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Gender and Land Rights Database

Uganda

In 2005, the country’s estimated population was 28.947 million, of which 50 percent were female. The same year, the average country population density was 120 people per square kilometre (1). The rural population in 2005 was 25.2 million people and more than 85 percent of the population living in rural areas was involved in subsistence agriculture (2). In 2000−2005, the life expectancy at birth was estimated at 48.2 years for women and 47.3 years for men (1).

In 2005, the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was USD 8.7 billion, while the per capita GDP was USD 303 (1). The agricultural sector dominates the country’s economy and the income of its people. Farming accounts for 43 percent of GDP, 85 percent of export earnings and 80 percent of employment. With the exception of small amounts of sugar and tea grown on large estates, nearly all agricultural production comes from the country’s estimated 2.5 million smallholder families (2). Since the 1990s, after a prolonged period of intermittent civil conflict between 1970 and 1986, the Government has pursued a policy of structural adjustment to restore and promote sustained growth. The economy has grown at an annual average rate of 7.1 percent in the past decade (4).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.505, the country ranks 154th out of the 177 countries measured (6). In spite of the economic growth, 55 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line (4). Between 2001−2003, 4.6 million people were undernourished, accounting for 19 percent of the total population (5). Poverty is particularly widespread in rural areas, although urban areas also have pockets of high levels of poverty (4). More than two-thirds of those living in poverty are small-scale farmers. Although efforts have been made to reduce rural poverty, in the past decade poverty has declined by 43 percent in urban areas but only by 18 percent in rural areas (2). Higher poverty levels exist in the north, where 66 percent of the population lives, and in the northeast, where 37 percent of the population lives. These are regions with predominantly pastoral and agro-pastoral lands. Here, many smallholders tend their fields, relying on farming systems that are highly seasonal and not sufficiently productive (2). The literacy rate is 44 percent for women and 75 percent for men (3).

There is a traditional gendered division of labour in the household, with women being responsible for cooking, cleaning and taking care of children and other members of the household. In productive work, women and men have assigned traditional roles, particularly in agricultural production and marketing; men are considered responsible for doing the majority of land clearing and women are responsible for weeding and post-harvest processing. Women also are often responsible for providing food for the household while men are responsible for providing other consumption goods.

Some crops, particularly plantains and tubers, are considered women’s crops, while others – mostly cash crops – are considered men’s crops. However, the extent to which traditional gender divisions of labour are adhered to varies by region, socioeconomic status and rural/urban and household categories. For example, in households headed by women and in some polygamous households, women perform tasks normally done by men (4). Women are among the worst affected by poverty because they have scarce access to resources and little or no control over the food they produce. Nationwide, 72 percent of all employed women and 90 percent of all rural women work in agriculture. Women are responsible for the production of about 80 percent of food crops and more than 50 per cent of cash crops (4).

Cultural practices related to land dictate that women can access land through their male relatives, such as a father, husband or brother, but in most communities they cannot own land. They can plough the land to produce food crops, but they may not plant perennial crops, sell the land or use it as collateral without permission from men. They may be displaced from their land or allocated small fragmented plots or marginal lands. Men are also primarily responsible for marketing agricultural products, even those primarily grown by women. Although legal constraints to women’s land ownership were eliminated in the new Constitution, women are not always aware of their rights and cultural practices inhibit their access to land (4).

According to government data, 97 percent of women have access to land; however, in practice, only 8 percent of women own land and 7 percent have property rights. (7) Between 1991−1997, 29 percent of the total female population headed households (8). As a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, many female-headed households are being created following the death of the husband. The country’s HIV/AIDS infection rate is 4 percent and for women it is 3 percent. Between 1998 and 2003, female-headed households reduced their landholdings by 11 percent, or 0.3 acres on average, because of the increasing number of distress sales following the death of a husband (3).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography