Sawa Pius | June 29, 2009
Thousands of people call Nakawa and Naguru Estates in Kampala home. The estates are filled with houses, but also gardens. Most residents are urban farmers. They grow maize, potatoes, cassava, bananas, and green vegetables. Most own stalls at the Nakawa market, where they sell their grains, roots, and vegetables.
This use of land dates back to 1940. At that time, residents signed an agreement with the British colonial government. They rented the land for a fee which has grown over the years. But as urbanization continues, developers see other uses for the land. Since 2000, the urban farmers of Nakawa and Naguru Estates have been fighting eviction.
A British company called M/S OPEC Prime Properties wants to build apartment buildings on the land. Until recently, the Ugandan government had supported their effort. Since 2000, the government has issued three eviction notices. But residents refuse to leave.
Augustine Okoreti and Mary Kamugisha are among the oldest tenants on the disputed land. They rely on the land to feed their families. They don’t feel they should be sent away empty handed.
Residents say they cannot afford to purchase land anywhere else in Kampala. They fear they will lose their small businesses selling crops at the Nakawa market.
The tenants have formed a group called the Nakawa Naguru Residents Association. They are demanding that the government compensate them for the loss of their land or give them another place to live. They suggest the land could be divided in half – half used for apartments, and the other half for urban farming. Alternatively, they propose a compensation of approximately 40 million Ugandan shillings (about 10,000 American dollars or 7,000 Euros) per resident.
Earlier this year, the residents won their appeal to President Yoweri Museveni. The President suspended the eviction notice, pending negotiations between the government and the investor on how tenants should be compensated.
Residents are cautiously optimistic. But they would prefer to see the land reserved for urban farmers like themselves.