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About Uganda Land Observatory - ULO

Brief Background

Uganda recently witnessed augmented large scale land acquisition. There is growing documentation of a number of cases where a foreign investor is able to acquire an area of over a thousand acres. These land transactions are commonly referred to as land grabs. And while they may contribute to investment and development in Uganda, The also pose considerable risk to those who derive their livelihoods from the land. Since economic liberalization, the Uganda government has pursued a path of investment promotion to boost economic development and to create employment opportunities.

Currently, there are two primary mechanisms through which investors can acquire land for agricultural investment in Uganda: through direct negotiation with private land owners (possibly with government facilitation) or through the acquisition of government land held by various agencies, including the District Land Boards, the Uganda Land Commission, or the Uganda Investment Authority (Stickler 2012).

Investors can lease land held by various government agencies, including the District Land Boards, which are authorized to hold land on behalf of local governments, and the Uganda Land Commission (ULC), which, according to Section 49(a) of the Land Act, is authorized to “hold and manage any land in Uganda which is vested in or acquired by the government in accordance with the Constitution.” As will be discussed below, a limited number of investors have also acquired lands directly held by the Uganda Investment Authority.

There are also important on-going debates about the authority of the government to compulsorily acquire private land for the purpose of allocating it to investors. The Constitution (Section 26(2)(a)), the Land Act of 1998 and the Land Acquisition Act Cap. 226 of 1965 prohibit the government from using compulsory acquisition to promote investment. Currently, Government can purchase or lease privately held land for the purpose of allocating it to an investor. There are no specific criteria or procedures for identifying government land that would be suitable for a given investment.

Overall Objective

The goal of the Uganda Land Observatory is to strengthen land governance and improve transparency in land transactions to promote greater consistency with the Africa Framework and Guidelines on Land Policies in Africa and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGs).

Specific Objectives

To develop and maintain a user-friendly knowledge management platform for improved and inclusive decision-making on land at national and international levels.

To establish an evidence base for informed decision-making on land and land-based activities for the participation of all stakeholders in knowledge sharing and learning on large scale land deals and land investment in Uganda

To provide a platform that influences advocacy on emerging issues that require, legal and policy reform and action.