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Rahma Hassan


Rahma Hassan is a social economic researcher from Kenya and a PhD fellow from the University of Copenhagen and University of Nairobi. She has worked in social development research, in government and globally on research on health, gender, and governance. Currently, she is researching community land rights among pastoralist’s communities in Kenya. Rahma holds a Master of Arts degree from University Nairobi (Institute for Development Studies) and a Bachelor of Arts degree (First class honors) from University of Nairobi, Department of Sociology and Social Work.


Formal rights and the challenges of land access among pastoralists in Kenya

Access to land, is an indispensable component of pastoralists’ livelihoods and lifestyles, and therefore their long-term resilience towards external stresses. International conventions, and national legislations are increasingly recognizing peoples’ rights to lands they have traditionally occupied, owned, or used, through titling and other law- based measures in accordance with customary laws and traditional land and resource tenure. There is much attention to communal land rights, but there is also call for protecting individuals and women rights. Literature, however, debates the significance of law-based land rights and titling in relation to securing access to land. Some argue that formalization of collective or individual property is crucial for access and sustainable management. Others see law-based rights as just one of many aspects of access. Yet others argue that processes of formalization may just reinforce or change existing patterns of inclusion and exclusion. In Kenya, the Community Land Act of 2016 (CLA) reverberates the debate by focusing on formalizing community land in the country’s pastoral land, and by containing provisions for women’s land rights. Furthermore, the CLA has been said to be among the most supportive of communal property on the African continent. However, its implementation has only just begun, and its impacts are therefore still unknown. This paper aims at contributing to the debate about the relationship between law based land rights and access for pastoralist communities in discussing how formalization of community land rights affect pastoralists access to land, and thereby their resilience in the context of the on-going implementation of CLA in Kenya. Based on our own fieldwork in the counties of Kajiado and Samburu, we document challenges of land access experienced by pastoralists and argue that formalizing community land rights will not only create new winners and losers within pastoralist communities, it is also likely to contribute to exclusion and undermining pastoralism. While this is in contradiction to the letters of the laws and conventions, it may be necessary in the perspective of pastoralists’ long-term resilience.

Affiliation: University of Copenhagen and University of Nairobi