MBALE – Lands minister Judith Nabakooba has appealed to the locals in Mbale District to safeguard their land from the would-be grabbers who are always looking for an opportunity to cease.
Nabakooba made the remarks while presiding over the first ever handover of customary land titles to the customary land owners in Bungokho and Bukasakya sub counties, Mbaale District by International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), together with UN Habitat/ Global Tools Network Unit (GLTN).
At the event, Customary Land Owners from 828 families from the two sub counties received their land titles (508 in Bungokho and 320 in Bukasakya)
The Constitution and the Land Act provide a legal basis for the Government at Sub County and Division levels to register customary land and issue land certificates to customary land owners in the country.
Customary land accounts for an estimated 80% of Uganda’s land but most of it is unrecorded.
While handing over the certificates to the beneficiaries, Nabakooba thanked the implementing partners, IIRR and UN Habitat/ Global Tools Network Unit (GLTN) for having supported Mbale district to achieve the milestone of customary land owners registering their land by building the capacities of the Sub counties, with the guidance of the Ministry.
“Those of you who have received your certificates today, I urge you to keep your Certificates well and to jealously guard them. You are now recognised by the government, the courts of law, the sub county and the district but guard your certificates jealously. Make sure that you protect them, don’t simply expose them and don’t use them for anything, this is your land, and your life,” she said.
Nabakooba shared that in the different places she has been to, much of the cases have been about unclear boundaries but with this project, boundaries are now clearly demarcated and everyone knows his or her boundaries.
“Even if they are removed, we can go back in the system and have them reinstated because the GPS coordinates of the land are captured using demarcation technologies. This is the best way to secure your customary land from speculators and fraudulent land dealers.”
The Minister further asked the beneficiaries to make good use of the land by putting it to good use through the Parish Development Model and what Operation Wealth Creation is offering in a bid to contribute to land profitability and enhance food security.
“Don’t sell or leave your land exposed to grabbers because at times we take long to clear our land and any land grabber who passes around thinks it is free land and for those whose land is not surveyed yet, the IIRR director has assured me that the program is continuing.”
Ms Pamela Nyamutoka Katooro, the IIR Country director shared that the main objective for the project is to see how small holder farmers can have their land secured.
She explained that most of the land in Uganda is under customary ownership but few people have documentation to secure this land.
“We support land tenure security specifically in rural areas. Our focus is in supporting customary land owners to get security of tenure through documentation of their customary rights. There are a number of wrangles that have arisen due to the lack of the documentation,” she said.
Ms Nyamutoka further explained that they work with the structures on ground like the area land committees and district land boards to provide these certificates of customary ownership.
She shared that they built capacity around land rights and sensitisation through the various land trainings they hold at the community level, via radio and all sorts of forums to ensure people understand their land rights.
“We wanted to make this process very gender inclusive and we encouraged several women to also become land owners. Since this project started four years ago, we have been able to have over 4000 beneficiaries getting their land titles. We are thankful for the support from the Ministry of lands,” she said.
Ms Elizabeth Wakoli, one of the beneficiaries in Bungokho shared that she was at first hesitant to take part in the program citing land grabbing fears.
“I am now very happy after getting my land title because as a widow, someone may want to grab my land. I feel relieved that I now have the right documentation for my land.”
Mr Christmas Eric Munialo, the IIRR project coordinator thanked the sub county authorities for working with him and IIRR to ensure the exercise is successful.
“The few challenges, at the beginning, some people thought it was a hoax and that we wanted to steal their land but through the sub county authorities, beneficiaries were able to open up.”