President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta ploughs land using a tractor during the official ground breaking ceremony for the National Food Security Project at the Galana-Kulalu model farm in Tana River County in 2014.

| File | Nation Media Group

Why villagers near Galana-Kulalu food project are a worried lot

More than 20,000 people in Adu Ward, Kilifi County, are in shock after reports emerged that a government agency handling the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project in Kilifi and Tana River counties has claimed ownership of land covering about 10 villages in Magarini Sub County.

Last Tuesday, the residents drawn from the Watta and Giriama communities carried twigs and barricades to protest the move by the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) to extend its boundaries, in the process encroaching on their villages at Mbaraka Jembe, Kaskini, Changoto, Kamale, Chamari, Chakama, Bombi, among other villages, where there are about 100 schools, mosques and churches.

Led by the Watta Community Council of elders, Mr Jilo Onoto, they said they suspect the ADC has a hidden agenda to evict locals and grab their fertile lands where they have been practising crop and livestock farming since before independence.

Speaking at Kaskini in Magarini, Mr Onoto also showed journalists a map of the Giriama movement in the Coastal region from 1800 to 1900 indicating that the Watta and Galla communities have been occupying the disputed land from Mombasa, Voi and River Sabaki areas since 1800.

"The state cooperation is illegally extending its boundaries to our villages after selling portions of their 1.7 million acres of lands to private developers and failing to make use of thousands of acres at their disposal," he charged.

"We shall not allow this to happen and pledge to fight for our rights until justice is obtained, even if it means going to the court to stop the illegal extension of boundaries."

Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project

Tana River residents at the official launch of maize harvesting at the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project on September 9, 2015.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Mr Jilo said the communities had already developed the land, carried land adjudication in partnership with national and county governments, and had plans for future development such as roads, schools and hospitals, among others, after inviting members of the Kamba, Giriama, Gikuyu, Luhya and Somali communities to live in the area.

“This is a matter of life and death because if you deny a citizen land, where do you expect to carry out development activities?" he asked, adding that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 recognises community land and urged the ADC to honour its boundaries.
Mr Kahindi Pekeshe, a resident of Kaskini questioned why the ADC, which is claiming ownership of the land, did not bother to join them in the fight against a foreign company that wanted to plant jatropha for trade about 15 years ago.

“We want the areas earmarked for adjudication to be surveyed and adjudicated. We will not sit back and allow our land to go,” he said, adding, "we know our boundaries begin from Dhidhima Buli to Kisiki and we shall protect our land from ADC by all means."

At Mbaraka Jembe village, Mr Peter Ndago, the headteacher of Mbaraka Jembe Primary said the school has 290 pupils with seven teachers after the community donated the land.

"Before the school was established around 2007, pupils were walking about 15 kilometres away to Adu Primary to obtain an education. We wonder when they say the school is part of the ADC land, yet locals have lived here for years," he said.

According to villagers at Mbaraka Jembe, a team of land surveyors who claimed they were working under the advice of the ADC, toured the area and said the boundary for ADC extends up to Kamale in Adu, which is the home for Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and area MP Michael Kingi.

At Changoto village, where locals carry out pineapple, cassava, banana and livestock farming, Mr Fredrick Kahindi, a retired chief, said the boundaries between ADC and community land extended from Kisiki cha Mzungu in Chakama location to Dhidhima Buli, but does not extend to their villages as claimed by the state corporation.

"We have farms of pineapples, Changoto Primary School, dispensaries among others, and we shall not allow the state corporation to encroach into the village," he said.

For his part, Mr Daniel Mkuni, who represented persons with disabilities in Adu location, said about 181 of them will be affected by the illegal extension of the boundary.


Galana- Kulalu irrigation project.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

"President Uhuru Kenyatta had heard our plight and in collaboration with Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, had begun land adjudication to enable locals obtain title deeds. Why is the same government, which allowed the land adjudication process in Changoto, Chamare, Kamale, Bungale and Kisiki, revoking the same on claims the land belongs to ADC?" he added.

When contacted the Kilifi County Executive Committee member for Lands, Ms Maureen Mwangovya, she confirmed that there is a brewing land dispute in Adu between the community and ADC after the state corporation raised issues on land ownership extending to villages in Magarini.

"The first phase of land adjudication had just been completed when these issues arose, but the county government, together with the national government has dispatched land experts to the ground to survey and do a report to establish the exact boundaries," she added.

Early this month, a parliamentary committee asked the Ministry of Lands to identify 10 people that had grabbed 301,350 acres of land valued at Sh15 billion belonging to ADC.

This was after ADC Chairman Nicholas Salat on April 9, this year, wrote a letter to Lands CS Farida Karoney and copied the letter to the National Land Commission, head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, Agriculture CS Peter Munya and Treasury's Ukur Yatani to seek intervention over illegal grabbing and sale of the corporation’s land.

Mr Salat said despite the ADC being the registered owner of the Galana land and the official custodian of the property, with the title deed in its name, settlers had invaded the land and begun cultivation, adjudication, sub-division and clearing for access roads by land buying companies.

Mr Salat said the subdivision had already encroached on 301,350 acres of ADC land by February this year after land buying companies and individuals illegally subdivided the ADC Galana land at the rate of 25,000 acres per month followed by the clearing of access roads.

“Fresh beacons, cutlines and road access opening to service the parcels on the land under subdivision was witnessed by ADC board of directors during a visit in February and March but unfortunately the persons who were subdividing the land took off and disappeared," he states.

“Any sale, subdivision, transfer or disposal of any special farm made in contravention of this rule shall be null and void and no instrument relating to such transaction shall be registered under any written law for the time being in force requiring the registration of such instrument,” the law says.

In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto identified the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Food Security Project in their manifesto on agriculture, aimed at boosting food security in the country.