Women land rights and food security

A woman helps an old woman drink water in Atedeoi Village, Lotisan Sub-county, Moroto District. PHOTOS/SIMON PETER EMWAMU

What you need to know:

  • The compromise could be about enhancing ‘user rights’ which unfortunately would appear to be near impossible.

Dablin Mpuuga in his piece titled “Women land rights are key for Uganda’s food security”  of Tuesday, August 2, 2022 in the Monitor argues: “It is therefore very critical to ensure that women who are the biggest contributors to household food security, have secure land ownership rights beyond mere user rights.

“This can be done by implementing a couple of actions among other endeavours: Firstly, special focus should be put on traditional land rights and the interpretation of customary land tenure for women. For instance, women and girls should equally inherit and own land as it is the case with men and boys. Secondary.......................”

Using Buganda as an example, the child belongs to the father, that is to say a child belongs to the father’s clan regardless of the father’s contribution to the parenting and upbringing of the child.

Anyone who manages to transform that paternal tradition into either gender neutral or a maternal one stands to champion Mr Mpuuga’s argument.

I will tell you a true story: My mother was an only child and her father bequeathed his entire estate to his only child through a written will. You would have expected that to be a closed matter. Not a bit of it.

My mother then willed her estate to her children. We followed the law and acquired the Administrator General’s letters of administration with regard to our mother’s estate.
The challenge from our maternal relatives was simple: in Ganda society, the estate that our mother bequeathed to us belonged to our mother’s clan. Thus a mother’s gift to her children extended only to ‘user rights’ not ‘ownership rights’.

We could have challenged their interpretation of law to court and won but then what? We would have started a perpetual clan fight which does not serve the communal spirit of our ancestors while, unwittingly, championing the foreign liberal individualism, which is eternally opposed to our traditional values. The choice was simple in our case and we have maintained a good relationship with our maternal relatives and long may it prosper.

Mr Mpuuga’s argument, reasonable as it may be, is unlikely to ever take root in a paternalistic society. Thus the compromise could be about enhancing ‘user rights’ which unfortunately would appear to be near impossible.

But the NRM government created another route; that is if one has been a user occupier for 12 years or more, government can issue you with certificate of ownership and should the landlord choose to remove you, he can only do so by paying the market value of the land plus the investment you have made in the land.  We are not doing that either despite that we would qualify since our mother died in 2005. May mother rest in eternal peace.

Kyeswa Ssebweze, [email protected]


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