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  • David Oming & Ronald Bagaga

The Untapped and Forgotten Land Institution yet Key in Protecting Land Rights of Small-scale Farmers

The Area Land Committees (ALC) as land institutions at lower local governments are instituted by the Land (Amendment) Act of 2004, section 64 (1) and (2) that requires the District Council (DC) on the advice of the Sub County or Divisional Council to appoint these Committees at Sub County or Divisional level. The ALCs consist of a chairperson and four (4) other members.

The ALCs are mandated to offer advisory services to the District Land Board (DLB) on matters of land registration of processes leading to acquisition of titles. The ALCs are also charged as referees for both contested and peaceful land boundary demarcations and perform any other function conferred on it by the Act. The records and instruments of the ALCs are kept by the Chairperson and the committee members are supposed to be paid a remuneration as may be determined by the District Council on the recommendation of the District Executive Committee (DEC) and the Committee expenses are charged on the District administration funds as per Section 66 of the Land Act CAP 227. However, the law requires that before appointing any given Committee, the District Council considers whether the Sub County or Division Council has indicated preparedness to assist in the funding of the Committee and the state of the finances of the District.

During the roll out of the Large Scale Land Based Investment (LSLBI) Tool for responsible investments and secure land rights in Warr sub county, Zombo district, ESAFF Uganda had the opportunity to interface with the district and Sub County leadership and the district physical planning unit on 21st of November 2022 where the Senior District Land Officer (DLO) falls and Area Land Committee of Warr S/C. During these formalization meetings for the LSLBI tool roll out, ESAFF Uganda was dismayed by the nature of the total incapacitation of the sub county Area Land Committee, which was thought to be banked on in promoting and advancing secure land rights and responsible investments amongst Pakiya micro-station small scale farmers. It was concerning that the thought structure (ALC) was never trained on its roles and mandates- and it was noted that there was no financing to the structure to meet the financial needs of its operations.

The Area Land Committee Chairperson Mr. Nen Charles reported that the “committee since its establishment, it has never been inducted by the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) or the district land office, so they know nothing regarding their roles and responsibilities as per the Land Act as amended. He further extended that the committee lacks reference materials like the Land Act and land policy as reference documents in their operations, basic logistics for facilitating field work such as means of transport, other office equipment and furniture, and with zero or minimum practice of ICT in management of the large amount of data. Mr. Nen mentioned that the committee have never held any regular meetings due to finances. ESAFF Uganda realized that these gaps, by implication are impacting on the functionality and delivery of quality land service, denting public trust and confidence in the institution or structure.

From 23rd to 25th of November 2022, ESAFF Uganda embarked on training the LSLBI focal persons and the ALC members using LSLBI tools. 20 (7 women and 13 men) members were engaged during the 3 days at Warr sub county headquarters in Zombo district. Participants were trained on land-based investments, their stages and community meaningful participation, secure land rights, responsible land governance of tenure, principles of responsible governance of tenure, Free, Prior and Informed Consent, land tenure systems and their meanings, acquiring of a freehold, Certificate of Customary Ownership (CCO), Certificate of Occupancy (COO), Clan Land Associations (CLAs) and leasehold titles and their procedures. ESAFF Uganda equipped the focal team with the LSLBI community tool while the Land Act 2004 as amended and National Land Policy 2013 documents were given to the ALC for reference in its operations.

The LCIII C/P, SAS and the Chairperson ALC appreciated ESAFF Uganda and Oxfam for the induction as a step towards supporting the ALC committee in executing its mandates and responsibilities as prescribed in the Land (Amendment) Act 2004, Section 66 of the Land Act CAP 227.

ESAFF Uganda commits to continue engaging the decentralized and national land governance institutions i.e. MLHUD, DLO, DLB, ALC among others towards advancing secure land rights of small scale farmers and responsible land governance of tenure and services delivery for sustainable social economic development. ESAFF Uganda therefore proposes the following recommendations:

  1. Zombo District land office and the MLHUD should plan and deliver trainings and capacity building to Area Land Committees especially for Warr Sub county as mandated in the Act.

  2. Zombo district council should develop a financing framework that harmonizes remuneration for Area Land Committees in the district.

  3. The ALC of Warr sub county like other committees needs to develop realistic annual work plans and budgets and table such in time to feed into overall sub-county and, or District’s annual plans and budgets for financing of their operations.

  4. Zombo district and Warr sub-County Executive Committees needs to plan and carry out supervision and monitoring activities of the ALCs.

  5. The District Land Office should be filled and plan to conduct periodic support supervision and provision of technical support to the ALCs in collaboration with MLHUD and other land actors i.e. CSOs like ESAFF Uganda.

  6. Co-opt the Large Scale Land Based Investment (LSLBI) focal team representative (s) onto the area land committee for effective and sound learning and collaboration with their communities.

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