Empowering Women through Land Tenure Regularization: Evidence from the Impact Evaluation of the National Program in Rwanda

Empowering Women through Land Tenure Regularization: Evidence from the Impact Evaluation of the National Program in Rwanda

By Daniel Ali, Klaus Deininger, Markus Goldstein, Eliana La Ferrara


Summary and Key Findings


Pressure on land has long been considered as a serious hindrance to Rwanda's development. In response to this problem, in 2010 the government of Rwanda launched a nationwide land tenure regularization (LTR) program, a first time land adjudication and registration process that was imagery-based and low cost (US$ 5 per parcel). In less than three years, the Rwanda Natural Resource Authority (RNRA) registered more than 10.7 million parcels (of the estimated 11.5 million parcels of land in Rwanda) and delivered about 6.7 million titles (Republic of Rwanda, 2014). The program was so successful that it has set a new standard and is now being widely adopted across sub-Saharan Africa.  RNRA, DFID and the World Bank’s Research Department and Africa Gender Innovation Lab have been collaborating on an evaluation of the pilot program (using a geographic discontinuity approach) as well as the national roll-out (using a randomized evaluation strategy).


The results of the evaluation of the pilots pointed to three main effects of the program: (i) improved land access for legally married women and better recordation of inheritance rights, although women who were not legally married saw diminished property rights; (ii) significant investment impacts (i.e., doubling of the change in investment in soil conservation) that were particularly pronounced for women; a reduction in land market activity rather than distress sales. Building on these initial results, a rigorous randomized impact evaluation was designed for the roll-out of the LTR at the national level. 100 sectors nation-wide were randomly selected from all sectors eligible for ‘regular’ LTR implementation. 


Overall, the LTR program rapidly improved perceived land tenure security on demarcated and adjudicated parcels for both male and female participants. This holds for different outcome variables, including the risk of disagreement over ownership (apart from government allocated land), the risk of losing the parcel if left fallow and the risk of government expropriation. Furthermore, LTR strengthened subjective rights of married women to be claimants on the land. While the results on the pilots raised some concerns about the fate of women who were not legally married, the effective measures taken in response by the government translated into clear improvements in inclusion in the national roll-out. Non-legally married women in areas that received LTR were more likely to be registered as claimants on a parcel than similar women on control areas (though to a lesser extent that women with marriage certificates). This underlines the importance of piloting programs, and of their rigorous monitoring and evaluation, before national roll-out to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups.