Do the dead deserve land?

Saturday April 17 2021

Author, Micheal J Ssali. PHOTO/FILE.

By Michael J Ssali

Land is described as a factor of production and it is viewed in terms of agriculture, natural resources, or construction of roads, factories, and buildings. Some land surfaces are preserved as natural forests or wetlands. Farmers need land for agricultural production.

Unfortunately mainly due to population explosion thousands of farming households occupy parcels of land that are too small to produce even the amount of food they need to feed themselves. The land parcels are getting smaller since many of our ethnic inheritance systems dictate that the children share equally their dead parent’s property. 

The soil gets exhausted due to repeated planting of the same crops year after year which results in less agricultural production.
And now a new challenge has set in! The new normal today in many communities is to bury the dead in concrete graves often complete with terrazzo or tiles. The graves are constructed to last for hundreds of years regardless of the fact that those buried inside them lived on earth for a much shorter time. Some people even construct permanent small houses or shades over the graves to protect them from rain and sunshine.  Thousands of square metres of land are thus lost to the dead every day.

This world is very old and it is likely to continue to exist for thousands of years to come. If all the people who have ever trodden this earth were buried in concrete graves as we are doing today how much space would be left for us to do agriculture? How much space would be left for us to construct roads, buildings, and factories? We seem to forget that we are growing our maize and potatoes on top of the graves of other people who died long ago and are peacefully lying some five or six feet under the ground. 

“For dust you are, and unto dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19. Some perhaps wiser communities burn their dead and throw the ashes into rivers. Dead people are gone forever. You can never open their concrete graves for a chat with them. It is even forbidden to disturb their peace.