Land Information Management In Uganda Management Essay

This paper presents the current status of land information management system in Uganda, the different problems faced with the system and the practical solutions to the problems. Land is the basic element of development and more especially in developing countries such as Uganda. A good land administration system is a prerequisite for proper land management and information about parcels of land is the basis on which a good land administration and land information system can be built. In this review, we examine issues and problems pertaining to land information management in Uganda. We discuss the roles of various stakeholders, the nature and format of the information and how handling of this information has affected land administration in Uganda. Furthermore, we highlight the various efforts being taken by the government of Uganda in addressing land administration problems. In particular, we examine the current computerisation process and establishment of land information system. Finally, we propose possible solutions to the land information handling problems in Uganda.

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Land is the most valuable resource, and more so, in developing/agricultural-based countries such as Uganda where the majority of the people stay in rural areas. According to Ubink (2008) citing Toulmin and Quan (2000a: 1-2), land is a great asset of  importance to African economies as  a source of income, food, employment, export earnings and it also has a great social value as a place for settlement on which people live  as well as symbolic and ritual associations such as burial sites, sacred woodlands and spiritual life.

Land information management refers to the way information about land is handled or dealt with. Broadly, it includes activities of capturing, organising, integrating and distributing of land related information. The information could be in digital or paper form. Mulaku (1997) identifies that making use of the available resources in terms of information, human and technology towards an effective decision on land, is the major objective of land information management. Land information management also offers tenure security, promotes economic development in terms of creating good land markets and  appropriate land use planning; it also reduces conflicts on land and encourages good land management practices. Little or no land management is a sign of little land information (Lemmen, 2010).

In Uganda, efforts to improve land information management and land administration systems have been on for a long time. Some of the earliest studies such as Greenwood (1990) and Larsson (1990) made recommendations, some of which specifically focused on addressing problems of land information handling. Other studies undertaken later on such as Swedesurvey (1996) and Computer Supplies Ltd (1996) merely echoed the recommendations of the previous studies. As more studies and interventions gained momentum in the land sector, the government of Uganda decided to formulate a policy that would guide land management and land administration interventions and actions. Indeed, the Land Sector Strategic Plan (LSSP) of Uganda 2001-2011 was formulated by the government to help guide in the utilization of Uganda’s Land Resources for Sustainable Development. Its Strategic objective number 4, which is considered to be the most relevant for land information management, is to increase availability, accessibility, affordability, and use of land information for planning and implementing development programmes. One of the strategies to achieve the objective is to introduce a unified, relevant and accessible Land Information System. The other strategy is to implement systematic demarcation of land in Uganda.

The major action towards implementing objective no.4 is the Private Sector Competitiveness Project II (PSCP II) which is a 5-year project funded under a credit arrangement from the World Bank to the Government of Uganda for developing a National Land Information System. Although the Strategic Plan is coming to the final year of its targeted implementation, it is still not clear to what extent it has impacted on land information management in Uganda. Despite this uncertainty, it is clear that the plan has paved way for the improvement of land information management in Uganda. Finally, in light of the above strategic plans and policies, it is clear that the government is increasingly acknowledging that improving accessibility to land information will lead to utilization of Uganda’s land resources for sustainable development.

1.1 Stakeholders in Land Information

In Uganda, Land Information Management is principally tasked with some departments in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. However, under the Local Government Act, powers were given to lower local governments, more especially at the district level to manage land information in their respective jurisdictions. Currently, there are 112 local governments of district status and each district is mandated to have its own land office. Stakeholders in land information are individuals, government and non government organizations. The roles of the stakeholders and the nature of information handled are summarized in table 1 below.

Government uses information generated by stakeholders for planning and to a less extent for taxation purposes amongst others. The public, who are the biggest users of land information, normally play a role for providing information to the land information management system through land transactions and conveyancing. They are therefore the priority beneficiaries for the improved land information management system

Table 1: Stakeholders in Land Information Management in Uganda

Stakeholder

Role

Nature of information generated/handled

Remarks

Department of Land Registration

In charge of land registry

Titles information, transactions, mortgages caveates

Information stored in paper form and sorted different according to land tenure system. It may take from one month to 6 months to acquire a title upon presentation of documents.

