A delegation from ESAFF Uganda and Oxfam on Tuesday 29th January 2019 held a meeting with officials from Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) to popularize the tool titled “Enabling Voices, Demanding Rights, a guide to gender-sensitive community engagement in Large Scale Land Based Investment in Agriculture”. MLHUD officials present at this meeting included Mr. Richard Oput Director Land Management, Mr. Obbo Denis, Commissioner Communication, Ms. Latim Pamela, Physical Planner, Mr. Openye Henry, Communication Officer among others.
The delegation which was led by the National Chairperson of ESAFF Uganda Mr. Hakim Baliraine thanked the Ministry for the opportunity to meet the team and he informed them that the ESAFF Uganda and Oxfam are seeking buy-in by the Ministry of the LSLBI tool for its wider use by the communities and other stakeholders in the country. Mr. Opiyo Charles from Oxfam in Uganda informed the Ministry officials that the tool was developed from an inspiration to safeguard the interests of communities which have to date been undermined where LSLBI have been implemented, with a particular focus to women, their concerns, their voice, their vulnerabilities, their strategies and the support they require in order to secure their interests in relation to LSLBI. The meeting was also informed that Africa accounts for 422 concluded agricultural deals (42% of all deals and about 10 million hectares. It also has the highest number of intended deals (147 deals; 13.2 million hectares).
The prevalence and prominence of large-scale land acquisitions have rapidly increased throughout Uganda in the past years. Vast tracts of land are being bought by or given away as concessions to private investors, both local elites and foreign investors, more often than not, displacing and evicting local communities from their traditional lands without due regard to their rights nor safeguards to their wellbeing ie Uganda accounts for 34 concluded deals (79% of all deals covering 236,363ha) with 9% of intended deals. These deals are extremely detrimental to the livelihood of the local communities, especially the farmers whose main survival is drawn from the land. Therefore the need to use the tool nationally as it guarantees farming communities especially women’s right to land through meaningful engagement in the investment processes, which is a fundamental source of livelihood on which 80% of Ugandans derive sustenance.
Mr. Richard Oput appreciated ESAFF Uganda and OXFAM for the initiative of empowering communities to engage meaningfully in LSLBI processes. From the meeting, regular engagements that are issue-based were agreed upon and for this to be effective, the Ministry committed different responsible Ministry department officials to visit the pilot implementation areas for direct interface with the beneficiary communities and to affirm whether the tool speaks to the ministry agenda before taking a decision.