“Attending the NELGA course on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa has shaped my career” – Jimmy Ochom, a land rights advocate, shared his experience in the NELGA program.
Three significant actions have influenced me in my career.
As a child who grew up in Ntinda, Uganda, my career path was first influenced by my secondary school, Busoga College, which taught me to live independently and think outside the box for innovative solutions to the country’s problems. This is solely attributed to the school culture and enabling environment it provides.
The second influence was my father, the late David Onyoin Okalebo. He believed that education was the key to my success. By the time he died, he was the CEO of the Teso Private Sector Foundation. He took his time to teach me how NGOs operate. From that background, when I realised NGOs could support my human rights interests, I ensured that for every internship and clerkship, it was from organisations that supported my areas of interest.
The third influence was my passion for land rights. My first job as a Legal Officer at the Uganda Land Alliance shaped my career; the organisation advocated for the realisation of land rights for the vulnerable. I loved what I did. I saw the impact of my work through access to land justice in beneficiaries’ lives. This passion led me to explore opportunities to foster land rights, including attaining a Master’s in Laws (LLM-Laws).
These three influences impacted my knowledge and opened doors for me, including being selected for the 2018 NELGA short Course on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa organised by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies. This was a turning point in my career as a land rights expert. The course enabled me to understand several things that drive land governance. I learned the intersection between land rights, climate change, food systems, agriculture, legal empowerment, and politics and how these influence the growth of countries’ economies. I have used and grown this knowledge, and I have taken younger lawyers whom I am also empowering and steering their careers toward land governance. Attending the NELGA course on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa has shaped my career. It has exposed me to all regional, national, and global platforms where I have been able to champion the fight for land rights in my country and globally. I could appreciate the intersection between law, legal empowerment, land rights, food security, climate justice, and agriculture and how these challenges need to be understood to support the growth of economies. The course gave me a grasp on the analysis of land policies, food systems policies, agriculture policies, legal empowerment policies, etc.
The training has influenced my work. I do advocacy and influencing, especially in government, and my learnings have made me more confident in the land space.
The training boosted my confidence that I remain on the right path on land rights. Many people always associate lawyers with private and corporate spaces with little to no support for community rights for something as simple as simplifying legal interpretations for the community. I currently provide legal interpretation for laws associated with communal land rights and equip citizens with knowledge about land laws and policies, to stand up for any injustices, especially for women, youth and the vulnerable.