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Compulsory land acquisition: cut- off dates should be time-bound

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Added 17th April 2019 07:47 AM

A cut-off date is a date that government sets following a census in which it identifies property owners and their property for which government will pay compensation during compulsory land acquisitions.

Compulsory land acquisition: cut- off dates should be time-bound

A cut-off date is a date that government sets following a census in which it identifies property owners and their property for which government will pay compensation during compulsory land acquisitions.

 
Bt Diana Nabiruma and David Kureeba
 
Mr. Jorum Basiima, a resident of Hoima is knowledgeable about food.
 
He knows which food varieties suck the most nutrients from the soil and which fish types are best for children.
 
He has three pairs of twins and he attests that feeding them the right food, while maintaining good hygiene, kept hospital visits for the twins at a minimum.
 
With a group of partner civil society organisations (CSOs), we visited Mr. Basiima on April 3, 2019, to document the impacts oil has had on his family.
 
While he has great knowledge of food and its use, it was sad to see that Mr. Basiima is faced with the possibility of failing to feed his family.
 
Why?
 
Last year, on May 25, 2018, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) placed a cut-off date on 2.5 acres of Mr. Basiima's land in Kigaga A village, Hoima.
 
A cut-off date is a date that government sets following a census in which it identifies property owners and their property for which government will pay compensation during compulsory land acquisitions.
 
Any persons who migrate to or put up property in a project area after the cut-off date is not compensated for.
 
In Uganda, crops are part of the property for which government pays compensation and after setting a cut-off date, communities are discouraged from growing crops.
 
In a country where 68.9% of the population is still engaged in the subsistence economy, taking away one of the major productive factors of production, land, is disastrous.
 
How so?
 
During our visit to his home, Mr. Basiima took us around his land.
 
In his garden, we found holes that had been cut out for cassava growing. Cassava tubers should have been planted but the holes were still cut out and they were empty.
 
"We were supposed to plant cassava in the last planting season [in 2018] but we did not. We were told that we should not plant perennial crops after the cut-off date as we would not be compensated for them.
 
As a family, we had wanted to plant Myaka cassava. It supplies food for three to four years but it takes 14 months to mature.
 
We could not plant it as we do not whether it will have matured by the time UNRA compensates us," Mr. Basiima told us.
 
He said that his family was faced with food insecurity because a cut-off date had been placed on the family's land.
 
And that there demonstrates the problem of cut-off dates as they are used in Uganda.
 
First, when the dates are set, families live in uncertainty as to when they will be compensated. The uncertainty paralyses them and they discontinue economic activity.
 
For instance, families fear to plant food and cash crops because they do not know when the government will compensate them.
 
If government compensates them before their crops grow, then they lose the money they have invested in buying seeds, planting and others.
 
Further, when the government says that developments made after a cut-off date will not be compensated, project-affected families stop growing food and perennial crops because they do not want to invest and lose money.
 
In the case of the refinery project which affected 7,118 people, project-affected families said that after the government set a cut-off date of June 2, 2012, the Ministry of Energy stopped them from growing food and cash crops.
 
What happened as a result?
 
Families reported lack of food to feed children and adults and HIV-positive project-affected persons said that they could not access enough food and could feed on a balanced diet which affected adherence to ARVs.
 
Children also dropped out of school because their parents could not send them to school on empty stomachs or their parents had no money among others. Families also reported that their poverty levels had increased because they could not grow crops to sell.
 
Under the project in which UNRA is constructing a road to Hoima International Airport, we see families such as Mr. Basiima's expressing fears that they will not be able to provide food for their children.
 
In Buliisa, government through Total E&P (U) provided livelihood restoration in the form of food to families to stave off food insecurity.
 
However, the provision of food alone is not enough to stave off other impacts of cut-off dates as families cannot grow and sell crops to meet their other household needs such as school fees.
 
Yet the World Bank identifies setting a cut-off date as one of the best practices in compulsory land acquisition.
 
In its IFC Performance Standard 5, the bank notes that cut-off dates help to identify persons who are eligible for compensation and discourage the inflow of speculators who may want to benefit from a project in form of compensation when they should not.
 
Having a cut-off date therefore not only helps to determine the right people who should be compensated but it also has the potential to helps to keep compensation costs in check by discouraging speculative behaviour.
 
In Uganda however, we see that speculative behaviour by especially people close to government with knowledge of where projects are going to be placed continues.
 
Further, because cut-off dates have no expiration date to compel the government to pay project-affected persons promptly as is provided under Article 26 of the Uganda Constitution, we see that cut-off dates having a number of regrettable negative impacts.
 
Government must therefore set dates by which cut-off-dates expire to compel it to pay project-affected people promptly to stop the negative impacts of cut-off dates.
 
Project funders should also deny government funds if the government sets cut-off dates and fails to compensate project-affected people within six months, thereby negatively impacting on their social, economic and psychological well-being.
 
The writers work for Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE)
 
 
 
 

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