How Uganda is addressing land issues in the country

Mar 24, 2016

Land is one of the most essential pillars of human existence and economic development. In Uganda, land is the most invaluable asset for citizens.

By Daudi Migereko

The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Daudi Migereko, recently (this month - March 2016) made a presentation to the World Bank Round Table Conference on Land Policy Process in Africa on the topic: Good Land Governance: Lessons from Uganda. Below is his speech

 How Uganda is addressing land issueIntroduction
Land is one of the most essential pillars of human existence and economic development. In Uganda, land is the most invaluable asset for citizens. It is acquired to provide livelihood, facilitate production and economic transformation of the country.

Land governance
Land is increasingly becoming an important governance issue. It is recognised that undivided political commitment is required to handle land governance matters. This has been proven true in Uganda. Indeed, President Museveni had to chair all the six cabinet meetings which approved the National Land Policy.

What is involved in land governance matters?

Land governance concerns the rules, processes and structures through which decisions are made about land ownership and its utilisation. Secondly, the manner in which these decisions are implemented and enforced is equally important. Good land governance should ensure that land rights are recognised and protected.

This helps to ensure security of tenure, which gives way to harmony in society, peace and tranquillity in the country. These create the necessary and conducive environment for production thereby augmenting poverty eradication, social and economic development. Good governance as such also contributes to the realisation of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Some of the principles of good land governance that we are pursuing in Uganda:
They include:
-    Equitable access to land
-    Security of tenure to all members of the society with specific measures to enhance security of tenure and property rights of women.
-    Transparent decision making regarding land and natural resources
-    Decentralised land administration  
-    Effective, efficient and responsive land administration services to all citizens

Development of policy processes in Uganda.
Good land laws and technical reforms have been put in place aimed at improving good land governance. This started with the enactment of the 1995 Constitution which was later followed by the 1998 Land Act and the Land Amendment Act of 2010.

National Land Policy
A comprehensive National Land Policy was approved by Cabinet in February 2013 with a Vision of: "a transformed Ugandan society through optimal use and management of land resources for a prosperous and industrialised economy with a developed services sector". Without the Policy, it would not necessarily be easy to appreciate the fact that land has a major influence on socio-cultural processes whose strategic management is important for significant and sustainable economic growth and social transformation.

We all know that land is a fixed resource. Since independence, in 1962, the land size of Uganda has remained 248,000 sq kms.  On the other hand, the population has been increasing exponentially. In 1962, the country had a population of six million people; to date it stands at approximately 38 million people.  It is projected that by the year 2035, Uganda's population will be 50 million people.

About 80% of this population lives in rural areas while about 20% is urban based. The majority of those in the rural areas pursue land acquisition for agricultural production for subsistence and economic livelihood, yet the same land is being competed for by other uses.

The ever increasing population, which directly depends on land for survival, is a compelling factor in itself for exercising good governance while dealing with land matters. The emerging opportunities in the countryside which  focus on commercial agriculture, mining, oil and gas production, require timely supply of reliable data for our Land system to ensure good governance.

Land Information System (LIS)
One of the requirements of the National Land Policy is to establish and maintain a reliable and user-friendly Land Information System (LIS) as a public good for planning and national development.

The design and implementation of the Land Information System and the securing of land records was against the background that less than 20% of the land in Uganda is registered. Right from its inception in 1908, the Land Registry has been running on a manual system of record keeping and land registration. Despite the growing demand for titling of property, registration and data storage; the latter had remained inefficient and poor. Therefore, the increased number of land transactions has made modernisation of the land administration system no longer an option but a must.

The transformation and computerisation of the land registry entailed an initial investment of $23m which has already generated revenue amounting to $64m in two years.  The revenue collections will be further enhanced with the full adoption, popularisation and rolling out of the new Land Information System. Also, the Government will have to provide timely financing for maintenance and sustenance of the LIS. Indeed, the sector will need to be categorised as a major revenue generating centre.

So far the achievements and results registered include;
-    Effective decentralisation of the cadastral and registration services. Six ministry zonal offices have been established; seven are becoming operational come July 2016 while eight are underway.
-    Securing of a substantial number of land records and maps
-    Establishment of audit trail of land transactions
-    Improvement in the quality of records and their management
-    Instant retrieval of land related information
-    Improved service delivery to the stakeholders.

Although there were a number of challenges met during LIS implementation, the project was successfully completed within the stipulated time. Measures have been put in place to overcome the challenges.

The challenges we have faced

•    Mind-set of the managers of the system, the clientele to be served, MDAs  and Development Partners
•    Inadequate sensitisation of stakeholders on land related matters and adoption of new systems for land management
•    Insufficient budgetary provisions for support of land administration service delivery including maintenance and sustenance of the installed system
•    Infrastructure challenges including intermittent power supply in some places and limited internet connectivity

Interventions to address these challenges are being put in place. Our view is that quality and reliable data will be availed and the land information system will function more efficiently and effectively enabling us to provide better services that will lead to enhanced land governance in the country.  

More importantly, in order to enhance provision of Land registration services and generate more revenue for the country, our ministry is contemplating proposing setting up of an autonomous body responsible for land registration services.  The performance of the  Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) have demonstrated the efficacy of such an arrangement.

Other reforms
Other reforms that enhance management of the land sector include:
•    review and amendment of land related laws that may be outdated or conflicting with the Constitution and the Land Act;
•    establishment of the Land Fund regulations whose purpose is to enhance access to land;
•    mechanisms to address land disputes in a speedy manner;
•    enactment of the Physical Planning Act 2010 which declared the whole country a planning area;
•    Physical development plans for Kampala and upcoming urban centres
•    Targeted efforts to strengthen women land rights

In this regard, GoU thanks the World Bank, UN Habitat, EU, GIZ, FAO and Ford Foundation and many others, for the collaborative support they have extended to us which is aimed at improving land administration and management in the country. Hence, making Uganda competitive and an attractive investment destination.  
I thank you for listening to me.

The writer is Uganda's Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Member of Parliament

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