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Indigenous communities in Kenya self-organise to claim land rights

In 2020, Indigenous communities in Samburu County, northern Kenya, paved the way for implementing the Community Land Act of 2016. This is a way of securing their collective community land rights while at the same time strengthening the role of women in land governance.

One of the major problems of Indigenous Peoples in Kenya is the loss of their traditional lands and territories. Indigenous Peoples have been pushing for proper legislation to protect collectively-held community land for many years. In 2016, the Community Land Act was adopted – providing for recognition and registration of collectively-held community lands — raising great hopes among Indigenous communities. And yet very little has been done since by the authorities to concretely implement the Act.

With the assistance of the organisation IMPACT (Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation), three Indigenous communities in Samburu County have carried out pioneering work to begin implementing the Act in their communities. The community leaders have taken ownership of the process and, after training themselves on the content of the Act, have in turn trained men, women and youth in the villages. This has enabled the communities to embark on the process for obtaining recognition and protection of their community lands. They have established land management committees consisting of men, women and youth, and these have produced and submitted the required documents for registration of their community lands to the authorities. Decision-making and land management among the pastoralist communities has traditionally been the reserve of the male elders. The inclusion of women and youth in the community land management committees is a huge step forward in their empowerment, challenging the barriers to inclusivity in land governance and natural resource ownership.

Awareness raising around the Community Land Act was subsequently expanded to wider areas of Samburu County and neighbouring counties via the Serian FM radio station, reaching around 100,000 people, some living in the most isolated villages and in communities with high illiteracy rates. The feedback from communities was overwhelming: community members requested that the radio programme be replayed and contacted IMPACT to obtain support for securing the ownership of their lands.

Community voices have also been amplified through the formation of a joint platform, the Samburu Indigenous Landowners Forum, a platform for communities in Samburu County to address issues of common concern. The forum members have been trained by IMPACT on the provisions of the Community Land Act and the requirements of the land registration process. In November 2020, the Forum submitted a document to the Samburu County Government highlighting the grievances and concerns of the communities in relation to the delay in registering community lands and the prevalence of land grabbing and serious conflict in Samburu County.

“The support IMPACT provides to communities could not have happened without the development of IMPACT’s organisational capacity facilitated and supported by IWGIA and other donors over a span of nearly 20 years,” says Mali Ole Kaunga, IMPACT’s Director.

In 2020, IWGIA provided financial support to IMPACT to implement the project that brought about these results. IMPACT is a locally-based organisation that carries out projects in a way that creates local ownership. IWGIA has supported the organisational capacity building of IMPACT for many years via financial and technical support. IMPACT has now become one of the leading Indigenous land and human rights organisations in northern Kenya. IWGIA has furthermore supported IMPACT to become part of the global Indigenous movement through dialogue with organisations around the world, and to leverage their advocacy work at an international level, facilitating their participation in sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other UN human rights fora.

 

This article is a highlight from IWGIA's Annual Report 2020, download the full report and read about our work.

Tags: Land rights

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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