Fresh survey on Yala Swamp to address historical injustices

A weir at the Dominion Farm in Siaya County. PHOTO/ISAIAH GWENGI
The commission asks the Ministry of Lands and Siaya County Government to give any excess land outside the gazetted Yala Swamp back to the community.

The National Lands Commission (NLC) has ordered a fresh survey in Yala Swamp.

The commission also asked the Ministry of Lands and Siaya County Government to give any excess land outside the gazetted parcel back to the community.

The local community last year petitioned the NLC to have the land returned to its original owners. The matter dates back to 2012 when two members of Yimbo Yala Swamp Farmers Society sued Dominion Farms Ltd.

They sought orders to have the American firm confined to the 3,700 hectares gazetted vide Gazette Notice No 2570 of September 4, 1970.

Dominion Farms

In a March 1 Gazette notice, the NLC approved their complaints and recommended that the ministry and the county government re-survey the swamp to determine the acreage under Dominion Farms, which has since left the swamp. The community petitioned the NLC after the High Court dismissed the suit against Dominion Farms eight years ago.

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But lawyers representing the farmers said the judge erred by determining the suit on the basis of the Gazetted portion, which was not in dispute. On Friday, the residents welcomed the Commission’s recommendation.

Rodgers Ochieng of the Social Community in Democracy Alliance (SCODA), a local NGOa, said they will sensitise the residents of the NLC orders and ask them to prepare to get back their land.

“Article 63 of the Constitution provides that all the lands that were held under trust lands now belong to the community, hence the NLC ruling that the parcel should be registered under the community’s name,” said Ochieng.

Yimbo Union Organising Secretary Thomas Achando said apart from being given back the ungazetted land, they will now want to be actively involved whenever an investor operates on the gazetted portion of the wetland.          

The expansive agricultural complex has been lying idle since November 2017 when Dominion Farms exited, citing an unstable political environment that was not conducive for business.

Two months ago, the Siaya County Assembly passed a motion allowing Lake Agro Limited to set up in the swamp.

The motion tabled by Central Alego MCA Leonard Oriaro requires the county government to engage the NLC to gazette and register the land reserved for the community.

Yesterday, Oriaro and his Yimbo East counterpart Francis Otiato urged the county government to fast track the fresh survey.

“A delay by the county government to implement the recommendations is likely to put prospective investors at risk,” said Oriaro.

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Dominion Farm in Siaya County.Yala SwampNational Lands Commission