Ugandan road

Credit: Neil Palmer / CIAT. A road in Uganda.

Uganda’s economy grew 7 percent annually between 1992 and 2011 -- the third highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa.  The country is home to significant natural resources, including fertile land, forests, water resources, minerals, and recently discovered oil and gas reserves.  While the contribution of agriculture in GDP is declining (23 percent of GDP in 2011), it continues to employ 65 percent of the Ugandan population, making it a critical arena for innovations to reduce poverty, including through land policies. 

Uganda adopted a National Land Policy in February 2013, following more than a decade of consultation and debate.  It aims to, “ensure efficient, equitable and optimal utilization and management of Uganda’s land resources for poverty reduction, wealth creation and overall socio-economic development.”  It builds upon Uganda’s 1995 Constitution, which grants “every person …a right to own property either individually or in association with others.” 

The new National Land Policy also builds on the 1998 Land Act.  That Act put in place a legal framework that strongly supports women’s land rights; decentralizes land administration; and establishes land tribunals for the resolution of land-related disputes.  Meanwhile, other laws require court orders for evictions and restrict the causes for which a tenant can be evicted.  In addition, the National Policy for Internally Displaced Persons (2004) addresses property rights issues affecting some two million people displaced from their homes in northern Uganda during more than 20 years of armed conflict.


Uganda's National Land Policy

Land outside of Kampala

Video interviews with Ugandan leaders

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Although Uganda has a relatively strong and progressive legal framework, implementation and enforcement remain weak. Uganda’s land institutions are underfunded and ill-equipped.  The land registries have been criticized as inefficient and lacking transparency, which has allowed many (including members of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces) to grab land illegally. Land conflicts overwhelm many of Uganda’s local courts.  

Women’s rights to land are much weaker in practice than in law. Over 80 percent of land in Uganda is held under undocumented customary tenure, which is often (although not always) less protective of women’s land rights than statutory law.  For example, although Uganda’s Constitution and the Succession Act protect women’s right to inherit property, women generally do not have such rights under customary law, effectively excluding them from land ownership. 

The Government of Uganda is working with several international partners to improve land administration and management, limit land-related conflicts, and support land rights.  In recent years the Government, supported by donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, and AusAID, has worked with NGOs to pilot approaches that document customary land. 

Uganda infographic

Total population 34,509,205
Rural population / rural poverty rate 29,133,016/27.20%
Share of women in agriculture 75.70%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 5,376,189/9.10%
Internally displaced People 30,000
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 199,810/70.38%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 10.26%
Forested land (as % of total) 14.51%
Annual deforestation rate -2.72%
Land rights and access rating 0.633
Time required to register property (days) 52
Women's ownership rights 0.9
Large-scale land holdings 41,354
GDP per capita (current USD) 487
Agriculture as % of GDP 23.42%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 5.40%
Major natural resources copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone, salt
Tourism as share of GDP 1.62%