As we sat populating cyberspace with social media messages during the launch, I could tell that the National Land Use Policy was getting confused for the National Land Policy.
The National Land Policy is contained in Sessional Paper No 3 of 2009, while the Sessional Paper No 1 of 2017 carries the National Land Use Policy. The two are as different as our Constitution and its enabling laws!
The National Land Policy provided for the formulation of a national land use policy, which sets the framework for land use management in Kenya.
Its scope is limited to land use, while the land policy embraces the much wider spectrum of land and related sub-themes. The absence of a land use policy has resulted in haphazard urban and rural development by competing land use needs.
The launched land use policy incorporates measures and principles to guide all activities that impact on the use of land and land-based resources. It identifies and profiles all major land uses within the country.
Agriculture, one of the key uses, contributes about 30 per cent of Kenya’s GDP, while also providing livelihoods to over 80 per cent of the population.
However, cultural practices and a rapidly increasing population have placed great pressure on agricultural land, leading to its wanton sub-division in many places in the central, Rift Valley and western regions of Kenya.
In other areas, urbanisation and growth of towns and cities has seen the conversion of prime agricultural land into residential and commercial use.
Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret provide good examples, where commercial and residential developments now stand on large tracts of land previously under food and cash crop farming.
Pastoralism and livestock development is another major land use, particularly practised in the arid and semi-arid zones.
Degradation as a result of overgrazing, and fragmentation of this land pose challenges highlighted in the sessional paper. Parts of Kajiado and Narok are good cases.
Industrial development, mining and energy production are the other key uses. Land for the production of renewable energy such as geothermal, solar, wind and biomass is noted to be mainly under private or communal ownership, therefore posing difficulties, including conflicts, during acquisition initiatives.
Tourism, transport, infrastructure development and human settlements also place demands on land use. Poor planning, a big shortfall in the supply of decent housing in urban areas and poor service infrastructure are key challenges in human settlements.
The land use policy aims at rationalising these and other land uses around the country.
The policy identifies some of the factors that influence land use in the country. These include our culture, our history, institutional structures, policy and laws.
Land tenure systems, our land market and the taxation regime greatly influence land use too. The land use policy further sets out guidelines, principles and strategies to govern land use.
Ibrahim Mwathane ([email protected]: Chair, Land Development and Governance Institute)