Inflammation and stories on land

Gender Inequality in MalawiWhile the idea of women being denied property may seem antiquated, it is a modern norm furthering gender inequality in Malawi. In the central and southern regions of Malawi, land is intended to be passed down to women through generations; however, Bridget Matinga-Katunda, a researcher at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, explained that this matrilineal system is not as good as it may sound. She stated, “Even under matrilineal systems, decision-making power on land ownership usually lies with male clan leaders who decide who gets a piece of land.”

Excluded from Ownership

Ministry of Hope Malawi, a nonprofit helping orphans and other at-risk communities, spoke to The Borgen Project on this issue. The Program Director for this organization, Daniel Moyo, recalls his personal experience with gendered land laws in Malawi. He describes a “patrilineal culture” where “men own the land and women have no access to land.” According to U.N. Women, around 70% of women work in agriculture. Therefore, despite taking care of the land, they are still not entitled to its ownership.

Additionally, the United Nations states that Malawian legal codes do “not provide for the division of matrimonial property upon dissolution of the marriage. This matter has been left entirely to the courts to decide.” Even if modern legal codes attempt to address the gender inequality in Malawi regarding land ownership, societal trends – often discriminatory – determine who inherits the land. This is especially true if the woman in question is not in a position of power in the community.

Moyo commented, “Personally, after the death of my Dad, all the land we had was confiscated by people we did not even know, leaving us and mum with no land.” His situation is not unusual. Reuters News uncovered that only around 17% of Malawian females are landowners. This parallels the lack of power and representation, as the World Bank reports that in 2019, only 23% of parliamentary seats in Malawai were held by women.

Advocating for a Cultural Shift

While there are legal protections in place for women, the land delegation and nuptial divisions are vague. Groups within the culture are open to interpret them and often adhere to sexist traditions and thought processes. Furthermore, less than one percent of land in Malawi is purchased. Almost all of it is inherited or acquired through marriage. Women report deep insecurity on their land ownership especially if something were to happen to their husbands. Malawian society’s cultural attitude toward women as more inferior to men is often used to justify the sexist land laws.

In order to correct these injustices, a policy shift is necessary to help widows survive and take care of children. Updating the territorial legislation in Malawi could vastly improve its gender equality and the overall economy. Moyo explains that “decision making in the homes is often left to the men. This is one key issue [and at] Ministry of Hope we have been championing women leadership and helping the women to have a voice and not just take everything that the man says…how to use money, how many children to have…they say women in Malawi produce seventy percent of the food but they consume only thirty percent of the same.”

Similarly, organizations such as the Malawi Law Society are fighting for a legal system that is more modern and just. However, an all-encompassing solution must go beyond legality and address the nuances of Malawian agriculture and its connection to gender. Providing social, economic and ownership protections for these laborers is crucial for correcting sexist land laws in Malawi.

Moving Forward

Organizations such as the Ministry of Hope are fighting the discriminatory land laws and working toward ending gender inequality in Malawi by shifting cultural perception. Individuals can help by funding nonprofits based in southern Africa that provide guidance along with financial assistance. Moving forward, continued work by these groups will hopefully help end discriminatory practices.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Coffin Homes in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Estimates determine that its population could grow to 7,249,907 people in 2020. While Hong Kong’s recent protests against the Chinese government receives extensive coverage, the high housing prices of Hong Kong precedes the current news. According to a 2019 report by CBRE, Hong Kong had the highest housing prices in the world, surpassing the housing prices of other cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, London, Los Angeles and New York. The report also showed that the average housing prices in Hong Kong were more than $1.2 million. Unsurprisingly, many people in Hong Kong find it hard to afford housing. This gave rise to coffin homes in Hong Kong which are small, partitioned apartment homes. Have the conditions improved in Hong Kong’s coffin homes? What kind of projects is the Hong Kong government participating in to improve the housing conditions in its city?

Inside a Hong Kong Coffin Home

According to some estimates, there are 200,000 people, including 40,000 children, living in these coffin homes in Hong Kong. Most of these coffin homes are smaller than 180 square feet. To put this size into perspective, this is only slightly bigger than an average parking spot in New York City. The inhabitants of these coffin homes range from retirees with little to no pension, the working poor, drug addicts and people with mental illnesses. These small spaces and unsanitary conditions sometimes lead to bed bug infestation. Yeung, a coffin home resident who the South China Morning Post interviewed, said that he often spent the night at McDonald’s or at internet cafes in order to avoid bed bugs.