Department of Surveys and Mapping

Map production from different type of surveys

Cadastral and topographic data, aerial data

Work is still done manually in some offices since there is lack of appropriate and upto date equipment. This slows down the map production process.

Department of Land Administration

Preparing, the initial documentation leading to land matters and valuing land property where government interest is involved

Legal framework, valuation reports, valuations for compensation, stamp duty, leasing of land etc

The department is an interface between the land data providers (surveys and mapping) and land users

Physical Planning Authority

Preparation of structure and detailed plans

Land use and planning

Data used is provided by the department of surveys and mapping

Uganda Land Commission

Holds and manages land acquired by the government both here and abroad

Leases, transactions

They grant leases on public land and also help government acquire or buy land.

District Land Offices

holding and allocation of land in the district which is not owned by any person or

authority and determine compensation rates.

Title information, transfers, compensation rates

They approve or reject a ward of customary certificates. They maintain registers of leases in the districts. However there is no requirement to update such certificates and there is no register of land sales

Area land Committees

Land inspections to verify information supplied by applicants and recommendation to district land boards

Minutes of land applications decisions, land applied for, land adjudication issues and decisions

Recommendations made by area land committees are used by district land boards to grant. leases/freehold / customary certificates to applicants. Area land committees are transported by applicants to do adjudication. The speed at which they do the work sometimes depends on the facilitation.

Magistrates’ courts

Handle disputes arising on land

Lease, repossession, transfer or acquisition, compensations

They replaced the land tribunals. Their decision can be appealed if individuals are not satisfied with the ruling.

Private Surveyors

Carry out cadastral surveys

Establishment and verification of boundaries. Raw data for production of maps is obtained

Information collected from the field is converted to coordinates. In order to minimize errors and effect validation, this data is manually checked by the government/district surveyor

Real Estate Agents

Acts as an intermediary between seller and buyer

Transactions, transfers, mortgages, leases

The information they have is mainly about the land and property market. Without good Land information, it is impossible to have efficient systems for property transactions.

Traditional Rulers

They are owners of large tracts of land that they develop and lease to the public

Leases, sales

Own land under traditional settings

General Public

Provide information to the land management system

Land transactions, conveyacing

They facilitate in the updating of the register.

2.0 CURRENT STATUS OF LAND INFORMATION IN UGANDA

Implementing policies on land to support economic growth is not possible if there is no good land information (Ahene, 2009). The government has for long tried to put in place different mechanisms to check and improve the land information management but so they have done so little to minimize the problems faced with the system

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2.1 Status of Survey Information

Survey information mainly includes cadastral sheets, topographical base maps and Job record jackets for storing survey field data and computations. Cadastral data sheets are kept in paper form and compiled at scales ranging from 1:2,500 for urban areas to 1:10,000 and more for rural areas. Most of the sheets are georeferenced to the UTM projection Arc 1960 Datum and the grids are inserted on the sheets. Cadastral sheets for mailo surveys are not geo-referenced since UTM coordinates are not used for surveying parcels on mailo land tenure. Most sheets held by the Department of Surveys and Mapping and districts are in bad physical condition and a number of them are torn. Such torn maps are difficult to scan, geo-reference and digitize. Topographical maps are also in paper form. The 1:50,000 scale maps cover the entire country but have not been updated since the late 1960s where they were compiled by the Ordinance Survey of Great Britain. However, through JICA project, some topographical maps covering Kampala and surrounding areas were updated. Most of these maps have been scanned and geo-referenced. Survey files also known as ‘Job Jackets’ or ‘Job Record Jackets’ are only updated in the case of the survey of freehold land (GIC, 2007, p70). According this report, these files are stored in the registry and have been distributed to the district offices where the updates are made and the files are thus not synchronized with the head office. The survey files are sent to Lands and Surveys at Entebbe for checking and not returned to the district. The surveyors who require information (control) for surveys on adjacent plots can access these files. The number of such survey files is estimated to be 7,000-8,000.

