Govt moves to protect agric land from encroachment

Farmers till land in Rulindo District. Net photo.

Land designated for farming will be protected from misuse, after it was established that it is increasingly encroached on for such activities as construction.

This, according to government officials, will be guaranteed by the law governing land and the national land policy, which are under review.

The move follows a red flag by lawmakers that farmland is continuously being encroached on by construction activities, which threatens food security and livelihoods of Rwandans, especially since about 70 per cent of the population rely on agriculture.

Gérardine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, told parliament recently that there are actions which have been undertaken to avert further encroachment of farmland.

“The land use master plan at both national and district level, is being revised. Consultations with various institutions have started with an aim to prohibit construction activities on land reserved for farming,” she observed.

“For the issues to be addressed, we have revised the land use policy, which is pending cabinet approval. The law governing land is also under review (now at Rwanda Law Reform Commission).”

She said that the law will have a provision on protecting the land for farming with view to protect it from encroachment.

Arable land identified thus far covers over 1.56 million hectares at national level.

Such acreage includes more than 236,000 hectares in Northern Province, 432,000 hectares in Southern Province, 530,000 hectares in Eastern Province, 326,300 hectares in Western Province, and 41,600 hectares in the City of Kigali.

The minister said that the construction model that has been adopted seeks to optimise land use where developers are being encouraged to build houses that can accommodate more families, and encourage more vertical housing than single-unit bungalows.

Eric Mbonigaba, the Director of Rwanda Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock at Private Sector Federation, told The New Times that reinforcement of a system that will ensure that land is used for what it was designed for is a laudable and timely action.

“The decrease of arable land as a result of construction projects and it affects food production and may result in food insecurity, or increase the country’s import bill,” he said, adding that it can also badly affect employment.

The current national land use policy was adopted in 2004, while the law governing land in Rwanda was enacted in 2013.

Speaking during the closure of a workshop on Land Tenure Regularisation Programme earlier this month in Kigali, Espérance Mukamana, the Director General of Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA) and Chief Registrar of Land Titles said that they are putting efforts in enforcing effective land use.

“For agriculture land, we are working with MINAGRI to map that land identify its size,” she said.

“Another thing we will do to avoid intrusion on agriculture land is that we want to include land use in the Land Administration Information System (LAIS), so that no person will no longer change the use of land without permission from RLMUA.

The review of the land use master plan, Mukamana said, is expected to be completed next year.

“We are amending the land policy and the land law, and articles on protecting farmland as well as giving power to the authority were introduced such that no one will change what the land was designed for without our permission,” she said.

Ensuring compliance

All master plans, Mukamana said, will not be implemented without the sanction of the competent authority so that it first assesses compliance.

“I would like to assure you that the way people have been changing land use, such as putting up a house wherever they want, or unplanned settlement everywhere, that it will not be possible again under the new system,” she said, adding that the system has proven to be effective.

“We will be able to monitor that because in the system, no one will be able to change the use of land because if you are going to build a house, you request for a construction permit. And, for you to get it, your land should be designed for that purpose. If that land was designed for agriculture, using it for construction will not be possible for you,” Mukamana observed.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

ADVERTISEMENT