Congo Watch: Britain funds pioneer land scheme to deter conflict in Rwanda

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Britain funds pioneer land scheme to deter conflict in Rwanda

Millions of poor Rwandans will for the first time be given papers to prove they own their land under a pioneering British-funded scheme aimed at ending dangerous disputes.

From The Daily Telegraph, UK
Britain funds pioneer land scheme to deter conflict in Rwanda
By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi, 05 Aug 2009
The five-year project, funded with £20 million of British money, will create the country's first national database of land ownership in the east African country.

Currently, farmers cannot raise loans for fertiliser, equipment or seeds because they have no collateral to offer banks.

Disputes have erupted regularly over who owned what land in the country, the most densely populated nation in Africa with 10.1 million people living in a territory a little larger than Israel.

Pressures over land are believed to have played an underlying role in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 when an estimated 800,000 people were killed over 100-days of tribal bloodletting.

Following a successful three year trial, Britain's Department for International Development will fund Rwandan teams to travel to every town and village to recruit volunteer committees to investigate local land claims.

Using satellite imagery and speaking directly to the landowners, they will draw up comprehensive land tenure maps for the whole country.

Drafts will be posted in villages for people to see. Any concerns can be raised locally and public hearings will be held to resolve grievances.

"Many Rwandans have no way to prove what they own, making it too easy for others to take land away from them," said Mike Foster, the International Development minister.

"For the first time, men and women in Rwanda will be able to defend their land rights through the law courts, giving them the peace of mind to invest in their farms and build their businesses."

Among the greatest beneficiaries will be women, who have until now struggled to enforce their statutory rights under Rwandan law.

Land titles will be drawn up in the name of both husband and wife.

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