Rwanda: Why Rwanda Plans to Set Up Tech to Monitor Land Use

Rwanda plans to use technology that can help to detect changes in land use, a move that is intended to help tackle deviation including encroachment on agriculture land, and ensure efficient utilisation of this natural resource, according to the National Land Authority (NLA).

The Director General of National Land Authority, Marie Grace Nishimwe, told The New Times that the land administration tracking information system will be developed in the next financial year (2024/2025).

She indicated that the authority was working on terms of reference, pointing out that it would know the exact budget needed to develop the system after completing the exercise.

"We want that it helps us to monitor [land use] before going to the field, such that we at least have such information which can help us to target given areas where we realise changes are being made," she said.

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During hearings on State asset management held by the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on May 7, it was exposed that land management was marred by issues including plots being used for what they were not designed for - land use deviation.

The issues include cases of land designed for agriculture being used for construction, and constructing single houses instead of multi-level buildings in specific areas, which results in inefficient land use and lack of compliance with master plans.

It is such issues that the anticipated system seeks to address, according to officials from NLA.

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Talking about the current practice, Nishimwe told PAC members "now, what we do to know the deviation is to do inspections by our staff going to the field and observe how [land use] masterplans are implemented."

"But you might go to the field and find that things have got out of hand, which therefore, requires having a system that can help you to detect the changes that occurred on land, and then conduct field inspections to know whether those changes are legitimate," she observed, adding that "it can help us to fast-track inspection and knowing all places, including where we were not able to reach."

The available land in the country does not increase in size but rather, becomes more limited as a result of more housing needs from the increasing population.

Jules Ngango, an agricultural economist, told The New Times that while an improvement was achieved in food production resulting from progress in farming practices such as adopting fertiliser use in the country, agricultural land was being encroached by construction projects, which is a threat to food security amid population growth.

For him, the system - once effective - can be part of the solution to this problem.

"If the system is developed and becomes successful, it will be much needed because land use is critical not only for agriculture, but also for other activities. When land is not efficiently used, development cannot be achieved," he said.

For him, it is good to map land designed for agriculture and protect it from encroachment, but also ensuring that those who practice farming are dedicated farmers to optimise productivity.

How will the system work?

According to NLA, the system will analyse satellite or aircraft imagery, and use artificial intelligence. By comparing images taken by satellites or aircraft in different periods, it could help detect whether land use is being deviated for instance, by establishing that there was no structure on it at a given time, but images show that a structure was being set up a week or two weeks later.

"When we think about its establishment, it is because it helps to detect, in real time, changes on land. That means if there is a place where there is a change, it, say, marks red showing you that there is something being done on the land," Nishimwe said, indicating that it is artificial intelligence that can help detect normal and abnormal changes in different periods.

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