Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government obsession with allocating chunks of land to wealthy investors is not improving the lives of ordinary Ugandans but increasing inequality, a new report by Oxfam Uganda states.
According to the report, at times, land given to investors doesn’t result in employment or even trickle-down advantages for the poor. Often, growing cases show that it is the ordinary people that have suffered from re-allocations, failed to get compensation on time or not getting it at all.
Titled Locked out: how unjust land systems are driving inequality in Uganda, the report cites cases like the Shimon land giveaway that displaced a school and the Naguru estate where investors failed to construct anything, even after displacing hundreds of families.
It says that insecure land tenure propagates a vicious cycle of poverty. People have little incentive to invest in developing their land to improve its value and productivity. Poor people also tend to lack the skills, knowledge, and access to capital necessary to improve productivity.
The report notes that wealthy landowners are better placed to contest valuations. The poor, it notes, have limited or no power to influence what they receive and often receive too little.
Some of those removed from the land might not receive compensation at all. Cases of people evicted from land are common across the country.
The Land Acquisition Act has been challenged successfully in court for not requiring compensation prior to taking possession of the land which violates the constitution but Parliament has not made the necessary amends.
The report notes that property rates are not reviewed annually as provided for in the land act.
Valuation staff, it said, is forced to use indicative rates from neighbouring districts or apply rates that have not been revised for years.
Here, they end up underpaying the poor and the powerful are given higher rates or they have the capacity to reject it.
The report notes that even if the rates were accurate, they don’t capture the value of communities of their historical and cultural attachments to their land or the benefits of living as part of the family and clan structures which provide resilience against shocks.
And the valuations don’t account for the environmental impacts.
The report says that “the livelihoods of low income rural people depend heavily on land and the environment.”
“Many large scale development projects not only displace people but pollute the environment, reducing productivity of agriculture and other land-based activities in surrounding areas,” it says.
The report recommends that reforms focus on the most vulnerable – the poorest people, women and youth. That requires a willingness to challenge negative cultural norms and practices.
It says the government should put ordinary Ugandans before wealthy investors.
In particular, it says, emphasis should shift from commercial agriculture to equipping small scale farmers with skills, knowledge and technology they need to improve their productivity of their land.
Minister of state for lands and urban development Persis Namuganza said she agreed with the report that inequality was an issue that the government has to address and the land question was critical.
She said it was extremely for the people to do long term activities like coffee, matooke because of insecurities on land.