Tenure Security for Communal Land Owners at last

Angela Nyanchama, Legal/Policy Research & Advocacy Officer and Irene Musundi Participatory Rangelands Management Project Administrator at RECONCILE

One key development towards securing Community land tenure was realized through the engagement of Land Sector Non-State Actors (LSNSA). LSNSA was established in 2007 with the key objective to push for land reforms in a more structured and coordinated way. It is a multi-stakeholder platform bringing together civil societies, professional bodies and the Kenya Private Sector (KEPSA). RECONCILE through the forum had a bias on Customary Land Tenure based on the fact that we mostly work in ASAL areas where such tenure exists.

Through the engagement it realized that in as much as the communal ownership was previously administered under the Trust Land Act and the Land (Group Representatives) Act, the same were not effective in protecting these lands owing to certain loopholes which rendered the Community vulnerable to illegal titling and individualization. To address these, it was necessary for land reforms to provide secure communal land tenure. RECONCILE being a member and the secretariat, spearheaded the push for land reforms to provide for the protection of communal ownership.

To realize this, RECONCILE through LSNSA engaged relevant stakeholders through conferences aimed at advocating for recognition, protection and registration of community land rights. The elements discussed included: protection of women land rights, people centered governance in land and strengthening the community engagement in the extractive sectors among other issues. Targeted dialogues built consensus with specific groups such as the pastoralist and coastal parliamentarian group among other relevant actors like policy makers and relevant government ministries with an aim at addressing legal loopholes to achieve the objective.

The engagement facilitated the formulation and eventual passage of the sessional paper no.3 of 2009 the National Land Policy that enhanced the discourse on Land Reforms such as harmonization of the Land laws which was emphasized in the Constitution of Kenya. This gave birth to the categorizing of land in Kenya as Public, Private and Community. Narrowing to Article 63(1) of the Constitution that provides for community land tenure which is vested in and held by communities.

Now we have the Community Land Act 2016 that was enacted to give effect to this Article and to provide for the recognition, protection, registration, management and administration of community land. This came as a relief to community members who rely on common resources for their livelihoods. The Act provides for the registration of communities which confers to them a legal entity able to transact on their land. With secure tenure and clear guidelines on the management and administration of community land, communities are assured of a protected livelihood system.