A Possible Solution?

The Hong Kong government is making efforts to improve the current state of housing in Hong Kong. The government’s main focus seems to be in providing more housing units for the general public. For example, the Hong Kong government proposed an ambitious project to reclaim 1,000 hectares of land near Lantau, which will create an artificial island near Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government plans to create 40,000 homes in this reclaimed land. The project should begin in 2025 with the aim of having residents move in by 2032, and has an estimated cost of $80 billion. However, there are many critics who worry about the long-term impact of this ambitious project.

What the Critics are Saying

Critics have claimed that building this artificial island is the equivalent to “pouring money into the sea.” Critics have furthermore pointed out that the project could lead to the destabilization of the city government’s fiscal reserves. Environmentalists in Hong Kong are also afraid that the project will distort the hydrology near Lantau Island. These environmentalists are encouraging the Hong Kong government to adopt a “brownfield first” policy. This policy entails developing the 1,000 hectares of land in the New Territories area that is located at the northern part of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government is also conversing with Hong Kong Disneyland to release a tract of land, that is supposed to be part of Disneyland’s future expansion, to the government so that it can utilize it as a residential district.

The housing crisis in Hong Kong is a complicated issue. The squalid and cramped conditions that many people in Hong Kong live in reflect its current housing crisis. The high housing prices have given rise to coffin homes in Hong Kong. The current socio-political instability in Hong Kong, while having some of its roots in Hong Kong society’s innate inequality, certainly is not remedying the current housing crisis. The Hong Kong government seems to be very conscious of this crisis. Its efforts to provide housing for its populace, however, still face many challenges. Its ambitious project for creating an artificial island is especially notable. With all this effort, many hope that coffin homes in Hong Kong will become a story of the past.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Land Grabbing and PovertyLand grabbing is not a new concept and it is not an isolated event. However, land grabbing and poverty have recently been linked together. While companies around the globe participate in this harmful process that drives farmers off their lands, farmers in industrial countries are especially susceptible to losing their lands, and therefore, their source of income. The act of industrial companies land grabbing not only costs a person their home but also their food and money. In countries such as Africa and South America, many people have fallen below the poverty line and suffer from displacement.

The Actions of Large Companies

The link between land grabbing and poverty is growing and has become a big issue. Major companies, such as the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF or TIAA), are buying multiple acres of land at exceedingly high prices. This, in turn, raises the prices of rent above what nearby family farmers can afford to pay. In Brazil, the TIAA has ownership of over 600,000 acres of land. The company also has a stake of over $400 million in Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, which has displaced established communities of indigenous people in addition to several endangered species.

Who Owns the Land?

Land grabbing hugely contributes to the loss of property which advances poverty levels. Indigenous people claim and manage about 50 percent of the world’s land. However, of that 50 percent, people who depend on it only legally own 10 percent. Big companies can easily buy out the remaining 40 percent of the land and repurpose it to maximize industrial gains. Most of this land goes towards fossil-fuels projects, tourism and even conservation. Because of this, many families become displaced and left without a source of income and experience a lack of food security. Companies, such as TIAA, have led directly to malnutrition in industrial countries where they held land.

Initiating Change

There have been many demonstrations to try and combat the act of land grabbing. Grassroots International has started a petition to end land grabbing. There are also The Tenure Guidelines that have the intention of ending global poverty through tenure rights and land access. Policies within these guidelines would give land rights to the person who has owned the land the longest, ensuring that those who depend on the land for their livelihoods can continue to use it. In Africa, 29 women farmers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the country’s tallest mountain, to raise awareness about the issue. The climbers met 400 fellow women farmers at the base of the mountain to help raise awareness about secure land rights and guarantee the farmers access to local and global markets.

Land grabbing and poverty reduction will give the people of the land a place to live as well as a food source and a dependable income. Crop sales will increase and farmers will have a more reliable income if others do not drive them from their land. The decrease of land grabbing will also increase access to both local and global markets, providing farmers with more ways to sell their food. Overall, restricting land grabbing, honoring tenure and giving land access to those who need it will lead to a decline in global poverty.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Land Seizures in EthiopiaEthiopia is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, with a growth rate of nearly 10.4% from 2004 to 2018. Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) has focused on public infrastructure and economic modernizations. The Ethiopian government has encouraged foreign investment in recent years and the construction of industrial parks throughout the country, though land seizures in Ethiopia, especially in Oromia and Tigray, have become common for acquiring space for the developments.

