Geographic Area: Uganda
Focal Question: (1) What effects do different land tenure systems in Uganda have on the conversion of wooded areas to agricultural areas? (2) What are the factors specific to these tenure systems that make them more or less prone to deforestation?
(1) Place, Frank & Otsuka, Keijiro. 2000. "Population Pressure, Land Tenure, and Tree Resource
Management in Uganda" Land Economics 76 (2): 233 251
Reviewer: Philip Coppage
The future of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa depends heavily on developing a way to use the natural resources both a sustainable and efficient manner in order to ensure that they will not be exhausted. Land tenure systems can contribute to sustainability in different ways. Each of the land tenure regimes currently in place in Uganda have differing effects on the rate at which deforestation occurs as measures by average tree-cover and the rate that wooded areas are being converted into agricultural areas. Many factors come into play when examining this issue. Among these are; (1) population growth, (2) distance to paved roads, (3) tenure security, and (4) the land tenure system specific to each area.
The areas of interest in this study are the 64 parishes surrounding Lake Kyogo in east central Uganda. In this region, 3 different types of land tenure systems exist. The first and most common, is customary land tenure. This system is dominant in the eastern and northern sites in this region. This land was governed principally by clans who allocated plots of land to its members. Households often settled on this land and developed rights to its use. In 1966, following colonial intervention, the rights to this land was abolished as chiefs gained control of this land and replaced the clans. The urban elite then seized much of the land. The customary system now follows patrilinear rules in which the land is passed down generationally and thus inheritance is the most common means of acquiring the land.
In central Uganda, the mailo system of land tenure is most prevalent. In this system, colonialists gave land to notables and elite in the early 1900s. The individuals receiving this land often lacked the means to till the area so they began settling tenants. In 1928, these tenants received eviction protection so that they could not be forcibly removed from the land with no compensation. Only mailo owners have the opportunity to acquire titles to the land, but the tenants have strong rights to the land as well. Some mailo farmers exist today, but the majority of individuals occupying the land are the tenants.
Also in the Buganda region is land designated "Crown Land". This land was largely considered a waste. It is used as an open access resource in that there is no exclusion from its capitalization. Individuals who settle on this land are susceptible to tenure security risk meaning that the land has the possibility of being leased to the elite. In such cases, the new owners often remove the people from the land. Many times, these people have been living on and using the land for generations. This type of land tenure is commonly referred to as "public land".
Uganda is a landlocked country with a population of about 19 million people. In 1990 it was estimated to have about 7000 km2 of high tropical rain forest land. In 1958 however, there was approximately 11,000 km2 of forest area, and over 25,000 km2 in the 1920s. With this rapid rate of deforestation, the global community has asked many questions about the effects of each of the tenure systems. This study attempts to answer some of those questions.
Again, there are 64 parishes in 10 districts in the Lake Kyoga region. These 64 parishes are largely free from NGO intervention meaning that there is little or no outside tree planting or resource management. 5 parishes were selected for study from each district with the exception of Luwero, Mukono, and Kiboga. It also excludes parishes greater than 150 km2 in order to limit the size of the sample area. Population densities vary greatly in different parishes; with the greatest density being 629 people per km2 and the smallest being 26 people per km2. The prominent crops being produced in the more fertile regions are coffee, maize, and bananas, while cassava, beans, and millet dominate in the dryer, less fertile regions.
The tree cover information used in the study was derived from aerial photographs that were taken mainly between 1955 and 1960. Photos were also taken in the years 1989, and 1995. Many changes in land use took place the years 1960 and 1995. Details can be found on table 1.
Land Use in the Study Sites (n = 64)
Average Average Interval Which Most Positive Most Negative
Parish Share Parish Share Includes 80% Absolute Change Absolute Change
Land Use In 1960 In 1995 of Parishes In Share in Share
Agriculture .57 .70 -.09 to +.46 .75 -.27
Forest .04 .02 -.08 to .00 .01 -.71
Wood, bush .28 .18 -.31 to +.07 .27 -.55
Wetland .11 .10 -.05 to +.02 .11 -.19
Throughout the study, the land tenure regimes specific to the parishes remain the same. Of the parishes studied, customary land tenure, mailo land tenure and public land made up 57.8%, 45.3%, and 37.5%, respectively. Each of these tenure systems has distinct characteristics. Agricultural land was most common in the customary land tenure system. This may be a combination of two things: (1) incentives and ease of converting wooded areas to agricultural areas are most notable, and (2) the area has the highest population densities. In area governed by mailo land tenure, there is a great difference between the proportion of land occupied by the actual landowners in 1960 as compared to 1995. In 1960, there were far fewer owners that actually lived on their land than in 1995 statistics. Tenants were prominent in this area in 1995, and approximately two-thirds of the owners did not reside on the land. Either traditional farmers, or those working and living in government rice schemes occupy much of the public land. This area had the lowest percentage of agricultural land, but its rate at which land was being converted from wooded areas to agricultural areas was quite high (1960 1995).
The results from an econometric study reinforced the idea that each of the land tenure types has a somewhat differing effect on resource management. The regression data showed that the customary land tenure is positively related (in comparison to public land or "free-access" land) to agricultural land conversion. A reason for this may be because there are weak management institutions in place to govern, and thus land clearing is a somewhat common practice. Tenure security also comes into play in that in individuals on public land feel greater tenure insecurity and thus are less likely to convert the land to agriculture at a rapid pace. The explanation for this phenomenon is that individuals on public land feel that if their work is too conspicuous to the individuals who may own the land, then there is greater risk that they will be removed altogether from it.
Another result from the study is that there is no significant difference in land conversion between mailo and public land tenure. It seems that there was little importance on whether landowners occupied the land in mailo areas.
Population pressure played an important role in agricultural land conversion. The data shows that increased land conversion was directly correlated with higher population growth and higher population density. The explanation for this is very straightforward. An increase in population increases the demand for food. Thus more land is converted for agricultural uses in order to facilitate this demand. Also, as population increases, the available agricultural land becomes smaller and more land is converted in order for the now higher population to till land of their own.
Another important variable is the distance the land was from paved roads. The coefficient in the 1960 share of agricultural land and the distance to paved roads was negative. The reason for this may be that since share levels were high, there is little ability to expand and so the value of non-agricultural land becomes higher. In the period of agricultural expansion between 1960 1995, distance to paved roads was positively correlated to increased agricultural land share in all tenure systems because much of the land near paved roads was heavily populated and so most of the land conversion was going on in areas further away.
With this study, we get an informative look at the effects of different land tenure systems on land conversion. There were similar effects between public land and mailo land tenure, but customary tenure differed in that it had a greater amount of conversion. In recent years many NGOs have been examining this area for the purpose of reforming the tenure system- and for good reason. As we see from this study, and others like it, the tenure system, and factors related to the tenure system, in many cases contributes to deforestation. This study gives some insight as to how, and why this occurs.