Rwanda agricultural landscape.

Rwanda agricultural landscape. Credit: SERVIR Africa.

In recent years, Rwanda has seen robust economic growth and human development. School enrollment, parity in boys’ and girls’ education, and child and maternal health have all improved.  The country has significantly reduced infant mortality, poverty, and income inequality.

In tandem with this progress, the Government of Rwanda has implemented a nationwide Land Tenure Reform Program, which demarcated, adjudicated, and registered nearly all individual land holdings between 2004 and 2012.  Land registration has brought increased land security to many of the rural poor, while increasing opportunities and incentives for people to invest in their farms and livelihoods.

In 2004, the Land Tenure Reform Program began to establish a legal and institutional framework for land.  The government adopted an Organic Land Law (2005) that recognizes customary land ownership and equal land rights for men and women. Land registration is mandatory under the law, and by 2012, 10.3 million land parcels had been registered.  The government continues to issue land titles and to resolve thousands of disputed land claims, many of which are a legacy of mass genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which was followed by years of dislocation and multiple waves of returning refugees.  Land titles are also expected to help smallholder farmers to use land as collateral for bank loans, and to increase investments in agriculture.


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While the government has worked to diversify the economy, agriculture remains the primary source of employment.  Rwanda is the most densely populated country in continental East Africa, with approximately 456 people per square kilometer.  High population density and reliance on agriculture put significant pressure on resources.  According to the government, over-exploitation of land has resulted in declining productivity and environmental degradation, contributing to malnutrition.  Soil losses are estimated to cost Rwanda the capacity to feed 40,000 people a year. 

Though Rwanda continues to face development challenges, the country’s economic, policy and legislative reforms are ongoing.  The government is working to adjudicate and demarcate plots of land that have not yet been registered because ownership was disputed.  Through Rwanda’s Vision 2020, which serves as a framework for the country’s long-term development, the government hopes to modernize agriculture and reduce the incidence of poverty to 30 percent of the population. The government has implemented the Crop Intensification Programme to improve agricultural productivity.  It requires farmers to plant specific crops based on region, in exchange for which the government offers marketing support.

Rwanda infographic

Total population 10,942,950
Rural population / rural poverty rate 8,850,746/48.70%
Share of women in agriculture N/A
Urban population / urban poverty rate 2,092,204/22.10%
Internally displaced People N/A
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 24,670/77.83%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 9.99%
Forested land (as % of total) 18.04%
Annual deforestation rate 2.47%
Land rights and access rating 0.648
Time required to register property (days) 25
Women's ownership rights N/A
Large-scale land holdings 20,000
GDP per capita (current USD) 583
Agriculture as % of GDP 31.95%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 3.26%
Major natural resources gold, tin ore, tungsten ore, methane, hydropower
Tourism as share of GDP 0.24%