Land-people imbalances in the Lake Victoria Region

Researcher: Opira Otto

In a region where the majority of the population is rural and agriculture dominates the economy, secure land ownership and management are imperative for meaningful livelihoods. In recent years however, Lake Victoria region has seen increased urbanization and population rise, growing interest for large scale land acquisition for bio-fuels and food production for exports. This development is more serious in countries and areas struggling with extreme land shortage, such as Rwanda, Burundi, South-Western Uganda, the Bukoba area in Tanzania and parts of Western Kenya. This may accentuate the potential for conflicts and increased migration of rural people to urban areas. Moreover, a broadening of economic bases through industrialisation and other productive activities is not happening due to increased globalisation and the penetration of cheap consumer products from China and other transition countries. Thus, there is a need for establishing mechanisms of secure land tenure based on a well-articulated development agenda that is politically anchored in the region. Nonetheless, conflicts around land and livelihoods are likely to increase in future in parts of the region, unless new ideas and perspectives are developed.

When looking at new perspectives for widening of regional integration in the Lake Victoria region, the agenda includes the sharing of land between countries and thus reduce the extreme pressure on land in some countries/areas, and at the same time open up new potentials for migration, trade, and technology development that aim at broad based and inclusive economic growth in the Lake Victoria region. Such attempts are rare, promising and politically hot, but new thinking and innovations are required to avert conflicts. The project involves cooperation and networking with researchers and research institutions from five East African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda). Improved research capacity will certainly contribute to promoting and attaining sustainable socio-economic development in the Lake Victoria Region. And, the most urgent and potentially impactful research issues under consideration include: (a) the role of the state in agrarian transformation, (b) land markets, and (c) land and socio-cultural transformation.

Community forestry - regional experiences and lessons
This project explores the significance of Participatory Forest Management (community forestry) in East and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Southern Sudan and Zimbabwe). The goal is to establish new research networks, as well as encouraging mutual learning between Nordic scholars and African scholars and research institutions.

Community forestry is widely regarded as a promising strategy through which smallholders can increase their income and improve their quality of life. Recent studies show that participatory forest management is on the rise, and poor rural people are more and more dependent upon forest and forest products both for subsistence and incomes. Consequently, forests are contributing to poverty reduction in many areas of East and Southern Africa. Important issues emerging from the recent changes in forest management in the countries highlighted above are whether community or participatory forest management at the same time can lead to poverty reduction for poor rural dwellers and sustainable forest management. This is not well documented, therefore, there is need to assess community forestry in East and Southern Africa, with focus on how new methodological approaches can address the joint objectives of poverty reduction and sustainable forest management in the region. The assessment shall also address external conditions that are critical to sustainability, such as technology, climate change, market issues and the role of the state. This shall throw new lights on how methodologies and perspectives on technical forest management, participatory issues and external relationships can be improved to better secure social and environmental sustainability in relation to forest management. Besides, it will not only be important for strengthening research approaches, but also for improving education and training related to forest management both in African and European universities.

East Africa
Land tenure
Opira Otto
Rural development
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