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|Title: ||Land reform and sustainable livelihoods in Kibaale district|
|Authors: ||Asiimwe, Wilson|
|Keywords: ||Land reform - Uganda, Kibaale district|
|Issue Date: ||5-Dec-2008 |
|Abstract: ||Executive Summary
Chapter One – Background and Introduction:
This report is one of the direct outputs of policy orientated research on land tenure / land
reform conducted in specific areas of Uganda and South Africa.
The main goal of the research is to document information and analysis on key issues relating to
the land reform programme in Uganda. It is intended that that the following pages will provide
those involved with the land reform process in Kibaale with information on:
• how the land reform process is being carried out at a local level
• who the various resource users are, how they are involved in the land reform, and how
each is likely to benefit / loose
• empirical evidence on gainers and losers (if any) from reform in other countries
• the gender implications of tenure reform
• how conflicts over resource rights are dealt with
• essential supports to the reform process (e.g. legal, institutional, technical etc.),
including the role of donor/funding agencies
The study deals with these issues with a particular focus on agricultural productivity, equity
and sustainable resource use. The research is conducted and analysed from a sustainable
Chapter Two – Some Empirical Evidence on Land Reform Programmes:
Should a farmer choose to increase farm productivity, in a sustainable way, his ability to do so
will largely depend on his capital assets/endowments. How a particular land tenure regime
influences the other factors necessary to increase production and promote sustainability is the
subject of much debate. In the case of Kenya it was found that titling and registration do not
automatically result in increased sustainable agricultural production. However where titling
and registration increase tenure security, then some positive benefits were visible. In order for
these benefits to materialise however other capital assets must be available and accessible.
Many land reform programmes include a redistribution element to reallocate land to smaller
farmers. Greater equity in land distribution is thought to contribute significantly both to
poverty reduction and to promoting sustainable rural livelihoods due to the evidence of an
‘inverse relationship between productivity and farm size’.
Only in certain conditions should there be an intervention to transform tenure regimes. The real
constraints on production in much of Sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to be a lack of rural
infrastructure, poor market efficiency for both credit, farm inputs and outputs, and poor
knowledge. However where efforts are underway to improve these factors a land reform
programme has the potential to be successful under certain conditions.
Chapter Three - Background to Land in Uganda:
Like many countries in Sub Saharan Africa, the imposition of colonial rule in Uganda at the
end of the nineteenth century marked the beginning of a shift of land ownership patterns from
group rights (tribal, clan, village, family and official) under customary tenure towards more
western style individualised holdings. There are today four main types of tenure recognised in
Uganda: mailo, customary, freehold and leasehold.
Mailo (square mile) tenure set up during colonial days conferred individual land rights to a
minority elite class. Those actually cultivating the land became tenants and were thus obliged
to pay rent. They became bibanja holders (a customary tenure term).
The term ‘customary’ tenure refers to traditional tenure patterns. The term in Sub-Saharan
Africa covers a complex and diverse spectrum of rules and customs to manage land rights that
existed prior to colonial or external influence, but in many places, co-exists with the latter to
the present day. In most parts of Uganda today, the customary tenure term ‘kibanja’ (plural:
bibanja) is very widely used. A kibanja basically means a piece of land occupied under some
duty or obligation to the legal owner.
The two other recognised forms of tenure in Uganda are freehold and leasehold. The remainder
is public land, vested in the state.
Despite the land concentration present during colonial times, in general there is not overall land
scarcity in Uganda at the present time. Today average holdings in Uganda are estimated to be
2.2ha per household.
The 1998 Land Act was drafted in accordance with the principles laid down in the 1995
constitution. The Land Act:
• gives legal recognition to the existing, more common, tenure regimes in Uganda
• calls for the establishment of Parish Land Committees, District Land Committees, Sub
County and District Land Tribunals and a Land Office
• sets up a land fund to facilitate the redistribution of legal title over land to those that are
• gives greater representation for women in decision making institutions and the adoption
of the consent clause
• allows customary tenure to be recognised by the issuance of a certificate of customary
ownership and provides for the conversion of customary tenure into freehold
• enables communities to establish communal land associations for management of
Many Bibanja holders under the Land Act are offered security of tenure as lawful or bona fide
occupants. A lawful occupant is defined in the Act as a person occupying land by virtue of a
number of repealed tenancy laws that apply to kibanja tenancy on mailo land. Many occupants
in Kibaale district are lawful occupants whose bibanja are owned by absentee Baganda
The law also recognised as ‘Bona Fide’ occupants all those who have been settled on land by
government. This also includes a number of people in Kibaale district.
Lawful and bona fide occupants are recognised in the act as ‘tenants by occupancy’. The tenant
by occupancy is obliged to pay a ground rent of not more than one thousand Uganda Shillings
per year (less than one Irish pound) to the landlord. Such tenants cannot be evicted (unless they
do not pay their ground rent). Also the tenant-by-occupancy can apply to the registered owner
for a certificate of occupancy (1998: Land Act).
The Land Act has however, remained largely unimplemented. The two reasons that stand out
are a lack of capacity and lack of finance at district level. This year (2001) the Ministry of
Water Lands and Environment initiated a new Land Sector Strategic Plan (LSSP) that
identifies the drafting of a clear land policy as a first priority. It also outlines the proposals to
overcome the Land Act’s implementation difficulties.
