Access to land justice in eastern Africa: a case study of communal lands rights in Naivasha, Kenya
Debates on massive communal land acquisition have raged on, between its proponents and detractors. The proponents consider it as an opportunity to optimize land usage; create jobs; usher in needed foreign investment to improve the agricultural sector and the transfer technology in developing countries. The detractors conceptualize it as a threat to food security, smallholder farming, the environment and socio-economic stability in developing countries. Albeit this debate is still going on, available literature suggests that there are more risks than merits associated with this phenomenon. Some of them are the marginalization of rural farmers especially women, conflicts over land, displacement of local communities in affected regions, food insecurity, adverse environmental effects, and intensification as against poverty alleviation. This study is a critical investigation of communal land acquisitions and rights violations in Eastern Africa and Naivasha, Kenya; as well as an evaluation of the measures that are used by affected Naivasha community members in securing justice for communal land rights violations. The 2007/2008 food price crisis, as well as the subsequent oil crisis and conflicts in the Middle East led to ceaseless foreign interests in and massive acquisitions of communal land, in Eastern Africa for Agriculture. Naivasha, which is Kenya’s center of floricultural activities, that play a major role in boosting Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings, because of its lake and fertile land, has a large space in this debate. The town has had several experiences of massive land acquisitions for floriculture and governmental projects such as power plants and parks. In most of these acquisitions, communal land rights and interests were violated, and securing justice against such violations have not been easy for the concerned communities. Furthermore, this study argues that litigation and arbitration measures, as well as advocacy by concerned NGOs are some of the measures being used to secure justice for communal land rights and interests’ violations, in Naivasha. That these measures have not been mostly effective because of court delays, poor compensations; illiteracy and limited financial capacity of the affected locals to hire lawyers. This study is based on First Possession Theory of Property. The study adopts a qualitative research methodology using primary and secondary data. Interview guides were used by the researcher to collect data from 60 respondents, divided into 4 target population groups. Primary & secondary data are analyzed using content analysis.
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