The world’s poor struggle to access land, water and other essential natural resources. Resources they need to survive and earn a living. Land is a synonym of identity, culture, power, development, food and human security. It can as well become a source of conflicts, a perpetrator of social inequalities and discrimination, and a vehicle for depletion of natural resources. Uganda has diverse priorities for achieving national development such as eradication of poverty, food security, agriculture transformation, natural resources exploitation, preventing climate change, and sustainable urban expansion.
Land governance, administration and access to justice deals with multiple rights/interests over land and in most cases these interests/rights are over lapping which eventually result into disputes and conflicts. The legal frameworks of Uganda have adequately addressed the land governance and land administration issues expeditiously and provided for access to justice mechanisms but the biggest challenge still remains the implementation of these perfectly speaking policies and laws.
Despite Uganda’s policy and legal regime relating to access, ownership and control of land is adequate, all these have not translated into an increment in ownership by especially women and other vulnerable people, yet over 70% of women are engaged in Agriculture, less than 20% of them have control over their agricultural output and nationally only approximately 17% of the women own land mainly through purchase. The efforts have been marred by limited resource allocation, corruption, mismanagement of cases, land case backlog, cultures which are compounded with unequal power relations among others.
The informal land management, land administration and access to justice mechanisms and systems have remained weak. Whereas the decentralized formal land management, administration and access to justice support institutions have remained consistently poorly facilitated and in-capacitated to deliver the full aspirations of the legal frameworks. It is against this backdrop that SARD-Net conceived the idea of the Community Based Paralegals (CBPs).
The concept of “Paralegals” is understood differently in accordance with the various definitions so far advanced by different schools of thought, practitioners and organizations. Therefore, it is not merely a one size fits all concept. Whereas the popular scientific schools of thought understand “Paralegals” as the profession of legal science that performs procedures autonomously or semi autonomously, as part of a legal assistance system and highly describe their role as an indispensable part of the legal system, providing support to attorneys, law offices, government agencies and corporations by researching legal precedent, performing investigative work on cases and preparing legal documents; SARD-Net being a grassroots organization working with communities in Uganda appreciates the concept more in the context of community work hence the popular term “Community Based Paralegal” program.
How Do We Work On Resource Use and Rights?
We work with communities to ensure they have access to resources. We ensure that people have food, water and a secure place to live with independence. Our approach emphasizes livelihoods as well as food security and nutrition. Access to and management of natural resources by the poorest people enhances resilience. It improves economic wellbeing, education, nutrition and food security.
SARD-Net’s entry point to the community is through the Community Based Paralegals (CBPs) who work with the communities. The Community Based Paralegals are established to strengthen the capacity of farming communities, women, men, youth, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), other vulnerable groups, formal and customary land management and land administration structures for effective engagement in land governance, management and land administration at local and national levels through information dissemination and awareness creation on land laws, community dialogue meetings on Land Rights, and legal aid in Uganda.
What have we achieved so far?
- SARD-Net participated in the successful organisation of National Land Awareness Week in 2020 in partnership with PELUM Uganda, Nebbi District Local Government and Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Nebbi District, West Nile region in Uganda.
- We have established 3 Community Based Paralegals (CBPs) in 3 Sub Counties in Nebbi District, West Nile region in Uganda. This is intended to provide information dissemination and awareness creation on land laws, community dialogue meetings on Land Rights, and legal aid to women, youth and other vulnerable communities.
- So far, 2,500 people have been sensitized on Land Laws and Policies in Uganda. This was intended to deepen access to justice on rights to land especially for women, youth and other marginalized and vulnerable smallholder farmers.
- 4 Legal clinics have been organized to support women, youth, PWDs and other vulnerable people to access legal advice, guidance and counseling on land matters.