Post-colonial land reforms in Uganda leave many issues unresolved, while evictions, land conflicts and dispossession remain common
Land is an essential asset to the people of Uganda. With a rural population constituting over 83% of the total population and an economy dominated by smallholder farming, Uganda must prioritize responsible land governance to achieve sustainable development. Despite numerous attempts to address historical injustices stemming from colonialism through legislative reforms, such reforms have largely failed and have led to inter-ethnic conflict, tenure insecurity and large-scale development to the detriment of communities. These issues are compounded by rapid population growth and extraction of natural resources, which frequently result in land conflicts, evictions and dispossession of marginalized groups.
Although Uganda's Constitution, passed in 1995, created institutions and land governance systems, it fails to adequately protect smallholders from expropriation and other infringements by outsiders. The 1998 Land Act along with amendments in 2004 and 2010 aim to protect communal land interests and criminalize illegal evictions. Recognized within this legal framework are Uganda’s multiple forms of land tenure. Uganda’s tenure regimes include Mailo tenure, which derives from the British colonial feudal system, as well as customary, leasehold and freehold tenure. Although the vast majority of farmers are smallholders, the government has acquired large tracts of land from large-scale private investments, including palm plantation and sugarcane production. Such acquisitions have calamitous consequences for the rural poor, especially women, who statistically own only 16% of rural land in Uganda.
To spread awareness on key land governance challenges affecting Uganda, the Land Portal Foundation and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) in Uganda are launching a Country Portfolio on Uganda, which aims at bringing together critical data and information for decision making providing a transparent picture of a complex land governance landscape.
Along with a well-articulated country narrative, the portfolio also includes datasets the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Donor Platform, Transparency International, LandMark, and other global organizations. Users can access data visualization tools that showcase World Bank Land Governance Assessment Framework data as well as data on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure. The Portfolio includes the latest news, blogs and events relating to land issues in Uganda, and also presents key stakeholder organizations working on land issues in the country. Moreover, the Portfolio provides direct access to more than 964 publications related to land issues in Uganda, from key sources, such as the FAO, FIAN, the Resource Equity, ACODE and many more.
The Uganda country narrative, written by Onesmus Mugyenyi, Deputy Executive Director of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) in Uganda, covers a range of topics related to land governance. In particular, this narrative discusses the overall context of land governance in Uganda, land legislation and administration, the land tenure classification systems, their history and implications, the impact of land investments, acquisitions and transfers, as well as challenges and trends that Uganda is facing with regard to land governance.
According to Onesmus Mugyenyi, “Land is a critical resource for Uganda and a primary means of survival for many people in the world. Responsible land governance necessitates innovative land reforms that address historical land injustices, ensures security of tenure, and sustainable land utilization is therefore important. While Uganda has made progress in land reforms, there is still a lot to be done.” He further states that “I encourage other stakeholders to share more information that can enhance global responsible land governance.”
Laura Meggiolaro, Coordinator of the Land Portal Foundation, said, “Land governance in Uganda is a beacon for the development of other countries in Africa, given their rich natural resource base and large population of smallholder farmers. We hope this Country Portfolio on land issues in Uganda will provide key national stakeholders with the information they need to make informed decisions and to avert a full-fledged land crisis.”
For more information, please visit https://landportal.info/book/countries/UGA
Photo by © ILC/Jason Taylor