Investment Tracking Grassroots Structures Established in West Nile to Promote Responsible Investment
Since 2017, ESAFF Uganda working closely with Oxfam, GIZ and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) and district local governments popularized the Large Scale Land Based Investment Tool (LSLBI) in Nwoya, Amuru, Amuria, Omoro, Kassanda, Mityana and Mubende districts. The rollout of the tool was an inspiration to safeguard the interests of communities which have to date been undermined where LSLBI have been implemented, with a particular focus to women, their concerns, their voice, their vulnerabilities, their strategies and the support they require in order to secure their interests in relation to LSLBI.
ESAFF Uganda in collaboration with Oxfam and AFCE popularized the Large Scale Land Based Investment Tool (LSLBI) amongst Pakiya and Okavu Micro-stations in Zombo and Arua districts respectively from 13th to 17th of March 2023. Thirty (30) focal persons (20 men & 10 women of which 30% were youth with local and technical leaders from the sub-county were trained. ESAFF Uganda believes that establishing grassroots structures and empowering them fully shall cause the localization and respect of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) framework to realize land rights of small scale farming communities.
Small-scale farming communities living in areas where investments are taking place have been marginalized with insignificant or no returns for the loss of their land and other natural resources. Little evidence that employment, improvement and creation of infrastructure and technology transfer, have been realized. Large Scale Land Based Investments in agriculture, forestry and extractives amongst others have taken place under a shroud of secrecy. Deals are signed in secret and are not available for the farmers to inform and hold the signatories accountable. This lack of transparency poses serious governance challenges in LSLBI.
With limited space for meaningful participation of communities in investment processes, the situation of women small- scale farmers is more precarious than that of their male counterparts. Under increased competition for land, decisions concerning land rights pass swiftly from women into the hands of men. Women at times are not consulted -exacerbating the existing gender disparities in land access and ownership. The gender gap becomes even more apparent when documented rights are considered. The Gender Strategy on Land for the National Land Policy-2018 for Uganda indicates that 69 percent of men and 57 percent of women owning land –52 percent for men and only 18 percent for women can present documentation for their land security. It is clear that investments concentrate land in the hands of those who can successfully assert ownership. In the communities many households are at risk of land dispossession given that their land rights are not registered. The meeting was also informed that Africa accounts for 422 concluded agricultural deals (42% of all deals and about 10 million hectares. It also has the highest number of intended deals (147 deals; 13.2 million hectares).
In the training, two focal team structures of 15 (5 women, 5 men and 5 youth) each were instituted and empowered in Pakiya Azii in Zombo and Okavu in Arua district. The structures were empowered using the Community Engagement Tool (CET). These grassroots structures (focal teams) were trained on their roles, responsibilities and rights concerning land and other natural resources, land governance and administration, registration processes and access to justice. Further the structures were taken through the meaning of investments, investment stages, implications of investments, preparedness to meaningfully participate in the investment processes and the enabling environment for responsible investments i.e. the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries & Forests (VGGT), the Comprehensive Framework for Sustainable Rural Agricultural Investment (CFS-RAI) and the Investment code among others. An action plan was developed where the structures are to mobilize fellow households to appreciate land registration, documentation of their community resources, sensitizing others on the evolving of investments, development of scenario plans and benefit agreements and the importance of monitoring investment implementation based on the Environmental and Socio Impact Assessment (ESIA) as well as how community members especially women and youth can participate meaningfully in the investment processes.
ESAFF Uganda with partners instituted these grassroots structures for communities to be able to claim adequate compensation for loss of livelihoods, reduce conflicts between the affected communities and investments, guarantee food security and being able to tap into the investment opportunities for development. Since 2017, ESAFF Uganda has instituted and empowered more than 20 grassroots focal structures in 9 districts. This shall always reduce poverty and closing the gender gap in resource use and management. In areas without these empowered structures, communities receive at times these benefits but usually given to men and or the community leaders.
In doing so, ESAFF Uganda in instituting, empowering and popularizing LSLBI grassroots structures amongst the small scale farming communities is an action to promote and localizing the UN Basic Principles & Guidelines on Development Based Evictions and Displacement and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN Basic Principles & Guidelines on Development Based Evictions and Displacement highlights that forced evictions should not take place – and where states fail to prevent such evictions, effective remedies should be provided under consensual agreements with the affected communities. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls that the right of indigenous people in this case affected communities should not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories - no relocation shall take place without their free, prior and informed consent - after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of returning.
ESAFF Uganda working closely with partners like MLHUD and district and lower local government structures like Area Land Committees (ALC) District Land Boards (DLBs), District Land Offices and Commercial departments commits to create platforms for dialogue between affected communities under the leadership of the instituted focal structures in all districts, create platforms for access to justice through Alternative Dispute resolution (ADR), engage district monitoring teams for inclusion of the focal representatives and interest them to use the Investor compliance monitoring tool. ESAFF Uganda shall also technically support the structures to map their community resources, draft benefit agreements and scenario plans for community readiness in places where investments aren’t in existence. ESAFF Uganda working with MLHUD further plans to support women-led households to acquire titles and certificates on their land in Zombo, Arua and Nebbi districts as well as supporting a continuous access to critical land rights information through the Land Rights Support Centre.
On efforts to improve the incomes of the affected farming communities, ESAFF Uganda commits to continue identifying models with improved outcomes such as contract farming where a company contracts local farmers and buys their produce at a guaranteed price are an option of the instituted structures can dialogue with their investments. Further the out-grower schemes where the LSLB investor provides the nucleus farm and support local farmers with inputs and infrastructure including buying of the produce, information, etc.