Displacement of Farmers

In order to realize its economic goals, the government has appropriated vast amounts of highly fertile land in the southern region of Oromia and converted it for foreign agribusiness. Dutch, Israeli and Indian companies have gravitated to Ethiopia because of cheap and fertile land. This has created tension in the region as local farmers have been forcibly displaced from their lands in favor of these foreign agribusinesses, many of which sell decorative flowers or pharmaceutical plants. These companies have generally taken the best, the most fertile and the most easily irrigated land in the Oromia region, displacing many farmers.

Most of these farmers, belonging to the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups, which make up more than 50% of the population and are the largest ethnicities in Ethiopia, claim that they were forcibly dispossessed of their land by the local government, even as the government claims that it followed all necessary protocols. These land seizures in Ethiopia have led to numerous protests and demonstrations throughout Ethiopia where development has occurred, largely because few of the jobs that were created went to locals. The focus on non-food agribusiness instead of crop production has exacerbated the food crisis in the country, which originally stemmed in part from droughts plaguing eastern Africa since 2015, as well as the 2018 floods.

In Oromia, at the Adama Industrial Park, heavy machinery and textiles are produced for export. This industrial park was one of the first to be opened in the fall of 2018, and it began its first exports in December 2018.

Land Seizures in Ethiopia Aren’t Confined to Oromia

In the north of the country, there is widespread industrialization, and the government has also been pushing for industrial projects, such as the mine established by the Chinese company Tibet Huayu Mining in association with Canada’s East Africa Metals Inc., meant to prospect and mine for gold in Tigray’s largely untapped mineral fields. Pepsi has also heavily invested in the Tigray region, with a bottling factory near the capital of Mekele. Garment factories, as well as a Turkish industrial manufacturer, have also agreed to set up facilities in and around Tigray as well.

Besides the Adama and Mekelle industrial parks, seven others, including two near Addis Ababa, have opened or are under construction as part of the government’s economic policies.

Evictions are not limited to agricultural areas. In several areas, particularly around Addis Ababa, long-standing towns are being declared as illegal settlements, and the government has described this policy as an attempt to regularize development and bring urban planning and local infrastructure up to international standards.

Why Is This a Problem?

Ethiopia’s industrialization is highly focused on foreign investment. The Ethiopian government has sacrificed long-term growth prospects for the much more lucrative but short-term opportunities of foreign investors, largely ignoring indigenous industrial and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Currently, the government does little for those displaced by industrial development. Land tenure and property rights laws are inadequately and unevenly enforced. Whenever there is a legal framework in place, often it is neither easy nor advantageous for the dispossessed. The average farmer in Ethiopia holds only about 1.2 hectares of land, and just over half of Ethiopia’s farmers subside on less than 1 hectare. Currently, there are plans to develop over 100,000 hectares of land through 2025. Nationally, this will displace hundreds of thousands of farmers and their families, many of whom will be poorly compensated through irregular processes.

As it currently stands, the Ethiopian constitution protects the nominal right of the citizen to private property, while simultaneously permitting the uncompensated land seizures in Ethiopia for the purpose of resource exploitation because these lands “shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange” in Article 40(3). This creates a situation in which the government can forcibly relocate a landowner from his property if it so desires while being obligated to pay only a token price.

What is Being Done?

There is international aid that has been helping to ensure that Ethiopians are able to take advantage of the opportunities that the GTP is designed to provide. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization has a program to combat high youth unemployment rates in rural populations.

The World Bank has also identified that greater educational opportunities need to be available in rural communities in order to help people transition away from agricultural sectors while increasing the productivity of those that remain economically sustainable levels. The World Bank’s plans include increasing agricultural efficiency and crop yields while steering those it can toward education and training to ensure they can participate in a modern workforce.

The high growth of Ethiopia’s economy, particularly in regard to foreign investment, has led to greater economic scrutiny of the country. The International Trade Unions Confederation has criticized the low wages that make Ethiopia so appealing to many foreign investors.

There is also a possibility of reform, as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has expressed an interest in democratizing and liberalizing the country. It is possible that this could lead to constitutional reforms that fight land seizures in Ethiopia and provide more equitable compensation to any who are still relocated. Of course, this will take time.

– John Dolan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Access to Land in Namibia
Since becoming independent in 1990, Namibia has seen steady economic growth, increasing at an average rate of 4.3 percent in the past five years.

