Securing land tenure and property rights are fundamental for the realisation of human rights, poverty reduction, food security, sustainable urban development, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability; it is highly critical for the developing countries’ quest for socio-economic development. This situation prevails in Kenya where questions concerning land tenure, property rights and land administration command pivotal positions in the social, economic, legal and political fabric as stated in key policy documents such as the Constitution of Kenya, the National Land Policy and Vision 2030.
The land issues in Kenya are highly contentious and emotive highlighting the complexities resulting from the colonial era. During the colonial era large tracts of land were taken from Kenyans and given for European settlements and farming – the local were evicted from the land through the enforcement of European law. After independence in 1963 the Government acquired farms from European Settlers and distributed them to landless Kenyans; however, the Kenyan elites obtained much of the land of departing settlers.
The importance of addressing land issues in Kenya is reflected by the dedication of Chapter Five of the Constitution to Land and Environment which signifies the resolve to address the “Land Question”. Some scholars attribute the Land Question as a source of conflict: The main legislative frameworks governing land in the country are:
- The Constitution of Kenya (2010) & the National Land Policy designate land is Kenya as public land, community land and private land.
- Others: Land Act 2012, the Land Registration Act 2012, National Land Commission Act 2012, the Environment and Land Court Act 2011: the Community Land Act 2016 and Draft Evictions and the Resettlement Procedures Bill (2012)
At the institutional level, the main bodies governing land are the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning and the National Land Commission (NLC) at the national level and County Land Management Boards at the county level.
In Kenya, UN-Habitat/GLTN has been supporting Kenya’s Land Reform Programme and Land Policy Implementation since 2003; this has informed some of the Land Tools that are currently being shared with other countries where relevant. The continuing GLTN engagement strategy for Kenya has its origins in the successes, lessons and goodwill attained through country-level engagement while at the same time assimilating the agreed global and regional frameworks on land such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGTs); Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (F&G) and other relevant guiding principles.
The main objective of GLTN interventions in Kenya is to contribute to improving tenure security and living conditions of poor urban communities in select areas and to increase knowledge and understanding on land governance and the need for pro-poor and fit-for-purpose land administration solutions in IFAD-supported projects. The key strategies are supporting existing partners’ initiatives, increasing the knowledge and awareness of change agents and strengthening the capacity of partners and communities to implement pro-poor and gender responsive land tools and approaches.