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  • David Oming

Women Small-scale Farmers in the West Nile Sub-Region Championing Processes of Acquiring Certificates of Customary Ownership (CCOs)

Approximately over 20% of Uganda’s land is registered, which is higher than the average level of 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, despite the significant role that women play in the agricultural sector, only about 16% of Ugandan women own land in their own right. Their ownership of registered land is even lower, at 7%.

According to the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, land reforms improved the security of land tenure for small landholders, especially in rural areas. The customary land tenure system regulated land usage prior to the reforms, often leading to disputes over land ownership. The reforms have helped in instituting the formal registration of land ownership, which has reduced conflicts over land ownership and, in turn, improved land use. The Government of Uganda has begun the process of rehabilitating land institutions and computerising Land Information Systems (LIS). There are also initiatives to organise communal landowners in Northern Uganda into legal entities and to register their land.

Land registration is important as it provides legal recognition of women's ownership rights, ensuring that they have a legitimate claim to the land they use for agricultural production. This recognition is crucial for securing their tenure and protecting them from land grabbing or disputes that may arise in the farming communities. Never the less, land registration is a crucial step in promoting the rights, economic well-being, and empowerment of women small-scale farmers. It provides a foundation for legal recognition, access to financial resources, and participation in decision-making processes, ultimately contributing to sustainable development at both the individual and community levels. This also allows women to have clear inheritance rights, allowing them to pass on the land to their descendants and providing economic security for future generations. This deals with the customs that inhibit women from inheriting land.

Over the years, ESAFF Uganda has been working in close collaboration with the lower local government in the West Nile sub-region, including Warr sub-county in Zombo district and Logiri sub-county in Arua district, to support farming communities with a specific focus on women. This was aimed at ensuring that women have land rights that ensure their access, ownership, and control over the land.

ESAFF Uganda embarked on the registration of land in the region with specific attention to women-headed households and the inclusion of women and girls in the certificates. The households registered will obtain a Certificate of Customary Ownership, and they will be able to productively use their land to plant crops such as coffee. They will use the certificates to access financial support from financial institutions like banks and money lending agencies to boost their agricultural production. Registered land ensures that women have control over their resources, including the ability to make decisions about land use, crops, and livestock, leading to improved farm management.

From January 22nd to January 26th, 2024, ESAFF Uganda and the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development (MoLHUD) supported the profiling of households in the districts of Zombo and Arua to have their land registered and acquire Certificates of Customary Ownership (CCOs). This process focuses on supporting female households to register their land so as to increase their agricultural production capacities. ESAFF Uganda envisions registering 1,000 households and issuing CCOs in close collaboration with MoLHUD and lower local governments in West Nile districts.

According to the Land Officer at MoLHUD, Mr. Asiimwe Richard, customary land has the highest percentage of the tenure system in the country, with over 80%, mostly in the northern and eastern regions of Uganda. He added that every person, including women, according to Article 26 of the Constitution, has a right to own property, including land. He therefore urged the Area Land Committee members to sensitise the members of the community, including women, and have their land registered so as to have tenure security.

The Chairperson Area Land Committee (ALC) Warr sub-county, Mr. Nen Charles, highlighted that women have limited access to natural resources, including land in the West Nile sub-region. However, he noted that those small-scale women farmers who have land are willing to apply to register their land and have CCOs. According to him, many small-scale farmers are coming to pick up forms from the sub-county to ensure that their land is registered.

“Land registration is very important in securing women's land rights, but the most important thing is to first sensitise farming communities and land owners on the importance of land registration. As the ALC, we have the task of mobilising landowners and having their land  registered." Chairperson of the of the ALC Warr sub-county, Mr. Nen Charles, added.

According to the Chairperson LCIII, Logiri sub-county, Hon. Odama John, the ALC members in his sub-county were ill-equipped, and ESAFF Uganda has greatly supported the capacity building of the members. He urged ESAFF Uganda to continue with the work being done in the community for land rights to be secured for all.

“Women in my sub-county have many land issues, and they are being denied access to and ownership of land. This needs to be addressed for the promotion of women's land rights and having enough land for women to do agricultural production, as they are the breadwinners for most of the households in the Logiri sub-county." Hon. Odama John alluded



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