Land is the anchor to all development. No sector can flourish sustainably when issues of tenure, land use and conveyance are not well managed. This is why land governance has become of major concern and is prioritised in regional and global discussions.
It is in recognition of this that the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda identifies land governance as a critical driver in the delivery of six of the 17 goals agreed on in this global agenda. This is why multilateral and bilateral partners are no longer keen to endorse development protocols and agreements without assurances that land governance issues will be incorporated.
Here in Kenya, besides the global goals, the sector and its management will directly influence success in delivering the related and prioritised pillars of food security, housing and manufacturing. Availability, planning and use of land will be critical to these pillars.
However, the land sector has traditionally suffered inadequate budgetary allocation since policy and Budget planners have not effectively aligned it to development pillars and statistics. This has had consequences. The land sector has not enjoyed an appropriate Budget to adequately serve other development sectors.
Once land is linked to agriculture, housing, infrastructure and other sectors of development, policy planners and Finance Ministry mandarins quickly thump and incorporate it in budget allocations. It then becomes easy for Parliament to vote in funds.
So in planning to ensure that food security is guaranteed, the land component — which is responsible for ensuring tenure security and land use enforcement — needs to be incorporated and sufficiently resourced.
Great agriculture incentivises agro-processing and other agro-related manufacturing such as textiles. In planning to deliver on affordable housing, the land sector will play a central role in identifying and providing suitable land, be it under the national or county governments. Where such land is not in the public realm, it will have to be acquired and owners compensated. It will need to be surveyed and incorporated in land use plans. All these need a big budget.
At the higher level, the country continues to suffer information gaps on land holding patterns. While for instance we keep advocating the need for equity and land ownership by women, we have little data around which to plan for this.
So how many of our women own land currently? And how will this number change in a decade, given the ongoing countrywide sensitisation?
We also would want more youth to get into the national food chain. But how many of them own land, or are willing but unable to access land for production? We are also yet to get accurate data on the distribution of registered land countrywide.
In the rural areas, the pre-independence generation has been gradually passing on. Financial and process limitations have in many cases left the titles in the name of the deceased owners for very long, yet beneficiaries long sub-divided and settled on the land. How many such cases do we have and how do they distort our land registry data? Is the trend broad enough to affect planning?
Land fragmentation has been happening rapidly in the highly-populated areas and parcel sizes have reduced a great deal. To what extent does this threaten our food security? Do we have pertinent data to study the trend, mitigate and plan accordingly?
The above questions call for base data. And while one would expect that our land registries and lands offices would easily provide answers, this is not necessarily so.
Computerisation, data categorisation and extra field data collection would be needed to do so. But a good partnership between the Lands ministry and the Treasury can gradually bridge data gaps. Unavailable data or data that is not easy to collect under the Lands Ministry could perhaps be easily collected through the national census conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
The bureau has both the capacity and resources to facilitate the collection of countrywide land data far more efficiently and faster. But the technocrats in the bureau must be well-guided by land experts. A structured partnership between the two ministries, incorporating inputs by key stakeholders, would ensure this. Other sector Ministries that consume land data or statistics should be able to indicate upfront what extra data they need collected for their policy and project plans.
Such data makes it easy to continuously aggregate and analyse land information for more effective policy and project planning.
Mr Mwathane is a surveyor. [email protected]