Pastoralists Land Tenure System

Nomadic pastoralism is a major land use in the arid and semi-arid rangelands all over the world. Pastoralists typically rely on animal husbandry for their economic survival. The arid environment is characterized by erratic rainfall distribution and varying climatic conditions with seasonal plant growth.

For pastoralists to provide a year-round supply of food to their animals they have to move the livestock to pasture. In the dry seasons, they move their livestock to the highlands or well-watered pastures. Consequently, when the rains fall on the rangelands, they move back to take advantage of the new and more succulent pastures.
The communal property regime is important as it creates pastoralists right of access. Additionally, creates a reliable framework for them to exploit.

This a Spatio-temporal form of land tenure. In the sense that pastoralists own land across the ecosystem of movement and at different times in the year. Pastoral rights of access to dry-season resources are based on mutual arrangements on the use of property rights between different land-use regimes. It can be between farmers and pastoralists, among pastoralists themselves or the pastoralists and conservancies.

These arrangements depend on the climatic conditions and social relationships among the communities.The flexibility in access to range resources which provides a measure of security to the pastoralists and their neighbours at times of drought and other disasters.

A man and his cows

Looking at Kenya

In Kenya, there have been conflicts between the local pastoralist and the private ranchers/conservationists. The conservationists have formed strong organizations such as the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT).NRT is largely funded by several European countries and the United States as well as international NGOs. Conversely, these conservancies have greatly reduced the land that the pastoralists can use for grazing. Often, the nomadic communities are not allowed to graze their livestock in the protected conservancies.

Wildlife conservationists view pastoralism as a poor land-use method with little value to wildlife. In contrast, the pastoralists perceive wildlife conservation as a large-scale theft of pastoral land which denies them grazing land. The pastoralists opposed the NRT for the fear it is a vehicle for land grabbing by the foreigners. This situation has unceasingly generated conflicts between the local indigenous communities and the government-favoured conservationists.

Map of Laikipia land uses
Laikipia Region Conservancies and other Land use in 2016 (Source: Laikipia Wildlife Forum)

The problem of conservationists versus the local communities began in early 2000. This is when the government started involving the local communities within the wildlife dispersal areas into the national conservation programmes. The need to conserve ecosystems and wildlife habitats inspired the latter. Unfortunately, the pastoralists own and manage the land which the habitats sit on. These efforts were later entrenched into law following the review and enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013.

Nomadic pastoralists often lose out in these climate-change-induced conflicts. Certainly, they are natural change adaptors, however, they are usually weaker economically. The existing national land policies and legal frameworks do not favour them. Many parts of Africa need land policies that recognize and protect the land rights of the pastoralists.

Additionally, capacity building is essential among the pastoral communities on adaptive capacity such as seasonal migration. Equally, the pastoral agreement for legal cross border migration is a necessity too. The new Kenyan Constitution 2010 and the enactment of the Community Land Act 2016, have greatly promoted the recognition and of pastoral land tenure rights. However, the pastoralists are losing access to their traditional grazing lands to the wildlife conservancies. Also, their migration in search of pasture is getting more and more restricted.

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