Fighting an Uphill Battle: Population Pressure and Declining Land Productivity in Rwanda. | Land Portal

Informations sur la ressource

Date of publication: 
janvier 1996
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 
eldis:A27225

Report draws attention to the structure of landholding as a set of mechanisms through which demographic changes in agrarian societies can alter the natural environment: demographically-induced change in the structure of landholding: farm holdings generally become smaller as an ever-increasing number of households enter the agricultural work force and seek to derive their livelihood from this fixed resource base holdings tend to become more fragmented, not simply in the number of parcels operated but in the distances between parcels, as farmers look harder and farther for whatever bits and pieces of land may be availableland scarcity obliges farmers to cultivate marginal, less productive land previously held in pasture, rangeland, woodlot and forestmany households, particularly those owning little land or with an abundance of family labor, find it necessary to expand their holdings by renting land from others. since little new (virgin) land is brought into cultivation, the length of time under cultivation grows longer for holdings already in operationEmphasis is placed on five important landholding variables of profound importance to farmers in Rwanda: tenure arrangements (ownership versus use rights), size of holdings, geographical dispersion of holdings, fragility (steepness of slope), and years of cultivation. Previous studies and current findings reveal that population pressure in Rwanda has been accompanied by dramatic changes along several of these dimensions of landholding. More than ever before, farmers must rent the land they operate, family land holdings have radically diminished in size, and they see little alternative to farming the steep and fragile slopes that once were held almost exclusively in pasture, woodlot and fallow.How have these changes affected the long-term sustain ability of farming in Rwanda? Traditional inputs such as compost, manure, and mulch, invariably go on fields owned by the farmers and especially on those located nearer to the family compound. The same principle holds for field improvements such as the installation of terraces, hedgerows, grass strips, and drainage ditches rented fields and distant fields are largely ignored. On owner-operated parcels, greater investment in conservation and fertility is seen by farmers as necessary to compensate for the detrimental effects of many more years of cultivation. Without these investments, owner-operated holdings would likely be far more degraded still. In general, the longer a field has been cultivated, the more conservation and fertility investments it will receive. Sure to raise concerns, however, is evidence that after 30 years or so, the level of investment by farmers levels off and begins to decline. Have these fields crossed a threshold in which declining returns to investments become a disincentive to further investment? Do limited resources eventually cause farmers to abandon completely these older holdings? What this means is that farmers are losing a difficult and deeply significant struggle; it means that their prize holdings, those they will pass on to their children, have been worked to the point where, under current circumstances, more investment makes little sense.... [adapted from author]

Auteurs et éditeurs

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

D.C. Clay

Publisher(s): 

Fournisseur de données

eldis (ELDIS)

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