Don't rush to subdivide Farms, Ranch members warned

Judy Komite, the chair of Loitokitok Uwezo Fund.
Judy Komite, the chair of Loitokitok Uwezo Fund.

One of the groups ranches dissolved recently is Kimana in Loitokitok.

All the 840 members got 60 hectares of land each and another two acres was set aside for water.

Jason Moson, a former ranch member, says while subdivision looked attractive, it raised new problems.

He says the ranch officials – some men elected decades ago – took advantage of the uneducated herders.

“They (the herders) didn't get their title deeds until they sold part of their land, with the officials as brokers,” he says.

Many of young morans also quickly disposed of their lands, married several wives and squandered the cash.

“Kimana should serve as an example to all the other ranches,” he said during a land forum organised by Act, Change, Transform (Act!), a Nairobi-based non-governmental organisation.

“Do not divide land without proper constitution and regulations,” he says.

Ken Naini, a member of Olgulului ranch who closely followed the end of Kimana, says subdivision may not be the solution.

“At least 90 per cent of people in Kimana have sold their land. We have seen no economic value from this. An acre was selling cheaply at Sh300,000 and most people have become beggars,” he says.

He laments lack of involvement of locals in drafting important land laws like the Community Land Bill. “The Kajiado land policy is also under progress but in darkness,” he says.

Naini says the Bill does not solve their problems, which are nearly identical across all ranches in the sub county.

He cites lack of constitutions to guide election of officials. “Only two group ranches have a constitution. Election is only done after 10 years when the members agitate. There is also no audit of budgets.”

Linda Onjuka, a programme officer with the Centre for Indigenous Women and Children (CIWOCH) says there is poor women representation. “Women are not registered as members of the ranches because of culture,” she says.

The Community Land Bill, in spite of its flaws, seeks to remedy this. Section 31 (3) says: “Women, men, minority, persons with disabilities and marginalised groups have the right to equal treatment

in all dealings in community land.”

It adds that every man or woman married to a member of the community shall gain automatic membership of the community and such membership subsists until the spouses legally divorce

and the man or woman remarries after the death of a spouse.

Judy Komite, the chair of Loitokitok Uwezo Fund, says culture should be put aside to allow women take up leadership.

“This is the first time in my life in a meeting to discuss group ranch,” she told the Star.

She says the one third gender rule in the constitution must be respected.

Agnes Naipandi from Olgulului group ranch says the ranches might have been better managed if women were involved.

“We are not involved completely. We have widows, crippled and the poor mothers. But you're not allowed to speak your mind completely,” she says.

In 2002, Paul Ntiati, the current deputy governor of Kajiado, wrote a research paper, Group Ranches Subdivision Study in Loitokitok Division of Kajiado District, Kenya, for the African Wildlife Foundation.

He noted that young people worried about the security of land tenure were behind the push for subdivision.

He also noted the ranches have failed to improve the Maasai livelihoods.

“Sub-division is now inevitable,” he says. “The procedures used in sub-division of the group ranches are characterized by lack of a defined process and therefore are ad-hoc in nature.”

However, he noted the subdivision will eventually block the last corridors for wildlife migration and, lead to loss of key habitats, medicinal plants and traditional cultural sites.

Nairobi lawyer and lands expert Glenn Onguti, who is not in favour of subdivision, says the Community Land Bill allows the members to writ binding agreements that ban sale of land for a certain period after subdivision.

Sironka Ole Masharen, a Kajiado-based social scientist and the author of the Maasai pioneers, which traces the community’s history, says Individualization of land won't solve the current problems.

“It may be a typical case of jumping from the frying pan to the fire. Where this has already occurred, land alienation is the order of the day. Huge parcels of land have tumbled to tourist speculators, domestic and multinational investors at astonishingly much less prices to the perceived owners.”