May 2013 29

“We now know that everyone has the right to land.” Partnering with a local org to help resolve land disputes

Posted in Featured, News

By Nicole Soeller

Understanding that everyone is entitled to the same rights in northern Uganda to land should not be taken for granted. Land was traditionally owned by male family members only, but this is not the case anymore. Hearing this statement from one of our group members as a result from our recent land dispute mitigation training is therefore an achievement.

Several groups had been asking us to help resolve some of their local conflicts over land by doing education exercises. A few weeks back, we assessed the situation regarding land disputes among our groups and then we designed and implemented a sensitization event for two groups. The training was organized in cooperation with the Kitgum Land Board, which mediates conflicts and has expertise in this field.

Building on the interests of our group members and after several meetings with different stakeholders that work in this field, we designed a one-day event which provided knowledge on three topics:

(1) Understanding how land is managed in Uganda, in general, and in northern Uganda, more specifically,

(2) what to do when there is a conflict over land, and

(3) how to prevent conflicts in the future.

Participants were then invited to participate in a strategic game which was a simulation of mapping out and demarcating boundaries within an imaginary community. By involving everyone in finding out where the boundaries between the three imaginary families lie, two researchers marked the boundaries with ropes. In real life, this process is of course more complex and includes the clan elders, clan chief (rwot), and the local councilor (LC1).

This may be a useful tool to prevent future land disputes from erupting, as two of the main drivers of conflict are unmarked land boundaries and an increased interest in buying/selling land. Our charming and knowledgeable facilitator concluded by explaining the alternative option of registering land via government channels. However, unlike the community-driven boundary mapping, the latter requires more money from the individuals. Registrating their land could therefore become a lengthy process for our farmer groups.

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