Uganda and carbon markets

Historical overview of carbon markets and Uganda

In Uganda, a number of historical and policy drivers have enabled Green Resources’ plantation forestry and carbon offset activities. A brief background is provided here to understand the contemporary situation, including the transition from government management of land to a range of new actors, including the private sector and international donors:


Map of Uganda. Click to enlarge.

Under colonial rule

Uganda was declared a British protectorate in 1894. Colonial rule was effective in disrupting customary land tenure. The Buganda Agreement (1900), for example, introduced mailo, native freehold, leasehold, and Crown forms of land ownership, and enabled “waste and uncultivated land” to be allocated to non-Africans. Despite increasing demands from foreign interests, a number of laws were introduced to constrain the foreign acquisition of land, demonstrating the colonial government’s resistance to foreign land speculation.[i]

Post-colonial period

Continuing in the post-colonial period, a combination of legislative change and political instability extended the privatization of land. The Crown Act of 1962, for example, converted Crown land into public land, with leaseholds granted for up to 99 years.[ii] Meanwhile, the 1962 Public Land Act and the 1969 Public Lands Act enabled farmers to deforest unoccupied lands for agricultural purposes without prior consent from the government.[iii] Farmers were also encouraged to occupy land, including forested land, to improve household self-sufficiency so as to reduce pressure upon the failing state.

CarbonViolence - 48 scaledUnder Idi Amin

The Idi Amin Dada government (1971-1979) also re-distributed portions of protected areas to communities.[iv] Central Forest Reserves were among land holdings re-distributed. For example, the Amin government established a beef project in the Bukaleba Central Forest Reserve in 1974, encouraging people to live and work in what is now allegedly part of Green Resources’ licence area.[v]

Attracting foreign investment

By the 1990s, land and natural resource laws reflected the growing government commitment to privatize public lands and attract foreign investment. The 1993 Tree Planting Act, for example, enabled investors to acquire land within forest reserves to establish forestry plantations. The privatization of public lands was also enabled through the National Forestry Policy (2001) and the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act (2003), both of which articulate a commitment to the privatization of Uganda’s forestry sector.[vi] The New Land Policy (2011) also grants title to citizens—not the state—thereby exercising private sovereignty over land.

International investment and forests - 16 scaled

Reflecting this policy shift, representatives from National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), describe public/private collaborations, including those related to forests and forestry plantations, as central to green development in Uganda. One NFA representative described the importance of such partnerships: “if we don’t have international investment, we will lose our forests,” and that “partnership with the private sector is a means of reforesting the country.”[vii] In addition to driving re-afforestation, international investment is also heralded as creating a multiplier effect, including tax revenue and local infrastructure, such as roads, schools and hospitals.

Making investment a win for all

In contrast, local community representatives have raised concerns over this policy. One local leader from Dokolo district in northern Uganda stressed, for instance, that foreign investment activities should always be “win/win,” explaining that foreign investment “must also benefit local people, not just the investor.”[viii]


 Olanya, d. “Asian Capitalism, Primitive Accumulation, and the New Enclosures in Uganda.” African Identities. 2014. doi: 10.1080/14725843.2013.868672.

ii  ibid.

iii Mugambe, R. the Kachung Plantation Project (KPP) – Norwegian Afforestation Group. Environmental Impact Assessment Report, 2007; Petracco, C.K. and Pender, J. Evaluating the Impact of Land Tenure and Titling on Access to Credit in Uganda. IFPRI Discussion Paper 00853. Washington, D.C.: IFPRI. (2009).

iv Okuku, J.A. ‘The Land Act (1998) and Land Tenure Reform in Uganda.” Africa Development Vol. 31, no. 1, (2006) pp. 1-26; Turyahabwe, N. and Banana, A. “An Overview of History and Development of Forest Policy and Legislation in Uganda.” International Forestry Review 10.4 (2008): 641-656.

v Nel, A. and Hill, D. “Constructing Walls of Carbon – the Complexity of Community, Carbon Sequestration and Protected Areas in Uganda.” Op. Cit.

vi Mugambe, R. the Kachung Plantation Project (KPP). Op. Cit.

vii Central government representative, interview. National Forestry Authority, Kampala, June 2013.

viii Local government representative, interview. Dokolo district, July 2013.

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