An evaluation of land reform implementation in post-genocide Rwanda : the case of the southern province
Dushimimana, Jean De Dieu
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The present study focused on evaluating the land reform implementation in post-genocide Rwanda, particularly in the Southern Province’s rural areas. The main objective of this study was to assess, based on empirical realities, the implementation of land reform through land registration and land use consolidation. In order to achieve this objective, a series of research questions were posed to collect data. The questions aimed to establish: how does land reform solve the problems of land-related conflicts and poverty in the Southern Province of Rwanda; what are the views and experiences of implementers and beneficiaries of land reform on possible weaknesses and strengths of land reform in post-genocide Rwanda and how can land registration and consolidation be implemented in order to contribute to positive land reform in post-genocide Rwanda, particularly in the Southern Province? The study was based on three statements (hypotheses): Statement (Hypothesis) 1 (H1): Land reform improves commercial agriculture; Statement (Hypothesis) 2 (H2): Land reform advances equality and Statement (Hypothesis) 3 (H3): Land reform stabilises rural social relationships. Theories on land reform and human behaviours were investigated to understand and interpret the data of the findings on land reform implementation in the Southern Province. These theories included the neoliberal approach (applied to H1), the populist approach (applied to H2), the benefits theory (applied to H3) and the social and exchange theory (applied to H3). Research methods employed were the mixed-methods approach of both paradigms recognised in social sciences, namely quantitative and qualitative designs, where the quantitative study formed the major part of the empirical investigation. A total of 385 farmers participated in the survey and answered general questions. Only questions related to the evaluation of land reform through land registration were answered by 364 people from the households whose land was registered and titled while 263 only answered questions related to land use consolidation. To supplement the survey results, interviews were organised with 79 participants. These included 24 farmers, 8 District Mayors, 10 representatives of the Rwanda Natural Resource Authority, 10 representatives of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) in Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) (agronomists), and 29 civil society members. Focus-group discussions (FGDs were organised in which 56 farmers in total partook (i.e. 7 persons per district). Overall, the present research study revealed that the land registration was successfully implemented in the Southern Province as was the case in other areas of the country. The land use consolidation, however, was only successful in marshlands where farmers regrouped in agricultural cooperatives and practised mono-cropping; in individual households it failed. As far as the verification of statements (hypotheses) is concerned, the results of the present study partly confirmed the first statement (hypothesis) postulating: Land reform improves commercial agriculture. The same results also partly supported the arguments of the neoliberals that land reform advances commercial agriculture, and it fully supported the populist stance that advocate for agricultural development based on cooperating peasant households. The second statement (hypothesis), Land reform advances equality, was also partly confirmed due to the various supporting realities including that nearly all the people were given land titles, women and the poor of the peasantry class benefited from land rights on the same level with others. There are also more results supporting the neoliberal and populist approaches to land reform as well as the views of the benefits and social exchange theories than results that reject these viewpoints. For the third Statement (hypothesis), Land reform stabilises rural social relationships, delivered more supporting results such as the curbing of land conflicts and strengthening of social cohesion but it was limited by the persistence of the culture of inheritance that restrains land reform to address land fragmentation. For a successful land reform, the study recommends that the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) to collaborate with the local leaders, beneficiaries and other stakeholders including civil society organisations, to improve the procedures and modalities of implementing the land use consolidation programme. This should be done by taking into consideration the priorities and needs of local people (beneficiaries) such as priority crops chosen by themselves. MINAGRI should also distribute seeds and fertilisers on time, address climate fluctuations biases and encourage cooperating farmers. In short the present research makes recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA) to address the identified weaknesses of land reform implementation, specifically land use consolidation. These recommendations will help ensure a further phase for the implementation of a revised and amended policy, which could deliver effective land reform in post-genocide Rwanda.