African Perspectives on Social Justice; Land, Food Security and Agriculture in Uganda

According to the census 2014 final results, the total population of Ugandans in 2014 was 34.6 million, and the population is still growing at alarming level. 80% of this population is predominantly reliant on agriculture for livelihood and practices subsistence farming as the means by which they feed themselves. Over 70% of Ugandans, both rural and urban depend on land as the biggest economic resource. Important to also note is that Uganda mostly exports agricultural products (80 percent of total exports) and 31% of export earnings are derived from the agricultural sector.



An increasing large population and the dependence by most on agriculture and subsistence farming creates  land problems like limited access to land, land fragmentation, low production, destruction of the ecosystem and even food insecurity. The discussion on land, land rights, access to land, the connection between land, agriculture and food security is therefore very important. The issue of investors in agriculture, gender perspective to land, land tenure security are fundamental issues and must be addressed. 

 The government has embarked on the agenda of transforming and commercializing agriculture and promoting exports of agricultural outputs. Though export and value-adding promotion has allowed for increased export revenue, the changes in the agricultural system have forced small farmers to participate in the market, which has had the effect of diminishing their capacity to produce sufficient food. Although many parts of Uganda enjoy food security throughout the year, some parts of the country experience food insecurity situations and malnutrition.

Where is the place of nutrition in this agenda? What happens when Ugandans do not have food sovereignty and become net buyers of all the food in the country?

Based on this backdrop, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in partnership with Makerere University Business School (MUBS) Economic Forum organised a public dialogue in which stakeholders, civil society organisations, and academics, and the public discussed these various issues surrounding land. The objectives of the public dialogue held were: to debate Uganda’s legal and policy framework concerning land, to analyse the land tenure, access to land, and their impact on food security in Uganda and to suggest policy recommendations to government, through a well-articulated policy paper, on what needs to be done and how it should be done to address both the land question as well as agricultural transformation.   This publication includes selected papers from the public dialogue.

Ms. Owaraga Norah, introduces the concept of the first nations and the land tenure system of Uganda prior to colonisation, how this tenure evolved during colonial times and turned into the creation of the current tenures that we have. She also illustrates how land was used by the “first nations”, and the role of women in Agriculture and food security then and now.

The paper by Mr. Kigula tackles the legal and policy framework on land, its challenges, emerging issues and areas for reform such as among other things, the overlapping rights on mailo land protected by the land act and its amendments that are affecting the land and credit markets, the meaningless rent accruing to land owners from tenants, and his thoughts on land legal reform.

The nature of the different tenures of land and their different tenets, the current foreign investor situation in agriculture and the potential risk to food security when farming is commercialized are issues handled by Mr. Robert Kirunda. He also highlights that the failure to strengthen property rights for land owners and land users under the different land tenure systems discourages long-term investments in medium and large scale in farming.

Dr. Zahara explores the role of gender in Uganda’s agriculture and the food security situation. She identifies that the gender aspect to land is important and women’s land rights need to be secured by the legal framework.

Mr. Bategeka’s paper identifies the different government efforts to transform agriculture and how each worked out. There has been a debate on whether food security is best attained when farmers are able to have enough cash to purchase food or whether they have enough food in their gardens or cribs to cater for their food requirements. Whichever the argument, the balance between food crops and cash crops remains a challenge considering that some of the crops considered for commercialisation may not be edible. He then suggests several recommendations for reform to enable agricultural transformation.

And lastly, the issue of land governance and all inclusive development is expounded on by Ramathan Ggoobi. His paper tackles an aspect of how good land governance can translate into all inclusive economic development of the country, he makes recommendations to the government and interventions that maybe undertaken to address the land question, agricultural transformation, improve food security and measures to attain an all-inclusive economic development

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung is therefore making this publication in the hope that the collection of all thoughts in these papers will support and inform the much needed reform process in the land sector.



Land, food security and agriculture in Uganda

Berlin, 2017

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