Farmers in the Eastern Province have been given until July to sort out issues related to misuse of land or risk losing it to Government.
The warning was sounded Monday by provincial governor Odette Uwamariya while addressing farmers from Kayonza District, whom she told that a campaign would soon be launched to crack down on errant farmers.
Most of the farmers targeted by the campaign are those who acquired chunks of land for animal husbandry during the land redistribution programme that was championed by President Paul Kagame in 2008.
Some of the beneficiaries, according to the governor, illegally subdivided the land into plots, which they have sold out to neighbours for either cultivation or developing residential homes.
This is contrary to the land use master plan, which, according to authorities, designated this land specifically for animal husbandry.
“Despite continuous warnings, some residents have turned these farms into cultivation fields. We have given them up to July to stop this…if they can’t comply with what the master plan says they will lose it to Government,” said.
The government launched the land redistribution exercise in the Eastern Province districts of Nyagatare, Gatsibo and Kayonza, to ensure that at least every resident in the province owns a piece of land.
Owners of big chunks of land ceded part of their land to their neighbours and families would get up to 25 hectares of grazing land.
Meanwhile, Uwamariya said that the other issue concerns people who, ever since they were given land, have not had any activity on ground for all these years, saying that Government will repossess this land.
“Some people have left the land to waste…with no activity on ground after all these years. We have given them up to October, if they don’t use the land we shall use the law to give it back to the Government,” she said.
Most of the people, who have kept the land idle, according to officials, live and work in Kigali.
“Some of these people take months or even years without a single visit to their farms and some even end up being dens for criminal activity,” she said.
For those with nothing on their farms, they were given up to October to have started farming on this land, or else Government will take it back, she said.
Potel Yossam, the land officer in Kayonza District admitted that most of the land was not properly put to use; reiterating that land owners never took farming as a serious venture.
“The law is clear… If a landowner fails to abide by the plan he once envisaged and holds the land unutilised for some time, the district shall get back the land and reallocate it to a new owner”.
Most farmers however told The New Times that some of the land they owned was not suitable for livestock, while others said cattle keeping was not profitable.
“Authorities should be flexible to allow us use the land for agriculture…it’s more flexible than cattle keeping. Some areas are too dry to sustain livestock…cows starve to death in dry seasons. So, we don’t see why the Government can’t allow us change to crop farming,” said Eugene Mushongore, a farmer.