Urban population has spilt into agricultural land, which could affect the country’s efforts to increase food production, an audit report reveals.
A 2017 audit on the national land use shows that a number of districts were under demographic pressure and migration from Kigali, forcing them to encroach on agricultural land.
The assessment jointly carried out by a team of officials from Rwanda land management and use authority (RLMA), Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) and local government was done to assess land use problems faced from 2011 to 2016.
The audit shows that an estimated 1820 hectares of land deemed suitable for agriculture or located in best agriculture zone was converted to residential uses in only 10 districts where data was available.
For several other districts, however, there were no data to help team quantify land usage though the general observation is that a huge chunk of arable land is being used for residential purposes.
Particularly, areas near cities’ boundaries rank among places where agricultural lands are most threatened by large unplanned urban development.
Agriculture docket officials could however not indicate the extent to which the encroachment had affected the output of the sector.
“We are yet to know to what extent this reduction affected the agriculture sector since it would require to carry out a comprehensive assessment which we haven’t done yet,” said Dr Charles Bucagu, deputy director general in charge of agriculture at Rwanda Agriculture Board.
Mr Bucagu argued, however, that reduction of farming land may take long for its impact to reflect in seasonal output since the focus was much on farming practices that guarantee much yield on less chunk of land.
There have been fears that the country’s efforts aimed at averting a potential food crisis by ensuring optimum productivity through land consolidation programmes risked failing as more arable land shifts to non-agrarian use.
The national size of arable land is estimated at 1.5 million hectares, approximately half a hectare per each farm household.
Districts like Rwamagana is estimated to have already lost close to 253 hectares of agricultural land to urban settlement over the past few years. Other huge conversions of arable land to other uses were registered in Kicukiro (377ha) Karongi (300ha), Ngoma (244ha) and Nyabihu with 231ha.
According to the audit findings, other districts like Kamonyi, Musanze, Nyamasheke, Nyanza and Rubavu were also set to continue losing agriculture land to slums developed outside of planned urban area and rural settlements.
Besides, unnecessary consumption of land suitable for agriculture was being observed even in a region with a lowest population density of the country like the Eastern Province’s Nyagatare, Gatsibo and Bugesera.
Institutions in charge of land use and management cited poor planning, limited compliance to the existing master plans by local authorities as being key lead cause in most of these areas.
The findings could inform the ongoing formulation of a revised land policy, according to Rwanda land management and Use authority.
Esperance Mukamana, director general at Rwanda land management and Use authority told Rwanda Today that the concerns prompted the recent enactment of the ministerial instructions on protection of agriculture land, strictly curtailing any further attempt to alter use agriculture land.