Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Millions of land titles unclaimed

Three million land title deeds remain unclaimed at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, a senior official has said.

“We issued 5.8 million title deeds of which only 2.8 million have been collected… another three million are with us unclaimed,” Didier Sagashya, a Deputy Director General responsible for lands and mapping at the authority told The New Times during an interview last week.

He said that most land owners claim that only government can guarantee safe custody of the valuable documents.

The official also said that although his office has demarcated 10.4 million plots, countrywide, it has full information for 8.7 million only.

He added that the majority of Rwandans in rural areas fear the documents can either be destroyed by rodents or mortgaged to banks by dishonest relatives.

According to Sagashya, often a number of title deeds have been dispatched to sectors only to lie idle and later returned. Sector offices are easily accessible to all citizens countrywide.

“Collection of land title deeds is ongoing…,” he noted.

Sagashya says other individuals claim they lack the Rwf1,000 title deed processing fee.

However, government through the Ubudehe scheme, has waived this fee among citizens under category I and 2 who are regarded as the most vulnerable and also qualify for free health insurance cover.

According statistics at the ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, which oversees the Ubudehe programme, Rwandans under this category are slightly above two million, representing 22.28 per cent of the total population.

“They are mainly the vulnerable people who constitute 25 per cent of total households in Rwanda,” an official at the ministry told The New Times.

Another group said to be reluctant to collect the title deeds are urban dwellers with pieces of land in rural areas.

The official said his department intends to increase awareness among Rwandans on the importance of being the primary custodians of their land title deeds.

He added that his office is working alongside the Rwandan Development Board (RDB) and the City of Kigali to create an interfaced land administration system to work as a data bank for all land transactions in the country.

Narcisse Kalisa, the national programme manager at Search for Common Ground, told The New Times in a separate interview that his organisation was sponsoring a number of drama programmes on community radios to increase awareness on land rights.

“We are saying that ‘look, these are your codified land tenure rights’,” Kalisa explained.

According to Sagashya, the land registry is working hard to ensure another 1.2 million title deeds are issued by end of December 2012.

“Apart from hospitals, I think this is the only public office in this country where staff work in shifts,” he emphasised.

He revealed that family conflicts over land ownership had grossed over 10,000.

Other experts argue that some people are reluctant to collect the deeds as they are unfamiliar with the new concept of individualised land tenure system.

Until 2004, all land belonged to government, but citizens would exercise the right of use.

To operationalise the land policy reforms, government began to map land in countrywide in 2009. The exercise ended in June 2012 with 10.4 million plots of land demarcated.

The project cost $56 million with most of funds coming from the UK government through its international development agency, Department for International Development (DfID).

The exercise aimed at stimulating growth through improved land tenure rights.

Worldwide, there is a growing consensus among the development experts on the link between ensuring access to land and security of land tenure and improved socio-economic development.

Source: Newtimes

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