Rwanda: Govt to Repossess Idle Farms in Eastern Province

17 January 2020

People who own tracts of land they received over ten years ago during the land redistribution exercise in Eastern Province and have not put that land to use are likely to lose it next month.

The province has given them up to February 28 to have started productive farming activities on the land.

In 2008, President Paul Kagame led an exercise that redistributed farmlands in districts of Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza and Kirehe in Eastern Province in bid to promote livestock farming and improve welfare of people.

The beneficiaries got the land free of charge.

Much of the land that was redistributed at the time belonged to senior government officials and military officials, whom the President said at the time they did not need the land more than the residents to whom it was given.

During the redistribution, people who do not have land were given up to 10 hectares an individual depending on the activities they wanted to do on the given land.

However, after finding that some of the farms were idle, however, over 12 years later, Government established an ad hoc land commission to assess the management and use of the farmlands.

Those found not using the land since the redistribution exercise will see the acquired land repossessed so that it can be given to those that can productively use the land.

Besides ensuring the chunks of land are put to use, the ad hoc commission is also sensitising farmers on the productive use of the farmlands, as well as solving disputes related to this type of land.

What farm owners are required to is do clear the bush, build a fense, establish paddocks, growing crops on no more than 30 percent of the farmland as the land is principally for livestock, improve the livestock breeds, pay leasing fees, and register the land, among others.

For about two years, the commission has solved 134 disputes related to the distributed land, while some 1,350 hectares belonging to government that were illegally held by residents recovered.

The Governor of Eastern Province, Fred Mufulukye, said: "What we really want is that the land provided by the government benefit Rwandans," and added, "Nobody wishes that a citizen loses their land."

"We do not intend to punish anyone, but there are laws we follow, which include repossessing it from them if it is not being used productively," he insisted.

Mufulukye added that the commission has played role in the increase of dairy productivity.

"For instance in Nyagatare district alone, today, they supply around 90,000 litres every day to milk collection centre," he pointed out.

The quantity of milk in the district has increased to 93,000 litres per day supplied to Inyange dairy plant in October 2019, up from more than 38,000 litres a day in October 2018.

Farmers speak out

Following a meeting of the farmers from the four districts on Wednesday in Kayonza district, Peter Musisi, who has a 24-hectare farm in Munini, Rwimbogo Sector in Gatsibo District said;

"On my behalf, they should extend the deadline considering the pace and our capacity, I believe that in a short time, we would achieve what is needed."

In any case, he said, "We are willing to do it," and "going to do our best."

Musisi however stressed that is doing the needed works on the farms is "very expensive", adding that at first he had to sell four of his cows to just clear one part of the farm.

"There is also a high demand of workers," he said, adding that this makes them expensive.

Gaudence Candari, who has 13 hectares in Kiyanja, Gahini Sector in Kayonza District, argued that some people fail to work on their farmland because it is not registered under their names due to ongoing disputes.

"I tried to do the required work on my land, but when a dispute arose, I had to put the works on hold to resolve the dispute and until today, I do not have the land title," she said.

Candari said she was harassed many times by the person she was in dispute with before she reported him, but she expects to manage the farm better when she get the documents.

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