Kenya: promoting land rights for women pastoralists

Nyanchama Angela
Saturday, March 3, 2018

In pastoral communities, women contribute a lot to pastoral life, yet are denied land ownership. A Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE) project is working to change the dynamics.

 Using advocacy and knowledge sharing, the project challenge pastoral procedures to include women in land governance commissions.

Are woman pastoralists allowed to own land? Can women keep their own cattle?
Several years ago, such questions never prospered in discussions among pastoral communities. There were simply not encouraged or did not feature at all.

Such reticence of pastoral societies to recognise women land rights is among the key reasons why RECONCILE developed the ‘Building Asal Stakeholders Forum for Effective Participation of Pastoralists in the Development of Pro-Steward Policies Project’ in 2016.

In 2016, Kenya enacted the community land act, offering clear protection for community lands.  With the new act launched, debates surged in cities and national media. Though information on the new land act reasonably occupied media spaces, rural pastoral communities did not access the information. In fact, many did not even know such legislation existed, few months after it was promulgated.

With this in mind, the ‘Building Asal Stakeholders Forum for Effective Participation of Pastoralists in the Development of Pro-Steward Policies Project’ set out a two-phase intervention approach for rural pastoral communities across Kenya.

In phase one, the project worked to influence community land regulations, which guides the implementation of the act. Via the process, the project worked to ensure that:

  • Governance structures have women as leaders within the committee that is to manage and administer land for the community assembly
  • Community lands registrations are inclusive
  • Interests of children and young people are protected.

Furthermore, the project derived a Community Land Guide to support the pastoralists in the registration of community lands.  Via the support, women in pastoral communities are trained to understand their role in community land, registration, protection, management and administration.

But discrimination against women in these communities did not begin today. Centuries old strong traditions and discriminatory customs put women at risk of being disinherited and denied access and control of the lands. 

To change patriarchal believes and traditions, during phase two of the project, RECONCILE embarked on a capacity building, knowledge sharing and sensitisation campaign across arid and semi-arid communities in Kenya.

For effective simplification of the legal processes and better induction, grassroots civil societies with perfect mastery of the zones became engaged in the process. They trained the communities and supported them in the various processes.

Still being implemented in arid and semi-arid counties, including Marsabit and Isiolo Counties, the project engages over 30 organisations working with pastoral communities in Kenya.

Nyanchama Angela

Angela is a Legal/Policy Research & Advocacy Officer at Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE) in Kenya

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the position of ILC Africa.