Effect of grabbing agricultural land

Saturday January 5 2019

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali  

By Michael J. Ssali

Land ownership and conditions governing land occupation determine how much a farmer can invest in agricultural activities.
Long term investments such as water pipes for irrigation or water dams and cash crops like coffee require ownership assurance to remove the fear of sudden eviction.
Strong land tenure terms motivate the farmer to take good care of the land, like protecting it from soil erosion and depletion. The farmer may even use the land as security for getting bank loans.
However most of our farmers on whom our economy depends so heavily work on land that is not really theirs.
They occupy land for which they have no legal ownership documents such as title deeds. Most of them are squatters, hardly familiar with the land tenure systems as laid out in the recently passed Land Act CAP 227.
The media is awash with reports of families being evicted from land on which they claim to have lived for generations as rightful occupants.
They are evicted by rich people, often with the help of security forces welding documents from courts of law. Government agencies such as NEMA, UWA, and UNLA also evict peasant farmers. It is often hard to tell which side is right or wrong.
As His Lordship Wilberforce Kityo Luwarila correctly pointed out in his last Christmas sermon, land grabbing is not only done by the rich claiming to be rightful owners, it is also done by peasant farmers who occupy land without establishing its ownership.
This is the time for everyone to check their land tenure situation as we prepare to become a middle income country.
Historically commercial farming has largely been anchored on ruthlessness and crime. One French novelist, Balzac, said, “Behind every large fortune there is a crime.”
People crossed oceans and grabbed large chunks of land from the natives of their host continents, committed massacres, and used slave labour to enrich themselves.
Today commercial farmers use heavy machines like tractors and combine harvesters on large pieces of land. It is the new trend. Smallholder farmers using hand hoes must therefore be on the lookout. They are on the losing side.