• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
25 Mar 2023

Unending land disputes are impacting agriculture production and holding many Ugandans into poverty. According to Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) Executive Director Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, land tenure security impacts agriculture and areas where there are serious land issues like Kabale have seen their poverty [levels] go up.

Dr. Ssewanyana was speaking at the February 2023 launch of the poverty status report 2021 by Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report covered Uganda’s poverty dynamics over the last five years between 2016/17 and 2019/020 with a focus on jobs, informality, and poverty in Uganda. It looked at the performance before and during COVID-19 and how this has influence household welfare.

The poverty status report showed that while poverty reduced from 21.4% in 2016/17 to 18.7% in 2019, these gains were reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty increased to 20.3% in 2020. The report findings were presented by Mr. Joseph Enyimu, the Acting Commissioner, Directorate of Economic Planning and Development Research at MOFPED.

Insecure land rights mean people will not invest in perennial money-generating crops due to fear of evictions. It also means land cannot be used as collateral to secure financing from banks to invest in business or production. Just about 20% of land in Uganda is formally registered, leaving many in the preying eyes of fraudsters.

EPRC and the African Economic Research Consortium study showed strong land rights significantly increase the likelihood of planting perennial commercial crops, and increase the hectares allocated to commercial crops. Where rights to land are weak (i.e., no land titling and no transfer rights), farmers tend to grow annual crops.

She said: “If we talk about land, agriculture, and poverty, and you look at Uganda, our increase in agricultural production is coming from the expansion of land tilled and not high-yielding technology or better methods of production as such. Yet land size is not increasing.”

See poverty status report here.

Dr. Ssewanyana added that with land tenure, “you can’t leave out the issue of gender.  It is very critical because women still have issues in terms of accessing land, and women may not participate in cash crop commodities because of the underlying land issues.”

“The northern region remains the epicenter of poverty in this country – establishing this will help in shaping our interventions and financing,” said Elsie G. Attafuah, the UNDP Resident Representative for Uganda. Eastern Uganda saw poverty reductions although it still lags behind central and western regions.

UN resident coordinator Ms. Namondo sign on the report. Photos/ courtesy

Ms. Susan Ngongi Namondo, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, said “the rate of poverty reduction in Uganda had slowed before COVID-19. This is something that we really need to interrogate because the pace of poverty reduction is important.”

“We’ll agree here that with the current resources, we could have better development results. One of the ideas I want to [put forward] is that perhaps we should focus tightening gaps on institutional coordination among the various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs),” Ms. Namondo said. She also noted that effective management of public resources is key – better management of these resources would encourage more inflows of development resources and investment.

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