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Project overview

Land governance in Burundi
Reform of the Land Code to allay conflicts

The Commission Nationale des Terres et autres Biens

The Commission Nationale des Terres et autres Biens (CNTB) in Burundi involves the people in delimiting plots of land.

In Burundi, nearly 80% of the conflicts brought to courts concern land governance. The return to the country of thousands of refugees has strongly increased demographic pressures and with it competition for land. The SDC’s Programme on Land Tenure strengthens the empowerment of local populations in the designation and registration of land tenures. It also facilitates their registration as owners of plots.

A bad surprise awaited Immelde Ntakarakorwa (in the centre of the photo) on her return to her home country in 2005 after a period in exile in Tanzania. A part of her family land had been appropriated by the municipal authorities of Ruhororo in the north of Burundi.

Conflict over land tenure is nothing unusual in a country where more than three quarters of the population live in rural areas and depend on arable land for their own food production. The return of thousands of refugees to their home country has strongly increased demographic pressure. As land becomes scarce, attempts at plunder become numerous, and each dispute over a plot of land becomes a potential source of violent conflict.

Long and expensive procedures
Informal mediation of conflicts is proving to be less and less efficient as competition for land grows. At the same time, procedures for the official registration of ownership rights are long and expensive, not to mention that only three offices are currently authorised to register tenure rights and to manage changes at the national level.

When it launched the pilot project on Land Tenure in Burundi in 2007, the SDC noted that the situation was urgent. In collaboration with other sponsors, the SDC succeeded in convincing the Burundi authorities that only reform of the Land Code and decentralising the national land tenure services would calm the situation.

A new system of decentralised management and the first results
Since the project was launched, the SDC, together with different actors involved, has developed a new decentralised structure for managing land tenure in Marangara and Ruhororo, two communities in the province of Ngozi in Northern Burundi. A joint information campaign was conducted in the villages, and four land tenure officials have been recruited.

The support provided by the SDC to the Commission Nationale des Terres et autres Biens (CNTB) (National Commission on land and other Assets) has made it possible to draw up an inventory of state land in the municipalities of Marangara and Ruhororo, and to place the boundary posts with the agreement of the people. In October 2010, the programme bore its first fruit: a series of 185 land titles were delivered in the two municipalities. The municipality of Ngozi was chosen as the third municipality for the country pilot scheme.

Monitoring implementation of the new legislation
At the national level, the programme strengthens the expertise of the government actors in land tenure. By bringing the results of its pilot scheme into the national debate, the Land Tenure Programme monitors the government in finalising and communicating the new legislation under preparation: land policy paper, Land Code and implementation guidelines.

It also supports the required co-ordination effort between ministries and civil society. One coordination unit has been placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Territorial Management to coordinate all land tenure registration work.

The right of women to inherit
The programme strengthens the capacities of civil society, the media, and elected officials in the current dialogue on the question of land tenure with the aim enabling the authorities to take more closely into consideration issues emerging in the field, such as the question of the right of women to inherit.

In the case of Immelde Ntakarakorwa, the CNTB resolved the dispute by involving the people in the delimitation of the plots of land. «With the support of the other residents, I feel better able to have my rights respected,» explained Immelde.

In Burundi, the SDC is active at all decision-making levels, national, provincial and municipal. A genuinely decentralised system of land tenure management is not possible without the close collaboration of the authorities. For example, the pilot scheme conducted in the Province of Ngozi can influence national legislation; on the other hand, the national land register must recognise locally attributed ownerships.

An experiment to replicate
Currently, deliberations are under way on the possibility of developing a land tenure project in the Province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo based on the experience of the current project in Burundi. The SDC has already financed two prospective studies.


Brief description of the project

Corporate Domain
Regional Cooperation
Land Governance
European Union
The Embassy of the Netherlands in Burundi
Current situation
The growth in land transfers in Burundi is causing disputes between local people and the authorities. The land tenure registries are overloaded.
Project objectives
Prevent and resolve land disputes by including local actors in the designation and registration of land ownership in the field.
Promote rural development and reduce poverty so that owners of plots of land in the possession of guarantees of ownership no longer hesitate to invest time and money.
Target groups
The people of Burundi, as the beneficiary of the services of the state, and civil society organizations.
CHF 8'400'000
April 2011–December 2013


Additional Information and Documents