Participatory mapping enhances land governance in Kenya

Nyanchama Angela, Legal/Policy Research and Advocacy Officer at RECONCILE blogs

Project uses participatory mapping method to enhance tenure security and improve livelihoods in counties across Kenya.

Across Africa, increased land acquisition by foreign and domestic agro-industrial investors and governments in recent years has put communities through a variety of threats, including complete loss of their ancestral and indigenous lands.

For experts working to support community land rights, effective land governance is key to securing livelihoods. Land governance underpins success in sustainable development.

For effective land governance, projects need to embrace the principles of good governance. Community participation in the policies, processes, and institutions that manage land and resources, is among them.

Interestingly, engaging communities through participation is a model experts often consider viable for the implementation of development projects. Via engagement, community knowledge and experience contribute to projects, giving a great sense of ownership and involvement.

In addition, participation promotes inclusiveness in the decision-making process. Participatory models, such as participatory mapping can lead to effective land governance and when enshrined in projects can yield great outputs.

The Social Tenure Domain Model

Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE) joined the principles of good governance and participatory mapping to implement a project across counties in Kenya between 2015 and 2017 using the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM).

The Social Tenure Domain Model is a pro-poor land information tool that is used to document land and tenure relationships to enhance access and security for the poor.

The project/model used the concept of participatory mapping to influence processes and institutions to enhance land governance.


The project, which aimed to strengthen and scale up approaches and tools for securing land and natural resources tenure, promoted confidence and transparency on the management of resources in communities. Localities of Bomet, Mwea, and Embu, where the project ran now enjoy a great visibility over their lands and natural resources.

In the participatory mapping process, communities learned a new technology. They tried hands-on mapping resources, using a variety of tools to produce spatial and non-spatial data. The data enabled communities to define the tenure of resources, the management structures as well as access.

Knowing the worth of their lands, communities can defend it from dispossession or expropriation without appropriate compensation.

Participatory planning in decision-making is the key to good governance and we can use it as development specialists to build a more inclusive world, a better place for humanity. It ensures all voices are heard and integrate commitments to address the problems through platforms for learning and building consensus.