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Uganda Land and Food Security; an Invitation to Engage

The Kyapa Mungalo drive of the Buganda Land Board of the Buganda Kingdom, the largest first nation of Uganda, seems to have registered massive success. Why else the recommendation to abolish Mailo land tenure?

Whereas, the Bamugemereire Commission has denied recommending the abolition of Mailo, nevertheless, the Buganda Kingdom is putting up a spirited fight against the adoption and implementation of the recommendation, wherever it came from. The Buganda Kingdom, which owns most of the land under Mailo, has warned the Central Government of Uganda that “any attempt to scrap the Mailo land tenure system would be met with outright resistance.”

Leadership is needed now by the cultural leaders of other first nations of Uganda, particularly those whose land is held under customary tenure: the Iteso – 5th largest, the Langi – 6th largest, the Acholi – 8th largest and all the others. An estimated 80 percent of Uganda’s land is currently held under customary tenure. Where is the Teso Land Board? Where is the Lango Land Board? Where is the Acholi Land Board? Do such boards exist? If they do, why are they not as pronounced and as loud as the Buganda Land Board?

Time is now for the cultural leaders of other first nations of Uganda to emulate Buganda by establishing significant and operational land boards and to insist on the EVOLUTION of our customary land tenure systems and other knowledge systems that our ancestors bequeathed us; and to resist the conversion of our customary tenure into other types of tenure.

In accordance with the laws of Uganda, if you are not a traditional cultural institution or you are not representing a traditional cultural institution you have no legitimacy whatsoever to discuss conversion of land that is held under customary tenure into other types of tenure. So, why is everybody else discussing conversion of customary tenure and the legitimate authorities are not?

Or are the legitimate authorities doing so and their voices are being overshadowed by the louder voices of those seeking to commercialise our land? If that be the case, our cultural leaders need to organize and to strengthen their collective voice to demand that the provisions in the Uganda National Land Policy that promote the evolution of customary tenure are implemented.

A good starting point is for each first nation to have a significant and an operational land board; which land boards can federate and form an Association of Customary Land Boards, for the purpose of joint advocacy on issues that cut across. Why aren’t such initiatives receiving support? Aren’t these the types of initiatives - establishment of significant and functional first nation land boards - that should be promoted by the United Nations, particularly its bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation?

The agents of capitalism or rather the servants of capitalism, even if they be among the cultural leadership of the first nations of Uganda, they have no legitimacy to enforce so-called “regularization” initiatives such as certificates of customary tenure without the express permission from the owners of the land.  Traditional cultural institutions own the land under customary only IN TRUST, on behalf of their respective first nations.

For the Government to establish a committee on customary tenure it necessarily needs to begin with traditional cultural institutions and others may be included, if need be and only for purposes of consultation. A committee on customary land in Uganda should not begin with others and then later on traditional cultural institutions, the owners of the land are included. It is simply Machiavellian to do the latter.

Ms. Judy Adoko, an expert researcher on customary tenure and a trained lawyer, for example, has cautioned that the calls for the so-called regularization of land under customary tenure through its registration using customary certificate of ownership is intended primarily to make it easy and safer for those who want to commercialise land through trade – providing security for the buyers of land.

Capitalism is organising and if we let the servants of capitalism to commercialise our lands that are held under customary tenure, the resultant consequences are that millions will eventually be rendered landless and food insecure. For example, whereas, the “Government says palm oil growing has done wonders for Kalangala”, the project reportedly dispossessed Ugandans who were resident on the land of their ownership and use rights; “Kalangala residents decry land grabbing on the islands.”

A major programme area for CPAR Uganda Ltd (CPAR) is Preventative Health Care (PHC). Under its PHC programme, CPAR aspires to contribute to increased quantities, qualities and varieties of food crops that smallholder farmers produce at household level for their own nutrition and for their livelihoods. The logic being that if you eat well, you reduce the risks of contracting certain nutrition related diseases; and if you have an income you reduce the risks of illness due to inability to afford access to healthcare services.

In my individual capacity as the Managing Director of CPAR, I am thus opposed to initiatives or interventions that potentially make smallholder farmers landless and consequently food insecure, destitute and poor, such as is reported to have happened in the case of palm oil in Kalangala.

CPAR’s focus geography is the greater northern Uganda; an area where the majority of the land is held under customary tenure, hence my particular interest in matters customary tenure. Through the CPAR website and elsewhere I have published opinions and blog posts in which I advocate for the evolution of customary tenures systems of the first nations of Ugandan to be allowed, and in particular that of the peoples from whence I am descended, the Iteso and of CPAR’s programme geography – Langi and Acholi.

My opinions are published on a special blog page on the CPAR website “Food Security.” I would like to invite you to read my opinions and to engage me in constructive debate on the options either “evolution of customary tenure systems” or “conversion of customary tenure systems.”

You can engage through comments on the CPAR website; email; social media – face book and twitter. Or if you do find the time and I hope you do, you could share your full opinion pieces and allow us to publish or re-publish them on the CPAR website.

Let us engage and perhaps our engagement can make a contribution through stimulating appropriate action, programming and policy.

Photo Credit: Taken by Emmanuel Owaraga at the TEDxKiraTown 2015



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