Commission to probe how carbon trading company acquired land

The court has ordered a commission to investigate how a company trading in carbon acquired 3,753-acre land while over 140 members of the Wata community occupied it.

Judge Stephen Murigi Kibunja issued the orders following a suit filed by Kambanga Ranching (DA) Co Ltd against 147 occupants named as respondents.

Justice Kibunja directed the National Land Commission (NLC) to file its report with the Environment and Lands Court in Voi in 90 days.

“Because the defendants (the 147) were in occupation of the suit land before it was allocated and registered in the name of the plaintiff (the company), this suit is hereby referred to the National Land Commission for investigations, under Article 67(2)(e) of the Constitution and recommendations on the appropriate resettlement of the defendants,” ordered the court.

The company filed the suit on February 28, 2022, and wanted the court to declare that the 147 were there illegally and wanted them to vacate.

Through its director, George Mwakideu Mwasho, the company said the land was set aside for ranching and not human habitation, adding that it was allotted in 2010 by the Government of Kenya and formally registered in its name on March 11, 2013. 

The company claimed in 2011, some people started trespassing on portions of the land, carrying out charcoal burning, poaching and building shanties.

Mwasho said the company has been paying ground rent of Sh160,250, and was engaged in carbon trade.

He admitted that the acreage in their letter of allotment dated December 28, 2010, was 12,948 hectares, while that in the title was 13,665 hectares. He explained that the acreage in the letter of allotment was only an approximation. 

Mwasho testified that it is cultural practice for the Kasigau elders to settle any visitors who visit the area and agreed that the Wata community might have been living on the land in the past.

He added that the Wata people were not there when the suit land was allocated to the company.

He explained that in 1972, the District Agricultural Officer had allocated the ranches previously used as hunting blocks to various groups, including the company. He admitted that there were developments such as a school and health centre on the suit land, but stated he could not recall when they were built.

The company also called Bartholomew Mwanyungu, a registered land surveyor, who testified and told the court that he had conducted a survey of the suit land under instructions from the company and prepared a report dated July 7, 2021.

He stated that the area encroached by the Zungulukani settlement is 1519 ha or 3753 acres.

Bashora Muhindi Guyo, Zipporah Mbula Ndongo and Mabakani Badipha defended the community.

Guyo said he was 53 years old and had lived on the land since birth. He explained that Zungulukani settlement consists of three villages, which have more people than the 147 sued.

He denied claims they were cutting down trees and burning charcoal on the land. He disclosed that there was a meeting between the residents of Zungulukani and government officers where they were told to continue staying there as the government tried to resolve the row between them and the company.

Guyo said they were unaware that they were living on a ranch.

Badipha said he had lived on the land since he was born in 1940.