Chapter 4 - Kibaale District:
Kibaale district, the focus of this study, lies west of Kampala and is bordered by Hoima in the
North, Kiboga and Mubende in the East, Kabarole and Kyanjojo in the South and Bundibugyo
and Lake Albert in the West.
Throughout its colonial past, the Buganda and Bunyoro kingdoms contested much of the
district. In 1964 through a referendum, the ‘lost counties’ - present day Kibaale District - were
returned to Bunyoro.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the district economy although only 12 percent of the arable land
is currently cultivated. The population is mainly engaged in subsistence production of food
crops such as sweet potatoes, cassava, millet, beans, bananas and groundnuts. Bananas cover
an estimated 14,400 hectares of which 90% are for brewing wariji.
Uganda has been a priority country for Ireland Aid since 1994. In the same year, Kibaale
became the first Ugandan district to receive assistance through an area-based programme. This
year’s support to the district is worth IEP1.1million. Activities supported under the programme
include: institutional support and training, primary education, primary health care, rural road
rehabilitation, provision of water and sanitation facilities.
Kibaale does not have its own Land Office. Information obtained from the regional land office
in Fort Portal in neighbouring Kabarole District shows that 965 square miles or 2,470 square
km are surveyed under mailo tenure.
Since the Land Act was passed in 1998 the district has established a District Land Board, and
several sub-counties have Parish Land Committees, but these are not functioning.
Another land issue of increasing importance in the district is the large in-migration of people
from the South and South West of the country. It is thought that the catalysts for this inmigration
were two Government resettlement schemes.
There are widespread concerns amongst the indigenous Banyoro community that this inmigration
will continue and that as it does, the balance of political power in the district will
shift towards a new majority of Bakiga.
On the other hand, many of the resettled community are also in a state of limbo. Having left
their native districts with the promise of a new plot of land, they too are waiting to gain some
documentary proof that their future on their new kibanja is secure.
Chapter Five – Research Findings:
For research purposes the district was divided into three study areas. Study area one is in
Buyanja County. Respondents include both indigenous Banyoro and immigrants. Study area
two represents Bakiga people who were resettled by the Government from the Fort Portal area
to Bugangaizi County. Study area three, near the district HQ represents indigenous Banyoro
people living in an area where there have been no resettlement schemes to date.
Natural capital endowments of people in study area one are lower than the other study areas. In
an area with higher population density there is evidence of higher demand for land. The
average size of holdings is smaller, and there are a higher number of land transactions. There is
also ambiguity over control of natural capital with clear evidence of tenure insecurity. The low
level of boundary markings between bibanja, the high level of disputes, the slightly lower
levels of investment to conserve soil and water and less tree planting are all signs. Livelihood
strategies that focus on cash cropping, measured in terms of the gross value of cash crops per
year, indicate that it is the most productive area in the district. This is heavily influenced by the
price of waraji: over 60% of income from cash crops is generated from the distilled banana
It can be questioned how sustainable this land use is over the longer term, if measures are not
taken to encourage more farm improvements. It is very likely that tenure insecurity is
significantly contributing to this.
Proximity to larger urban centres like Kagadi and proximity to good roads indicates how
improved physical capital (financially supported by Ireland Aid) has had a positive impact on
livelihoods in this area. Physical capital still requires some improvement especially in terms of
water supply to areas like Mpeefu.
Natural capital endowments of people in study area two also present an interesting picture.
Average holding size is larger. A definite pattern of better tenure security can be seen. Highest
levels of farm improvements, significantly higher agricultural output (if waraji is excluded
from the calculations), higher levels of tree planting and plot boundary markings and the
lowest levels of land disputes are evidence of this. This is probably due to the nature of the
resettlement scheme that involved surveying and demarcation. However natural capital
endowments need to be enforced now by providing respondents with the promised
documentary proof of registerable interest.
Physical capital endowments appear to be poorer here than in the other study areas. The feeder
road network and other infrastructure necessary to allow market development were issues
identified by many respondents. So too was the inadequate supply of bore holes. Ireland Aid’s
continuing support to the district is likely to contribute to the improvements needed.
Study area three also presents a different picture. Non-use value of natural capital here is
stronger and is more politicised. Natural capital endowments are also poor. Tenure insecurity
amongst bibanja landholders is high and the rights/duties relationship with landlords is unclear
(this is also the case for the other study areas, but it seems to be more politicised in this area).
Transforming structures here such as markets, are weakest in the district despite relatively
well-developed physical capital. Land transactions are lowest here and agricultural cash
cropping is a less popular livelihood strategy. Clear reasons for this include tenure insecurity,
coffee wilt and distance from the main urban centres.
A transforming structure in all study areas is Ireland Aid. Its presence is apparent in the district,
so too is the awareness of the benefits it has brought to livelihoods.
The vulnerability of small holders to recent trends in increased coffee disease and banana pests
is highlighted in Kibaale. Food security appears to be good in all areas but signs of
malnutrition in the North West of the district surprised the researchers. A nutritional survey
would provide more accurate information on this. Human capital endowments are also poor
across the district in so far as there is little knowledge or action on tackling issues like todura,
and soil infertility.
Financial capital endowments in all study areas are also low, many people lack the cash stocks
necessary to make investments on their land and improve output.|
|Description: ||A Research Study Conducted Jointly by the Department of Food Business
and Development, University College Cork and Makerere Institute of Social
Research, Makerere University Kampala|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Articles (MISR)|
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