2.2 Status of Land Registration Information

Land registration provides an underlying structure on which ownership rights in land are recognized (Dale and McLaughlin, 1999). In addition, land registration also helps in resolving or reducing land disputes and provide information for processes like land valuation (Steudler, 2004).

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In Uganda, registration of land is voluntary. Mailo land is registered in a mailo register which uses a system of block and plot numbers as the land unit identifier. Freehold and leasehold are registered in a different register which uses the volume and folio numbers as a unit of identification. However, certificates of customary ownership are kept at the district by the District Land Board. Land registration information is still largely manually managed with some information missing from the register making it incomplete and outdated. According to GIC Ltd (2007),  60% of the information in the land registry has never been updated. A study of the land registry (Greenwood, 1990) reported that high transfer costs and ignorance of the law were the major reasons why people preferred not to register their properties. Although there has been an initiative to improve the land registry through computerization by using a software for automating the database called TRIM and scanning of land records under the USAID-funded Support for Private Enterprise Expansion and Development (SPEED) project, it has not produced much positive results as far as land information management is concerned. This is because; firstly, the scanning and storage of the documents was so poorly done that they could not serve the purpose they were meant for. Secondly, users have never been introduced to the usage of the system as the management does not seem to understand the purpose and functionality of the system (GIC Ltd, 2007). This initiative could not have been developed further than a demo system (ibid). Archiving of the land records has been done making the storage rooms that once looked packed with torn records all over the floor as seen in Figure 1 below, look well organized as seen in Figure 2 below.

2.3 Status of Land Administration Information

Land administration information is important because it’s on this information that land management is built. Information involved here is used in preparation of the initial documents that are used to generate policies and laws in land matters. It also contains information used to generate reports on valuation of different properties in which government interest is involved. Land administration data is kept in files racks which are stored in room taken as a registry. The problem is that the room is full of dust and rain easily finds its way to the room (Computer Suplies Ltd, 1996). This has caused damage on the files which are overflowed in the storage racks but efforts are being made to reconstruct them.

2.4 Problems with Current Land Information Management System and Processes

Various studies carried on in Uganda since 1990 show that there are problems of land information management and processes. The government has tried to come up with strategies like decentralization and computerization to overcome this problem but it has persisted. Good land information management should ensure that information can easily be accessed by the users, at the same time, it should be easily shared from the producer to the users and between the users (Mulaku, 1997). The land information management system should be able to allow updating whenever there is change in the information. It is against this that the problems have been identified.

2.4.1 Manual Storage of Land Information: Uganda has been using a manual system of land records management which are in poor shape. Reliance on this data can be misleading since it comes with different levels of inaccuracies and misrepresentation. Ahene (2009) observes that the current status of the land registry has affected the quality of service delivery such as physical planning, survey, valuation etc since it has failed to provide adequate information on which informed decisions are made. The current systems are difficult to update, analyse, track changes and are also subject to constant wear and tear hence leading to critical data losses. This analogue system makes data sharing, dissemination and checking very difficult and cumbersome.

2.4.2 Information Scattering: There are various institutions that require different types of land information for their day to day operation. They include but not limited to; National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Forestry Authority (NFA), Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Ministry of Lands, Housing   and Urban Development (MoLHUD).  Since there is no centre for readily and accessible land information maintained by the government, different institutions generate their own data sets which they use to meet their institutional mandates but do not readily share information with each other (Giddings, 2009). This has led to duplication of data and the accuracies of these data cannot be guaranteed. This does not only waste money, it can easily lead to disputes and conflicts due to mismatches in the information (Computer Suplies Ltd, 1996). 

