Week two has brought in even more adventures than week one. For my second week of work I was asked to travel out of Kampala to attend a land rights conference in Jinja, which is a city located an hour outside of Kampala and is famous for being the source of the Nile.
Kiren and I traveled to Jinja early so that we could spend the weekend exploring the river before going to the conference. We decided to go “lazy” camping at a river camp on the Nile, which came with comfortable platform tents and provided us with equipment for water sports such as kayaking. I had a few new experiences at the camp including having monkeys jump on my tent at night and going bungee jumping or the first time so the trip was a major success.
Starting on Monday I attended a workshop on national land rights concerns which was also attended by several civil society organizations, development programs, land rights leaders from Cameroon and Malawi, and members of the Ugandan government including the national Minister of Land, Housing, and Urban Development. Kiren and I were asked to be the conference rapporteurs which meant that we had to keep detailed notes on the entirety of the conference in order to compile a report at the end which will be sent out through the organizers to anyone interested in the conference. We were also asked to prepare and present daily recaps of the conference to the participants in the mornings.
At this workshop, the diverse interest groups discussed and planned a national engagement strategy to handle land rights disputes in Uganda. At the workshop I learned that because around 90% of land in Uganda is unregistered and held in customary tenure many disputes have arisen as the country has expanded development and the extraction of natural resources. The conflicts manifest as boarder disputes, land grabbing, and especially the theft of land from widows and children. Civil society organizations and development projects, such as the organization I am working for USAID SAFE, have been working to spread awareness of land rights across Uganda and provide access to justice to anyone who has had their land unlawfully seized. Now these organizations are attempting to band together to create a unified and cohesive platform for disseminating their messages.
We spent two days at the conference discussing and debating different ways to address land issues in Uganda. It was interesting to hear the different sectors’ actors discuss their points of view on these issues. There are clearly different interests in land emanating from different sectors of society whether they are private sector, civil society, development partners, or the government but at the end of the conference it seemed like most of the participants were on the same page regarding the goals of the national engagement strategy. By the end of the workshop all participants agreed to protect the people’s interest in their land from the ground up through the implementation of regional land boards that can address region specific issues and report to a national land board which is supported by the government.
This conference was a great way to jump into land rights in Uganda. I am excited and optimistic about the strategies that were discussed at the workshop and I hope that I am able to see the changes we discussed be implemented in Uganda.