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Title deed issuance gathers pace ahead of Uhuru 2022 exit

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President Uhuru Kenyatta presents title deeds at Kenyatta International Convention Centre on November 3, 2020. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

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Summary

  • Households and businesses in Meru County top the list of beneficiaries under the government’s efforts to issue title deeds and end perennial land disputes that hurt investments.
  • In a country where households and businesses need collateral to secure credit, title deeds offer a major form of security that banks and micro-lenders can use to issue loans.
  • Businesses and households in the northeastern and Coastal counties are the lowest beneficiaries of the ambitious programme launched 18 years ago.

Households and businesses in Meru County top the list of beneficiaries under the government’s efforts to issue title deeds and end perennial land disputes that hurt investments.

A report from the Ministry of Land shows that the government has issued 418,966 title deeds to residents of the county since the start of devolution followed by those in Kiambu County who have received 361,050 title deeds.

The State has issued 5,316,975 title deeds under its National Titling Programme — one of the major planks of the Jubilee administration’s promises when it rose to power in 2013.

Issuance of the land ownership documents is also aimed at affording households the chance to build permanent homes, enabling them to practice crop farming and animal keeping free with the comfort that they are sitting on land that is free from ownership disputes.

“This (titling programme) has in effect doubled the number of people who have the security of tenure and have collateral for loans,” Land Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney says in the report tabled before Parliament.

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Ministry of Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NMG

“The titling programme, therefore, plays a critical role in boosting the Big Four agenda by empowering landowners and businesses to access credit facilities from financial institutions.”

In a country where households and businesses need collateral to secure credit, title deeds offer a major form of security that banks and micro-lenders can use to issue loans.

Additionally, the process is key to ending the perennial land clashes that have for years clouded preceding general elections mainly in the Rift Valley, Coast and northeastern region.

The State reckons that the programme will fast-track registration of unregistered land and clean those whose records are marred by irregularities and unlock credit where people without title deeds and lack other collaterals find it hard to access bank loans.

The report shows the three Ukambani counties compete for the list of the top five beneficiaries under the national titling programme led by Kitui with 338,414 title deeds, Machakos with 314,973 and Makueni with 201,569 titles.

Businesses and households in the northeastern and Coastal counties are the lowest beneficiaries of the ambitious programme launched 18 years ago.

The report from the Ministry of Land shows that the State has processed and issued 16,819 title deeds to businesses and households in the Samburu (8,597), Garissa (6,328), Isiolo and Marsabit with a combined 1,894 title deeds.

Lamu is the least beneficiary of all coastal counties with 34,157 title deeds followed by Kwale at 60,271, Kilifi (84,467) and Taita Taveta with 109,116.

Mombasa County is the biggest beneficiary of all coastal counties with 145,840 title deeds processed and issued since Jubilee came to power.

The county, however, ranks eighth in the list of the 47 devolved units that have benefited from the issuance of title deeds since 2013, signalling that businesses, households and learning institutions in the Coastal county are a mark off from enjoying the benefits of the process.

Coastal and northeastern counties have long-standing land ownership disputes that the Jubilee administration had promised to resolve through the issuance of title deeds once it came to power in 2013.

ownership disputes

Taita Taveta County, for example, has endured land ownership disputes with historical disputes pitting private owners against residents that have in turn left thousands of locals landless.

In June, a Senate committee investigated the controversial renewal of the lease for Machungwani Farm that expired in January 2013.

The committee directed the National Land Commission (NLC) to adjudicate the lease renewal dispute within six months for the parcel that spans 2,970 acres.

The lawmakers added that the NLC should make a decision in favour of the more than 5,000 farmers and residents who have occupied the farm for over 12 years.

The farm belonged to former Taita Taveta MP Basil Criticos who has for years sought renewal of the lease.

Despite the low number of beneficiaries in the coastal counties, the State has spent Sh755 million to purchase land to settle an undisclosed number of squatters in Mikanjuni (Kilifi) and Mafisini in Mombasa.

Other squatters targeted for resettlement are those in the eastern part of the Mau Forest. The ministry started profiling them in September last year and the Ogiek community is set to be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

The Jubilee administration says it had issued 5.3 million title deeds to households, businesses, learning institutions and other entities since 2013, compared to the six million issued in the first 50 years since independence.

The issuance of title deeds is in addition to the Ardhisasa platform launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in April to ease get rid of fraud in the land acquisition and transfer processes.

Ardhisasa provides paperless land transactions, a shift aimed at curbing the high number of fraudulent cases and painfully slow processes on land sale, transfers and leases that had characterised the physical transactions.

But the ministry says that budgetary cuts and late release of funds are major hurdles that are derailing the government’s efforts to process and issue title deeds, a move likely to hurt President Kenyatta’s ambitious programme ahead of his exit next year.

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