Meingatu Nesayo separating sheep that have just returned to Noomunye. Credit: Geoff Sayer/Oxfam
The Tanzanian government evicted pastoralists abitrarily

Tanzania: Campaigning to save pastoralists livelihoods

In late 2006, approximately 1,000 pastoralist households were evicted by the Government in the Ihefu Valley in Southern Tanzania. The evictions were rationalized on the basis that the pastoralists were responsible for significant environmental degradation in the area which had, in turn, led to a specific reduction in the availability of water feeding important hydroelectric generating stations. Many of these pastoralists had lived in the area since the 1970s.

However, a study by JOLIT and partners PINGOs and LARRRI found that reduced water in the area dates back to the mid 1970s and is linked to the establishment of a modern large scale rice irrigation project in the basin. Contrary to the Government’s assertion, there has actually been significant reduction in the number of livestock and therefore there was no conclusive scientific evidence to link the pastoralists to the degradation.

The procedure used to evict the pastoralists was mostly arbitrary. There was no opportunity for appeal and little or no time for the households to prepare for the move. In addition, the area to which they were moved was not suited to pastoralism.

The evictions represented human rights violations of the highest order and resulted in loss of life, significant damage to livelihoods and property and destitution for many families. The evictions also raised many questions about the degree to which good governance principles apply in questions relating to the welfare and situation of pastoralists in Tanzania.

In response, the Joint Oxfam Livelihoods Initiative in Tanzania (JOLIT) and its allies in the Pastoralism and Land Group instituted a campaign. The Government said it had evicted pastoralists because their poor agricultural and irrigation techniques contributed to water scarcity, they were overstocking beyond the carrying capacity, and they caused conflict between different land user groups.

In April 2007, the campaign led to the formation of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the evictions.