The 2010 Constitution of Kenya established a two-tier system of government whereby we now have a national government carrying out its functions through various ministries and State agencies, as well as 47 county governments working through sector departments at the devolved level.
For land administration and management, the national government (Ministry of Land and Physical Planning) mainly carries out land registration, adjudication and titling through its directorates. County governments, through respective lands departments, carry out survey and physical planning functions.
Additionally, county governments hold unregistered community land in trust for the communities they represent. In this regard, counties have begun coordinating communities in preparation to register their land. Some counties are developing inventories of community land within their jurisdiction. Marsabit County, for example, submitted an inventory of the community land in the county to the Land principal secretary in April.
Development partners are also coming on board to support counties in managing community land. The European Union, through the FAO Land Governance Programme, is supporting various initiatives aimed at participatory community land governance at the county level.
The Technical agency of the United Nations FAO-implemented Programme launched GIS Labs in Baringo, Nandi and Vihiga counties this month to further strengthen the counties’ capacity to carry out their roles of physical planning and coordinating communities to manage their land.
In the same period, the Land Development and Governance Institute held a Land Clinic in Marsabit to respond to issues the public face regarding land governance. County governments should strengthen their capacity to coordinate both communities and development partners at an institutional level. Having a director solely responsible for coordinating the activities leading to community registration would go a long way in this regard.
The directorate can have officers at the sub-county and ward levels to ensure accessibility and direct interaction with the communities they support.
In addition to setting up this institutional framework, counties can also begin formalizing some of the existing traditional institutions that oversee access and use of community land and land-based resources. This can be through recognition and documentation of these institutions by relevant county departments. This can also be the way to formalise these institutions as part of alternative dispute resolution systems that will be key in resolving conflicts over boundaries and community resources.
One of the objectives of devolution is to recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development. Prioritising community land governance initiatives will be important in actualising this.
Washe Kazungu, land and natural resource management specialist.