Customary Land Tenure

Customary Tenure is a system of land ownership based on customary rules formed from norms and cultures of clans, families or communities. Customary land is land which is owned by indigenous communities and managed in accordance with their customs. Customary land tenure is widespread throughout Uganda and covers more than half of the country. Most of it is found in the east and northern parts of the country with some traces found in part of western Uganda. Most of the customary land in Uganda is privately owned either by individuals, families or by clans and is usually utilized for farming, grazing or hunting. People on customary land do not usually have or own land titles.

Although it is usually characterized by non-registration of interests, lack of registration does not invalidate a customary tenure.

However, a Certificate of Customary Ownership (CCO) can be issued and a freehold title obtained if the land is converted to freehold tenure.

Rights to control, use and ownership of customary land are derived from being a member of a clan, family, tribe or a given community. Membership is retained by fulfilling certain obligations in accordance to the clan, family tribe or community one is affiliated to.

In Uganda today, two general customary systems can be distinguished:-

– The communal land system where land is owned by the community where user rights are  guaranteed for  farming  and  seasonal  grazing,  access  to  water,  pasture,  burial  grounds, firewood gathering, and other community activities. No specific ownership rights of control are conferred on users. Control and ownership are through the family, clan, or community.  The system is predominant in Northern Uganda.

– Under individual/family or clan customary tenure where the family and clan rather than the whole community has control over land. In this system, land is normally allocated to the male children apart from a few cases where the girls/ women also benefit.

Features of Customary Tenure System: