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  • Ronald Bagaga

Women Small-scale Farmers are Hungry for Land Rights Knowledge.

In the West Nile region like other parts of Uganda, land rights remain a critical issue affecting the livelihoods and well-being of small-scale farmers. The World Bank report of 2019 highlighted a notable limited awareness and access to critical land rights information, as only 3.3% of the 78% of landholders in the country are knowledgeable about their land rights, responsibilities and able to access relevant information.

Additionally, women small-scale farmers like other marginalized groups have been disproportionately affected, often lacking access to land ownership and facing discrimination in land allocation and inheritance. However, there is a growing hunger for knowledge and awareness about secure land rights as farming communities seek to empower themselves and assert their rights to land ownership, responsible land and investment governance.

The lack of secure land rights has had a profound impact on the small-scale farming communities in the West Nile region. Displacement and land grabbing have disrupted livelihoods, leading to food insecurity and economic instability. Moreover, the absence of legal documentation of customary lands has undermined the traditional land management practices of the local communities, further exacerbating the vulnerability of farmers.

"Our rights to land are essential for livelihoods and well-being. I have worked the land for years, yet I still struggle to secure ownership and economic independence. It's time for change, we deserve equal access and ownership." – Amina Nuru, a farmer highlighting the impact of unequal land allocation on marginalized groups from Okavu, Logiri sub county.

Acknowledging the pressing need to confront these issues, the Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) Uganda in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in partnership with the District Local Governments of Zombo and Arua, conducted four grassroots community awareness raising events in Pakia and Pei in Warr sub-county in Zombo district, as well as in Zebbu and Okavu parishes in Logiri sub-county, Arua district.

Through the Land Rights Support Centre, farming communities were provided with information materials translated into Lugbar and Alur on the procedures of acquiring CCOs and freehold titles, what the constitution says about women land rights among others. As a result of providing education materials on land rights during the community awareness raising, there was a noticeable appreciation and anxiety for communities’ understanding of land rights among community members.

"Getting these land rights materials is just the beginning of understanding and safeguarding our rights. We are grateful to ESAFF Uganda for enlightening us about the significance of knowing our land rights, especially for women. This knowledge is a driving force for positive transformation and empowerment for all of us." – Athuma Florence, a participant and woman small-scale farmer, sharing her thoughts on the educational materials provided during the community awareness campaign on land rights.

Recognizing the critical need for legal support in securing land rights, ESAFF Uganda organized legal aid clinics alongside community awareness raising on land rights. The integrated initiative aimed to provide accessible legal assistance to community members, particularly women, who faced challenges due to cultural norms and economic disparities. This approach yielded significant outcomes, with women accessing legal guidance and support, resulting in an increased understanding of their rights and legal options. As a result, there was a tangible shift in the community's perception of land rights, with an increasing number of women securing their land rights and actively participating in decision-making processes related to land ownership and management.

"The legal aid clinic has not only advised and guided us on legal issues but has also instilled confidence in our ability to access justice to protect our land rights. It's a crucial step towards achieving gender equality and justice in our community." – Oketch Ibrahim, a former LCV Councilor, highlighting the transformative impact of the legal aid clinic on their understanding of land rights

The hunger for knowledge and awareness about secure land rights in the West Nile region reflects the determination of the local population to empower themselves and protect their land rights. ESAFF Uganda working closely with the Ministry of Lands and Local Governments committed to continue supporting women and marginalized groups in securing their land rights through supporting land registration under Customary Certificates of Ownership (CCOs) and raising awareness, providing information materials, and advocating for policy changes to ensure equal land ownership for all members of the community.

"We are committed to fostering a community where women and marginalized groups can assert their land rights and participate in decision-making processes that affect their livelihoods." – ESAFF Uganda representative emphasizing the commitment to empowering marginalized groups on secure land rights and responsible land governance.

Mr. Cekecan James, LCIII Chairperson Warr Sub-County, reaffirmed the commitment to championing the cause of land rights and emphasized the need for inclusive and equitable land rights, particularly for women small-scale farmers. The leader urged the community to stand united in the pursuit of justice and equality, igniting a sense of collective purpose and determination among the community members.

"I stand here today to reaffirm my unwavering commitment to championing the cause of land rights for all community members. Together with our good friends like ESAFF Uganda and cultural institutions, we can strive to create a future where justice and equality prevail." - Mr. Cekecan James, LCIII Chairperson Warr Sub-County, emphasizing the commitment to equitable land rights and responsible land governance.



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