Kenyan news program, KTN News, recently aired an episode of The Chamwada Report focusing on TMG Research’s work in Western Kenya on the theme of community land leasing and sustainable land management.
By Samie Blasingame and Carolin Sperk
In Kenya, a majority of rural households depend directly or indirectly on agriculture, mainly through subsistence farming. But pressure on land is increasing in rural areas, as demand for settlement space, area to produce food and grow cash crops is growing resulting in land scarcity. In Kakamega, Kenya’s second most populous county after Nairobi, the average land size per family currently sits at just 1.5 acres.
Within families, often women and youth have limited access to land particularly due to inheritance laws that place the authority of user rights in the hands of the eldest male head of household. To circumvent this challenge, land leasing is a common approach that women and youth take to meet household food demand or as a productive resource to earn much needed income.
But land leasing is a risky endeavor, as insecurity of tenure over leased land is common. The arrangements are often informal, without witnesses and with no written agreements outlining the conditions. Subsequently, conflicts arise regularly. In many cases, the leasing party bears the risk of being prematurely evicted from the land they paid for or sometimes, their crops are stolen or destroyed. They end up losing not only the benefits of the land but also their initial investment in what they paid to lease the land. Similarly, landowners desperate for emergency cash e.g. to meet medical costs, mostly poor women, risk that lessees take over the land. A need to innovate a solution to mitigate these risks was therefore timely.
In collaboration with a local community-based organization, Shibuye Community Health Workers, TMG Research, a sustainability think tank based in Berlin - Germany, facilitated the development of community-led land-lease guidelines (LLGs). This process was co-developed with the local community and local partners in the context of the research project on “Soil Rehabilitation for Food Security in western Kenya”, which is part of Germany’s One World No Hunger special initiative.
The guidelines support communities in regulating land leasing and resolving conflicts within the broader legal framework of the National Land Law. By securing tenure over leased land, food security for often disadvantaged groups is increased, and investments in sustainably managing the land are encouraged. Without fear of losing their investment, or the benefits of their labour, land lessees are encouraged to invest in improving soil fertility of leased lands. Local and regional authorities who were involved acknowledge and support the process. Being rooted in the communities´ own needs and adapted to their conditions, this process pioneered by the community from Isukha Central and Isukha West wards has potential for upscaling.
We are thankful that The Chamwada Report and KTN News chose to share this project and its outcomes with its viewers. This pioneer process illustrates that even in highly sensitive and contested fields like access to land, solutions can be found if they are co-developed and rooted in the communities that experience the challenges. The commitment of all parties is crucial to developing a shared understanding of needs and conditions for land governance. Access to land is a pre-condition to achieving food security and empowerment, especially for women. And it can be achieved with locally-led processes that support social legitimization and implementation of fundamental principles of human rights and existing legal frameworks.
We at TMG Research are committed to problem-driven, locally-led social innovations, which we believe are the backbone of sustainable development. These approaches have been proven to sustainably address structural challenges and the grounding of global agendas in local realities.
To learn more, visit us at tmg-thinktank.com/soilrehab. You can watch the full coverage from The Chamwada Report below: