There is an immense pressure on land in Uganda. The country has a rapidly growing population and is host to the world’s third largest refugee population. Particularly poor people struggle to get access to healthy food. Agriculture practices need to become more efficient and focused on the domestic market. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Uganda works to improve food security in selected areas in the country. Among several food security projects, the EKN works with the LAND-at-scale program to improve land governance. But how does LAND-at-scale contribute to the strategy of improving food security?
Land governance is strongly linked to food security. Yet, food security interventions generally focus on land use practices, and don’t always address land governance. Improvements on land use have a direct effect on food production. The effects of improvements in land governance take more time to become clear. The link between land and food is strong, but indirect. For example, Uganda grants small plots to refugees to produce their own food. But the more refugee population grows, the smaller these plots become. This fragmentation into smaller plots, makes land use less efficient.
At the same time, because the national cadaster is outdated, it is not clear who owns the land. Over 80% of land in Uganda is still governed through customary systems. This means that the government does not have the complete picture of who owns or uses which plot of land. When previous owners return to the land granted to refugees, for example, a conflict emerges over who has the right to use the land. Across rural areas, it is estimated that almost 1 in 4 farms is in some sort of dispute over land. Land conflicts also hamper food production.
By addressing these issues, LAND-at-scale plays an important part in the EKN’s strategy to improve food security. The LAND-at-scale project will formalize land rights, so it becomes clear who has the right to use the land. By using new technologies and involving local communities, this process is efficient and can be done at great scale and speed. Because formalizing land rights does not automatically lead to improved land use, these activities take place in the same areas as other food security projects by the EKN. The farmers in these selected areas will have more secure land rights because of LAND-at-scale and will benefit from other EKN projects.
The LAND-at-scale project will also focus on climate-smart land use planning. Natural disasters resulting from climate change have caused major crop losses in the affected areas. By planning land use more efficiently, the land can become more resilient to such natural disasters. If new natural disasters hit, it will not have such a disastrous effect on food production. Land use planning is also an important instrument for urbanization. As more people move to the cities, these urban areas need to be expanded. Such expansions require careful planning, so the cities can grow in a sustainable way and the inhabitants of the cities have access to sufficient healthy food.
Weak land governance is one of several root causes of food insecurity. Through collaboration with other projects, LAND-at-scale contributes to the overall strategy of the embassy to improve food security in the country. Read more about the LAND-at-scale programme here or sign up for the quarterly newsletter to stay updated.