Achterberg-Boness, Anne-Christina (2017). Dynamics of Law, Culture and Society in the Organisation of Land and Water Distribution among Rural Farmers in Karatu District/Northern Tanzania. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

PhD_Achterberg_Dynamics_of_Law,_Culture_and_Society_in_the_Organisation_of_Land_and_Water_Distribution_among_Rural_Farmers_in_Karatu_DistrictNorthern_Tanzania.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (6MB)


This thesis deals with the question of how Tanzania’s land (1999) and water (2002) reforms have impacted local dynamics of negotiating access to, and control over, land and water in Endamarariek, Karatu District. I have carried out 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in 2009 and 2010, during which I examined those dynamics of negotiation. The main methodology used was the extended case method, which I have complemented with participant observation, interviews, ethnographic census, and wealth ranking. In order to place my results in a historical perspective, I also examined the history of resource control and access in the study area. The overall aim of my research has been to contribute to an understanding of the impact of formalisation and decentralisation on resource access and control. The Tanzanian land and water reforms were designed within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals and were aimed at eradicating poverty and preventing conflicts over land. With my research I have brought to light the discrepancies between the intentions of the policies and their achieved results. Formalisation of land and water rights has not reduced poverty and conflicts while in some cases even worsening them. I argue that the failure of the reforms to reduce poverty attests to the fact that the international development agenda does not always resonate with the realities existing at the local level. The situation at the local level is characterised by the exisistence of various social fields with their own forums, rules, and laws. The ignorance of those fields leads to outcomes where practices from the customary fields inhibit the implementation of the law, statutory laws are overruled by forum shopping, broad land loss takes place, conflicts become worse, and final solutions are found only on a customary field. In the fields of law and political science, conflict resolution and access to resources are approached by statutory law and administration. In accordance with this perspective, the methodology of these fields has been largely grounded upon a narrow frame, with research based only on official texts and interviews with representatives of statutory bodies. By examining only the statutory order, a one-sided and incomplete picture of local realities emerges. This work has strived to provide a broader and more balanced picture using the methodologies of legal anthropology. I have used legal anthropology and institutional theory as a framework for investigating the strategies that actors use in negotiating, gaining, and maintaining access to resources, both in daily life and in conflicts. Furthermore, I have used the concept of legal pluralism as an analytical frame to understand the diversity and the multifaceted nature of the rules applied in resource negotiation at the local level. The theory of legal pluralism has enriched this work by calling attention to the co- existence and interaction of multiple rules and laws. For example, the idea of co-existing laws in a community suggests that actors' claims of legitimacy can be easily assigned to a specific law; for example, a village chairman may derive legitimacy from statutory law. However, my findings show that in resource distribution, the legitimacy and authority of a person to settle a conflict does not necessarily derive from the official position he/she holds at the moment, but should rather be understood as an accumulation of experiences rooted in different positions in customary law, church, projects, and state offices—all of which work together to form reputation and acknowledgement in the community. In other words, people’s power to negotiate resource access and settle conflicts is by and large related to their social capital within society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-74341
Date: 2 February 2017
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Generalities, Science
Political science
Public administration
Customs, etiquette, folklore
Geography and history
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Tanzania, legal pluralism, extended-case-method, land law, water law, reform, Karatu, poverty, local perspectives, history, formalisation, decentralisation, customary law, project law, water projects, land tribunalEnglish
Date of oral exam: 2 February 2017
NameAcademic Title
Bollig, MichaelProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


Downloads per month over past year


Actions (login required)

View Item View Item