January 2016—When Ayugi Stella learned that she had the same rights to inherit land as the men around her, she decided to speak up for herself, her sisters and the other women in her community. Her hard work paid off—she persuaded her father to share his land equally with his children, and now she cultivates 3 acres of her own.
Stella accomplished this with the help of a USAID food assistance program implemented by Mercy Corps in the northern Karamoja region of Uganda. By training citizens about land ownership rights, USAID empowers women like Ayugi Stella to advocate for their legal rights to own land in a region where most land is traditionally owned by men.
Land is one of the most important ways to generate income in Uganda, which makes it central to maintaining women’s rights and improving food security. Located in northern Uganda, the Karamoja region faced years of insecurity due to the breakdown of traditional agro-pastoralist livelihoods, climatic shocks, and armed cattle raiding.
After so much instability, peace is again being realized in Karamoja. Communities in Karamoja are building the skills and structures needed to manage land-related conflicts and to ensure women and minorities are able to exercise their rights to land inheritance and ownership.
“Little did I know that, regardless of sex, both boys and girls have equal rights to own land,” says Stella.
Now, as a public advocate armed with training on land ownership and legal rights, Stella understands that Uganda’s land ownership laws are very clear. Women, youth, the elderly and people with disabilities all legally have the right to benefit from incomes and social power associated with owning land.
“I have also started cascading the message in my community, especially to other women like me, in public gatherings where land issues are being discussed,” she says.
Volunteers like Stella and trainings within the community have empowered and changed the mindset of Ugandans, helping minority groups to understand their rights and convincing others, like Stella’s father, of the importance of equal access to land for all.
Under the program, USAID also has been strengthening local conflict management, including those that are land-related. In fiscal year 2015, 75 groups were trained in conflict mediation, resolution skills, and consensus-building techniques, and over 250 women have participated in community-level peacebuilding processes.
Encouraged by her success and her 3 acres of cultivated land, Stella is on to the next challenge. “I plan to keep discussing with my father to persuade him to allocate land to my sisters as well,” she says.
The food assistance project helps local residents to sustainably provide goods and services to reintegrate Karamoja into the Ugandan and global economies. Over 218,000 people were reached in fiscal year 2015, strengthening livelihoods among farmers, improving childhood nutrition, and reducing local conflict to allow for more productive land use, all in an effort to increase food security and health in northern Uganda.
Last updated: February 12, 2016