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International Experts Gather in Uganda for Land Learning Week


International Experts Gather in Uganda for Land Learning Week

Uganda is hosting the Land Learning Week, bringing together international and national land experts from 35 countries to showcase how successful government-civil society partnerships in the land governance sector can facilitate people-centred land governance.

The event is facilitated by the International Land Coalition in partnership with LandCollaborative, the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO)/Land-at-scale, National Land Coalition Uganda (NLC Uganda), and the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU), under the theme “Promoting successful government and civil society partnerships in the land management sector.”

The conference, which was officially opened on Wednesday by the Vice President, H.E. Maj (Rtd) Jessica Alupo, on behalf of the President, started on 9th June with field visits in Eastern Uganda. It aims to have participants exchange knowledge and experience regarding best practices, challenges, lessons learned, and practical strategies in land governance interventions and the types of partnerships at play.

According to Frances Birungi Odongo, the Chairperson of the National Land Coalition Steering Committee, Uganda is facing several challenges with land reform, including failure to implement laws. She noted, “While we have good laws that are gender progressive, implementing them is hard because of culture and customs which discriminate against women, children, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized persons.”

She added that civil society organizations do advocacy work ensuring that the government, through the Ministry of Lands, is sufficiently supported in terms of finance and capacity strengthening to deliver on the good laws and policies we have in the country. “Also, as civil society organizations, we are doing a lot of pilot work in communities to demonstrate different strategies and tools that work in terms of registration of land, transformation of existing practices,” said Birungi.

The Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development told delegates that insecure land tenure is a fundamental barrier to every nation towards overcoming challenges like poverty, hunger, urbanization, climate change, violence, and lack of economic opportunity. “Uganda’s economy is predominantly agrarian, with over 70% of the population in agriculture, contributing 24.1% of the country’s GDP. Therefore, land remains one of the major factors of production in the country to transform our communities from poverty,” said Hon Nabakooba.

She also explained that Uganda’s population is increasing, yet land is static and highly demanded, bringing about serious conflicts, land grabbing, inequalities, and poor land use. She called for urgent action to scale up the security of property rights through registration and documentation of all land rights, ensuring integrated land use planning at all levels to ensure optimal land use while protecting the environment to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The minister revealed that the Government of Uganda is working on new laws, which include the Valuation Bill, the Real Estate Bill, and the Uganda Land Commission Bill, which will regulate the management of government land. Other laws of reform include the Land Act Cap 226. She noted that civil society organizations participate in the legal reform process through creating awareness, capacity building, lobbying, and advocacy. At the grassroots level, Nabakooba told delegates that the CSOs also participate in the implementation of legal reforms, notably mapping of land, and that they are partners in development and share the responsibility of ensuring land tenure security.

However, the minister decried some challenges her ministry faces working with CSOs, including the fact that some CSO activities are not known to the government. They operate without Memorandums of Understanding with the Government of Uganda. The Ministry urges partners to follow the process and have MOUs cleared by the Attorney General’s office and be known by the government.

In his speech, H.E. Yoweri Museveni, who was represented by the Vice President, warned that with growth in Uganda’s population, the current land size shall not be enough for everyone unless there is serious investment in industrialization and urbanization. “Our land governance interventions need to emulate the developed countries which moved from agrarian to industrious societies so that we can also optimally utilize our land while at the same time protecting the ecological systems from destruction and degradation,” said the president. He further warned that primitive practices like land fragmentation must be discouraged in favor of other alternatives of land consolidation.

Hans Raadschilders, the thematic expert for Food Security and Agriculture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands embassy, Kampala, says their government is developing a program with their implementing partners to work in 16 districts to help build the capacity of the local governments and sub-counties to implement well-established procedures around certificates of customary ownership.

Mike Taylor, the Director of the International Land Coalition, says they work directly with the National Land Coalition in Uganda and support them since they cannot dictate what Uganda as a country needs.

“We support with knowledge on how to learn from others, land campaigns, we support citizen-led data. Many governments have made commitments to land rights, but the reality is most of them don’t have data to show whether they are meeting these targets or not. But organizations working on the ground, which are also members of the land coalition, often have a better understanding than the government. So we support our members to collect, manage, and use the data alongside the official data of national statistics offices to close the gap and produce evidence-based arguments of what needs to be done,” said Mr. Taylor.

On indigenous groups like the Batwa, Naome Kabanda, the Director of Land Management at the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, noted that the court guided the government to let them live and coexist with the forests.

She explained that the government was told not to chase the Batwa out of the forests that they call home, but instead develop a strategy to help them live in forests while protecting them from issues that may cause climate change challenges.

The Batwa in South Western districts of Rubanda, Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, among other places, were evicted from Echuya, Mgahinga, and Bwindi, which were their homes, to conserve the forest cover. To date, they still live in communities without land and have no right to ownership for cultivation or housing.

The Constitutional Court in Kampala ruled in 2021 that the Batwa had an interest in the disputed protected forests in South Western Uganda by virtue of the native or original title. The Court added that their eviction from the said areas without compensation has not only enhanced their marginalisation but has also relegated them to a lesser class of citizens, inherently landless and fated to be encroachers on other people’s land.

The judgement stemmed from a petition filed on February 8, 2013, before the Constitutional Court by the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda. They accused the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and National Forestry Authority (NFA) of evicting them from ancestral forests in 1992 without due compensation. The matter was ruled in their favour by the court presided over by the judges Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki, Muzamiru Kibedi, and Irene Mulyagonja.

However, no compensation has been received by this marginalized group of people who continue to live in dilapidated houses that are also built by well-wishers. It remains unclear if the government will ever respect the court’s ruling and give what is rightfully theirs.

Sarah K. Biryomumaisho is a seasoned multimedia Award Winning journalist with 11 years of experience in broadcast and writing. She is recognized for her expertise in the field and holds a Diploma in Business Administration from Makerere Business Institute, which has equipped her with a strong foundation in business principles. Sarah's commitment to professional development is evident through her continuous pursuit of knowledge and skills. She has obtained a Certificate in Media Management from Women in News, an esteemed organization dedicated to empowering women in the media industry. In 2020, she successfully completed a Course in Wikimedia, demonstrating her proficiency as one of the few Wikipedia Editors in the country. To further enhance her reporting capabilities, Sarah has also acquired a certificate in Gender Justice Reporting from The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF). This specialized training has equipped her with a deeper understanding of gender-related issues and their portrayal in the media. Throughout her career, Sarah has contributed her talent to various media houses, including six radio stations, where she has showcased her versatility and adaptability. Her most recent engagements include Galaxy FM 100.2 and Radio 4. Additionally, she has served as a writer for Andariya Magazine, further demonstrating her ability to excel in different mediums. Sarah's expertise extends beyond journalism. She has worked as a Digital Communications consultant for the revitalized Uganda Airlines, leveraging her skills to effectively communicate the airline's message in the digital sphere. Her passion for digital media and technology makes her a valuable asset in the evolving landscape of communication. In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Sarah is the proud owner of TheUgPost, a renowned media organization with a strong presence in Uganda and a global reach. Through this platform, she continues to make a significant impact by providing reliable and engaging content to a wide audience. Sarah won the Top Environmental Journalist Award 2023 from Uganda Biodiversity Fund. Twitter;

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