Land reform in Africa : lessons from Kenya

TitleLand reform in Africa : lessons from Kenya
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsM.M.E.M. Rutten
EditorA.L. Naerssen, M.M.E.M. Rutten, and A. Zoomers
Secondary TitleThe diversity of development : essays in honour of Jan Kleinpenning
Pagination71 - 83
Date Published1997///
PublisherVan Gorcum
Place PublishedAssen
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, colonialism, farmers, history, Kenya, land reform, policy, South Africa

Access to land is increasingly becoming a problem in Africa as a result both of population growth and tenure reforms. The standard argument for tenure reform centres on the role of uncertainty in discouraging investment on land held without long-term security. The rationale for this 'replacement' paradigm, however, can be questioned on economic, ecological and social grounds. The history of land tenure reform in Kenya, especially that of group titles in the semiarid areas, is a case in point. The Maasai pastoralists, in particular, have lost huge amounts of land, first to the Boers and other white settlers under colonialism, and now they face an influx of agricultural groups and large-scale capitalist farmers following the individualization of land held under statutory group title in the wake of the failure of the group ranches introduced in the late 1960s. The commoditization of land and the creation of a land market have led to a rapidly growing stratification in the Maasai area. A number of lessons can be drawn from the Kenyan experience, in particular of group tenure, for land reform policy in postapartheid South Africa, viz. interventions should build on local land tenure practices; group titles can be instrumental in assisting large groups of less well-off people; and movement toward individual tenure reform should be initiated only when technical and socioeconomic conditions warrant it. Bibliogr

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