The government is set to implement reforms that will see land lease fees as well as cost of land transactions revised as it seeks to reduce land conflicts.
The planned reforms include easing the long-standing restrictions on subdivision of agricultural land of less than one hectare so that parcels can be registered in owners’ names as opposed to co-ownership arrangement.
However, officials insist this has to be done without compromising the land consolidation programme.
The reforms are part of the new land policy proposals being finalized by a land sub-sector working group spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands and Forests (MINILAF).
Officials say the existing land policy enacted in 2004 needed to be reviewed to address a number of gaps and respond to emerging issues associated with increasing urbanization and population pressure.
Concerns around high cost for land-related transactions as well as complications in registering parcels were the majority of complaints raised by landowners during the implementation of the existing policy.
Florien Nteziryayo, land use and protection unit acting director at MINILAF said an assessment and consultations informed the policy review, which showed that land related taxes and fees were too high and most people found them a burden and were unable to comply.
“We need to see whether we can collaborate with the revenue collection authority to make sure the taxes are revised and are responsive to everyone,” he said.
Mr Nteziryayo said a reduction could be applied to the cost of land services such as the land transfer fees currently standing at Rwf30,000, but will also identify what could be the right value that could be assigned to various land services, which would be affordable for landowners and land lease fees payers.
“We are looking at how in taxing land, everyone can be taxed based on his capacity instead of exempting some categories such as small agriculture land. Most Rwandans don’t have land that is more than two hectares. The tax base could be reduced and then everyone can be paying taxes according to their capacity,” Mr Nteziryayo said.
Land lease fees largely vary on the basis of size and physical location of the land, which sometimes does not correspond to the market value. Charges range between Rwf30 and Rwf80 per square metre in urban areas while those in rural areas are charged Rwf10 to Rwf30 per square metre annually.
Only land of less than two hectares is exempted from taxes under the current policy.
Disparity between taxes levied vis-à-vis the owners’ incomes has in most cases seen people fail to comply.
Gaps in the country’s legal and policy framework regarding land use have been linked to issues of deprivation of rights and limited access, affecting mainly people in informal marriages and vulnerable social categories.
This has also seen an increase in cases of informal land-related transactions, potentially fuelling unending disputes and in other instances the cause of low noncompliance with standards and zoning as required by master plans.
Faced with high population pressure coupled with rapid urbanisation, the country’s land is under increasing fragmentation with housing settlements encroaching on the much needed arable land.
Projections show the country faces limited land to support rapid urbanisation anticipated to reach 70 per cent in 2050 from an estimated 17 per cent in 2015.
The medium population growth scenario shows the country will have 16.3 million people in 2032.
Need for clarity
MINILAF officials say there is a need for clarity in the growth projections of the City of Kigali and secondary cities in a bid to review the land use plans accordingly.
Jean Claude Musabyimana, permanent secretary at MINILAF told Rwanda Today that the government plans to carry out a comprehensive land suitability mapping, which will serve as a basis for developing detailed physical plans for urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
The mapping will help design land use plans at different levels on top of delineating all urban, peri-urban and rural land boundaries.
“We are proposing some radical shifts in terms of hierarchy of land use planning where we shall introduce a sector land master plan to be formulated after carrying out clear land suitability mapping.
This will serve as a guide to effective and efficient land utilization and management across the various sectors,” said Mr Musabyimana.