Promoting Collaborative Land Conflict Transformation in Contemporary Rwandan Society

Promoting Collaborative Land Conflict Transformation in Contemporary Rwandan Society

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Rwanda is a densely populated, agrarian society. SFCG seeks to encourage a culture of collaboration and dialogue around land conflicts and land rights issues in key conflict-prone areas. The government is introducing land reform, but people do not yet understand the new policies. We approach this through different media: Radio, participatory theatre, and mediation training for local mediators,

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Rwanda is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The population is over 10 million and will continue to rise. It is a society where the majority of people are rural farmers. Land is already scarce and at a premium. With large family sizes, returning refugees, and new land legislation, there are many questions around land rights in Rwanda. These are augmented by the fact that most Rwandans make their living off the land; it is their most valuable possession. Further exacerbating the problem are cultural issues around inheritance for women, questions of access to land for children born outside of legal marriages, and the rights of orphans and other marginalized groups. The government is putting in place new land legislation that seeks to address some of these problems; however these changes are complex and confusing for most residents. The project seeks to clarify these new changes and opportunities, while providing skills in managing disputes that arise within families and neighbors.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

SFCG understands the centrality of land and land rights in the livelihoods of most Rwandans. We address several issues around land rights centered around two themes: Information about new land legislation and registration programs and opening up dialogue around intra-family or intra-community land conflicts. What makes our idea unique is the media we use to pursue our objectives. SFCG does not solely inform the population, but also seeks to create a platform for them to talk about their concerns. To open dialogue about intra-family and intra-community conflict over land, we use drama and theatre to hold the mirror up to afflicted communities so they can see their conflicts played out. Further, we engage them in the performances, offering them a platform to voice their opinions and ways to resolve disputes. We produce radio shows focused on issues of legal rights to land and inheritance laws. Guests on our radio programs include legal experts as well as government members assigned to land programs. The audience is encouraged to call, email, or SMS the show with their questions and comments. Our on-air dialogues are sent across Rwanda through the radio waves. We also strengthen the abunzi system in Rwanda. The abunzi are local justice systems, created to deal with various local conflicts. As the abunzi most often deal directly in land disputes between residents and hear cases concerning land, SFCG saw an important opportunity to target them under the project. SFCG organizes training sessions with these local mediators, discussing best practices in conflict resolution. Our unique approach, therefore, focuses on issues of land by engaging the population through a variety of diverse channels for dealing with conflict. We use dynamic theatre performances, interactive radio programming, and direct talks with local mediators to facilitate information and resolution of land disputes.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

SFCG seeks to reach as large an audience as possible. Between July and September of 2010, SFCG’s participatory theatre troupe travelled to thirteen different communities in Rwanda. Over the course of those three months, our audience was estimated at nearly 7,600 people. The theatre program aims to spread dialogue about non-violent means to resolve land disputes. These conversations then carry on in the community after the performance, expanding the reach of the performance beyond simply those who attend. In this same period, SFCG produced 11 weekly radio programs on land rights. By using multiple radio stations, our programming reaches almost every corner of the country. Over the course of three programs in July 2010, we received 28 SMS messages, 21 phone calls, and 2 emails during the shows, where audience members shared their questions, concerns, and requests for clarification. This feedback mechanism helped ensure that the project directly responded to their information needs. The August radio programs received 48 SMS text messages, 34 phone calls, and 2 emails. These messages are all from Rwandans with questions or comments about land rights in their own lives or lives of neighbors. One example is Ingnace Karangwa, a farmer who was wary to invest in the land he occupied, unsure of his rights to it. After hearing SFCG’s radio programming, he learned he was legally entitled to his land. He then felt confident to put in more resources. Finally, we trained 260 abunzi mediators in conflict mediation practices. They came from all parts of the country. The number of people this serves will be much higher than the 260 abunzi judges—not only are the mediators receiving the training, but those cases they preside over are also impacted by our work. Our reach, then, is exponential to the number of abunzi attending. One case study, for example, found over 11 months in one village, the abunzi heard some 75 cases related to land disputes alone.
About You
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, KV

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Search for Common Ground

Organization Phone

+250 78 5671066

Organization Address

Kacyiru South, Plot 61; Kigali

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Do you have a patent for this idea?


As noted above, we use three actions to improve land rights in Rwanda: theatre, radio, and mediator training. Each program involves different activities, target groups, and approaches. The theatre program involves sending acting troupes to rural communities, where they dramatize local conflicts and invite the community to participate.

For the radio program, we invite legal experts and government personnel who deal with land issues. Listeners are invited to call or message in to the program with questions of comments about land rights. This provides an interactive, real time platform for the public to learn about what rights they have over land.

Our abunzi training draws in mediators from around Rwanda. We instruct them on understanding the position of opponents in court, how bias can fuel conflict, key components of mediation, and active listening and communication techniques.