However, the country suffers from steep income inequality and poverty rates. Currently, 29.9 percent of Namibians are unemployed, 27.6 percent of households live in poverty and another 13.8 percent live in extreme poverty.

Of a population of 2.2 million, 70 percent are estimated to live in rural areas with limited access to health care, electricity, food and other resources.

According to Focus on Land in Africa, a research group that studies development in the continent, these economic and social imbalances are consequences of more than a century of German colonization and South African apartheid occupation.

Another lasting effect is the unequal access to land in Namibia for those who are not considered elite. Although the country has 820,000 square kilometers of land and a small population for its size, the region’s weather patterns and topography make for some uninhabitable parts, concentrating the population into certain areas.

In 1990, the white minority which made up less than 0.5 percent of the population owned almost all commercial land in Namibia. Shortly after becoming a sovereign state, the government of Namibia introduced comprehensive land reform to alleviate land access inequalities.

Decades later, unequal access to land in Namibia continues to be an issue, Brigadier General Paul Nathinge of the Namibian Defense Forces warns could be a security risk for the country.

“Namibia is experiencing a serious problem associated with land in terms of housing and resettlement,” Nathinge told New Era. “The majority of the population are for the expropriation of the white-owned farms, which are believed to have been forcefully acquired by the colonisers […].” Nathinge added the government has thus far been unable to resolve the housing crisis for the middle and lower class in urban regions.

Individuals and groups alike have called for the government to prioritize poverty and housing relief in legislation. Nathinge warns of the dangers of public uprisings, class conflicts and racial wars in the name of equality.

He says such extreme measures make Namibians more vulnerable to manmade disasters, both internal and external. A main concern for the country is foreign aggression from developed countries in the form of an economic and military takeover to take advantage of Namibia’s abundant natural resources and geographical features.

Current land reform in Namibia centers around the redistribution of farmland, land rights registration on communal land and land title provisions in urban areas. The Namibian government is working towards redistributing at least 15 million hectares of commercial farmland to previously disadvantaged Namibians by 2020.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

Property Rights Reduce PovertyGranting formal property rights to the world’s poor, especially in developing countries, may be the key to reducing global poverty. Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, believes property rights reduce poverty by empowering the disadvantaged with valuable assets which could add up to an estimated $9.3 trillion in currently “dead capital.”

Promoting property rights is particularly important throughout Africa where more than 90 percent of the land remains outside the legal system. People living in developing countries would benefit from stable, long-term property rights as they are more likely to invest time and energy into cultivating their land or exchange it with someone who would make better use of it.

Stable land ownership would also increase revenue for local governments through property taxes, but land taxes are currently non-existent in the developing world. With an increased demand for land and public investment in roads and other infrastructure, revenue from property taxes would help decentralize and empower previously impoverished residents in developing regions.

In Uganda, land constitutes 50-60 percent of asset endowment and is a valuable asset that may be the key to household wealth. As a primary vehicle for investing, cultivating and transferring between generations, secure property rights help to generate livelihoods centered on local investment. Lack of property rights disproportionately affects women in developing countries.

Traditionally, women are disadvantaged when it comes to land access, but they also have the most to gain from secure property rights. According to the OECD, increasing property rights has been shown to positively affect spending on girls’ education.

Studies also show that promoting equitable access to education could increase GDP growth by an estimated 0.2 percent each year in developing countries. If executed correctly, providing property rights would also increase the purchasing power of the world’s poor and stimulate economic growth in developing countries.

Slate magazine critiques de Soto’s theory that property rights reduce poverty by pointing out, “titling is more useful to the elite and middle-income groups who can afford to bother with financial leverage, risk, and the real estate market.” Increasing property rights in Turkey, Mexico, South Africa and Columbia have not created a healthy housing market and “wealthy land-grubbers” may be to blame.

De Soto believes that the wealthy, who don’t realize that it’s in their best interest to allow the productive power of the poor brought into the economy, are an obstacle to realizing the full impact that property rights can have on the world’s poor. For those who have doubts, property rights reduce poverty, which bolsters economic development when the poor can contribute to the economy.

Rampant socioeconomic inequality weakens economies by increasing the burden on taxpayers to cover the costs of poverty-related illnesses, which can cost billions per year, perpetuates a cycle of low academic achievement and negatively impacts the demand for a skilled labor force.

Securing property rights in the developing world is one step in the right direction toward reducing global poverty, but educating the public on why uplifting the world’s poor is beneficial for everyone is even more crucial.

