The push for registration and titling of land, especially so that which is under customary tenure, is contributing to the problem – absentee landlords are beginning to emerge in areas in Uganda whose lands are traditionally under customary tenure, where the concept of absentee landlords was alien.
This is because the customary tenure systems of the first nations of Uganda – such as the Iteso – confer land ownership through access – use rights. As in if you are not on the land and you are not using it, you cannot have ownership of it. You have to be present on the land and using it, you cannot be absent.
Uganda is considered a country with a rapid population growth, it would make sense therefore for Uganda to look towards countries with high population densities, such as China, in order to learn about the land tenure systems of such countries – how are such densely populated countries ensuring access to land for food production in a manner that large sections of their populations are not driven off the land, but rather derive livelihoods from the land?
Despite the changes in food production strategy introduced after Mao, land in China continues to be collectively owned and is only distributed to households to use. (Johan Pottier (1999) in his book Anthropology of Food – The Social Dynamics of Food Security)
So, why is the Government of Uganda (GoU) seemingly looking to the countries and cultures of the global-west for wisdom on matters land tenure? Countries moreover with low population densities and in which the citizens were largely disenfranchised of their land centuries ago – countries of the European Union and the United Kingdom, for example.
The citizens of the global-west are largely disempowered of the decision to choose what they grow and how they grow the food that they eat. They are largely subjugated to the mercies of the big transnational food companies which determine what food to grow for them and how the food is grown.
Why is the GoU pushing for the disempowerment of a large section of its citizens? Sadly, some of the so-called civil society organisations (CSOs) are doing the same as well. Why? In some cases, moreover, the CSOs are in fact being used as the tool through which the big transnational food companies are gaining deeper penetration onto our land and onto our plates in Uganda. Why?
Converting active farming and empowered citizens into landless labourers, as was achieved in the global-west, is an irresponsible move and moreover such a move comes with extreme negative consequences.
One advocates for such processes to be stopped. One suggests that a good starting point would be to repeal the provision in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda that allows for conversion of land held under customary tenure to other kinds of tenure – especially those that allow for land to be traded as an ordinary commodity.