Pastoralist communities across East Africa have faulted their governments for the slow pace of land reforms which they argue have adversely affect their livelihoods as the region battles climate change.
At the East Africa Indigenous Peoples’ Land Summit held in Nanyuki, Kenya, representatives from seven countries said that while various land reform programmes had been launched to enable pastoral communities own and manage natural resources, there was lack of political goodwill to complete the processes.
For instance, in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the process of community land registration has been bogged down by a myriad of challenges, which the governments appear not keen to address.
Registration of communal land is meant to empower the pastoral communities in management of natural resources, including enabling them to transact business using the titles, or to seek compensation in case of compulsory acquisition by government for mega projects. When this is not done, it means the communities cannot have legitimate claims.
The summit is seeking to identify land-related challenges for indigenous peoples and to lobby continental bodies like the African Union for desirable land reforms.
The meeting brought together representatives of nomadic herders, agro-pastoralists, hunter-gatherer and fisher folks from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Kenya, the National Land Commission (NLC) is sorting more than 3,000 historical land injustice claims.
“A good percentage of these claims emanate from what we can describe as indigenous populations,” said NLC Chairman Garshon Otachi.
He noted that most communities from arid and semi-arid areas are yet to benefit from the Community Land Registration Act 2016 that gives legal ownership to communities whose land has for years been held in trust by the government.
“Only about 10 percent of communal land has been registered under the new Act six years down the line. The enactment of the 2016 Land Act was a game-changer as it offered a pathway for the management and governance of customary and indigenous land in Kenya,” said Otachi.
Gemechu Berhanu, a representative from the Oromo community in Ethiopia, complained that the process of registering communal land, which began in 2021, is extremely slow and as a result, most pastoral lands are not registered.
Hunters and gatherers from the Batwa community in Burundi and the DRC accused their respective governments of kicking them out of their ancestral forests without an alternative.
“We are a population of about 117,000 and traditionally we used to eke a living out of hunting animals, gathering honey and wild fruits and moulding pots... We are no longer able to access clay which is the raw material for moulding pots,” said Gervais Ndihokubwayo.
Reporting by Mwangi Ndirangu and Margaret Kimathi