We are joining hands with LANDnet as a land rights movement to petition the 10th Parliament of Uganda to table the amendments to the Succession Act as a matter of urgency. According to Section 27 of this Act, a widow (female spouse) is generally granted only 15% of an estate upon the passing away of her spouse, while a widower (male spouse) is granted 100% of the estate when his spouse passes away. The delay in making these amendments to the Succession Act has left many widows grappling with inheritance related disputes in their local communities although this section was rendered null and void by the Constitutional Court of Uganda on 5th April 2007. Apparently, the exploitation of many widows by unscrupulous relatives persists in Uganda today because several communities follow cultural norms that contravene equity principles particularly in the redistribution of matrimonial property and land upon the death of a male spouse, with inadequate protection from the law. Please follow this link to sign the petition now.
We are engaging communities in the districts of Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Katakwi, Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripiriti, and Napak, to form into local groups (minor clans) to register as communal land associations (CLAs) as well as those in the districts of Buliisa, Fortportal, Hoima, Kagadi, Kakumiro, Kibaale, and Masindi through their multi-stakeholder platforms to register CLAs for protecting community land rights through participatory extractives governance. Such trends are also gaining momentum across communities in the sub-regions of Acholi, Teso, Lango, and West Nile. This work is done in partnership with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development under the CEDP to bring together community members through their local arrangements for social action. The CLA model provides a vehicle through which the local communities will be continually mobilised as a formal people-centred arrangement whereby its members can go beyond holding land to managing shared use in order to innovatively transform their quality of life while ensuring inclusiveness, productivity, value-addition and competitiveness, based on the various community-driven aspirations.
We are putting in place necessary conditions that must be met in establishing a successful community of practice (CoP) across the various districts where we work. One most important condition is to ensure a clear, relevant and shared interest(s) largely driven by demand rather than abstractly focused. We help communities to ensure dynamic leadership, local expertise and vibrant membership so that there is reason or capacity to mobilise their groups. There are a number of face-to-face meetings held to build trust and instil a sense of belonging in the community. It is very important that the environment within the CoP remains collegial (i.e., not hierarchical), a prerequisite of maintaining trust. It is also very important to have links with other CoPs to bring in new ideas. We are supporting these groups to ensure that this CoP mechanism entails measuring and showing the impact of learning and knowledge-sharing outcomes, (e.g., best practices or success stories from elsewhere and how these can provide solutions to particular problems that are still being faced in another similar setting). Landcode is mapping out the important stakeholders in applying the CoP concept to specific community development strategies so as to consolidate CoPs in the places where we work. This will also involve mapping of active groups to understand their production networks and information sources.
We train community groups about making their constitutions, overseeing the election of their leaders, helping them to identify shared objectives akin to sustainable development and key gap areas identified in their communities. We look forward to conducting online discussions on these issues through webinars as a cost-effective way of generating wider insights beyond the local communities where we work so that there is a continued feed-back and feed-forward process of generating new ideas. But there is a deeper need to identify opportunities for empowerment of these communities through wider market linkages, business negotiation processes and livelihood diversification projects for sustainable community development. Where local groups have registered their communal land associations, we shall build capacity of their leaders or persons on whose behalf associations hold land so that they can set and manage certain agreed areas of land for shared use as a group. An area of land set aside for such common use shall be used and managed in accordance with the terms of a common land management scheme as provided for in the Land Act.
We are having key concerns about the provision under Section 9(1) of the Land Act which states that any person, family, community or association holding land under customary tenure on former public land may convert customary tenure into freehold tenure. We know that customary ownership involves shared rights and interests owned in perpetuity normally exercised in accordance with the traditions of a given community or class of people who determine how it shall continue to be occupied, used, and regulated including any third party claims over it. On the contrary, the Act enables the holder of land under freehold tenure to exercise full powers of ownership of that land in perpetuity or for a period less than perpetuity but does not provide for conversion of any other tenure to customary tenure. We are working on a public interest litigation case to test and inform the laws, policies and practices on customary land tenure especially clauses that espouse conversion of customary land into freehold to determine whether this does not really undermine its unique attributes and deny it the opportunity to progressively evolve. Why should it be converted to freehold before it attains the totality of the bundle of rights inherent in all other registered tenures that are held in perpetuity? Will this not make it more disparaged and sabotaged in preference for other forms of registered tenure? Clearly, we have seen weakening governance systems under customary tenure but it is also evident that it is an irreplaceable arrangement in protecting the rights of those communities dependent on natural resources for their basic livelihoods.
We note that land tools (e.g. laws, policies, plans, guidelines, operational manuals, training modules, land tenure instruments, land records databases, monitoring and evaluation instruments, and other related tools that influence the state and management of land tenure, land use and land values) have often been designed to serve specific interests and priorities. This means that those people such as women and children with a low representation in decision making bodies have not had their interests captured or rights safeguarded. A lot of information relevant to communities has also not been transparently shared with them in the course of negotiating various large scale business investments over their communally owned land. We are now adopting the Gender Evaluation Criteria (GEC) as an analytical lens to determine necessary improvements in the CLA model as a land tool for upholding and contributing to attainment of gender equality in land access and tenure security. We are also integrating the GEC tool with the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) to record a continuum of rights and interests among members in the groups that were formed to register as CLAs. This will provide an important cadastre for reference during community development efforts.
We are making an analysis of the National Land Policy (NLP) implementation action plan to propose indicators and targets under the land use and land management framework that ensure conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and dry lands, in line with obligations under international agreements. Specifically, this is to combat desertification, and restore degraded land and soil, especially on land affected by deforestration, drought and floods; introduce measures to prevent and reduce the impact of non-indigenous species on land and water ecosystems as well as protect a wide variety of endangered species in communities. For example, pastoral communities where we work occupy rangelands with harsh climatic and ecological conditions. Their access to land resources has also progressively reduced as individuals, private and government agencies alienate grazing areas for establishment of national parks, wildlife reserves, protected areas, government or military schemes and ranching schemes. There will be consideration of other aspects in the SDG framework contributing to the ecological cycle to clearly inform integration of ecosystems and biodiversity values into community development processes and climate change mitigation strategies. Major focus will be put on establishing appropriate agro-ecological zones, pastoral resource areas and access, as well as maintaining an equitable balance between the use of land for pasture, agriculture, energy, industry and for wildlife protection.