Last month’s Eighth African Development Forum in Addis Ababa addressed one of Africa’s emerging concerns:- large-scale land-based investments.
Land remains a crucial resource for development.
It’s key to economic growth, food security and livelihoods in many jurisdictions. This is more so in Africa where most economies are agricultural and livestock-production driven.
The transformation of Africa’s economy in the 21st century therefore largely depends on good land governance and the sustainable exploitation of land based natural resources.
The consensus statement from the Forum noted that Africa holds about 60 per cent of the world’s total non-cultivated land area.
This abundance has contributed to the recent upsurge of local and international interest and investments in land.
This interest is well captured in the Framework and Guidelines for Land Policy in Africa, which dubs it “the second scramble for Africa”.
With the upsurge in investor interest, governments are finding themselves under pressure to allocate arable land for a variety of purposes.
Under this pressure, governments suddenly find themselves facing the challenge to determine how much land is unutilised hence available and the recognition and protection of land tenure rights and claims of local communities.
Kenya is no exception. In the recent past, the country has found itself under pressure to issue permits for the exploration of gas and oil along its coast and the North. Oil strikes have been made in the community lands of Turkana while gas strikes have been made off shore.
We have investors pushing for land to grow jatropha and sugarcane for the production of biofuel in various parts of the country.
The Tana River valley and delta remain attractive destinations for the purpose. Interest is growing to for land on which to set up projects for wind-driven energy. Cheap farmland is sought by some companies too for horticultural and food production.
But many of those affected by investments on land are poor rural folk who eke their living by tilling or grazing on their ancestral land.
Our land policy, constitution and our new land laws provide for the compensation of any lost land rights.
They call for appropriate plans to mitigate any environmental impacts.