A decade ago, Rwanda embarked on a major land reform programme. The government envisaged a new land law, supported by a land policy that claims that the new tenure system would contribute to enhancing food production social equity and the prevention of conflict.
Rwandans now are able to officially claim land for the first time through a project that aims to end land conflicts or disputes. The New Time’s Godfrey Ntagungira talked to Director General, National Land Centre Dr.Emmanuel Nkurunziza (Pictured) for an insight.
The National Land Centre and Office of the Registrar of Land Titles was set up three years ago. Its prominent responsibility is actually to implement the new land policy and laws that have been put together .its a principle agency for government to implement its new land tenure programme.
The National Land Centre is thus involved in various aspects of land management. This ranges from land use planning, administration, registration, surveying and related components. Being a new institution, we are still building the institution. But I must also say that while setting up or by building the necessary components and units, we are at the same time rolling out the priority programmes.
National land centre is facilitating land owners to prove their ownership so that they can raise loans to buy cattle and seeds to rebuild their country.
The average population density for the country as a whole is over 330 people per square kilometer, one of the highest in Africa. The majority of the population lives on small holdings and mostly practices subsistence farming -- which puts a strain on space and resources.
The National Land Centre started a country wide campaign to map and register land plots, and also carrying out mass registration all over the country. The government made it a policy to register all land in the country.
When you register your land, you have full ownership. You can sell it and transfer your land title to another person if you want. Prior to 2005, all the land belonged to the government.
We believe that by registering all land ensures tenure security, so every Rwandan can live and use his land in security. We hope that it will promote investment and it can also assist in the proper utilisation of land.
Land management system are being built with an endeavor of higher contribution to the country’s socio-economic development and poverty reduction, as well as promoting democracy and social quality.
For such priorities we have established the necessary inputs to get them going. In this principally I will mention the land registration programme that is being undertaken as we speak.
The other is the preparation of the National Land Use Master Plan which is awaiting the approval of the cabinet. These are two critical tools needed in managing land in the country.
The master plan will help us in the optimal utilization of land. By this I mean assisting us in knowing what use is supposed to be allotted in a particular area.
Land registration is supposed to assist us in guaranteeing security of tenure for land holders through promoting land as an economic resource.
What I can emphasize is that while we are setting up, we are actually on the ground. For instance land registration is on going country-wide. Just over the last one year we have managed to register over 1.5 million parcels of land.
Development in issuing land titles we issued over 12.000m and this is being done concurrently.
SOLVING LAND DISPUTES
Disputes are still problematic for local government as they present a heavy administrative burden and can take a long time to resolve. The majority of disputes are intra-family and are often easily resolved during adjudication.
The most common dispute issues are related to inheritance and land transactions that have occurred without the permission of other owners or persons of interest. A formal title may make it more difficult to sell land without the permission of other owners, limiting the number of future disputes of this type.
Along the way we meet a number of complaints are not really principally land issues. They manifest themselves through land but they are basically societal issues. If you critically look at them they are largely intra-familial issues that emanate from things like inheritance, polygamy or land sharing.
It was apparent that claimants feel that succession, and avoiding succession related disputes is an important aspect of land registration. Orphans are not clearly captured in the data, as most orphaned, adult claimants would claim land according to their current status as a de facto owner, husband, wife or even brother or sister. With clarifications and clear instructions on the succession laws and the legal ownership rights of claimants, claimants have time to consider their claims and make adjustments if necessary
These challenges are not to being sorted out only by the National Land Centre, the national land centre works in cooperation with local government arms at the lowest levels possible.
If somebody is conflicting with his brother because of a simple land boundary, that is not an issue to wait for the National Land Centre to sort out. It is an issue that can be amicably resolved at that level.
We are of course providing tools that are making such issues to become less problematic through instruments like land registration. This helps with addressing boundary issues.
Even at the moment a lot more can be done at different levels without necessarily feeling that this office is the only one that can assist with sorting out some of these challenges.
I must say that the bigger problems are being taken care of. However local issues have to be tackled at local levels. We are showcasing what has been done so far in terms of the institutional framework. I am very proud of what has been achieved in the sector over the past years.
We have a very good land law. We have gone ahead and developed secondary legislation that helps to implement that law. We have established institutions and oversights to implement this law including this office.
We have district land offices in all the 30 districts. We have commissions from the local to the national level. From government side all that is needed has been put in place to resolve these issues. We have gone ahead to provide higher level tools like land registration.
I think we are going to do something unique that maybe other countries have not embarked on. We have made surveying a lot easier. It is one based the Global Positioning System (GPS) where even a lay man can do the job.
Disputes over land rights contributed to the conflict in Rwanda that sparked the genocide. As well as solving disputes, the Rwandan government through this project is facilitating landowners to prove their ownership so they can raise loans to rebuild their country.
The genocide in 1994 left many widows across the country looking after their families. Following equal inheritance rights for men and women granted in 2005, this new management legislation has given hope to Rwandan women their first chance to legally prove their ownership of land.
They are able to pass it on to their sons and daughters without fear that it will be taken from them.
Staff from the National Land Centre travel to every town and village to investigate local land claims using satellite imaging and speaking directly to the landowners themselves, they draw up comprehensive land tenure maps for the whole country.
To avoid any further disputes over claims, maps are published and local people are given enough time to raise any concerns.
HOW LAND IS ACQUIRED
Most landholders acquire land through inheritance or purchase. It is likely that these transactions will continue under a new title system. It is important that land policy, laws and procedures are clearly defined and implemented to ensure these mechanisms of transaction can be undertaken easily, fairly, and transparently.
LAND TITLING BENEFITS
The main land titling benefits are:
Investment benefits, due principally to the increased security of tenure, and thus essentially the same form of benefit as the first type of rural land titling benefit.
Property Value Benefits – increases in asset prices resulting from titling.
Credit Access Benefits: This is the same as the rural land titling Collateral Benefit.
What could be termed General Socio-economic Benefits resulting from increased household incomes, employment and labour mobility.
In every respect Rwanda has a real opportunity to implement reforms in a structured and participatory manner that will further unite the country and settle outstanding land issues through a range of new laws and clear strategy for implementation.
The successful implementation of the Organic Land Law and its related orders, countrywide are premised to bring considerable benefits particularly through systematic land registration and the formalisation of the ownership of existing landholdings a significant improvement in tenure security.
A CALL FOR KIGALI CITIZENS
We call upon the people of Kigali to register their plots of land; we are aware that they are very busy with work during weekdays and to facilitate them we scheduled to even work on weekends to ensure that they come up and have their lands demarcated and registered.
Rwanda’s economy is an emerging economy with a number of potential investment opportunities across all the sectors. This country with intense and constant pressure on land makes proper planning of land use even more crucial in order for us to achieve sustainable development. By 2013 Rwanda will be one of the most prepared nation in Africa to meet future challenges regarding land administration.
The plan provides planning standards and guidelines to be used by all the implementing parties and that will direct them in decision making.