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The law allows you to own as much land as you wish

By Harold Ayodo | July 7th 2016

I have identified slightly over 100 acres to buy for farming. However, I am not how much land the law allows one to own. Are there maximum and minimum land holding requirements? What would happen to ranchers who own large tracts of land and citizens with less than the minimum required?

Martin, Nairobi.

You are at liberty to go ahead and purchase the 100 acres as intended.

The Constitution requires Parliament to enact laws prescribing maximum and minimum land holding acreages in respect to private land. Article 68(i) of the Constitution empowers Parliament to prescribe minimum and maximum private land holding acreages.

However, Parliament is yet to come up with the required legislation, meaning everyone is at liberty to own any size of land until a law is enacted.

Recently, the National Assembly voted to extend the constitutional timelines for passing 28 pieces of legislation, among them the Kenya Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreage Bill 2015, for a further one year.

Not many ranchers who own large tracts would easily give up their investments if the National Assembly caps acreage below their sizes.

Ranchers aside, what would happen to owners of land below the legally set minimum required size? The realities of ownership sizes will begin sinking after provisions of the Land Act 2012 are fully implemented.

The Land Act stipulated that a scientific study on the economic viability of minimum and maximum land sizes were to be commissioned two years ago.

The findings of the study were to be subjected to public comments in line with the Constitution before debate and adoption in Parliament.

Rules prescribing the acreages – based on the scientific study report – were then to be published by the Cabinet Secretary for Lands.

According to the Land Act, the scientific study is mainly to determine the economic viability of private land acreages in various zones countrywide.

The Cabinet Secretary for Lands is required to table the final report in Parliament for debate and adoption within three months after its publication.

The law bars the registrar from registering property that breaches the prescribed guidelines on minimum and maximum acreages of private land.

The provision of the Land Act may take effect as the country struggles to implement the elusive land reforms.

Until recently, the country never had a National Land Policy — there were also several land laws, some of which were incompatible — resulting in a complex land management and administration system.

Since independence, the emotive land question manifested itself in many ways such as fragmentation, breakdown in land administration, disparities in ownership and poverty.

Consequently, other complications came to the fore including environmental, social, economic and political problems.

Others are deterioration in land quality, squatting and landlessness, disinheritance, urban squalor, under-utilisation and abandonment of agricultural land, tenure insecurity and conflicts.

At one time, some land owners in Kisumu were jittery after the County Assembly passed motion that would pave the way for repossession of undeveloped private land. That move was not new as former Lands Permanent Secretary Dorothy Angote once warned that idle land would be taxed.

Currently, freehold land makes up over 20 per cent of land held countrywide either individually or collectively.

Majority of the high value agricultural land that has been adjudicated is registered as freehold after colonial settlers demanded land individualisation before investment.

Even as the minimum and maximum ownership acreage waits to be set, the land question remains culturally, ethnically and economically charged.

— The writer is an advocate of the High Court

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