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​Land Use Planning in Tanzania 

Photo credit: Marian Siljeholm/USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili.

Exploring the impacts of land use planning on environmental outcomes 


Understand what factors influence implementation of land use plans; and the associated economic, social, and climate benefits and consequences experienced by communities. 


A mixed methods study that included stakeholder interviews and satellite imagery. 


A set of recommendations for strengthening the impact and effectiveness of land use planning.

Participatory land use planning can improve natural resource management and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While it is a widely used practice, little reliable evidence exists to support its effectiveness in achieving climate outcomes.  

To expand the evidence base, RTI undertook a mixed-methods study in Tanzania across six geographically diverse communities in the Tanga and Kigoma districts. The study sought to answer whether the adoption of land use plans in Tanzania reduced land conversion (which leads to more emissions) and, if so, what led to that outcome.  

The study consisted of two parts that took place from January to September 2023: 

  • Phase 1—Qualitative data collection: This first phase included interviews with more than 244 local leaders, technical experts, and community members, including women’s and men’s groups and people involved in agricultural activities such as pastoralism, beekeeping, and farming.  
  • Phase 2—Quantitative data collection and analysis: In the second phase, researchers used satellite images and data to compare forest loss rates in targeted areas before and after land use plan implementation. Both qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed to generate greater insights on the perceived and real impacts of land use planning. 

Land use planning study findings in Tanzania

  • In Kigoma, rates of forest loss remained the same or decreased after the adoption of land use plans. In Tanga, however, rates of forest loss continued their upwards trend after land use plans were adopted. This suggests that while land use planning may contribute to improved management of natural resources, their effectiveness depends on how the plans are implemented.  
  • Perceived benefits of land use planning among community members included a reduction in conflict between land users, protection of water sources and forests, and decreased illicit economic opportunities that hurt forests, and more secure land tenure for some communities in Kigoma.  
  • Perceived consequences included fears of losing access to land without compensation and concerns that some households would have to relocate. Uncertainties around land use plan adoption and enforcement also hindered full implementation of the plans and investment. 
  • Factors that influenced how effective the plans were included community education about the plans, broader community participation in creating them, and resources available to support full implementation including monitoring and enforcement.  
  • When community members felt they were benefiting from the plans, their compliance with them improved. Those who felt they were negatively impacted were more likely to resist or reject the plans.
Land use planning meeting in Tanzania

Research findings shared with village leaders in Kizerui, Tanzania. 

Land use planning recommendations in Tanzania

Based on these insights, researchers recommended a set of actions to improve the effectiveness of land use planning to contribute to local environmental objectives:

  • Enhance participatory approaches that include earlier involvement of community members in development of land use plans.  
  • Increase education about land use planning for community members, and discussion of the potential impact on their livelihoods. 
  • Promote open communication among stakeholders throughout the process of developing and implementing land use plans.   
  • Develop strategies for compensating households affected by the plans and for financing monitoring and enforcement.  

The research findings were shared with participating communities via local government counterparts in both Tanga and Kigoma. In general, stakeholders agreed with the findings, noting that lack of resources at the local level remains an issue, but they plan to work on improving communication between local authorities and community members related to implementation of land use plans, expand opportunities to further educate community members, raise awareness, and encourage participatory approaches.  

Learn more about RTI's work in international development and environment