By Ivan Matthias Mulumba
What is land to you? Is it just a garden of vegetables? A symbol of wealth, prestige or identity? What is it really? To economists, land is a factor of production together with labour, capital and entrepreneurship. Each of these factors is given its due importance.
Labour is paid for in terms of hourly wages, salaries or commission, in exchange for a service. The more sophisticated, unique or superior in quality the service is, often the higher the remuneration. The reward for the use of capital is either interest or dividends. The latter goes to the entrepreneur who takes risks and brings other factors of production together.
Most people endevour to get the most out of capital and labour but seldom try to get even the least from land. Land may be a free gift of nature but once you pay for it, it ceases to be free. In Uganda, land largely belongs to individuals.
The satisfaction derived from it therefore depends on the use to which an individual puts the land. So, what is that use which maximizes your land's potential and yet it is possible, legal and can be achieved with the available financial resources? What satisfaction do you derive from land? Is it in tones of produce? Millions in rent? Good health and serenity from nature and trees?
It is not the size of the land that brings the best returns, just as it is with labour and capital. It is the idea you have and how you implement it.
To get the best out of land as a factor of production, therefore, you must know the interest you have in that land. If you do not have any interest, you will not get the best value out of the land since it is not yours. You can get an interest in land through purchase, leasing, inheritance, licensing or as a gift. You should have verifiable documentation that is proof of these interests.
Employ the services of professionals such as land economists, land surveyors, name it, to register interest in land. Titling of land and having its demarcations well marked with mark stones reduces cases of land conflicts. Conflicts affect land use and development and impede you from getting the best from the land.
Put infrastructure in place - roads, water and electricity lines - and connect them to your land. Sometimes we are not willing to leave even an inch of land for shared utilities like water and electricity lines. We should know that when land is connected to such utilities, it gains value since more can be done on it. Value is used in tandem with benefits derived. If your land has proper access, you will derive more value from it. You can ably move produce to and from the land. Sometimes you need to work as a community to put these services in place.
Zoning regulations can increase or decrease the value of land. If agricultural land is rezoned to commercial or residential use, its value can go up. Does the property zoning limit your land's potential? You might wish to develop a housing estate on your land but if the land is zoned as either industrial land or agricultural, you might not realize that dream. Know the zoning and keep in mind that it can change.
You can mortgage your land and get capital to make developments on the same land. Remember a loan is not a donation. So, when you plan to make an investment on land, project its returns and payback period. You should be able to make the periodic repayments on the loan; otherwise, your property will be foreclosed. The investment might not be in that land but make sure it is worth the risk.
If you feel you are not in position to extract value from your land, you can lease or sublease it to someone for some time. You can also rent it out for a short period for either farming, storage or production. This depends on the location of the land. This can generate money which you can reinvest.
All in all, we should view land as an asset and a factor of production. Do not leave it idle; at least plant trees on it. You will sell them and thank me in future.
The writer is the chief valuer at Buganda Land Board