Landowners in agricultural zones will be barred from multiple sub-division of their parcels for sale if Parliament adopts proposed changes to the law to safeguard farming in Kenya.
The Land Control Bill, 2022 by Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo seeks to create special land control committees that would vet and approve all transactions within dedicated farming zones.
“The function of the land committee shall be to review and grant any sale, charge, transfer, grant, exchange for value or no value, lease, assignment, grant of easement, or right of way in relation to agricultural land,” the proposed law reads. Farmlands in many agricultural zones across the country have been invaded by investors seeking higher returns from economic ventures such as real estate.
“The land control committees are to comprise persons drawn from within the locality they serve who are conversant with the traditions, customs, and way of life of the community in the area. This will enable proposed transactions to be reviewed soberly with a view of properly utilising agricultural land for the good of all,” the Bill says.
Dr Oundo told Nation that if not subdividing for real estate developers, owners have been selling small portions of land for subsistence farming and erection of homesteads.
Arable land reduced
In the process the MP says, the size of arable land has been reduced to small units making it unviable for large scale and commercial farming that Kenya requires to grow the economy.
This marks a fresh attempt to instill controls in the use of land in agricultural zones. Previously, there have been attempts to limit the size of land one could own in such zones. The Kenya Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreage Bill of 2015, unsuccessfully sought to set the minimum size one can own in Nandi and Uasin Gishu at one acre, and the maximum at 10 while Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet were capped at between one and 25 acres.
It had also proposed that land ownership in Turkana County be allowed up to a maximum of 1,000 acres, while the minimum acreage was set at 2.5 acres.
Other counties including Nyandarua between one and 25 acres, Nyamira (one and 10 acres), Kwale (one and 25 acres), and Kisii (one and 10 acres),
The Bill was later shelved after it elicited sharp reactions among Kenyans. Those that criticised the proposed law said it was punitive.
Data from the National Land Commission shows that less than a fifth of Kenyans own more than 1.5 acres (0.60 hectares) of land, while nearly 15 per cent own no land at all.