ActionAid International Kenya has joined other civil society organisations along the coastal line in a campaign to support rural smallholder land users to individually and collectively attain secure tenure rights and independent control over the land and its resources through the enactment and implementation of the Community Land Laws.
Under the umbrella of ‘Coast Land Non-State Actors (CLNSA),’ the organisations will work together to reduce incidences of land grabbing, which has become a thorn in the flesh of smallholders in Kenya.
“The highest and the most disturbing concentration of land grabbing activities are found along the coastal strip of Kenya, and notably in Tana Delta region,” observes Kitasi Swaleh, the Project Manager, Land and Natural Resources – ActionAid.
Swaleh notes that local and foreign investors in agriculture and extractive industries are increasing the pressures on land and natural resources in many parts of the country.
Community land in Kenya is particularly under serious threat of being grabbed, thereby alienating it from direct access by smallholder farmers, especially women, who solely depend on it for their survival and livelihoods,
There are several examples, not limited to the coastal region, where community land has been grabbed and handed over to rich foreign investors, against the wish of local residents.
Swaleh refers to a lost battle by locals in Siaya County in Western Kenya, where the vast Yala Swamp has been allocated to a foreign investor without the consent of the residents, who have been using the community land for generations.
Multinational companies facilitated by well-connected economic and political elites have been the main culprits. And this is what we want to stop
It is also evident that discovery of oil and mineral resources, agri-based investments, development of infrastructure such as the Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project and the Vision 2030 flagship projects such as the 1 million acre irrigation project are some of the leading motivations for land injustices in Kenya today.
In Turkana area for example, land has already been divided into oil exploration blocks without the knowledge and consent of the community and communities who have been kept off the ongoing processes and discussions.
Though some communities have already been displaced to pave way for oil exploration, this might just be a drop in the ocean, as it is projected that the oil exploration blocks will cover over 70 percent of the Turkana County.
The CLNSA campaign also champions for the women ownership of land, which remains negligible despite the fact that women provide 70 percent of labour force particularly in Africa and Asia.
The current Kenya’s Constitution provides overarching principles that govern land management in the country including equity. Through this legal framework, Swaleh notes that there are cases of women who have successfully claimed land from their spouses, which is an impressive move facilitated by the law. “Nevertheless, the numbers remain low,” he says.
“Through this campaign, we seek to have laws, policies and practices of both government and private sector relating to land investments that are aligned with the needs of communities,” said Eunice Adhiambo, the Development Consultant at the Ujamaa Centre.
Ujamaa Centre is a civil society organisation that works with peoples and communities in the coast to enhance popular participation in socio-economic and social justice processes; community based decision-making and governance; and efficient and sustainable use of natural resources.
The organisation is part of the CLNSA campaign.
“We are also seeking for land related investments that are inclusive, done responsibly and supportive to the needs of local communities. We also seek for functional and sustainable mechanisms to prevent, denounce and address the land grabs cases at local level,” said Adhiambo.