Land the Backbone of Development

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By Jude SSebuliba

It gives me great pleasure to share with you the 1st issue of land matters magazine. On behalf of Food Rights Alliance, I hope his magazine finds you well and secure. This issue covers a reflection of what is happening in the lands sector gathered during the two months i.e. April to June, 2019 FRA has been implementing a DGF funded project entitled “Promoting inclusive and equitable land governance in Uganda that fosters optimum land use and upholds people’s land rights” in the districts of Nakasongola, Mubende, Soroti and Kalangala, the stories further refer to what is happening in the land sector at a National level.

Land is the backbone of any economic and social development, for all development takes place on land. The eradication of hunger and poverty, and the sustainable use of the environment, depend on how people, communities and others gain access to land and land based resources. The livelihood of many, particularly the rural poor, are based on secure and equitable access to and control over land and its resources. They are the source of food and shelter; the basis for social, cultural and religious practices; and a central factor in economic growth. Land is of crucial importance to the economies and societies of all regions, contributing a major share of GDP and employment in most countries, and constituting the main livelihood basis for a large proportion of the population.

Sound land governance is fundamental in achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction. To many countries, agriculture is the backbone of the majority of economies accounting for 25%-35% of GDP and providing the main source of livelihood for over 70% of the population in many countries. Thus, there’s a need to recognise the centrality of land in the lives of all people and manage it in a manner that can foster its continued provision to all sectors of society and not in a manner that jeopardises the future usage of land.

Studies by a wide range of sources such as; the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), OECD, Civil society organisations, and the academic institutions show that strengthening land and property rights goes hand in hand with the realization of development objectives related to poverty alleviation, food security, environmental sustainability and advancing women’s empowerment worldwide.

On the other hand, insecure rights to land and natural resources have far-reaching ramifications. A lack of land rights creates insecurity for poor rural and urban landholders that dampens investment, destroys livelihoods, ferments conflict, creates unequal economic systems, locks assets in an unusable and untradeable form; discourages conservation, hampers sustainable domestic resource mobilization for increasing the availability of public services, and undermines principles of effective and democratic governance.

Clear and secure land tenure can improve livelihoods and sustainable management of natural resources, and promote sustainable development and responsible investment that eradicates poverty and food insecurity. Land tenure security guarantees the existence of land rights, ensures protection of rights through legal remedies when those rights are challenged or abused, provides landowners with the confidence that they will not be arbitrarily deprived of their rights over particular lands and resources, and creates land markets that unlock its potential as an asset and encourages efficient allocation and transactions.

Despite these transformative benefits, the Ugandan government like many developing countries has for years shied away from emphasizing land rights in their development strategies and in many ways showed that land and property rights are not at the forefront of development strategies.

Efforts to achieve sustainable development for all must consider secure and equitable rights to land and natural resources as a priority. Land should be refocused in the broader policy framework instead of taking it in isolation of agriculture and other development sectors as it is the major determinant with a high multiplier effect over the attainment of development in other sectors.