Monday, October 22, 2012

Land reforms boost women rights


A woman inspects her farm. With registration, land rights are better safeguarded. The New Times / File.
Rwanda’s land reforms have allowed the public to safeguard their rights on land which has significantly improved livelihoods among communities, according to the 2012 ActionAid report.

The report, titled ‘Lay of the Land Improving Land Governance to Stop Land Grabs’, is a result of a survey that covered 24 countries worldwide.

“By making land registration a top government priority, Rwanda’s communities’ and women’s land rights are better safeguarded. Women-focused legislation has improved women’s access to land, removing, on paper and customary gender discrimination,” the report reads in part.

“The research has revealed that the new land policy and legislation are, in practice, ensuring that women’s land rights are protected, especially land access and rights for widows and female orphans.”

The survey states that women and vulnerable groups are safeguarded from land grabbing and uncompensated displacement, which is remarkable considering Rwanda’s recent history and existing pressure on land.

In 2004, the government enacted an organic law on land to guarantee a safe and stable form of land tenure. Before that, the country never had a proper land policy.

In order to define and decide how the land registration process should be carried out, a Ministerial Decree determining modalities of registration was enacted in 2008 and a year later, the land registration process kicked off.

The land registration exercise that was completed in June saw about 10.4 million land parcels demarcated and adjudicated around the country.

Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Deputy Director General of the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) in charge of Department of Lands and Mapping, Eng. Didier G. Sagashya, noted that the report acknowledges Government efforts to address issues of land ownership.

“It is true Rwanda is carrying out land reforms since 2004, this started by putting in place the national land policy and then the organic law determining the use and management of land, and lately the implementation of systematic land registration process through the Land Tenure Regularisation,” he observed.

Sagashya said the institution has so far distributed 2.8 million land titles to land owners with the remaining expected to be issued by December 2013.

However the collection process is slow with at least three million land titles still unclaimed.

The ActionAid report argues that the current rise in land grabbing needs to be addressed urgently. It focuses on the actions that developing countries can take to mitigate land grabs through strengthening national land governance by making it transparent, accountable and protect communities’ rights.

“Rwanda is not among countries concerned with land grabbing because it has a clear policy on land ownership. With implementation of that policy that is why all land parcels in the country are being registered to their claimants (who used to have it as customary),” said Sagashya.

The survey states that Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Liberia, among other developing countries, have large-scale land acquisitions for investment and agri-business which has resulted in land grabbing from customary owners.

Rwanda is not devoid of land conflicts either.

“During the land registration exercise, we registered 10,716 parcels of land with conflicts which is 0.1 per cent  of the total number of parcels demarcated in the country and 90 per cent of those conflicts are intra-family,” Sagashya said.

“Resolving land conflicts starts from family meetings; if not resolved; the case proceeds to mediators if the value of the conflicted property does not exceed Rwf3 million. If the conflict is not resolved, it has to be taken to courts of law.”

Sagashya cited the land and succession law, which gives men and women equal rights over land whether it is through land sharing, inheritance or land allocation.

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