Daniela Sarabia

Photo: Flickr

women's land rights

The nonprofit organization Landesa is taking an important step in the battle against global poverty. Its goal is to increase female land rights in rural areas.

Though women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in the poorest regions of the world, they are often denied rights to own, control or inherit land. The lack of land rights can cause difficulties for women living in poverty who are “dispossessed,” meaning unmarried, widowed, divorced or disabled. These women are often forced to rely on extended family members for shelter, food and other necessities.

In Odisha, India alone, an estimated 500,000 single and landless women live in rural areas. Without access to land, they have few methods to adequately support themselves or lift themselves out of poverty.

Programs that aim to alleviate poverty by distributing land often fall into the trap of ignoring the ways in which experiences of land ownership and poverty are gendered. Odisha launched a government program called Vasundhara in 2005. The program allocated plots of government land to landless, rural families. However, due to government policies that overlooked the needs of rural, dispossessed women, many women were ineligible for the program.

Landesa, with support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is working to rectify these oversights with a new woman-centric program that will help identify women in need through local health workers. They are working to create an inventory of single women in need of government land and social security entitlements. They are then served through Women Support Centers that help them apply for government services.

Over 5,000 dispossessed  women have been the beneficiaries of homestead land, and another 15,000 cases are currently being verified. The land rights project, though relatively new, is experiencing much success and is set to establish female land rights for thousands worldwide.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

Communal land rights
The Nature Conservancy, the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) and the Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (NTRI) have teamed up to find a solution for tackling communal land rights in Tanzania. They have come up with an initiative called the Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO).

The Nature Conservancy states that the “CCRO is a form of customary land tenure within a larger village holding. This is an effective tool for strengthening community land rights and securing communal lands.”

However, UCRT has updated the concept of land grants to a more secure communal forum where the land can be used by the community for several other purposes such as farming, grazing and foresting to name a few.

Historically, assigning land rights has been a topic of major concern throughout the world. According to the Nature Conservancy, 2.5 billion people “depend on land and natural resources that are held, used or managed collectively.”

This number includes 370 million indigenous peoples. These communities live on half the world’s surface but have recognized rights to only 10 percent of the land.

When the people who need this land lack any legal right to them, they are extremely susceptible to losing access to the very thing they need to survive.

Edward Loure, a program director at UCRT, has been working to give the people of northern Tanzania a voice in the communal community and to help reduce conflict. The main solution that has been put into place is the CCRO.

In its first year, the CCROs secured approximately 22,000 hectares of collective lands. By the end of 2015, the amount had reached 90,000 hectares with 200,000 more hectares hoped to be acquired by the end of 2017.

According to UCRT, “most traditional pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities are currently at great risk of loosing (sic) their land and resources due to progressive land encroachment and lack of representation in modern Tanzania.” UCRT works to empower these communities.

Land acquired by hunter-gatherers or pastoralists often seems to be unused because the group is moving with the seasons or with the grazing patterns of the herd. This makes them particularly vulnerable to losing their land.

CCRO not only promotes equality in these communities but it also protects the rights of vulnerable people “who share and depend on communal land and its resources.”

Another problem in Tanzania that the CCRO works on solving is wildlife migration as 60 percent of African wildlife drift throughout the year. To that end, the NTRI has partnered with the Community Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) to help set up the corridors where livestock is not allowed during migration seasons.

As a result, the villages who are CWMA compliant are in a good position to negotiate with tourists during the migration seasons.

Recently, Edward Loure won The Goldman Environmental Prize for 2016 for Africa. The prize honors grassroots heroes who “take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

The winners of the prize encourage sustainability, protect endangered ecosystems or species, combat destructive development and fight for environmental justice and policies.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

Women Landowners Relieve Poverty
As the number of women landowners grows, the overall condition of their communities improves drastically. This topic was recently covered at the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference 2016, the 17th annual conference, earlier this month.

The conference, “Scaling up Responsible Land Governance,” brought together many experts from many fields from around the globe to talk about land strategy.

A large portion of this year’s conference highlighted the work of researchers focusing on the empowerment of women in developing countries through land ownership. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of increasing women landowners is the link to fewer cases of domestic violence.

With greater access to land ownership for women, the need for young daughters to marry diminishes and households have more access to resources. According to Klaus Deininger, an economist for the World Bank and conference organizer, women with greater land rights typically have more personal wealth, leading to lower levels of domestic violence.

