Editorials

Listen to different voices on landholding caps bid

parliament

Kenya seeks MPs' nod on new UK defence pact. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

This week, MPs have approved a fresh proposal to introduce caps on the size of land an individual can hold in Kenya.

This matter has elicited fierce debate since 2010 when Article 60 (1) of the new Constitution opened a window for State regulation of private land holding and management.

For historical and economic reasons, the issue of land has been an emotive one in Kenya.

This is why this third attempt at implementing the landholding caps needs to be handled properly, to the satisfaction of the numerous interests that abound in the sector.

First, there must be proper public participation and debate on the matter if the MPs bring the matter back to the floor of the House, going by the heated debate that accompanied the last pair of Bills brought in 2015.

The balance between equitable use of the rare resource that is arable land in Kenya on the one hand, and the need to respect property rights for existing landowners, on the other, will be vital in this conversation.

Going by past debates on the matter, the country would be forced to confront difficult questions, and there must be the comfort that it is ready to do so before launching into the reforms.

There is also the problem of excessive land fragmentation that must be considered alongside the land ownership cap.

Due to population pressure, swathes of the country’s most arable land have been cut up -- largely for inheritance and commercial purposes -- to the point of threatening food security and agriculture’s position as a first-line provider of employment.