Land Tenure System: A Challenge for Urban Development and Service Delivery in GKMA

The opening remarks were given by Dr Lydia Mazzi Kayondo who represented Professor Moses Musinguzi, the Dean School of the Built Environment, Makerere University. Dr Lydia Mazzi Kayondo is the Chair, Department of Geomatics and Land Management, a senior lecturer and a Geographical Information System (GIS) specialist. She welcomed the participants and appreciated them for making it for the dialogue. In her opening remarks, the emphasis was put on the impact of the land tenure system in the Great Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA).Dr Kayondo also acknowledged her department’s influence in training and churning out planners to both private and government organisations. 60% of the urban development in Kampala is informal and land tenure is one of the key factors in it. “Tenure of land defines the relationship of how rights are accessed and how to influence development,” Dr Kayondo said.

Group photo of participants at the workshop

Ms. Amanda Ngabirano, the acting chair National Physical Planning Board and also a senior lecturer at Makerere University was the guest speaker at the public dialogue. In her presentation she referred to the land tenure system as a ‘white elephant’. “We are stuck with it” she emphasized. She said that land tenure system is the reason why planners are not delivering. Ms Ngabirano also added that urban development is not only glamorous but is about balanced growth, that is to say equity and distribution of services and amenities.

Ms Ngabirano emphasised the fact that land tenure is bigger than we can imagine. She called upon the participants to identify and open discussion with people on the land, and also to identify areas with partnerships and opportunities and be able to work with them. Other issued raised by Ms Ngabirano said funding and compensation were also affecting development. She, however, pointed out that the land tenure system may not be the only thing affecting development. She challenged participants to identify all the factors and find solutions to them.

To further digest the theme , the panel comprised of urban development experts, specialists and researchers such as Mrs Rehema Nanvuma an urban planner currently working with the Buganda Land Board, Mr Samuel  Mabala, a representative from Cities Alliance and  a senior urban development expert, Ms Anitah Kusiima, a physical planner working with KCCA and Dr Fredrick Omolo Okalebo, an urban planner and researcher at Makerere University.

The issues tackled by the panellists included the following; gender concerns regarding the complex tenure system and physical planning, good land ownership practices for urban development, steps taken to improve physical planning in GKMA and the forms of tenure and its effects on service delivery in GKMA.

Ms Kusiima focused on the good practices of landownership such as transparency and access, need for legal frameworks and a better face lift following policies such as the UN Habitat i.e. the fit for purpose social tenure domain model. She called upon the Ministry of Lands to also focus on the development of rural areas as well. “We need to understand what is in it for each and everyone’s share of land at the end of it all,” she emphasised.

She also addressed the issue of differentiating between land tenure and land use, she said that without formalised tenure situation, land use planning is hindered. In Kampala only 10% of land owners have land titles, the land is developed.

There was consensus that there are other problems that needed to be considered apart from the land tenure problem. There other factors that need to be looked at include; government’s failure to buy land and develop it, and the good will of the policy makers to have problems solved.

Mr Samuel Mabala emphasised the need for a Betterment levy as a legal framework. He said that this would make sure the owners own but at a cost. According to him, the betterment levy would be the best legal framework especially when dealing with compensation. Dr Okalebo pointed out the influence of the emergence of the real estate developers; he termed   it as the ‘new craze.’ They do not care about certain issues such as narrow roads.

 Kule Yosiah, a participant showed his discomfort with the discussion being focused at Kampala alone instead of the great metropolitan area. “We would be working on pieces if we focused on Kampala alone,” he noted. In his closing remarks, Dr Amin Kiggundu, the Head Department of Architecture and Physical Planning, College of Engineering, Design, Art, and Technology, Makerere University applauded the significance of the dialogue and called for more future dialogues and engagements with the stakeholders. “It is important that the key stakeholders are engaged to share experience on various issues and ideas,” he emphasised.  He further noted how the college is focusing on research to address issues such as the ones continuously raised in dialogues.