Gender and Land Rights Database


Land Legislation

  • In 1988, a Land Committee was established under the Ministry of Agriculture to look into possible reform of the 1975 Land Reform Decree. Research on land reform started in 1989, and was carried out by the Makerere Institute of Social Research of the University of Kampala, together with the Land Tenure Centre of the University of Wisconsin. The 1995 Constitution set a policy framework with a strong orientation towards the democratization of property relations (11).
  • The Land Act No. 16 of 1998, amended in 2004 and 2010:
    - Reformed the 1975 Land Reform Decree. The main objectives of the Act are:

    a) To provide security of tenure to all land users, mainly customary landholders, referred to as customary tenants on public land, and the lawful or bona fide occupants on registered land;

    b) to resolve the land use impasse between the registered owners − mailo, freehold and leasehold − and the lawful and bona fide occupants of this land. Prior to the passing of the new land law, substantial areas of potentially productive rural land remained idle or underutilized because of lack of incentives to invest on the part of either registered owners or tenants. Registered owners had difficulty evicting tenants in order to develop the land, while tenants lacked sufficient security. This has also inhibited land markets in urban areas where purchasers could not acquire secure property holdings;

    c) To recognize customary tenure as legal tenure equal to other tenures;

    d) To provide an institutional framework for the control and management of land under a decentralized system;

    e)To ensure proper planning and well-coordinated development of urban areas;

    f) To ensure sustainable land use and development throughout the country to conserve the environment;

    g) To redress historical imbalances and injustices in the ownership and control of land;

    h) To provide for Government and local government to acquire land compulsorily in the public interest and for the public use, public safety, public order, public morality or public health (12).

  • Customary ownership:
    - Article 237(4)(a) of the Constitution recognizes customary tenure as one of the forms of land holding in Uganda. The majority of Ugandans hold land under customary tenure.

    - Under the Land Act, these tenants can now acquire a certificate of customary ownership on the land they occupy and they can convert this certificate to a freehold title. This certificate can be transferred, mortgaged or otherwise pledged. Holders of a certificate of customary ownership can thus have access to credit. Financial institutions, bodies and authorities are obliged to recognize a certificate of customary ownership as a valid certificate for purposes of evidence of title (12).
  • Communal land ownership:
    - The Act recognizes the right of people to hold communal land. Any group of persons may form a Communal Land Association for any purpose connected with communal ownership and management of land, whether under customary law or otherwise. The Communal Land Association may also form a common land management scheme by which the members agree to manage the communal land and to set out their rights and duties.

    - Section 17 stipulates that one-third of the officers of such an Association need to be women.

    - If an individual or a family belonging to such Association wishes to own land in their own capacity, they may apply for a certificate of customary ownership or a freehold title. Any person, family, community or Association holding land under customary tenure on former public land may convert the customary tenure into freehold tenure (12).
  • Tenants by occupancy:
    - To protect the security of tenure of occupants of land, the Act provides for a subtenure of occupancy for three types of occupants on registered land: lawful occupants, bona fide or good faith occupants and unlawful occupants. Lawful and bona fide occupants are also called tenants by occupancy.
  • A tenant by occupancy on registered land:
    - shall enjoy security of occupancy on the land by paying an annual nominal ground rent of maximum 1 000 shillings per year irrespective of the area or location of the land;

    - may apply to the registered owner for and be issued with a certificate of occupancy, but lack of such a certificate does not take away his/her security of tenure;

    - may be inherited;

    - may assign, sublet, pledge, create third party rights in, subdivide and undertake any other lawful transaction in respect of the occupancy, but prior consent of the owner is required.

    - may also apply for a freehold, mailo, lease or sublease title to the registered owner.

    - A Land Fund will be established, among others, to help tenants by occupancy in acquiring titles.

    - Where a person has occupied any land under the same conditions as listed for lawful or bona fide occupants but for less than 12 years, s/he is obliged to negotiate with the registered owner concerning his/her occupation of that land. Compensation to the registered owner whose land has been occupied by persons resettled by the Government under the resettlement scheme is provided for in Section 30(3) (11).
  • The Land (Amendment) Act, 2010:
    - Article 32A: seeks to enhance the protection of lawful and bona fide occupants who shall not be evicted from registered land except upon an order of eviction issued by a court and only for non payment of the annual nominal ground rent
  • Women and other vulnerable groups:
    - Section 40 of Land Act (1998) requires that before any transaction can be carried out on land on which a family resides or from which it derives a sustenance, the spouse, dependent children of majority age and the Land Committee, in case of children under the age of majority, must provide written consent. The Land Committees have the duty of ensuring that the rights of vulnerable groups are protected.
    - Section 40 was amended in 2004 by broadening the definition of spousal land and preventing a spouse’s objection to its sale from lapsing.
    Spouses have the right to use, access and live on their husband’s land and they may withhold their consent to stop land transactions. Women are granted more control in household land decisions although the clause of co-ownership has not been included (16).
    - Upon enactment of the Land Act, implementation costs were estimated to be USD 400 million. The Implementation Study Report of September 1999 concluded that “the implementation of the Uganda Land Act of 1998 is beyond the current capacity of the government budget”. Lack of funds has greatly delayed or even blocked the establishment of the several thousand institutions proposed under the Act. Those Land Committees and District Land Boards that were established have lacked capacity, logistical support, funds and clear regulations to guide their operation. District Land Tribunals were finally established November 2001 (11).
  • The Land Sector Strategic Plan (LSSP) 2001–2011, final draft issued in November 2001:
    - Developed by a task force comprising the Ministry of Water, Land and Environment, the Ministry of Finance, the Law Reform Commission, the Uganda Land Alliance and the Makerere University, in consultation with national, district and subcounty stakeholders.

    - Follows an integrated approach to the land sector and is linked, among others, to the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, the Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture and the National Gender Policy. The main objective of the LSSP is “to create an enabling environment for the participation of all stakeholders in effective use and management of Uganda’s land resources” (11).

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