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Library Pastoralists seasonal land rights in land administration : a study of Northern Kenya

Pastoralists seasonal land rights in land administration : a study of Northern Kenya

Pastoralists seasonal land rights in land administration : a study of Northern Kenya

Resource information

Date of publication
December 2011
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ISBN / Resource ID

This thesis argues that incorporating pastoral land rights into the formal

system requires identifying and securing pastoralists’ rights on migration

corridors and dry season pastures in a manner that, first, reflects their

customary practices about ‘where’ and ‘when’ they require access to the

land, and second, aligning both the ‘when’ and the ‘where’ within the

legal framework for property rights and land administration. This

approach may facilitate the legal recognition of pastoralists’ seasonal

mobility and access to required resources in the formal system. Legal

empowerment also gives pastoralists the ability to use the formal law to

enforce their land rights, thereby securing their access to required

seasonal resources.

The main objective of this thesis is to assess how pastoralists’ seasonal

land rights could be accommodated within the legal framework for

property rights in land administration. Focusing on Northern Kenya, the

main objective was divided into four sub-objectives:

1. Investigate whether pastoralism is still active in Northern Kenya and

how formal rights can meet the requirements of the pastoralists’

seasonal land use.

2. Understand how non-pastoralist land use actors manage seasonal

encounters with migrating pastoralists.

3. Describe how seasonal migrations and access rights could be aligned

and secured as rights that overlap with private rights, within the legal

framework for property rights and land administration.

4. Assess what tenure options are potentially suitable for securing

seasonal migrations and access rights within the legal framework for

land administration.

Each of these sub-objectives are analysed in Chapters 2 to 5. The

chapters are based on a series of papers published in, or submitted to

international peer-reviewed journals.

Chapter 2 assesses how the existing land laws supporting property rights

are able to serve the requirements of pastoralists’ seasonal land use. This

chapter forms the basis for the thesis. Data on the degree of livestock

dependency among pastoralist communities, the spatial extent and

patterns of their dry season migrations, the resulting encounters between

pastoralists and non-pastoralist land use actors, and the perceptions of

land rights held by actors were collected through a variety of methods

and analysed. The results show that pastoralism is still active. The

migration corridors reveal that herders maintain extensive dry season

mobility, even though some of the corridors currently overlap with areas

where land is privately owned by non-pastoralist land use actors.

Moreover, the results show that most non-pastoralist land use actors have

their land rights registered, but seasonal encounters with migrating

pastoralists persist as pastoralists continue to exercise customary rights of

communal use. This chapter concludes that existing land laws and

property rights in land administration are suitable for sedentary land use,

but do not address how to serve pastoralists land rights in time and space.

Also, the map of the pastoralist’s migration routes obtained indicated that

it is possible to predict where pastoralists will be at a given time/drought

period. This information could be used by decision makers as a

foundation for including pastoralists’ spatiotemporal land rights in land


Chapter 3 looks at the consequences for migrating pastoralists of the

adjudication to non-pastoralist land users of exclusive real property rights

during the process of setting up a cadastre in a land administration. It

examines how non-pastoralist land use actors manage encounters with

migrating pastoralists who need to enter their land to follow their

traditional migration routes. The results of empirical research show that

only a small percentage of non-pastoralist land users are willing to

negotiate access contracts with the pastoralists; further, the majority are

unwilling to have access arrangements formalized in the process of Land

Administration. As land is continuously being adjudicated, surveyed and

allocated for private purposes, the imposition of statutory rights on

pastoralists’ areas, including migration corridors, permanently cuts out

and extinguishes pastoralists’ rights to mobility and their access to

required resources. The concluding argument in this chapter is that land

adjudication should identify and confer all existing land rights to all users

in order to avoid obstruction or renegotiation of pastoralists’ access


Chapter 4 explored how pastoral seasonal land rights could be secured

through registration as overlapping rights. An opinion survey of experts

on pastoral land rights revealed the view that seasonal migrations can be

supported, but that access to grazing should be subject to negotiation

with landowners. This chapter argues against making access subject to

personal agreements, stressing the risk of negotiations failing, mainly

because negotiated agreements are only binding on the parties involved.

To avoid the risk of failure to acquire access through negotiation,

registration is proposed as a legal tool to ensure security of access. The

adjudication process for conferring private rights on land should view

pastoral rights as being dynamic, because they apply across different

areas at different times. The chapter discusses the attributes of pastoral

rights within the framework of managing property rights, restrictions and

responsibilities (RRRs), and describes how spatiotemporal rights could

be aligned and included in the legal system through registration.

Chapter 5 explores the tenure options potentially suitable for securing

and protecting migration corridors within the legal framework for

property rights. It focuses on the various tenure options that allow access

to and use of land in Kenya: statutory (ownership and non-ownership

rights), government land, customary rights, open access and negotiations.

The opinion survey of land professionals led to the conclusion that

spatiotemporal land rights can be secured within the legal framework for

property rights and that government land reserved for pastoral purposes

is a promising tenure option for securing spatiotemporal land rights.

Where customary rights have not already been extinguished, migration

corridors could be secured as public roads (government land) and dry

season grazing areas could be secured as reserved land for the purpose of

seasonal grazing. This would give pastoralists limited rights of use on the

government lands. Through registration, the limited rights are

enforceable within the statutory system of land administration. Where

customary rights have already been extinguished, realignment of

migration corridors or the establishment of new corridors and grazing

areas might be necessary to avoid pastoralists’ seasonal land rights

overlapping with private tenures or other land uses.

The last chapter reflects on the main outcomes of the thesis. It argues that

legal provisions need to be provided to cater for pastoralists’ seasonal

land rights on migration corridors and dry season grazing areas. This

chapter emphasizes that registration of the seasonal land rights gives

pastoralists legal protection of their land rights and thus security of

access to seasonal use of the land.

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