Youth empowerment in land governance

Emmanuel Akandwanaho

What you need to know:

As much as youth don’t have direct access to land ownership, they can be a valuable resource when empowered

The  theme for  this year’s International Youth Day, which was commemorated  yesterday, is “Intergenerational Solidarity- Creating a World of All Ages.”

The basic definition of intergenerational solidarity is the social cohesion between generations, which is articulated as shared expectations and obligations about people’s aging and the succession of generations.

The day highlights discussions on how young people contribute to economic growth, development of public policy, and meaningful employment without leaving anyone behind.

 The alignment of the day’s theme with the main, transformative goal of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is, therefore, no accident.

Celebrating International Youth Day comes with a necessity to quickly assess how youth are affected by issues of land governance. Why? Everything rises and falls on land, including us; we are not an exception to this rule.

 In order to accomplish sustainable development and, more importantly,  foster intergenerational solidarity, the land becomes a social, cultural, and environmental asset. 

On the other hand, land is also a scarce and costly resource that many young people are expected to obtain through adults or save for until they are adults. For developing countries like Uganda, a lack of knowledge of tenure and land rights has a caused a major hindrance in obtaining land for young people.

 Yet, the management of the environment, social stability, economic growth, and support for post-disaster or post-conflict reconstruction all depend on the security of land tenure.

Majority young people reside in cities and towns, which account for over 90 percent of global urban growth and have a disproportionately high youth population.

The “youth bulge” in urban populations is both a problem and an unrealised opportunity for advancing the cause of secure tenure and land rights. The world’s youth population has reached its all-time high of more than 1.2 billion at present.

Uganda ranks number one with the world’s youngest population at 77 percent below the age of 30 years and an average population growth rate of 2.7 percent.

However, the majority of landowners, policymakers, and decision-makers are not of this age bracket. The common ways through which most youth access land is through inheritance and customary ownership.

As much as youth don’t have direct access to land ownership, they can be a valuable resource to the country when empowered.

 Youth empowerment entails providing them with skills and knowledge that allows them to take charge of challenges they encounter in their lives or environment.

 Capacitating the youth with knowledge about land governance provides both social and economic benefits. Action research conducted by Global Land Tool Network Team tasked youth researchers to conduct research and produce country reports on land and natural resource tenure.

Chigbu Eugene concluded that engaging the youth in research is vital for building an African-centered knowledge of land governance, enhancing locally-driven research, and improving Africa’s research capacity in scientific knowledge on land. It also empowers them with land/natural resource knowledge of Africa.

A Trocaire (2017) report on Youth Land Rights in Northern Uganda recommends the need to create awareness among the youth on various provisions in the land laws and policies pertaining to land ownership, use, and access.  There is also a need to review the existing land laws to ensure that they provide clarity on the role of youth in decision-making, especially in areas regarding land access, control, and utilisation.

African youth can play a crucial role as agents “for knowledge creation and sharing in land management education and research”.

Emmanuel Akandwanaho, a Local Pathways Fellow & Valuer


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