This week at work I took part in an interesting workshop on how large scale land acquisitions negatively impact women in Uganda. The workshop was hosted by the Center for Basic Research in Kampala to share their findings on an inter-African study they have been creating on these land acquisitions. We heard from many speakers who explained how recent development projects which have required the acquisition of large areas of land in Uganda have displaced thousands of people and potentially impacted thousands more.
These large scale acquisitions are problematic for human rights because most land ownership in Uganda is unregistered meaning that most citizens do not have documentation of their land rights or have the resources to defend their rights when they are challenged. This has lead to displacement when their land is purchased by investors who either intentionally or unintentionally take the land from the people who have been occupying that land for generations.
I heard one particularly moving story about a large scale land acquisition in Mubende, Uganda where a German coffee company bought land for a plantation and evicted over 2,000 people leaving them displaced and uncompensated for their land.
Displacement especially impacts women who are traditionally the ones who cultivate the land and grow and cook food for their families. With their land taken away, many of these women cannot support themselves or their children and their families are sometimes broken up or left destitute.
As sad as some of the stories were, it was uplifting to be surrounded by so many Ugandans from different backgrounds, including government, academia, law, students, and NGO actors, who are passionate and forwarding thinking about finding justice and solutions to the problems facing their country.
Learning about the Center for Basic Research itself was also an inspiration. They have produced many impactful studies and offer a library and research center that is open to the public to encourage further knowledge and innovation. I also found out that this center will be taking over SAFE’s conflict monitoring system when SAFE’s USAID grant ends next year. It’s great to know that the project will continue to operate and be sustainable after the grant term ends.
It is such a blessing to be able to learn about land rights and post conflict dispute resolution in the field in Uganda. I love that I am getting to experience Uganda’s passion for justice and the creation of solutions alongside Ugandan citizens who are dedicated to peace building and I hope that I can carry this passion forward in my own life and career when I leave Uganda.