The Mailo System in Buganda: A Preliminary Case Study in African Land Tenure


The basic unit of the mailo system is a square mile, hence the derivation of mailo, which is also equivalent to 640 acres. The term is used in Uganda to describe a land tenure system that came into effect when the kingdom of Buganda signed an agreement with the British-administered Uganda Protectorate there in 1900. Buganda runs along the northwest shore of Lake Victoria, in present-day south-central Uganda. This work is by Henry W. West, who was assistant commissioner for lands and surveys in the early 1960s and the foremost expert on the mailo system in newly independent Uganda. The book traces the roots of customary land tenure in the region prior to British influence and explains the origins of the Baganda people and how land became a sensitive issue, because peasant occupancy rights were ignored in the 1900 agreement. Traditional land use and control are discussed in detail, with the obutaka (clan rights) exercised by each clan head, and how the system evolved in the formative years up to 1927. West reviews the relative rights of the kabaka (king) and obutongole (chiefs) and defines instances in which there were hereditary rights. Other subjects include land registration, title settlement, landlord and tenant, and planning in rural areas. Statistical abstracts cover land use; population information by tribe, gender, and density; and ethnic group distribution.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Government Printer, Entebbe, Uganda


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Physical Description

xi, 179 pages


  • From the Uganda Society. Digitized at the National Library of Uganda with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York

Last updated: January 10, 2014