Leadership, News

Four Ways That Can Unlock the Potential of Kenya’s Land Resources

There are 143 mil­lion acres of land in Kenya. If this land was to be divid­ed equal­ly to each of Kenya’s 12.2 mil­lion house­holds, each house­hold would get about 12 acres of land. Of course, I am cer­tain that we would all scram­ble to get land from the more fer­tile parts of the coun­try. How­ev­er, each of the 143 mil­lion acres is valu­able in its own way and must be used opti­mal­ly as rec­om­mend­ed by the Nation­al Spa­tial Plan.

Land is a nat­ur­al asset with many uses includ­ing crop farm­ing, ani­mal hus­bandry, hous­ing, set­tle­ments, min­er­als, recre­ation, water­ways and car­bon sink. Land also pro­vides a strong iden­ti­ty for all Kenyan com­mu­ni­ties. Land is indeed humanity’s home.  Cul­tures, reli­gion and belief sys­tems are anchored in land, hence its pow­er to define iden­ti­ty. That’s why ances­tral land in Kenya is bequeathed from gen­er­a­tion to generation.

Despite this immense role of land in our nation­al psy­che, we con­tin­ue to treat land in a very nar­row and short­sight­ed man­ner. To cor­rect this mess, I sug­gest the fol­low­ing four actions.

First­ly, we must address the usage of land title deeds as col­lat­er­al in acquir­ing loans. When most Kenyans bor­row mon­ey from banks, they most­ly use land-relat­ed assets as col­lat­er­al. Appar­ent­ly, in 2018 and 2019, the Non-Per­form­ing loans were 12.7 and 12.6 per­cent respec­tive­ly. This means that the default­ing bor­row­ers may have lost their land or hous­es, which com­plete­ly desta­bi­lizes them. Col­lat­er­al lend­ing, by its very nature, only advances loans on the strength of secu­ri­ty. But what are the alter­na­tives? A few years ago, the Cen­tre for Research on Finan­cial Mar­kets and Pol­i­cy answered this ques­tion. They sug­gest­ed the need for Kenya’s bank­ing sec­tor to explore cred­it ref­er­enc­ing and cred­it risk trans­fer instru­ments. If this will save the land of the Kenyans who unluck­i­ly default on their loan repay­ment every year, wouldn’t it be worth it? Mean­while, banks must crit­i­cal­ly cer­ti­fy that fam­i­lies agree to use of their fam­i­ly title deeds as security. 

Sec­ond­ly, we should use our land opti­mal­ly through regen­er­a­tive agri­cul­ture. This is a farm­ing approach that focus­es on top­soil regen­er­a­tion, increas­ing bio­di­ver­si­ty, improv­ing the water cycle, enhanc­ing ecosys­tem ser­vices, increas­ing resilience to cli­mate change, and strength­en­ing the health and vital­i­ty of farm soil. Accord­ing to UNEP, between 2000 and 2010, large-scale com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture account­ed for 40 per cent of trop­i­cal defor­esta­tion. We con­tin­ue to wit­ness it here in Kenya when human set­tle­ments and farm­ing in forests result in wide­spread deforestation. 

Regen­er­a­tive agri­cul­ture replen­ish­es land, instead of deplet­ing its nat­ur­al strength. That’s why we must embrace it through farm­ing sys­tems like organ­ic farm­ing and agro­forestry. Accord­ing to a lead­ing US-based mar­ket intel­li­gence Firm, the glob­al organ­ic food and bev­er­ages mar­ket will grow from Shs29 Tril­lion in 2020 to Shs96.5 Tril­lion by 2028. If we use more of our agri­cul­tur­al land for organ­ic farm­ing, we will par­take in this lucra­tive organ­ic market.

Third­ly, we must engage range­land con­ser­va­tion. Range­lands are areas like those found in most of north­ern Kenya where veg­e­ta­tion most­ly con­sists of pock­ets of grass, shrubs and the occa­sion­al aca­cia trees. 

Although range­lands may not be con­ducive for farm­ing, they pro­vide invalu­able ecosys­tem ser­vices. They store vast amounts of car­bon and thus play a crit­i­cal role in cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion. Fur­ther to this, their large open spaces are per­fect for solar and wind pow­er. That’s why Lake Turkana Wind Pow­er, which is Africa’s largest wind farm, is locat­ed in north­ern Kenya’s range­lands. We need sim­i­lar projects in oth­er range­land areas. We must how­ev­er ensure that they enhance the liveli­hoods of local households. 

Fourth­ly, we must ful­ly imple­ment the land use laws that are already in place. Arti­cles 60 to 68 of the con­sti­tu­tion address­es all mat­ters land includ­ing land own­er­ship, land uses and land tenure. In addi­tion, there are oth­er land-relat­ed Acts like the Phys­i­cal Plan­ning Act, the NLC Act 2012 and the Land Act 2012. All these laws must be imple­ment­ed so that land jus­tice and land tenure can become cor­ner­stones of sus­tain­able land usage. Think green act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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