Many may have missed the rather “loud” statistic contained in a story carried by the Sunday Nation just over a month back.
That 70 percent of Kenya does not enjoy ownership documents in form of title deeds or leases! This should be of fundamental interest and concern to our social-economic planners.
Because it essentially means Kenyans in such places cannot effectively transmit their land rights on death. It means Kenyans in these places cannot effectively negotiate with entrepreneurs who wish to establish land-based investments.
It means agencies like Kenya National Highways Authority and Kenya Rural Roads Authority have great difficulties knowing who to negotiate the construction of their road corridors with since no maps or registers exist to help identify who owns what and where in this vast zone.
Those keen on the exploration and exploitation of minerals and oil in these areas have difficulties too. The Standard Gauge Railway, meant to enhance business in Kenya by connecting the country by standard rail between Mombasa and Kisumu, has faced similar challenges.
The Lamu-Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor intended to connect some neighbouring countries by road, railway and an oil pipeline through northern Kenya, will have to reckon with such difficulties too.
This lacuna not only constrains business and development planning for the region, but also leaves it very vulnerable to land grabs.
Global statistics reveal that Kenya isn’t alone in this regard. Cadastral coverage, which is basically a record of the surveyed and registered land within a jurisdiction, is comparatively low in Sub-Saharan Africa.
But there are inspiring lessons around us. For instance, between 2009 and 2013, Rwanda managed to demarcate and register about 11 million land parcels, making it perhaps the only Sub-Saharan country staking a claim to a 100 percent cadastral coverage, a statistic otherwise only associated with developed nations.
Neighbouring Ethiopia, which is running a regional based land certification programme, which captures occupancy and user rights in its first stage, may have hit 20 million land parcels by now.
Yet the programme only started in 1998. These are very good lessons and should challenge Sub-Saharan Africa whose titling record remains very low.
From reports by the Lands Ministry, Kenya, issued 5.6 million titles between 1963 and 2012. But between 2013 and now, another three million titles have been issued, giving Kenya a total of about 8,661,000 registered parcels.
Please be assured this is comparatively big in Sub-Saharan-Africa, going by peer discussions at continental level.
But, like the Lands Cabinet Secretary’s report cited by the Sunday Nation indicated, we are only at 30 percent cadastral coverage.
So we do have lots of room for improvement. And with today’s technology and equipment, this can be expedited at reasonable costs. But where do we issue more titles?
But after State interventions, they do. Embakasi Ranching Company is next on line. It has been a source of frustration and suffering for many.
Tenure insecurity has been high in this fairly large tract of land, which lies to the East of Nairobi city.
Unoccupied or unguarded plots were vulnerable, prone to invasions and unauthorised construction. Plots would be allocated to multiple owners, leaving the final ownership subject to the crude practice of whoever is first-on-site or first-to-construct.
Losers would be left holding mere papers. This fuelled distrust, financial losses, insecurity and haphazard development.
State intervention was therefore overdue and is certainly welcome relief to many. It’s hoped the numerous land disputes, centred on irregular dispossessions and duplicated ownership, will be successfully resolved.
Similar State interventions should be extended to the other parts of the city where high value land remains without titles to date.
Efforts should also be made to determine ownership rights in the informal settlements.
Titling efforts should then be extended to the various company and co-operative farms that have since applied for titles but are held back by either official bureaucracy or unwilling boards of directors. Some group ranches fall within this category.
There are also many market centres in rural Kenya where plot owners remain without titles. Some adjudication sections also remain incomplete. It’s time that barriers to their titling get removed.
Mwathane is a land surveyor: [email protected]