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News & Events Achieving and sustaining tenure: experiences from Uganda
Achieving and sustaining tenure: experiences from Uganda
Achieving and sustaining tenure: experiences from Uganda
uganda wetlands
Simon Peter Mwesigye
uganda wetlands

The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) has a lot of experience across the world in implementing tenure security projects. Like no other, they understand the threat insecurity of tenure has on people’s livelihoods and food security and have made it their mission to secure tenure rights for all. LAND-at-scale is working with GLTN in Uganda to design a scalable approach towards improved tenure security and sustainable land use for men, women and youth on customary land. Learn more about their experiences and approach in this interview with Simon-Peter Mwesigye from the GLTN Secretariat.

  1. What are the challenges in Uganda when it comes to achieving tenure security?

“In Uganda, over 80 percent of the land is accessed through customary land tenure system and most of the communities and families who access land through this tenure do not have any formal documentation. Despite having in place a progressive and good land policy and legislation in place for many years, Uganda still struggles to address many land challenges mainly due to failure to implement the provisions in the existing policy and laws. For example, Uganda was one of the first African countries to recognize customary land tenure system in the law and provide legal instruments to improve tenure security on customary lands. In this regard, registration of customary land rights, incorporation of collective users into Communal Land Associations (CLAs) and issuance of Certificates of Customary Ownership was provided for in the 1998 Land Act. The communities are often unaware of what options exist in the law to secure their land rights and if they do - cannot afford the processes. Tools, processes and structures needed to register land, including customarily held land on a large scale, are at times unclear or even contradictory. Recent research suggests a strong demand for land registration among communities. Land disputes between neighbors and among family or clans are high in rural Uganda. It is estimated that more than 60% of all court cases are related to land disputes; and this is just the “tip of the iceberg”. Across rural Uganda, it is estimated that almost 1 in 4 farms is in some sort of dispute. Women, young people and other vulnerable groups such as PwDs are particularly affected by land-related challenges. Women are vulnerable because their land and natural resource rights are typically obtained through kinship relationships with men or through marriage. Socially prescribed gender roles, unequal power dynamics, discriminatory family practices, unequal access to institutions and land administration processes, traditional norms and local tenure relationships frequently deny women the chance to adequately access land.

Rapid urbanization, continued population growth, climate change and environmental degradation place ever more pressures on agriculture, natural resources and environmental systems. For many of the poor in Uganda, access is becoming more tenuous than ever as competition for land grows. Increasing commercialization of land has resulted in some cases to increasing land fragmentation and in other cases to land degradation. In many parts of Uganda, the poorest people often have weak or unprotected tenure rights. They, therefore, risk losing land and access to natural resources they depend on to more powerful neighbors, to private companies – domestic or foreign – and even to members of their own family."

2. What will your strategy be in the LAND-at-scale project to address these challenges?

“The LAND-at-scale Uganda project aims to contribute to the development of a structured and scalable approach towards improved tenure security and sustainable land use for men, women and youth on customary land, which is obtained using fit-for-purpose and participatory tools and approaches.

The project combines land use planning with improving tenure security. In this way, it enables local communities to take charge of their development vision in a more participatory, gender-sensitive, and tenure responsive way, using practical, local processes and fit-for-purpose approaches to strengthen their knowledge, capacity, and development through land and wetland use planning. The project goal will be achieved through the following strategies: 

  • Tools implementation: Conventional approaches and tools have been unfordable to majority of people and therefore slow to deliver tenure security at required scale. Hence, the need for new and pragmatic tools and approaches. The project customizes and implements  fit-for-purpose, gender responsive and pro-poor land tools and approaches.
  • Capacity building and multi-stakeholder engagementcapacity development for the land administration institutions at local level, traditional and community leaders to implement the processes of securing customary land rights and participatory land use planning. Existing multi-stakeholder platforms engaging on land issues are being supported.
  • Scaling up: prepare and implement systematic registration of customary land rights and land use planning in the four project regions namely Kyoga plains, Elgon, West-Nile and South Western Uganda.
  • Standardization, learning and Communicating: developing Standard Operational Procedures to be used for scaling up this approach in other regions and documenting and sharing lessons learned.”

3. How do you ensure the solutions proposed are sustainable?

“Building from the approaches tested and lessons learnt during the pilot project, the project interventions are anchored towards supporting implementation of existing land policy, national development plan and land law in this way the project is focused on addressing both local and national needs and priorities in Uganda. Ensuring ownership of the processes by all stakeholders in particular government, community and traditional authorities is key for the sustainability.

Secondly, the project also utilizes and builds capacity of existing local government and other community based structures such as traditional and faith based institutions to implement and continue the activities after the project. Furthermore, the youth volunteers (data collection clerks/para-surveyors) are selected from the communities -their participation in the project not only builds their capacity to participate in land governance processes but also ensures they continue to support community based land registration and land use planning beyond the project.

In addition, the project is advocating for strengthening of capacity at sub-county level to support land registration, maintaining  and updating of land records as well as integrating the customary land rights register with National Land Information System.

Furthermore, the project will develop a self-financing (cost-recovery) model which will enable sustainable financing of land services at sub-county level and scaling- up of customary land registration to cover the entire country.”


  1. GLTN has a lot of experience on mapping initiatives in Uganda and other countries for many years. What are lessons learned with regards to sustainability of those experiences that you are incorporating in your strategy for the LAS project?

“It is not enough to have good policies and laws. It is equally important to build capacity of land institutions (both formal and traditional) at all levels to implement the existing legal and policy provisions. Through LAS Uganda project, GLTN is working in 4 regions with local governments, traditional authorities and community leaders at all levels to build their capacity to support land registration and land use planning processes on customary lands.

Land issues are complex and therefore strong partnerships are needed to find sustainable solutions and should involve various stakeholders including government, Civil Society organizations, traditional authorities and; research and academia. The LAS Uganda project brings together CSOs, national and local governments, traditional authorities and academia to work together to support community based land registration and land use planning on customary lands in Uganda.

Use of ‘Fit-for-Purpose’, gender responsive and other GLTN land tools are effective and can get the job done. The tools provide low-cost and effective approach to secure land rights. Contrary to conventional systems, the pilot project demonstrated that this is an accessible (affordable) approach to secure land rights on customary land tenure in Uganda.

There is need for intensive and continuous awareness raising and sensitization of the local communities. One-off meetings are simply not enough. It takes time to create change for example changing social and cultural normal to be gender responsive. Therefore, investment in improving land governance systems should not be short term but rather allow adequate time for intended change to happen. If rushed, there is always risk that unintended harm rather than positive effects will occur, for example it could lead to leaving women and vulnerable groups’ rights worse off. 

There is need for robust dispute resolution mechanisms; Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms provide much faster, nearer and cheaper justice for the poor and marginalized members of the community. Land tenure security interventions should develop and adopt flexible and robust ADR mechanisms to support in resolving of the land conflicts which arise during land adjudication and mapping of land rights.”


Mr. Simon-Peter Mwesigye, from the Global Land Tool Network, introduces the LAND-at-scale project in Uganda while at the LANDac conference in Utrecht, last June:




This project in Uganda is part of the LAND-at-scale program. LAND-at-scale is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and managed by the Netherlands Enterprise and Development Agency (RVO). Read more about LAND-at-scale here or sign up for our quarterly newsletter.