All these actions are contingent upon procuring funding and an engaged, receptive audience.


The Land Conflict Transformation Program has been able to produce a steady flow of informative programs towards improving information on land rights. This summer, we aired eleven new radio programs on land rights. Our listenership has been increasing, as noted by rises in call in and messages. Further, we have expanded our capacities, broadcasting live from different locations inside Rwanda. Overall, we have produced over 54 radio programs on land conflicts.

The theatre troupe travelled to thirteen different sites in summer 2010. The plays were held in front of an audience of 7,600 people. In all, more than 34 separate theatre shows have been performed throughout Rwanda. We have also held 8 training sessions for abunzi mediators, working with 260 different judges.

Over the next three years, SFCG Rwanda hopes to continue a path of increased listenership and expansion of work on land conflicts. We have, for example, begun coordinating listening groups to widen our radio audience. We are also in the process of working with local government leaders, building on the success of the abunzi trainings.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

The Rwandan state has given the abunzi courts the right to rule on local matters, including land rights. Our training of the abunzi mediators directly impacts justice around land rights in Rwanda. With new abunzis just being nominated this year, SFCG is preparing the next phase of leadership on land issues.

We also have facilitated meetings between Rwandan government land officials, including the Land Commission and the National Centre on Land, and their counterparts in Burundi to exchange ideas on land policy. Both groups found the exchange extremely useful in terms of broadening their perspective on opportunities and approaches to developing land policy and reform in their respective countries. Based on the visit, they have asked SFCG to investigate opportunities to research land reform efforts on a regional level, documenting best practices, successes, and lessons learned that can inform both governments in their policy development and implementation. A reciprocal visit is being planned between the two governments in the near future.

In addition to these direct public policy programs, SFCG’s land rights radio shows often feature guests from the government or lawyers who can explain land rights to listeners while also fielding questions and taking comments from the population. These guests are drawn from the Land Commission, the Land Centre, Rwanda's Universities, and local lawyers, boosting their profile and accessibility as resources.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

The National Land Centre and the Land Commission of Rwanda are responsible for setting land policy. They are a critical partner for the success of this initiative. SFCG aims to support and strengthen their efforts by contributing our strategic communication expertise. This makes their messages more accessible to the targeted public. Further, SFCG’s reputation as a neutral actor helps to overcome perceptions of bias or skepticism that some audiences have for government information. SFCG identifies its activity themes to complement the government’s priorities and solicits their active participation in radio programs in order to ensure the information is accurate.

The other important partners are the local radio stations, namely Contact FM and Radio Salus. In this partnership, SFCG provides resources and its experience in common ground methodology while working with journalists and facilities at these stations. This approach ensures mutual gains with the radio stations by increased programming that responds to their audience’s interests and attracts a broader listenership while SFCG gaining access to the country's airwaves.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

SFCG is supported through project-specific grants, which complement each other to provide an overall operational budget.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

SFCG has been working in Burundi on land issues for several years. In 2008, when we opened an office in Rwanda, the need for a similar project given the overwhelming demands on land in the country was immediately obvious. SFCG's project draws on experiences from Burundi, while tailoring it to the unique context in Rwanda in terms of the media sector, government initiatives, and the new land legislation. We combined several existing tools for conflict resolution already being used by SFCG (radio, theatre, leadership training) to create a program for assisting people with land right's issues here in Rwanda.

The radio program has been the aspect of the project that has evolved most significantly as it has been implemented. Originally envisioned as a pre-recorded program, in the first few editions, SFCG found a substantial interest for audience participation and the question and answer sessions. The format was subsequently changed to emphasize this component in favor of pre-recorded interviews and similar elements. The number of input received--through emails, SMS, and phone calls--continues to grow, and several programs have been entirely dedicated to fielding audience questions on complex and relevant issues.

The organization was founded in 1982 in the belief that it could make a difference in the way the world deals with conflict. The Rwanda program has grown out of the experience gained by SFCG's global work, while adapting to the local context.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Each component has developed with the input of a number of people on the SFCG Rwanda team. The producer, Jean Paul Ntezimana, has developed the radio program format, tweaking it to respond to audience interests as well as the challenges of getting regular guests on the programs, particularly from the government side. Christine Uwamahoro has led up the participatory theatre efforts, using her acting experience to coach a local theatre group on how to gather ideas from the communities targeted and then develop tailored performances that respond to their specific contexts and conflicts. This approach builds on a technique developed in the DR Congo, which won a previous award from Ashoka. The Abunzi trainings are led by Narcisse Kalisa, who is the National Programs Manager and leads other training exercise SFCG conducts in Rwanda.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Legal education and awareness, Other.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

Creating dialogue between people and land right's experts/government employees.