Community Land Act: A Win for Community Conservancies
Posted: 16th Oct 2016 01:00:00 AM
Community conservancies have a reason to celebrate. After years of public consultations and negotiations with government to promote community interests and rights, the Community Land Act was finally enacted on 31st August 2016. The new law gives community landowners powers and rights to govern, manage, and make key decisions about the use of community lands.
As the leading organization that promotes the voice of conservancies in Kenya, KWCA was among seven institutions, and the only institution representing the wildlife sector, that submitted recommendations on ways to strengthen the Act. Prior to drafting the recommendations, KWCA consulted its regional associations, conservancy members, and other stakeholders to ensure their opinions and feedback would be communicated nationally. .KWCA proposed 24 amendments to the Community Land Bill through oral and written submissions to the National Assembly and Senate during a public participation hearing, and twelve were adopted in the Act.
KWCA proposed amendments can be downloaded here.
For years, communities have been outspoken about their insecure land rights due to inadequacies in the previous governing laws under the Land (Group Representatives) Act of 1970 and the Trusts Land Act of 1938. Concerns included, community member's exclusion in decision-making processes by group ranch committees, inefficient management of group ranch committees, and isolation of youth in ownership and governance of group ranches. Under the Trust regime of county governments, community lands were often considered as 'no man's land', and frequently subjected to illegal dispossession for private or public use without any or prompt compensation to the community. In addition, the absence of clear boundaries resulted in land disputes over resource sharing and decision-making on such lands, and communities were made essentially "squatters" on their own lands.
A Win for Community Conservancies
Now for the first time, the Community Land Act gives communities a leading role in the governance and management of community land. The Community Land Act is a win for conservancies, because:
It provides security of title
The Act devolves power to the community to own, manage and benefit from their land as they please by limiting the authority of the county governments in matters relating to land. Once a community is registered the county is under obligation to transfer the land to the community which then assumes the management and administrative functions over the land and the county loses its previous "trustee" authority.
Enhances investment opportunities on community lands
The Act recognizes, protects and permits registration of community lands, allowing the land to be registered either as customary, freehold, leasehold or any other tenure system recognized in Law. In turn:
- Communities can use their official title deed as collateral to take out loans for development projects.
- Investors will make less risky investments, knowing their agreements with a community falls on community-owned land that can't just be taken away.
Administration and management is reserved to a community assembly
Community members who would apportion a piece of the land to other uses without the knowledge of the community will no longer conduct such malpractices because the Act introduces a community assembly made up of all adult community members whose quorum of not less than two thirds of the members shall be responsible in adjudicating the decision making of the community land. This assembly will also be responsible for electing the community management committee. The committee is responsible for the management and administration of the community land.
Promotes benefit sharing among community members
Community members has every right to equal benefit of natural resources found in the community land. The natural resources shall be used and managed sustainably and productively for the benefit of the whole community including future generations. This shall be done with transparency and accountability and on the basis of equitable sharing of accruing benefits.
The Community Land Act 2016 can be Downloaded from here.
While the Act is quite favorable to community land and to the conservation community, there remain weaknesses, especially in that it does not accord women and youth sufficient recognition and affirmation in the governance and management of the community land. Community members will need to be open and transparent in carefully selecting leaders who would best represent the community's interest on the use of land. KWCA and other stakeholders will support the Ministry of Lands to develop regulations to actualize its implementation.
KWCA, through the 'Community Conservancy Policy Support and Implementation Program' (CCSP), supported by USAID Kenya and jointly implemented with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), has been advocating for the Community Land Act to increase the opportunities for development in wildlife endowed areas in Kenya which contribute to Kenya's vision 2030 of a stable and socio economically empowered communities protecting wildlife as a tool for poverty reduction. Also considering community conservancies form a significant constituent of its membership, KWCA role is to work with landowners and communities to sustainably conserve and manage wildlife and their habitat outside formal protected areas for the benefit of the people of Kenya.