Minimising land conflict in Uganda

| 01 Nov 2017

Having surveyed northern Uganda, UNSW has identified the causes of land conflict in the region and has come up with two interventions, charcoal kilns and bee farming, that will reduce violence, better sustain food and forest supplies, and provide income for community members.

The Challenge: People are fighting over limited land and resources

Uganda is surrounded by conflict in the Congo, South Sudan, Kenya and Rwanda. Gulu is in the north of Uganda, near the South Sudanese border. The city is in a post conflict state, having endured 20 years of civil war until 2007.

During the civil war, the Ugandan Government took people from the region and put them into camps so they could not join rebel groups. After the war, people returned to their land to find it rezoned, inhabited by other people or bordering newly allocated wildlife zones. Roaming wildlife, such as elephants, have been eating people’s food and threatening their homes. People and gangs are lopping trees for charcoal, impacting local climate and farming. Land-based conflict and violence is common. What can be done to minimise it?

UNSW's solution: Provide sustainable charcoal kilns and create bee farms

Associate Professor Anne Bartlett and her team took 21 students to the region in 2017 to perform a survey to understand the reasons for land conflict and to devise interventions to minimise it. They surveyed three sites across northern Uganda and discovered deforestation is one of the major drivers of conflict. Charcoal producers from outside the community are stripping forests bare of natural resources at unsustainable rates, leaving little for locals. Elephants are also a problem with rezoning resulting in them crossing boundaries into human-inhabited areas to eat farmer and household food.

Anne and her team have come up with tow key interventions. Using remote sensing, they want to first quantify the amount of deforestation. They will then look to produce efficient charcoal kilns in areas where forest supplies are limited. The kilns are more efficient than current methods, promoting the sustainable use of forest supplies. Secondly, to keep elephants away from humans, they are looking to create honey farms. Elephants are afraid of bees. The hives will provide a new line of income for locals, with a hive producing around 20 kilos every three months.

In other projects in Kenya, Anne is researching the value of refugees on the host community in Kakuma camp in partnership with UNHCR and the World Bank. She is also looking at alternative livelihoods for women involved in the production of informal alcohol like chang’aa in Kenya which threatens societal cohesion and creates street children. In South Sudan she has been researching the effect of post-conflict road building on the spread of civil conflict.

The Impact: Reduce violence, preserve food and forest supplies, generate sustainable income

The charcoal kilns and bee farming interventions promise to reduce human conflict in north Uganda, dissipating tension and the potential for future large-scale conflict. The kilns promote the sustainable production of charcoal, paring back deforestation rates in the area. Bee farmers will find themselves with a new profession and line of income. Nearby inhabitants will not have to worry about being trampled on by elephants or have their food supplies or crops eaten, providing them with better food and income security.


Associate Professor Anne Bartlett has worked in Sudan, South Sudan and East Africa for over 15 years. Her research focuses on conflict, forced displacement and related humanitarian crises. Anne was the chair of the United Nations hearing on the Darfur crisis, and President of the Sudan Studies Association (2015-2017). The question of why people take up arms instead of pursuing peaceful political means was the initial inspiration for undertaking her PhD in the Darfur region of Sudan during the uprising.