Dead Men Allocated Land, at Expense of Widows


In a land where the cabinet secretary for lands is a woman, Hon. Faridah Karoney, women face a myriad of obstacles in pursuit for land ownership. A new report by the Kenya Land Alliance titled “Women’s Land Rights in settlement schemes in Kenya” reveal that the number of men allocated land in the settlement schemes is four times that of women.

Despite settlement schemes being established to address landlessness, they have not lived up to expectation. While the schemes provided land for the poor, some influential rich people took advantage and acquired the land meant for the landless.

According to the Kenya Land Alliance Chief Executive Officer Faith Alubbe, there is need to have open conversation on women ownership rights at the community level  “Women rights to land remain a contested issues despite the acceptance of the principle of equality of the gender in law, yet these rights are important for rural household and poverty reduction too”

Among the first schemes to be established were Ndalat in Nandi and Mautuma in Kakamega.  Whereas there is record of settlement schemes and the population of those settled, there is very little data about titles issued to women. The Maputo protocol envisages a food secure Africa, yet women who are most active as economic agents are discriminated in ownership and control of land.

The report by Kenya land alliance paints a grim picture of the inequality of a land allocation to women.  Out of 241,995 allocations made in various settlements schemes examined, women have 50, 489 allocations. Further, very few allocations have been made to couples jointly.

The situation becomes grave when in some of the schemes, data shows that women were not allocated any land individually or jointly with men. Some of these schemes are Ex- Sitatai, Kapkuress, Majaoni, Masyungwa, Ngoina and Treffos. However, the overall allocations in these schemes are also few.

With a woman now heading Kenya Land Alliance, an umbrella of local civil society organizations and individuals advocating for land rights and policy reforms, perhaps women land rights would now not be trampled upon.

“women are now on the table discusing matters on land and policy reforms, therefore, we shall soon start making sense to men on why women and girls rights to land must be adhered to. We are moving the conversation further to educate women at community level on land laws” Ms. Allube says.

The analysis of gender disaggregated data of allocation in select settlement schemes also reveal that regionally, in Eastern and Coastal regionals, men tend to have major disparity in land ownership compared to women.

  Top 10 Schemes by Highest Men Allocation – Counts
Likoni (Waitiki) Coast 1536 3072 1 20 4629
Nguu Ranch Eastern 776 3007 6 36 3825
Kwa Ndolo Eastern 427 2940 9 111 3487
Lake Kenyatta I Coast 896 2604 0 115 3615
Kinyambu Eastern 383 2545 111 141 3180
Maungu/Buguta 1 Coast 738 2281 3 75 3097
Gongoni Coast 250 2277 5 54 2586
Taveta II Coast 986 2141 0 66 3193
Tinet – Sotiki Rift Valley 1282 2030 3 44 3359
Muthinguiini Eastern 241 1990 21 141 2393

Two areas stand out at the Coast for overall high allocation of land to women, these are Mombasa, Kinango and Taita Taveta. In Mombaa, women have 33 per cent overall allocation. In Kinago and Taita Taveta, women allocation is 28 per cent.

In Western region, women have the lowest allocation by area standing at 6.8 per cent Bungoma has the lowest scheme allocation for women at 3.6 per cent. Mount Elgon has 15 per cent plot area allocation by gender while Lugari has 7.5 per cent.

Narok County Land Injustice

€In Narok County, women have no voice when it comes to land ownership. Here, the pastoralist Maasai community, occupies vast lands which is owned communally. This is because they use the huge chunks of land for grazing hence enjoy communal benefit in the utilization.

In Loita, Narok South Sub County land demarcation exercise started in 2019 and in November, the exercise gained momentum. In the process, it was discovered that women had been disenfranchised, especially widows.

From the onset, the land adjudication officer allowed only men to sit in the land committee.  Some of the by- laws put in place by the committee were blatantly against the values and principles stipulated in the constitution.

Stephen Ole Meliti, a local farmer from Loita, says that the committee took advantage of the ignorance levels in the community “there is very little understanding of land rights at the community level. Many people believe that the exercise is for the government and that they are not expected to participate. Women by custom are not even allowed to engage in matters of land ownership” he says.

Photo Courtesy

Among the bizarre by laws by the committee was to allow allocation of land to dead men, instead of the widows left behind “Women, particularly widows have been gravely disenfranchised, the deceased men have been allocated land while widows with daughters have been denied allocation. In some instances, land is allocated to a male child instead of the mother who is left behind as the bread winner” Stephen Ole Meliti decry’s

The committee argues that only men and mature male children are to be allocated the land since they are the community custodian. Something that Stephen disagrees with. “If you look at the Maasai lands that have been lost,  it is because of irregular selling done by the men. it is time women be entrusted with land ownership” he says.

To complicate the matter, the by-laws state that women who are thought to have passed marital age and living within the community are to be allocated land. “Barren women, widows with small children and no male child are also to be allocated”

With such conditions, one would wonder the criteria used to determine that a woman has passed marital age. Further, why would widows with male children not be registered to get the land, instead it is the male child who is registered?

Community land has been a source of livelihood to a greater population of Kenyan population, especially women small holder farmers. Unfortunately, these lands face increasing threats from land grabbers and community tussles on adjudication.

 “We have desire for a secured rights for women on land and natural resources for food security and improved livelihoods. We continue supporting women in their quest to have their rights to land recognized, respected and promoted” says Kitasi Wanga of Action Aid international Kenya “

According to a government official from physical planning department who sought anonymity since he is not authorized to speak on the matter, he questioned the government land use policy especially on agricultural production.

“Why would we encourage real estate on our most productive lands then pump millions of money to irrigate maize in Tana River which is dry region? It does not add up. Irrigation works best for high value crops like the horticulture, but not maize.” He says.

“In Trans Nzoia, maize grows naturally, but we are also encouraging smaller land divisions for settlement and development. Those are the lands to be protected primarily for farming purpose, if we are to realize food and nutrition security” he adds. The community land act 2016 if well implemented has the potential to address historical and present injustices on land.