Land and Land use in Uganda are central to the actualisation of the core Constitutional values of human dignity, equality and the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In Uganda, land is owned under the four land tenure systems of Mailo; Leasehold, Freehold and Customary. The country also has a high percentage of people living in the rural areas carrying out primitive land use practices that fragment and degrade the land.
The developed countries of America, Europe and Asia on the other hand have less than 5% of their total population living in the rural areas and making a living from agriculture.
The current urbanisation and land use practices in Uganda are indicative of a process that needs considerable attention in terms of proper land use planning for wealth creation and as a basis for achieving industrialisation and development of the services sector.
In Uganda, the labour force in the agricultural sector constitutes 73.3% of the population; the industrial sector constitutes 4.2% of the population and the services sector constitutes 22.5% of the population.
These figures maybe compared to those of the industrialised countries, where in the United Kingdom where 1.4% of the labour force is in the Agricultural Sector; 18.2% in the industrial sector and 80.4% in the services sector; in the United States of America, 0.7% of the labour force is in the Agricultural sector; 22.9% is in the industrial sector; and 76.4% in the services sector.
Although the land size of Uganda does not increase, our population has increased from a mere six million in 1962 to a current estimation of 35 million out of which 17% lives in urban areas and 83% lives in the rural land where it does not effectively utilise the land for production.
It is projected that by the year 2035, Uganda’s population will be 50 million, and it will have doubled to 100 million by year 2050.
Our land size shall not be enough for all of us unless we invest in industrialisation and urbanisation. Our land policy interventions should emulate those countries, which moved from agrarian to industrial societies, so that we can also optimally utilise our land while at the same time we protect the critical ecological systems from destruction and degradation. Primitive land use practices like land fragmentation must be discouraged in favour of other alternatives of land consolidation.
I am, therefore, pleased that this Land Policy shall be able to guide and support Uganda’s drive to become an industrial country with a developed services sector. It should also guide all stakeholders to begin the transition from a peasantry-based society to a modern society where land is optimally utilised for growth and development.
The NRM Government has long recognised the need for such a policy on land in order to protect the land rights of Ugandans. Our initial 10 Point Programme identified some of the problems arising out of the numerous land conflicts, injustices and tenure insecurity. These resulted in the dislocation of sections of the vulnerable population, especially the voiceless tenants.
Since Uganda and other Sub Saharan countries have market driven economies, it is now important for this policy to guide the entire stakeholders on ensuring that there is certainty of land ownership.
This will enable citizens to correctly and openly identify and recognise land owners and any other land user rights that exist on the land at any one time.
This will also lead to greater social cohesion. Such land policy should ensure security of tenure through building and maintaining open and transparent adjudication and mediation processes to reduce on the problem of overwhelming land cases which lock up land for development.
Greater land security should in turn lead to greater productivity and investment on the land. There is need to reduce on the land disputes and conflicts which give rise to expensive litigation, yet some categories of society, especially the poor and vulnerable categories, may not be able to pay and may, therefore, lose out on their rights to land.
Conflicts such as the human-wildlife conflicts, livestock-crop farming conflicts, territorial and boundary conflicts, human settlement and environment conflicts, mining and resettlement conflicts, historical injustices conflicts, and landlord-tenant conflicts need to be handled through mediation processes as opposed to litigation, which always turns out to be long drawn out and many find to be expensive.
The policy has also resolved the issues regarding unlawful land evictions, which adversely affected the majority and most vulnerable categories of Ugandans who are tenants on registered land.
These evictions had caused untold socio-political instability, tenure insecurity and landlessness. The policy has provided for mediation committees in districts with predominantly landlord and tenant issues to mediate between the two groups.
Where tenants cannot locate their landlords, they should deposit the Busuulu at the sub county headquarters where the land in question is located. The policy has also provided for land sharing and land re-adjustment through negotiations between the landlords and tenants to acquire registrable interest (okwegula).
This policy shall address the issue of historical injustices related to land that stretch back to the colonial era and which resulted in the disinheritance, confiscation and grabbing of communities’ and traditional institutions’ land.
The implementation of this land policy should lead to improved conveyance to reduce on the cost of doing business. Uganda, therefore, needs to reduce on the days and procedures involved because we are all competing for investors, both foreign and local, to come and invest to be able to create jobs for our citizens.
The implementation of the computerised land information system should be able to make a difference and reduce on the time taken to carry out land transactions. Now that the computerised system is in place, I expect workflows to be further streamlined, fraudulent transactions curbed and the time taken to register transactions reduced; leading to a reduction in land conflicts and productive utilisation of land.
The country must have a vibrant land market, which calls for its stimulation to have a cheap, secure and effective system for recording and transferring land under all the tenure systems.
The customary land system under which 80% of the land falls still remains unrecorded, is insecure and is not accessible to the land market.
The customary land needs to be recorded and protected so that its owners are known and that they too can permit other interested users to rent or lease it for production. It currently cannot be used as collateral to secure credit for development.
The Land Policy should be able to provide direction on how to address the issue of underutilisation and under exploitation of land. The use of poor and primitive technologies of production, inadequate infrastructure development, and lack of utilisation of local and foreign knowledge has contributed to having idle and underutilised land.
The policy, therefore, rightfully calls for the need to sensitize land owners about these opportunities in order to put their land to productive use.
This policy has also provided for the implementation of physical planning and zoning for both the urban and rural areas and protecting eco systems from the negative effects of climate change. In the recent past, the real estate’s sector has also encroached on land used for food production in the rural areas and turned it into human settlements.
If these conversions are not properly managed, these actions could lead to food insecurity in the country. The land policy should provide guidance for better land administration and greater and more efficient land use in the country.
I note with concern that many of the NRM’s development programmes have delayed or have become unnecessarily expensive because of delays in providing information on existing land rights for purposes of compensation and resettlement. This policy should, therefore, provide direction and come up with much faster ways of resolving these land issues in an amicable manner that does not discourage investment.
You are all aware that the NRM policy to fight poverty through wealth creation is anchored on land, and so Government initiatives can only succeed, if the people’s land rights are assured and guaranteed.
It is vital that the land sector administrators take a proactive and innovative approach in ensuring the optimal use of land, as this will help all of us to respond to changing needs of the land sector in the overall context of socio-economic transformation in the 21st century.
I urge you to translate this policy into the major local languages and distribute it to citizens to read and understand the benefits these interventions will bring to them and the nation.
I thank all those who have been involved in the formulation process which has led to having a nationally acceptable land policy.
It is now my pleasure to launch the implementation of the Uganda National Land Policy, 2013
I thank you all for your attention.
For God and My Country
NB: Press Cutting Service
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat