Reassessing Kenya's land reform

Reassessing Kenya's land reform

How should Kenyan land reform be conducted?

This article discusses issues surrounding land reform in Kenya. As the nature of land reforms is as yet undecided, disparate suggestions and proposals are being considered. These include:

  • Land Ownership Ceilings. There are vast inequalities in land ownership. Indeed, non-indigenous Kenyans or corporations that are not significantly Kenyan own the largest consolidated quantities of Kenyan lands. Ceilings on land ownership, would encourage more equitable distribution of land, perhaps facilitating more effective production and a reduction in food security problems. Such a move will naturally interfere with individual property rights.
  • Land sub-division is a common phenomena in productive agricultural areas of Kenya. This provokes an increasingly unproductive agricultural sector, consisting of uneconomical units with diminishing returns and overall declining value. In this context, the article suggests that restrictions may need to be set on such fragmentation. This may be problematic for several reasons:
    • Such restrictions would interfere with individual property rights and freedom of use
    • A distinction must be made between the negative effects of fragmentation of agricultural land and sub-division of non-agricultural land, which may be beneficial

    As a consequence of these two potential problems, it may be more acceptable to encourage land consolidation

  • Unrestricted freedom of ownership should be encouraged. Land should be considered as a resource, which is subject to sale like any other commodity. Within a culturally diverse nation such as Kenya, it is important that regional monocultures are not encouraged by restricting land ownership to specific ethnic or racial communities.
  • Ethnic land rights should be respected, requiring a restriction of entitlement of the acquisition by individuals/groups that are not affiliated with the specific community, ethnicity or race associated with a particular location
  • As a result of the government abusing its powers of trusteeship over the public asset of the land, the government should cede control of public land to a custodian of public assets answerable to parliament.
  • Land law should be simplified

Conclusions:

  • Land reform issues remain complicated by reasons ranging from legal complexities, political involvement, corruption and the extreme poverty in the country
  • Given the present circumstances, the arguments proposing the restriction on land ownership with regard to ethnic and racial size will lead to retrogressive and unacceptable social and economic outcomes.
  • While meaningful land reform is necessary, it can only be meaningful as a component of wider economic reform

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