Communal land good for pastoralists in Kenya
In Kenya, 67 per cent of land is under communal tenure and supports about 10 million people and 70 per cent of the livestock population. Largely, these lands are characterised by high temperatures and low rainfall and are inhabited by pastoral communities practising extensive livestock production.
SEE ALSO :Blow to Swazuri team in land rowIn the 1980s, group ranches started collapsing. The grazing controls and herd quotas envisioned by the Government never materialised. Pastoralists kept as many animals as they could. In addition, there was pressure to follow what had happened in crop-growing areas where the Government advanced loans to farmers using land as collateral. Further, most group ranches were mismanaged, with no accountability measures in place. Where land was not adjudicated, local authorities allocated parcels to individuals for private use without consulting the community. Further external pressure such as proximity to urban areas and potential for change in land use catalysed the collapse of group ranches and individualisation of land tenure. Pastoralists are now facing more pressure than before on their land. First, increasing population has led to a decline in the land available as animal herds have remained largely unchanged. There has also been an increase in fragmentation and individualisation of land tenure. Communal lands have been targeted by the government, private sector and other actors for large-scale agricultural developments and public sector investments, mineral extraction and other uses. Decline in grazing land has exacerbated overgrazing and impeded improvement of livestock, which would have led to improved productivity and incomes for pastoral households. In addition, investments in public goods delivery have also been low in pastoral areas compared to other parts of the country. Maintenance of collective land tenure provides an opportunity to improve livelihoods in pastoral communities. However, this can only happen if communities’ mechanisms to manage land are strengthened. One way of achieving this is by incorporating customary laws in the legal framework. The community land bill, currently in Parliament, provides for this. Further, the communities need to be supported through investments in delivery of public goods such as infrastructure, schools, livestock markets and veterinary services. County governments in pastoral areas have a great opportunity to achieve this through use of the equalisation funds.