2.4.3 Public Ignorance and Bureaucratic Procedures

Ignorance of the public coupled with bureaucratic procedures has caused land information inefficiency in Uganda. Majority of public does not know the costs or even procedures for registering a property in case the property has changed hands whether through transaction, inheritance or gift. It is also very difficult to get land information from the registry. As a result, for one to get land information, they employ a chain of people which not only led to high costs but a breeding ground for theft and forgery. This has also made people lose trust and confidence in the system (Galiwango, 2008).

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3.0 PROPOSED SOLUTION

The proposed solutions to the problems are based on the principles of good governance in land administration (Zakout, Wehrmann, & Torhonen (2009): Williamson, Enemark, Wallace, & Rajabifard (2009) )

3.1 Investing in a National Land Information System

Reliance on the manual system of land records management currently in use, can be misleading since it comes with different levels of inaccuracies and misrepresentation. It is anticipated that once land information systems are computerised, then majority of these problems like high costs, loss of data due to tear and wear will be solved. Such a better system will be put in place for the delivery of these services which will increase public trust in the system and eventually lead to sustainable development in the country. Augustinus (2003) observes that unless Uganda gets an appropriate land management system,  economic and social services will not be delivered to the citizens and worst still, sustainable and affordable security of tenure will never be offered. However it should be noted that LIS should be supplemented with other tasks which include; harmonizing and updating the legal frame work, updating the cadastre and land register, streaming the land register, etc.

3.2 Decentralization of Local Land Record Offices

Government passed the Local Government Act of 1997, which provides the legal basis for

decentralization and the devolution of functions, powers and services from the centre to local

governments. This will increase transparency and governance of land information which will reduce on bureaucracies involved. It will also contribute greatly towards getting people interested in the system since services will be brought nearer to the public. It will help in the process of updating the registers. Decentralization can only work if there is capacity building in the land sector in terms of personnel who are qualified and highly motivated, equipment, office space and financial resources to kick start the initiative and also keep it going. The Land Sector Strategic Plan points out that there is also need to review many land administration related acts, if the decentralization process is to be carried out smoothly. This will foresee the legal frame for functioning of decentralized offices.

3.3 Public Involvement

Public involvement is essential in any innovation if it is to succeed as it’s the needs of the users of the proposed innovation that is focused on. Public involvement acts an educator to the masses and an evaluation for the system that is being developed or used. It also makes the community feel they are important and so they will work together in order to ensure that any proposed development takes place. It also serves to make an innovation better since they could be having solutions to the problems.

3.4 Formalization of Land ownership

Currently, majority of land in Uganda is not registered. It is estimated that only 18% of land owners have ownership claims (Ahene, 2009). This percentage should be stepped up if the Land Information System is to be a success. Systematic demarcation should be encouraged by government if an increase in formalization of land ownership in Uganda is to be achieved as fast as possible. With a higher number of registered properties, information will be readily available. 

3.5 Institutional Linkage

Strong institution linkages should be embraced to avoid data duplication and overlap. This will help streamline data and information in preparation for a land information system. Institution linkage will enable data sharing amongst institutions that use the same data. This linkage will enable institutions to not only generate information they can use internally, but generate information that can be used externally by other institutions. The other alternative to avoid duplication is that the ministry should be the sole provider of land information. The information between institutions and government could be shared; manually by using disks, electronic linkage that is use of email and fax are by an integrated approach of wide area networks. This saves on the time and cost institutions would use to generate similar data sets.

4.0 CONCLUSION

Good management of land is dependent on the quality and standard of land information and the efficiency of the processes involved in land information generation and dissemination. Despite several studies that have been undertaken aimed at improving the land sector, the land information delivery service still remains largely manual and this not only paralyses the investment sector but also affects the operation of other sectors such as the legal, financial, environmental bodies, housing finance cooperatives and industrial since they cannot access accurate land records to inform their short and long term investment decisions. There is therefore need to examine the different components that make up the land information management system which will include the land registers and the cadastre. As this will help to address some problems hindering the land sector from achieving its major objective of sustainable development through utilization of land resources.

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