Collective land access by pastoralists in Kenya

The study “Collective land access regimes in pastoralist societies: lessons from East African countries” (2016, 49pp), published by the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development at Egerton University, examines the evolution of collective land tenure regimes in Kenya, including how they affect the local pastoral communities.

Most land held under collective tenure in East Africa is found in the drylands and is inhabited by pastoralists who practise extensive livestock-production systems well-suited to these conditions. The study identifies the drivers and impacts of changes in collective land access since the 1900s, based on data from nine Kenyan communities using un-adjudicated communal lands and group ranches (both intact and subdivided). It analyses the changes in land tenure from the colonial era through post-independence and structural adjustment to the present. It reveals a growing trend towards individualisation of land in pastoral areas. The winners are individuals outside pastoral communities who could buy prime land, i.e. arable or located near cities. These include wealthy and well-connected pastoral households that acquired larger parcels of land in favourable locations when group ranches were subdivided. The losers were poorer pastoral households, including widows who were given small parcels of land in drier locations after subdivision, and descendants of pastoral households that sold their land or lost grazing land and could not find alternative income sources. The authors argue for maintaining collective access to land especially in pastoral areas where extensive livestock production systems provide key economic and social benefits. They recommend that customary laws be included in legal frameworks, and expect this will enable communities to enforce customary laws to protect and improve management of their land. They also recommend higher investments in providing public goods, such as schools, infrastructure, markets and veterinary services in pastoral areas to bridge the social gaps with other communities and strengthen the transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of community governance mechanisms.

The 4-page policy brief “Policy options for sustaining productive pastoral systems” is based on this study.

Posted on 6 August 2016 in Pastoralism, Policy & Power, Pastoralist Livelihoods & Nutrition