Land acquisitions in Uganda have increased substantially over the years largely driven by government and private investments in infrastructure development projects and agriculture, respectively. Land acquisitions are either carried out compulsorily by the government and its agencies or voluntarily by individuals. Compulsory land acquisitions are governed by the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, the Land Acquisition Act (Cap. 226) and the Land Act (Cap 227) while voluntary land acquisitions are carried out by individuals on a willing-buyer willing-seller basis. For such acquisitions, the Draft Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy (2018) calls for responsible land investment which does not threaten agricultural livelihoods; can offer sustainable livelihood opportunities to the rural population; recognizes and respects customary land rights, including community land rights; and respects human rights, especially the right to food, housing and water.
ESAFF Uganda working closely with GIZ and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) implements the Promotion of Responsible Governance of Investments in Land (RGIL) project in Mityana, Kassanda and Mubende districts of central Uganda since 2021 and now Gomba district. The RGIL project is implemented under the umbrella of Responsible Policy in Uganda (RELAPU), within the Global Program on Responsible Land Policy as part of the German Special Initiative “One World – No Hunger” of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), co-funded by the European Union. The specific objective of the RGIL project is to foster investments in land that are productive, contribute to sustainable land management and respect the rights and needs of the local population, including vulnerable groups and women.
From 13th to 22nd of February 2023, ESAFF Uganda and GIZ conducted RGIL I & II project review and inception meetings respectively with district local government leaders and identification of new local agricultural investors in forestry, crop and livestock farming in the project districts. In this context, the concept of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) was one of the key areas of deliberations. In the meetings with government officials and the profiled new commercial investments representatives at their farms highlighted gaps in understanding and respect of the FPIC framework in land acquisition and operations yet key in protecting the rights of small-scale farmers i.e. women, men and vulnerable groups while ensuring that agricultural investments in land are carried out after meaningful consultations with communities that may be affected by the investments.
During the deliberations, participants called for more awareness events and sharing of translated and simplified materials amongst the communities not only on FPIC framework but also other protocols for responsible investments in land i.e. the National Land policy and Act, Investment code, land governance and other land rights processes, Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS-RAI) and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGTs) among others.
Briefly, in terms of FPIC, the 1995 Constitution protects the citizens’ rights to own property and provides grounds upon which government can compulsorily take possession of privately owned land. The Constitution makes it clear that consent must be sought well before any authorization or the beginning of project activities. The FPIC calls for sufficient time for culturally appropriate consultation and for completion of local decision-making processes whereas communities should be supported to consent to investment without coercion, intimidation or manipulation. The right to consent includes the right to say no to the project or to offer to consent only under certain conditions. The Principles call communities to receive all relevant information about the project. The information provided must be objective, accurate and presented in a manner or form that is understandable to those receiving it so as responsible investments in land is realized.
Responsible Investments in land calls for no harm and safeguard against dispossession of legitimate tenure rights and environmental damage, respect human rights, striving to support local communities and enhance social and economic sustainable development, creation of employment opportunities for the local communities and environmental protection. In terms of agriculture and food systems, responsible investment contributes to sustainable development by generating positive socio-economic and environmental impacts, enhancing food security and nutrition. It requires progressively respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. Within this context, the voluntary, non-binding CFS-RAI Principles approved by the Committee on World Food Security in 2014, address all types of investment in agriculture and food systems and recognize that responsible investment is essential for enhancing food security and nutrition and supporting the realization of the right to adequate food.
To achieve responsible investments in land, ESAFF Uganda working closely with local governments, partners and investors commit to continue sensitizing and availing access to information to affected communities so as to create awareness amongst the project targets. Among the commitments is the incorporation of responsible investment principles into business engagement plans and practices, which includes inclusive and meaningful multi-stakeholder engagements at sub county and district levels. ESAFF Uganda commits to support consultations and multi-stakeholder engagements carried out in an environment where FPIC principles are followed before, during and after the investment.