Certificates of Customary Ownership yet to guarantee women’s land security

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

24.03.2020, Kampala. In research released today, Oxfam highlighted that the numerous challenges in acquiring a Certificate of Customary Ownership limit women's ability to successfully defend their interests in land hence driving inequality. Carried out in Kasese, Soroti, Butaleja and Pader districts, the report assesses the effectiveness and impact of the Certificate of Customary Ownership of land (CCO) in promoting and protecting Women Land Rights in Uganda.

Customary tenure is the predominant land tenure system in Uganda. About 80% of Uganda’s land is held under this tenure, administered according to customary rules and practices of a given geographical or culturally defined area.

The report indicates that the Certificate of Customary Ownership has tremendous impact on reducing encroachment of land by outsiders and against the dispossession of women from access to land usage. According to the findings, the percentage of women whose land had ever been encroached on reduced from 59% to only 6% after acquiring a CCO.

Despite this impact, land held under customary tenure remains largely unregistered. Lack of a registry, lengthy procedures and costs, as well as inadequate funding towards the key institutions, including the District Land Board, are all crippling the process. In all four districts, the study found that the certificate of customary ownership process is underfunded, with most of the process funded by civil society through pilot projects. In areas where these project have ended, the process has, as a result, stalled.

Holders of such land lack security of tenure and are prone to losing their land rights to land grabbers and other boundary encroachers. Also, because customary land is primarily governed by societal traditions, which are highly patriarchal, only a few women enjoy secure rights

Speaking at the launch of the report, Oxfam in Uganda Country Director Francis. S. Odokorach said that women land rights are a matter of deeply rooted inequality. “The women are the main agricultural producers in Uganda; they are the ones that grow majority of food. However, with undocumented land, land conflicts arising from increased demand for land are very high, and women are the most affected. Not addressing the issue of land rights threatens their ability to feed their families and further perpetuates inequality.”

“I believe that we have all the laws in place like the Land Act and the Uganda National Land Policy, which provide a mechanism for the protection of customary land rights. These need to be well implemented. Secure land rights for women is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly for eradicating poverty, ending hunger and promoting gender equality.” He said.

The report provides recommendations that can inform policymakers.

  1. Government should finance the cost of issuing Certificate of Customary Ownership. They should facilitate the Area Land Committees to carry out their activities and increase funding to facilitate District Land Board (DLB) sittings to timely dispose CCO applications.
  2. District Local Governments should ensure adequate allocation of resources to the Natural Resources Department, where the Land Office falls. This will facilitate more sittings of the DLB and ALC and consequently expedite the process of issuing CCO.
  3. Establish registry of CCO at the national level to coordinate and support the activities of the District Land Boards.
  4. Government should embed and strengthen local mechanisms for handling and expeditiously resolving disputes arising from interests and applications for CCO as formal courts are expensive and time consuming.
  5. The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development should develop local guidelines to support family decision-making on who should be included or excluded in the application for CCO. Guidelines will reduce the arbitrary exclusion of rightful people from the application of CCO and avoid rendering some people, such as women, landless within the customary land management and in law.
  6. There should be neutral procedural rules in CCO processing and a CCO registry
  7. The report according to Oxfam is building on the maiden report on land as a driver of inequality launched in November 2019. It is part of the ongoing land rights work with partners.
Contact information: 

For more information, Contact

Dorah Ntunga, 0774853745, Dorah.Ntunga@oxfam.org