In less than eight years, Uganda’s population will hit 55 million going by the current fertility and population growth rates.
But this rapid population growth rate of 3.4 per annum, will only worsen country's socio economic problems the permanent secretary ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Dorcas Okalany has warned.
“With such enormous population increase is exerting pressure on land, the old rules are no longer sufficient to maintain cordial relations between owners and users of land,” she said.
Okalany was speaking on Wednesday, March 7 during the launch of stakeholders’ engagement workshop and launch of Support to Address Uganda’s Population Challenge and Improve Family Planning Uptake Programme by UNFPA at Kampala Serena hotel.
The five year programme will see the UNFPA provide $4 million (about Shs 14 billion) to the Ugandan government to address the population growth challenges and increase family planning services uptake.
Okalany said, due to the high population, families have now shifted from rural to urban areas, gradually increasing the proportion of people living in urban areas, which has led to creation of slums and inadequate provision of social services.
“Some of the socio-economic problems include land fragmentation, low agricultural productivity, family related land disputes, loss of forest cover, environmental degradation and encroachment on critical key ecological systems,” she said.
“The slums are characterised with substandard and unhealthy neighbourhoods that that are usually overcrowded and have limited access to basic services like water, electricity, health facilities and others.
“The problems associated with high fertility rates include rapid urbanisation, urban poverty, poor waste management, unemployment, environmental degradation, urban insecurity, inadequate urban infrastructure, inadequate transportation and inadequate financing,” Okalany added.
She said the challenges associated with high fertility rates also lead to inadequate housing, overcrowding and increased poverty and this leads to some interventions to control our population such as family planning services.
“It is on this basis that my ministry supports family planning interventions to reduce or control family sizes. Most land owners especially on customary land consist of big families. As government issues them with certificates of customary ownership explaining the benefits of smaller families and sharing of benefits,” Okalany said.
Large family sizes are associated with land degradation and unsustainable use of land, said Okalany – the reason why the Lands ministry is to going introduce and regulate family use of communal lands to control degradation and provide guidelines on the use of land by families.
“80 per cent of land in Uganda falls under the customary land tenure system. My ministry shall engage families of customary land owners to encourage them to allocate girls land to be able to produce and earn income from the family land other than marrying them off early expecting that they can acquire land from their husband’s family,” she said.
UNFPA country representative Alain Sibenaler says Uganda which has a current population of 38 million, still has the fastest population growth in the world at 3 per annum yet it has a high dependency rate and a burden child dependency where 48 per cent are below 15 years.
“The high population rate in Uganda is due to early age marriages where some Ugandans are married at the age of 18, and this leads teenage pregnancies. And among married couples, 28 per cent would like to use modern family planning methods but don’t have access to them,” he said.
He added that the launched population programme has four components aimed at health system strengthening to address gaps in quality of service provision, increase coverage of health service, social behaviour change communication messages for targeted groups and promote positive leadership on family planning issues.
The minister of State for Housing Dr Chris Baryomunsi said, the problem of our population in Africa and Uganda inclusive, people believe in having many children.
“It’s our duty to tell people to have manageable family sizes to get quality services such as education, health, housing and others. Countries like Tunisia have succeeded in bringing down population to empower young people in education skills, technology and create employment opportunities for the development of their country,” he said.