Participatory Strategies to Promote Tenure Security and Sustainable Benefits for Community Lands in Kenya
In Kenya, communities have traditionally faced significant challenges in protecting their land rights. “Community land” forms the largest category of land in Kenya, comprising 67% of all land. Yet, those lands were granted weak recognition in law, mostly for pastoral communities, or infrequently as non-formalized trust lands which, as the name indicates, wehere held in trust by local government. In either case, protections were often poorly respected. Community lands were mismanaged, degraded from poor planning, or illegally acquired by government or private actors. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution recognized community land as a distinct category, which has since been given effect through a new Community Land Act in 2016. These protections provide crucial new openings for communities to improve their tenure security and the benefits they derive from their lands.
Significant questions remain however as to how the Community Land Act – to date largely untested – can operate effectively in practice. The project will seek to answer that question head-on. Through a participatory action research process, this project will test different strategies with communities, to understand how to ensure participatory, accountable and gender equitable land governance processes. Those processes are identified as key for ensuring tenure security and the full socio-economic rights for all community members under the Community Land Act. Case studies are planned in Isiolo County, with minority Turkana communities, to understand how the Act could be adapted to their well-established informal systems of community land governance, including recognition of women’s leadership roles, and with pastoralist Borana communities in Marsabit County, to explore how the Act can help protect their ancestral claims to community lands, which they still rely on largely for their livelihoods and Marsabit counties.
Findings are expected to contribute to strengthening community land rights, making internal governance mechanisms more accountable and gender equitable, and improving land use planning of communal lands and resources. The Research team will showcase successful efforts at County and national-level, to strengthen efforts to implement the Community Land Act in Kenya. This project is part of a cohort of IDRC-supported projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, entitled Using Action Research to Improve Land Rights & Governance for Communities, Women & Vulnerable Groups. In parallel to this project, the organization Namati will be leading complementary research on the Community Land Act, in an effort to build a larger body of evidence and advocacy to ensure the Act’s successful implementation.