It has been estimated that land and property account for a staggering 70% of global wealth. On April 10th 2013, the World Bank held an annual conference on land and poverty in which it recognized the critical importance of securing land rights for a variety of development objectives.
The conference also reiterated the World Bank’s commitment to improving land governance and promoting environmentally and socially sustainable agricultural investments.
At the conference, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the Bank Group said; “securing access to land for millions of poor people and transparent policies on land rights are vital to reducing poverty and promoting growth, agricultural production, better nutrition and sustainable development”.
The long-term sustainability issue is more serious than climate change. It is said that by the middle of the nineteenth century, the extent to which humans had already modified the landscape was already evident. It was understood that Earth’s ability to provide the many ecosystem services upon which we depend was exhaustible.
Earth is moved and the landscape modified, commonly degraded, by many of our activities. Mining, infrastructure expansion, and urban development are obvious ones. Plowing moves huge amounts of earth and leads to accelerated erosion. Grazing and logging also increase erosion.
Much of the eroded sediment ends up as colluvium on hill slopes and as alluvium in floodplains thus subtly altering the shape of the land while the rest is carried away by streams and rivers.
The Egyptians must be smiling all the way given the fact that rich soils from upstream end up contributing to the fertility of their soils!
The diversity of species contributes to the stability or resilience of this life support system, facilitating continuation of services despite disturbances. Degrading the land degrades our life support system. The land is an essential resource for future generations.
Africa has priceless land resources which provide environmental goods and services from local to global levels.
Land resources are terrestrial features that exist above the mean sea level. They include landforms such as plains, valleys, plateaus, mountains, deltas and peninsulas, islands and basins; soils; and plants and animals.
Experts in charge of land administration from different African countries held a workshop in Kigali on 11-12 December 2014. The two day workshop was organized by the Land Policy Initiative (LPI) to validate the draft report on Effective Land Administration Systems in Africa. Among the policy objectives and actions were: Improving land tenure security to boost investment and growth; Providing land administration services to all citizens; Extending the coverage of land registration and mapping systems to all private land; Decentralising land administration services closer to users; Providing cost-effective and affordable services.
The experts advocated for modernizing land administration systems using new technologies, increasing efficiency, transparency, curbing corruption in land administration, strengthening financial sustainability of land administration services, resolving land disputes fast and cheaply and promoting capacity development in all African Countries.
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby making land such a very critical resource. Besides, the overwhelming majority of the Rwandans derive their livelihood directly from land and this makes it a very valuable resource.
The importance of land is aptly reflected in all major national policy documents such as the VISION 2020 in which Land is pointed out as one of the major pillars for the country’s sustainable development.
The Government of Rwanda recognizes land as a key priority for economic development and poverty reduction and has developed a comprehensive institutional framework for Land Governance during the last 10 years.
Simultaneously, Land Governance organizations have been established and their mandate clearly defined.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has ensured security of land tenure, through systematic land registration and sustainable, rational land use in Rwanda through decentralized land use planning and mapping. So far the national land registry has been maintained and sustained by strengthening land administration institutions.
The 2014 World Bank Doing Business report indicates that Rwanda made transferring property easier by both eliminating the requirement to obtain a tax clearance certificate and establishing the web-based Land Administration Information System for processing land transactions.
The report ranked Rwanda in the 32nd position as one of the best countries that have promoted the ease of doing business in the world, which helped the country to make a jump of 20 positions from its 52nd position in the 2013 of the same report.
The land-use decisions from the household to the national level, in rural and urban areas, have played a major role in sustainable development, influencing environmental governance and thus resource sustainability.
The Land Week that started this week, therefore, is a timely opportunity for the people of Rwanda to get to know better about their rights and obligations to the land which is a critical resource in national development.
Tenure regimes, access and equity issues, poverty alleviation and gender dimensions and the opportunities available at all levels is one great aspect that features Rwanda positively in the global map as far as land administration is concerned.
The writer is a consultant and visiting lecturer at the RDF Senior Command and Staff College, Nyakinama.