Rwanda LAND Policy Research Brief: Starting from the Ground – Drawing the Links Between Land, Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition

Rwanda is a USAID Feed the Future (FTF) target country with a strategy covering 2011-2015. Rwanda has a strong rural agricultural profile, but is cited as having high levels of malnutrition with a need to increase agricultural production to feed a population that is the densest in Africa (405 people/km2). Virtually all arable land is already under cultivation – 40 percent of it on slopes steeper than 28 degrees. Soil fertility has rapidly declined due to erosion and severe soil nutrient mining, with between 39 and 51 percent of agricultural land already degraded. Despite recent increases in agricultural production, Rwanda still has many cases of acute malnutrition.

Although land is understood to be a fundamental source of natural capital when it comes to food production, the connections between access to secure land rights and sustainable land use on the one hand and agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition on the other are frequently overlooked. This brief aims to draw out the various links and point to sources of empirical evidence to support them. Specifically, it demonstrates that:

  • Access to land is fundamental to smallholder food production, which is the primary source of food and nutrition for low income, rural families.
  • Secure land rights incentivize agricultural investments and improved agricultural practices, leading to improved productivity and food production.
  • When land rights are secure, land rental markets can flourish, resulting in improved allocations of land to more productive farmers while providing land owners with a reliable source of income and livelihood security.
  • When women have increased control over land and rights to make decisions over land, investments, and production, their productivity is enhanced and food is directed to their families with better nutrition outcomes.
  • Secure land rights reduce land disputes and conflicts, thereby facilitating improved land use and productivity.
  • Tenure security facilitates a more prosperous economic and agricultural transformation, thereby curbing trends toward rampant urban poverty and other social ills.
  • Inclusive land use planning approaches enable farmers – women and men – to have a say in how to utilize land so that it is more productive.
  • By strengthening the capacity of land sector service providers, improved services that enhance land use and land rights are created, leading to improved agricultural productivity and food security.

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