Insecure land tenure systems across most parts of Uganda could prevent communities from taking up climate adaptation and mitigation practices. 

This was one of the concerns of politicians and land experts at a symposium on land governance held at the Parliament of Uganda on Friday.   

The symposium was held under the theme; “Securing land rights to support climate change adaptation and sustainable food systems”    

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa is a speech said that safeguarding the land rights of individuals and groups remains a major concern, in light of Uganda’s rapidly growing population, unregulated urbanization, and inaccessible justice institutions.  

Tayebwa noted that adverse climate change effects are mostly borne by smallholder farmers and marginalized groups including women, particularly on agricultural productivity and land degradation.   

“In the face of these challenges, securing land rights emerges as a fundamental pillar of climate change adaptation and sustainable food systems. Land rights provide the foundation upon which resilient communities can build their livelihoods, protect their natural resources, and adapt to changing climatic conditions,” read part of his speech delivered by Kigulu South MP, Milton Muwuma.

Tayebwa observed that the intersection of land governance, climate change adaptation and sustainable food systems, remains a pressing challenge that requires urgent attention and collective action.
He alluded to Articles 26, 50(4), and 238 of the Constitution provide for the right to own property, the power of Parliament to make laws for the enforcement of rights and freedoms, and the Uganda Land Commission’s (ULC) mandate to manage land in Uganda, respectively.  

“Individuals, NGOs, and various institutions have utilized these Constitutional provisions and other laws to seek redress in case of violations of land rights. Let us seize this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to promote land tenure security,” Tayebwa said.   

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on climate change and land recently noted that insecure land tenure affects the ability of people, communities, and organizations to make changes to the land that can advance adaptation and mitigation.

Uganda continues to face challenges related to the different land tenure systems. Some individuals live in fear of eviction by landowners who in most cases are absentee property owners.

It is in that respect that participants at the symposium noted that a person with insecure rights on a piece of land might not practice recommended climate adaptation and mitigation measures.         

According to the IPCC report, adaptation is about adapting to life in a changing climate. The goal is to reduce our risks from the effects of climate change- like sea-level rise, more intense extreme weather events, or food insecurity, to name a few.  

The IPCC observed that when indigenous peoples, local communities, small-scale farmers, and pastoralists have secure land rights, they have the security to apply their unique knowledge for climate change adaptation, such as through grazing rotation and sustainable water management.   

The IPCC notes that having secure land rights allows local communities to have a seat at the table and a voice when it comes to developing and implementing climate change adaptation policies.   It notes that secure land rights also reduce the chances of being removed from land because of external adaptation policies (such as programmes for carbon offsetting) without compensation and the opportunity for redress.   Christine Kaaya Nakimwero, the Chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentarians Land Management Forum noted that lack of land courts and limited financing to the Land Fund have contributed to land disputes in the country.    

“We have a number of approved practices to help our farmers go through climate change but they are all land-based. If someone does not have secure land tenure, how will these practices take place?” Kaaya asked.    

She added that the symposium will propose ways forward to update the current land policy which will in turn lead to a review of the Land Act (Cap.227), and thus promote climate change management and improved food security.    

Heleen Saaf, the Cordaid Uganda Country Director said the symposium will provide a vital platform to explore land management solutions, adding that the country’s land policies should serve and protect all Ugandans.  

Francis Odokorach, the Oxfam Uganda Country Director observed that land inequality has widened and made the poor more vulnerable, leading to gender injustice, rural poverty, and biodiversity loss.    

“Our country should show efforts in addressing land injustice and prioritize women’s land rights. Uganda has seen progressive legislation on land management, and we hope that affected persons of land injustice will be heard,” he said.

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