Article: How Counties can support communities on community land matters (Part I) – Guest Author

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[By: Taalamu Guest Author for June 2020]

We are now nearing the four-year mark since the Community Land Act, 2016 was enacted into law. The Act was assented to law on 31st August 2016 and commenced operation three weeks later on 21st September of the same year. Two years later, in 2018, the regulations to the Act were passed and since then the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning has been taking steps towards making community land ownership as prescribed in the law a reality.

Last year, the Lands Cabinet Secretary appointed community land registrars and the process of community land registration was set to take off in the coming months, though the disruption caused by Covid-19 will likely stall progress. The Ministry of Lands also carried out sensitization forums at the county and sub-county levels for 24 counties which have community land.

However, before we get to the end product of a community title, there are a number of processes that are to be undertaken. These processes are activities that will lead up to the registration of a community and thereafter the registration of community land. The counties that have unregistered community land are among the most underdeveloped in the country and as such, the county governments serving these communities would do well to support communities seeking to register their land. In this article, I’ve proposed the different steps county governments can take to provide this much-needed support.

The aspects that will require improving to ensure sustainable management and administration of community land for these counties include: human resource capacity; technical expertise; equipment (GIS hardware and software, GPS’s, etc.); budget allocation for (county) land administration programmes; and, political goodwill.

For this first part, I’ll focus on the tangible and technical inputs: human resource capacity; technical expertise; and equipment.

With regard to human resource, each county government should consider recruiting enough technical officers who are dedicated to community land activities. The processes leading up to issuance of a community title include: organization of a community laying claim to land; election of a Community Land Management Committee; registration of the community including listing names and particulars of all adult members; application for registration; and, demarcation, survey and registration of community land. The county governments are also expected to have sensitized communities on what the law states and to have developed an inventory of all unregistered community land within their jurisdictions. On the other hand, the counties with unregistered community land are among the largest in the country. Marsabit, Turkana, Samburu, Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and Tana River counties account for about 59% of Kenya’s total land mass.

Community members at Mt Kulal, Laisamis Sub-county, Marsabit County

These two realities (steps leading up to community land registration that require a lot of coordination and the size of unregistered community land) point to a need for having as many technical officers as would suffice to get the job done. For example, a county with over 30 community land units cannot move fast enough with only 2 county surveyors and 2 land adjudication officers. Especially taking into account that registering one parcel may be a process that takes months from start to finish. The adequate numbers for each county will be informed by how the county government intends to undertake sensitization on the provisions of the Community Land Act, and the number of communities laying claim to land. Each county government should use this as the basis for pushing for deployment of additional Ministry of Land surveyors and adjudication officers in the county.

On technical expertise, the focus should be on the sensitization that county governments should carry out for communities, and the development of an inventory of all community land within the county. For the first bit, once the county government has enough officers dedicated to community land administration they should develop a plan to sensitize communities on what the law says, and what the responsibilities of the different stakeholders are. This activity should take place at the sub-ward level (villages and groups of settlements). The county officers who will carry out this exercise should be well trained on the provisions of the Community Land Act and be equipped to respond to the questions they are likely to get as they engage different communities.

The development of an inventory of community land can run concurrently with the community sensitization programme. Upon completing a sensitization meeting, the team of technical officers can proceed to engage the community on aspects of how they use and manage their land. This should be done using a set of interview questions that will help in determining how each particular community identifies itself (beyond ethnicity). Once this is done for all communities in the county, the county government can populate a database of the communities, respective community lands, and the land uses and approximate sizes. This will serve as the inventory to be submitted to the Ministry of Lands Cabinet Secretary to guide registration of community land. GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) will come in handy in developing this inventory and the technical expertise that each county should have should also include GIS professionals.

[Image source: Newman Library/ Baruch College]

Along with the technical expertise, the counties will have to invest in the appropriate technology and equipment that will introduce efficiency in managing community land data. The needs will vary from county to county, but a well-equipped GIS Lab/ Facility will be beneficial across the board. The GIS equipment coupled with handheld GPS devices can be the key instruments in populating a county’s community land inventory. Beyond this, equipment to support community land processes may also include vehicles to facilitate movement of officers to the communities. The counties with the largest tracts of unregistered community land and also some of the most underdeveloped when it comes to tarmac road network. Officers may have to travel hundreds of kilometers on non-tarmac roads to reach communities. Having vehicles dedicated to these officers will go a long way in ensuring processes move fast.

[By: Taalamu Guest Author for June 2020]


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