The land question in Rwanda needs further examination

Editor, RE: “We should admit that land ownership is a serious issue” (The New Times, May 3).


RE:We should admit that land ownership is a serious issue” (The New Times, May 3).

I appreciate the writer’s initiative to kick-start this conversation and highlight research carried out by Prof. Bizoza to show the limitations of the Malthusian theory, which all but predicts a forced return to subsistence level living conditions when population growth increases more than agricultural production.

On the surface, this theory, which was developed in the late 1700s, had merit. Back then, agricultural methods determined population – if little was produced, people would starve and die.

I remember the Irish case of potato famine that caused the death of a million people. In the same way, if agricultural production increased, people would feel comfortable so much so that families would deliberately have more babies.

However, that trend has somewhat failed to hold recently; we have countries like Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE, all of which have virtually zero agricultural productivity, but their populations have grown nonetheless.

This is simply the result of changes in how countries operate. Those that are at a disadvantage in terms of agriculture have ventured into other activities that bring in revenue which is, in turn, used to import food. That simple.

What the writer suggests here is understandable; that the survival of Rwandans’ pending population growth at this rate, will not simply depend on the level of agricultural production but also on the resource that is manpower.

But I suggest that this approach be welcomed with caution.

Throughout history, population growth has put pressure on survival as economic downturns mean that what you have to offer the world may not be bought at the right price or bought at all.

Or that the unused 55 per cent of land will be used efficiently for production. This is because, as we have seen, there can be drought, man-made issues like conflicts, etc.

In my opinion, this remains a critical area to investigate. Simplistic conclusions like ‘Rwanda isn’t caught up in a Malthusian trap’ shouldn’t be made without a solid basis, at least not now. The land issue in Rwanda needs to be examined more critically.

Freddy G.