Kenya Government Endorses New Method for Recognizing Community Land Rights

Major development in recognition of customary property rights in Kenya

Through its Kenya SECURE Project, USAID, in cooperation with the Kenya Ministry of Lands, recently developed the Community Land Rights Recognition (CLRR) Model, a process for providing legal registration of land held by communities under customary law. This is the first recognition of land owned as a result of customary usage in Kenya and will promote investment, better natural resource management and, in some parts of the country, reduce land grabbing.

Earlier this month, at the closing ceremonies of a workshop held to finalize the CLRR model and plan its implementation, the Assistant Minister for Lands, the Honorable Sylvester Wakoli Bifwoli, praised the work of the SECURE Project and officially endorsed the model as a Government of Kenya instrument for formalizing community land rights. Based on the endorsement, the project will mobilize a team of Ministry staff and other stakeholders in the coming weeks to initiate a pilot of the tool in four indigenous Boni and Bajuni communities in Lamu County.

Lamu County was selected as an ideal site for the project given the nexus of the natural resource management and land use issues within the complex economic and institutional context of the region. The model process will secure the rights of the local Boni and Bajuni communities who have occupied customarily-held land for over one thousand years and have been considered “squatters” without legal standing to advance their social and economic aspirations. The entire region has been a prime target for irregular, illegal, and extra-legal acquisition from speculators targeting the proposed Lamu Port South Sudan and Ethiopia Transport Corridor project area.

Lessons from the pilot projects will help refine the model for replication throughout the country in appropriate communities, and will help inform the development of new land legislation in accordance with the Constitution and the National Land Policy.

Developed based on provisions in Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, as well as the 2009 National Land Policy, the CLRR’s main goal is to provide a mechanism for the registration of community rights and interests to land in a systematic, transparent and cost-effective manner. As a system of land tenure in Kenya, “Community Land” is a new category introduced in the Constitution. This category strengthens the various provisions in the National Land Policy regarding the recognition of all modes of tenure, including customary and community land ownership. Almost all previous statutes on land were geared towards individualization of land with few provisions for recognizing communal rights and interests to land. Until these changes took effect, community land rights in Kenya have been held under the Group Ranch Representative Act, Trust Lands Act and Government Lands Act. These forms of land tenure are no longer recognized by the Land Policy, adopted by Parliament in 2009, and are replaced by “Community” and “Public” tenure regimes.


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