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THE PERSPECTIVE OF LAND USE IN KENYA
Name
Walden
NASC 1001 - Environmental Science
2022
THE PERSPECTIVE OF LAND USE IN KENYA
Different people would want different things from a resource. In Kenya land has been equated to
power, with gaining personal identity and with money (Kilewe and Thomas, 1992). (Mather, 1986)
pointed out two concepts of land. One is that land is simply a form of property that may be traded
at will while in the second concept land is much more than a personal property and its possession is
not just a market force to determine. In the latter concept, a sense of stewardship is attached to
land. According to (Kilewe and Thomas, 1992) rights and property ownership have dominated
decisions affecting land use.
There are three basic options on how land resource is used. One is to utilize land to satisfy current
needs regardless of whether such uses exhaust it or not. This kind of land use is commodity and
profit oriented. The second option is to conserve land by utilizing it in a manner that maintains or
renews it and the third option is to preserve the land leaving it in its natural state. The utility of land
can be due to complex factors. (Barrow, 1991) pointed out that climate, communication, law &
order, moral and cultural considerations as some of these factors. (Doxiadis, 1977) indicated that
locality of land may be valued as a consequence of belief and historical accident.
The arrival of European powers in East Africa reversed years of pastoral expansion in Kenya.
British colonial authorities‘ interest in the land of Rift valley (Kenya) resulted in the alienation of
important grazing grounds in 1904 and 1911 (Hughes 2006, Lindsay 1987). Beyond the issue of
competition for land, there were profound disagreements over what constituted good stock and land
management. The paradigm long held by the colonial government is that pastoralism is a
maladapted system of exploitation characterized by low productivity, overstocking, and rangeland
degradation (Lamprey 1983, Mackenzie 1973). Colonial livestock policy focused on trying to make
pastoralism more rational. This focused on land privatization and demarcation and stock-rate
control (Homewood 1995).
Pastoralists were historically excluded from protected areas based on the ecological argument that
pastoralists were environmental stressors (Fratkin 1997, Homewood and Rodgers 1991, Sindiga
1984). The theoretical explanation offered for some of these interventions was linked to Hardin‘s
seminal, the Tragedy of the Commons‖ theory (Hardin 1968). A symmetry exists between Hardin‘s
theory and the fact that kerio community wealth is reflected in the size of cattle herds and families
rather than material possessions, with a cultural tendency of the Kerio communities to maximize
individual herds (Arhem 1981). The colonial argument that pastoralism was an inefficient mode of
production continued to be perpetuated by the Kenyan government (WWG 2004) thus the necessity
of communal land subdivision in Rimoi eco-system.
The contemporary livestock, communal land subdivision and intensification of agriculture in Rimoi
eco-system call for restrictions which are widely acknowledged as being critical to effective wildlife
management strategies. The drought and famine which affected the area in the 1980’s and 1990’s
stimulated an increase in research into the future of pastoralism in arid and semi-arid rangelands of
Kerio Valley (Ellis and Swift 1988, Homewood and Rodgers 1991). During this period, a number of
internationally funded pastoral development projects were initiated that emphasized privatization of
rangeland, commercial ranching and pastoral sedenterisation (Fratkin, 1997). The concept was
generally motivated by Western perceptions of pastoral inefficiency and rangeland degradation
control through the control of pastoral livestock numbers to the defragmentation of wildlife
dispersal and movement corridors.
LAND USE AND LAND TENURE
Land tenure in Kenya as in many African countries has undergone varied structural changes over
the years. According to (Odingo, 1985) the evolution of land tenure system can be divided into four
phases;
 The pre-colonial and early colonial period
 The colonial period
 Pre-Independence period and
 The post- Independence Kenya period
Before Kenya was colonized, clans and tribes/communities used land collectively. The
communities moved from one area to another when the fertility of the land was deteriorating or
when there was an increase in population (Mutoro, 1995). This gave the particular land time to
regenerate and also ease population pressure on the land. When the European settlers inhabited and
subsequently colonized Kenya, they created the “white Highlands” and the “African Reserve”.
These resulted in overcrowding in the reserves and hence serious land degradation due to
overgrazing and cultivation. Although the colonial government gave the settlers ownership rights,
the rights were not extended to the African natives (Mbwika, 1991). In the pre-independence period
in Kenya, the concept of individual land tenure was introduced to Africans. These concept were
forced on them but were later accepted. After Kenya’s independence in 1963, the government
continued with the land registration that had started in the pre-independence period. According to
(Mbwika, 1991), presently there are four types of land tenure systems in operation. These are
communal, freehold, trust lands and government lands. Under communal land tenure systems, land
is occupied by various ethnic groups for use by clans, sub clans and families within the groups
(Mbwika, 1991). Some parts of the country still have this form of land tenure system including
Rimoi eco-system and especially the Arid and Semi-Arid lands (ASAL).
Freehold tenure is commonly found in areas where land adjudication and registration has been
completed. The land owners have title deeds either in their possession or in the district land
registries or deposited in the banks as guarantees securities for loans. On the other hand trust lands
are held by county councils and local authorities whereas government lands are those alienated land
such as forests, national parks and game reserves and townships which fall under the direct control
of government.
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