Kenya: North Rift Governors Revive Debate On Land Size Capping

Governors from North Rift have pressed for enactment of legislation prescribing the minimum acreage, saying land subdivision in the region was posing a serious threat to the country's food security.

Under North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb), the county chiefs revived the controversial debate on capping the least size of land that one can own, which has been resisted for years with critics arguing it disadvantages small scale farmers.

While the Constitution directs that Parliament should have a provision for minimum and maximum land holding acreages, in respect of private land, efforts to enact the law have been unsuccessful.

But yesterday, governors, during the Noreb Food Systems Summit, said the provision might be the only solution to the rampant land sub-division going on in the region.

"This is one area that I feel we have not succeeded. We really need to relook into this issue on the role of government whether decision on land use should be left to individuals or government needs to use force when enforcing the land laws," Nandi Governor Stephen Sang told the virtual meeting on food systems organised by the Noreb and UN agencies that brought together various stakeholders.

Previously, there have been attempts to limit the acreage through Kenya Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreage Bill of 2015 which had set the minimum acreage one can hold in Nandi and Uasin Gishu at one acre, and the maximum at 10 while Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet were capped at between one and 25 acres.

1,000 acres

Turkana County was allowed up to a maximum of 1,000 acres, while the minimum acreage one could have in the county was 2.5.

Other counties include Nyandarua (between one and 25 acres), Nyamira (between one and 10 acres), Kwale (between one and 25 acres), and Kisii (between one and 10 acres),

The Bill was later shelved after it elicited sharp reactions among Kenyans.

Those that criticised the Bill said it was punitive.

Data from the National Land Commission (NLC) shows that less than a fifth of Kenyans own more than 1.5 acres (0.60 hectares) of land, while nearly 15 per cent own no land at all.

Land subdivision

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, who is also Noreb chairman, said that the food production in the region was declining owing to land subdivision coupled with the effects of climate change.

"We are slowly moving towards small-holder and subsistence farming which is not economically viable in the long-term. As a bloc, we are keen to increase productivity," said the governor, noting that the bloc is working with stakeholders to export produce via Eldoret International Airport.

In developed countries like US, laws prohibit subdivision of farm land and use of agricultural land, ensuring there is huge farm lands for food security.

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok and his Elgeyo-Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos said there is need to scale up productivity through full commercialisation of agricultural ventures.

Formed in 2015, Noreb brings together eight counties, Baringo, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Turkana,West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Samburu and Elgeyo-Marakwet.

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