MPs back push for private land holding caps

The National Assembly has opened public participation for two bills which form part of the conditions attached to the Sh139 billion soft loan secured from the World Bank. FILE PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Parliament has approved a fresh attempt to have the government cap the size of land an individual can hold.

MPs have backed a proposal that seeks to compel the Ministry of Lands to make rules and regulations for private land use and management on the minimum and maximum land holdings in Kenya.

The lawmakers approved a motion by Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi asking the government to implement Article 60 (1) of the Constitution which requires that land in Kenya shall be held, used and managed equitably and sustainably.

The Constitution empowers the National Assembly to prescribe minimum and maximum private land-holding acreages.

“This House, therefore, resolves that the government enforces compliance of Article 68 (c) (i) of the Constitution, section 159 of the Land Act, 2012 and the National Land Policy (Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2009 on maximum and minimum land holdings in Kenya) through the publishing of the rules and regulations for private land use and management in regard to the minimum and maximum land holdings in Kenya,” the motion reads.

This is the third attempt by MPs to have the State implement Article 68 of the Constitution which requires Parliament to enact laws prescribing maximum and minimum landholding acreages with respect to private land.

The House in 2015, failed to approve two separate Bills that sought to cap private landholding after they generated heated debate from leaders and landowners.

The then-acting Lands Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangí published a Bill which restricted private citizens’ holdings to 25 acres.

The proposal, which generated heated debate, proposed that individuals in rich agricultural highlands will own a maximum of 10 hectares (24.7 acres) — a limit that extends to 15 hectares for the not-so-rich agricultural land.

The State dropped the Kenya Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreage Bill 2015, which had a schedule appended proposing maximum and minimum holdings for various types of land use and locations.

The government then replaced Bill with a version sponsored by then Leader of Majority Aden Duale which empowers the Land Cabinet Secretary to prescribe the maximum and minimum land acreage at will and make changes by gazette notice.

The Lands Laws (Amendment) Bill 2015 sought to amend laws relating to the land to align them with the Constitution and to give effect to Articles 68(c)(i) and 67(2)(e).

The Bill made far-reaching changes to the Land Registration Act, the National Land Commission Act and the Land Act.

Had the Bill sailed through, the Land minister will have the sole power to issue guidelines on the determination of land holding among married couples and family members, determine land holding by non-citizens, regulation of land holding across different zones by one person or any other related matter.

The Cabinet Secretary will also wield sole discretion of approving landholdings larger than the maximum allowed.

The two versions of the Bills, however, did not see the light of day in Parliament as they lapsed in 2015.

Yesterday, MPs who contributed to the debate on the motion decried fragmentation of land in productive bread basket areas like Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Laikipia, Narok and Nakuru for commercial purposes.

The MPs asked for regulation of land use in the country to ensure food security and help reduce the food import bills.

“If we do not set land holding sizes, high potential agricultural areas like Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, and Laikipia among others will be a big slum,” Julius Melly, the MP for Tinderet said.

“Property owners in these areas are fragmenting their arable land into 50 by 100 plots and putting up skyscrapers.”

Mr Wanyonyi said high population growth and the demand for land have resulted in excessive fragmentation of land into uneconomic units.

He wants those who own large tracts of land which are not utilised optimally to surrender the excess parcels.

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