Government faced with land fragmentation, transfer fee issues

The concerns emerged on Friday in Kigali during closure of a workshop of a $52.7 million Land Tenure Regularisation Programme which was implemented in phases since 2009.
Vincent Biruta, Minister for Environment.

Land registration has been successful, but illegal subdivision as well as informal transfer of plots especially those less than one hectare in size, are a challenge that needs to be addressed, stakeholders have observed.

The concerns emerged on Friday in Kigali during closure of a workshop of a $52.7 million Land Tenure Regularisation Programme which was implemented in phases since 2009.

The practice, they argue, results in mismatch between land-related information in the database and in reality.

Article 30 of the law governing land in Rwanda prohibits the subdivision of plots of land reserved for agriculture and animal resources if the result of such subdivision leads to parcels of land of less than a hectare.

Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Environment, said that there has been land tenure security thanks to the programme, but, expressed concerns that new challenges had arisen while implementing the land management system.

The programme supported demarcation and registration of 11.4 million parcels of land, and issuance of 7.2 million land lease titles to rightful owners. This contributed to men and women’s equality in terms of land tenure, and eased citizens’ access to loans through giving their land titles as collateral.

Before its implementation, 90 percent of the land was not demarcated, yet 90 percent of the population derived their livelihood from the land.

It established the Land Administration Information System to professionalise and digitise land management.

Annie Kairaba, Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD) – a civil society organisation – said that in fact this article was intended to reduce the informal transactions and registrations of land.

Before the land law was taken to competent organs for consideration, she said, a quick study that was done showed that, over 60 percent of Rwandans had 0.5 hectare land, especially in rural areas.

“Probably there is a need for more regulations on how to implement what the law provides because definitely, people who are subdividing informally have their land titles of one hectare and below, which is not allowed. So, it’s about enforcement, otherwise, the legal framework is perfect,” she said.

Some people knowledgeable about the land sector, argued that in 2004 and 2005 when the land policy and law were being put in place, a survey showed that if people with less than one hectare depended on it for farming, they would remain in subsistence, as that land could not produce enough to take them out of poverty.

Review of land policy, and law could sort out the issue

Biruta said that when land transactions are happening between a family like the case of inheritance or a gift by a parent to a child, they tend to keep them within the family and don’t register them officially.

Some of the challenges that were referred to by the citizens, he said, related to high cost of land transaction costs, revealing that the ministry is planning to reduce such costs.

“We have drafted a new land policy, and new land law which is under consideration by the Rwanda Law Reform Commission. We need to address these issues through the policy and law,” Biruta said.

Indeed for each parcel of land transaction, a citizen had to pay Rwf30,000, regardless of the size, the location and other factors.

Espérance Mukamana, Director General of Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority, said that the issue of high land transfer fees, especially for people who own small plots in rural, areas was exposed by residents but pointed out that the fee was provided for by the law.

“A law is being revised that might see the fees reduced or increased depending on many factors on such as the value of the land, its location among other factors,” she said.