“If women have stronger bargaining power, they actually can resist,” Deininger says in an article by Reuters. “Their husbands will think twice before beating them.”

The conference tackled questions on how to enhance women’s awareness of their legal rights and how to ensure women’s rights in land interventions. The Landesa Rural Development Institute is an organization that seeks to provide solutions to these questions by securing greater access for potential women landowners in developing countries.

Laws and policies often dilute or deny women’s rights to land. Even when laws enshrine such rights, loopholes, low implementation and enforcement and sex-discriminatory practices often undercut these formal guarantees.

Landesa’s Center for Women’s Land Rights has programing in both India and Rwanda to combat those challenges. In partnership with West Bengal’s Department of Women and Child Development, the Security for Girls Through Land Project provides vocational training and skills to adolescent girls in order to improve their health and nutrition. The curriculum is based on land rights, asset creation and land-based livelihoods.

The project creates “girls groups” which are peer-facilitated meetings in which girls are given lessons to educate them about land rights and the positive benefits associated with control over land. Girls are taught to start “kitchen gardens” to grow produce for the family or to sell. As the girls begin to earn money, often for the first time, families begin to think of girls as an asset rather than a burden.

The project, beginning in 2010, has already reached 40,000 girls in over 1,000 villages in West Bengal. In addition to engaging with girls in local communities, the project reaches out to boys in local schools in an effort to change the mindset that young women are an economic burden.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that women make up half of the world’s agriculture workforce. As these women have greater access to land, the ripple effect, according to Landesa, includes better nutrition for families, improved family health, educational gains and reduced domestic violence.

Michael A. Clark

Sources: Landesa, Reuters, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Land Management
According to a recent World Bank report, economic growth in Uganda may continue to develop if the country institutes better land management strategies. “A more effective system of land governance, including for registering land, strengthening institutions for resolving disputes and urban planning, will boost productivity and transform livelihoods in Uganda,” the report states.

The World Bank released the sixth edition of the Uganda Economic Update, entitled “Searching for the Grail – Can Uganda’s Land Support its Prosperity Drive?” It points out that improving land management will help Uganda to achieve commercialization of agriculture and urbanization.

In Uganda, around 20 percent of the total land is registered, which is higher than the average level of 10 percent for sub-Saharan African countries. However, the current system of land tenure makes it difficult to transform land uses to spur higher levels of productivity.

For starters, unclear property rights lead to difficulty in transferring ownership as well as a large number of disputes and conflicts. Due to the unclear land rights, 37 percent of individually owned land cannot be sold; 34 percent cannot be rented and 44 percent cannot be used as security for a loan.

Another problem is that current land policies and systems are too weak to efficiently implement urban planning and reduce the cost of infrastructure development in the country. The report states that compared with most major cities worldwide, which derive revenue from land to finance their infrastructure development, Uganda hasn’t fully applied land value capture tools, such as development fees, land auctions and property taxation, into its system of land management.

According to the World Bank report, Uganda’s population is expected to increase from 35 million to over 70 million by 2040, and there will be about 388 more people increased on every square kilometer of arable land. Uganda’s rapidly expanding population is putting pressure on land usage, especially in urban areas.

“With the fast-growing urban population, Uganda needs to enforce the existing policies to promote better urban land management that will allow them to build livable cities.” Said Christina Malmberg Calvo, World Bank Country Manager. “For Uganda, key among these would include land value capture to finance urban infrastructure.”

The report states that the Ugandan government can promote more efficient land use to support the healthy transformation of the agricultural sector and a shift towards higher-value economic activities located in urban areas by taking the following four actions:

  • Strengthening institutions for land administration management
  • Accelerating the process of registration of land, including that owned communally, by religious and cultural institutions, and by government
  • Redesigning the Land Fund to enhance its efficiency and equity in supporting a resolution of overlapping rights
  • Reviewing and prioritizing policy commitments to identify and close critical gaps such as in restrictions on rental markets, disincentives such as taxation for speculative holding of land, urban land use, and expropriation and compensation to promote equity and fairness in land transactions

According to Calvo, the Ugandan government has begun the process of systematically registering land and improving land information management. By accelerating these activities and the overall reform programs, she says the country would raise the share of land that has secure rights and ease the process of transferring land. These measures to improve land management will contribute to spurring long-term economic growth and transformation in Uganda.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: Daily Monitor, World Bank
Photo: Flickr