Kampala, 25 July 2019 - It is rainy season in Northern Uganda. In the rural areas of Adjumani District the maize (corn) crops are at full height but are not ready for harvesting yet. This is still a few weeks off. Simon Peter Mwesigye who works with UN-Habitat and The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), is standing on the edge of a small maize patch with Ochen Ronald from the Adjumani District land office. The two of them are staring intently at a handheld mapping device. They take the measurements and move carefully to the next boundary position. This is part of spatial data collection training GLTN is doing with the District Land Office and Area Land Committee.

“The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) provides capacity building for the land administration institutions, civil society and cultural institutions at local level, so they are able to use fit-for-purpose land tools and approaches to map the land rights by themselves,” explains Mwesigye.

With participatory approaches, GLTN introduced the use and application of low-cost geo-spatial technologies and tools. It has revolutionised access to land mapping and enumeration services in three pilot areas in Uganda. In the past it cost upwards of USD $600 to have one plot accurately mapped and land rights registered. These innovative approaches and tools bring the process cost down to between USD $20 to $40. This is a significant price drop in a country where so little of the land has been formally mapped and registered.

Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Currently it is at 40 million people, and over 75% of Ugandans live in rural areas. Over 80% of this rural population live on customary land - and most of this land is undocumented and unmapped.

In 2016 UN-Habitat and GLTN partnered with the Government of Uganda and other partners to implement a project to improve land tenure security for rural households - particularly women, youth and vulnerable groups - in select areas in Uganda. Adjumani was one of three locations chosen for this.

Farms in Adjumani
Farms in the Adjumani region.
[UN-Habitat/Aoibheann O'Sullivan]

Paulino Leru, 87, a small-scale farmer based in Adjumani has been looking to have his land mapped since the early 1990s. “It is an assurance,” he says when asked about having his land formally demarcated and certified. Adding, “Even if I die my children will still have rights over the land that has been mapped in my name.”

Marietta Pido, 83, a widow farmer in a nearby area of Adjumani agrees, “The benefit of the mapping project is that it will protect this land for my grandchildren and me.” Ms. Pido lost her husband a few years ago, and then tragically also lost her five sons. Now she takes care of several grandchildren.

“If you dig through your resources and you read about Adjumani District and Madi sub-region, you’ll find that we’ve had many conflicts over land,” observes Chief Drani Stephen Izakare, the Paramount Chief of Madi Traditional Cultural Leaders. “This process is helping us deal with those problems, making it more difficult for someone to come grab land. Prior to this project, it was women, widows and orphans who were often deprived of their resources and disenfranchised.”

“We have tried to be really inclusive,” comments Mukula Max Martin the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Adjumani District. “In this project we have insured that the numbers of women and the numbers of men benefitting from the programme are fairly balanced.”

Preventing land conflict was one of the reasons the Embassy of the Netherlands to Uganda supported this pilot. Uganda has a rapidly growing population and land is a divisive issue,” says Henk Jan Bakker, Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda. Another key reason they supported this was to do with the opportunities the mapping could bring. “Land is an economic asset, and hopefully for the people who have the land titles now they will be able to use that economic asset in the future.”

The Paramount Chief was also confident the mapping would lead to clarity in terms of business and investment opportunities, “It’s easier for investors to work with us, if they want to do some farming or other things, with this we will know what portion there is to be given in any place.”

A group of women display their certificiates
This pilot project aimed to improve land tenure security for rural households, particularly women, youth and vulnerable groups in three districts in Uganda.
[UN-Habitat/Aoibheann O'Sullivan]

On 11 July 2019 the Vice president of Uganda, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, issued 835 Certificates of Customary Ownership in a vibrant ceremony with thousands of people present. The event took place in Adjumani during cerebrations to mark World Population Day.

After congratulating the certificate holders and the members of Adjumani District who were present at the ceremony Oumar Sylla, Leader of The Global Land Tool Network smiled and said, “I think we need to thank and really celebrate this move in Uganda where we have now civil society organizations and government working together to provide this certification to communities.” Watching the residents proudly holding their certificates he said, “People should understand why it is complex to address land related issues. It takes time. Its social engineering because we want to create transformation, and that is what GLTN stands for.”

Christine Musisi, UN-Habitat Director of External Relations, was also present at the ceremony. After congratulating each of the certificate holders she commented, “We have proven that this pilot is doable, it is affordable and it is scalable.”

“It has been very successful, and we will continue with the next phase,” said Ambassador Bakker. “We are now going into a second phase which will consist of 30,000 certificates.”

Marietta Pido, the widow farmer from Adjumani was beaming. Holding tightly on to her land certificate she smiled and said, “I am confident my land has been mapped properly. So my grandchildren are protected and they will not be sent away from this land by anybody.”

Marietta Pido displays her Certificate of Customary Land Ownership after the ceremony in Adjumani.
Marietta Pido displays her Certificate of Customary Land Ownership after the ceremony in Adjumani.
[UN-Habitat/Aoibheann O'Sullivan]

Partners and statistics:

Butaleja District Project:

  • Total number of Certificates of Customary Ownership issued: 512

  • Total number of beneficiaries: 2,324

This project was funded by Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda and was implemented in partnership with Uganda Community Based Association For Women & Children Welfare (UCOBAC), Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD), Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and Butalejja Local Government.

Adjumani District Statistics

  • Total number of Certificates of Customary Ownership Issued: 835

  • Total number of beneficiaries: 2772

This project was funded through GLTN Phase II Programme Basket Funding, the donors include Governments of Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. It was implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) and Adjumani Local Government.

UN-Habitat staff meet the Paramount Chief
[L-R] Oumar Sylla, Leader GLTN, Chief Drani Stephen Izakare, the Paramount Chief of Madi Traditional Cultural Leaders, Christine Musisi, UN-Habitat Director of External Relations, & Simon Peter Mwesigye, UN-Habitat & GLTN.
[UN-Habitat/Aoibheann O'Sullivan]


Article & Video: Aoibheann O'Sullvan

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