and crowdsourced approaches.
  • Familiarization with technology, even in a basic level, is the cornerstone for crowdsourced efforts in the digital era.
  • Land tenure rights and transparent land management processes are fundamental for social development and economic growth. Thus, up-to-date and accurate geographic information is the key enabler.
  • A positive impact and optimum results need well designed, managed and funded projects.