4. Kenya: Fifty years after independence, families finally have land to call their own (IRIN)

Download this story

It’s been 20 years since Mary Wambui last harvested a crop. Ms. Wambui has been landless since Kenya’s independence. For a time, she lived on public land. But she was evicted in 1989. Since then, she has relied on food aid. But this year, she has land to grow her own food.

Prior to Kenya’s independence, land boundaries and ownership were formally established in many areas of the country. But thousands of Kenyans failed to secure land. Some had sold their land. Some were working elsewhere at the time of demarcation. Others simply did not own the land they called home.

For decades, 2,900 families lived on forested land in the Mount Kenya and Aberdere Ranges in Central Province. When the government evicted them from the forest, they made makeshift homes on nearby roads. These families were recently granted land by the Kenyan government.

Each family has been allocated 1.8 hectares of land – a small piece of land for a house, and a larger plot to farm. The families set to work sowing wheat, beans, and maize.

Japhter Kiplimo Rugut is the Central Province commissioner. He oversees the resettlement. He expects the move will improve local food security. According to Mr. Rugut, the government also plans to provide land to landless people in the Eastern and Coast Provinces.

The rains have been poor this season in Central Province. Still, newly-settled farmers have reason to hope. James Mwangi is 75 years old. He has been landless most of his life. Mr. Mwangi says he can only thank God and the government for finally giving him a piece of land.

When we look at cases of land grabbing, we frequently see that rural people lose access to land they have traditionally owned and farmed. However, in recent months, there have been some encouraging news stories. These stories have featured rural people obtaining rights to traditional lands or lands they have farmed. Follow these links to view other FRW stories about landless people obtaining land:
“Southern Africa: Farm workers become farm owners” (FRW# 69, June 2009)
“Namibia: Bushmen return to ancestral lands” (FRW# 49, December 2008)