3 Oct 2016 - by A4ID

The Right to Land and Livelihood in Uganda

Almost a quarter of the world’s population is landless, including 200 million people living in rural areas. Poverty and landlessness are intertwined.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has stated that “rural landlessness is often the best predictor of poverty and hunger,” reflecting the fact that 75 percent of the world’s population living in extreme poverty of less than $1 per day are the rural poor.

Access to land can help to reduce poverty by providing livelihoods and economic security. It is also an essential commodity for rapidly growing economies as they strive to meet demands for food, water and biofuel. At the same time, rights to land are contentious causing community conflict, human rights violations and abuses. Secondary impacts include loss of land, livelihood and reduced income, preventing millions from enjoying ownership rights and stability in their futures.

In Uganda, local conflicts and cattle raids have made it difficult to protect land rights, especially when certain areas have a dearth of information concerning land protection. At the request of Sugur Development Agency (SDA), A4ID facilitated legal assistance from Clifford Chance on land rights in Uganda.

Sugur Development Agency

SDA works with local communities to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty by empowering people to campaign against human rights abuse, injustice, and corruption.

As a result of rebel group activity and cattle raids from the 1980s up to 2007, land disputes in the Teso sub-region of Uganda caused many people to become internally displaced. Further displacement was caused when they returned to reclaim their land as conflict unfolded over the lawful owners and occupiers. Human rights abuses included unlawful killing, mob justice, insecurity, and denial of property.

SDA identified an absence of research into land rights for the Teso Sub-region, and a lack of information guiding advocacy about the issue.

Clifford Chance

By examining the relevant local and international law, Clifford Chance was able to provide research assistance on the application of any relevant land rights relating to the situation in the Teso Sub-region.

SDA will use this research in its advocacy, communications materials and training to educate and empower the local community about their land rights. The research will help SDA increase the visibility of its members and achieve its objectives of promoting environmental sustainability, local livelihoods and human rights, preventing conflicts and combatting corruption.

Vincent Ocen, Executive Director of SDA, commented that the legal advice had helped its advocacy and educational programmes: “It has laid the foundation which will help to reduce poverty in the local communities, through the promotion of human rights, justice, gender equality and women empowerment.”

The lawyers from Clifford Chance worked closely with SDA and Ugandan lawyers to develop training materials relevant to those living in Teso. These materials were translated into the Ateso language and then training delivered in two villages in person by Clifford Chance and SDA staff.

Land Rights, Equity and Growth

The work done by Clifford Chance in Uganda represents a small, but important step in addressing the global problem of land rights. It is of particular value to the residents of the Teso Sub-region, who are now empowered with the appropriate tools in their language to help alleviate local poverty.

This initiative also highlights the broader issue of land encompassing a range of fundamental human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.It is an important gateway to civil and political rights. However, it is incumbent on governments and civil society to protect equitable access to land, and in turn, promote a just society and fair economic growth. It is an important gateway to civil and political rights. However, it is incumbent on governments and civil society to protect equitable access to land, and in turn, promote a just society and fair economic growth.

Reducing displacement and landlessness are dependent upon facilitating awareness-raising and rights information in community development. In addition, land is often a necessary precondition for achieving employment, good health, education, and food security.

Accordingly, inclusive development will depend on providing secure and equitable land rights to empower groups to sustain themselves, their families and communities without prejudice and fear.