KNA Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes has urged Turkana community elders to be at the forefront in protecting the community land from grabbers to curb illegal acquisition of diminishing grazing lands.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon in Lodwar Town during a meeting sponsored by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to sensitize residents about the Community Land Act 2016, Munyes advised the elders to be cautious whenever they sell or lease out land.
“Where will the livestock graze?, why can’t you advise the people who encroach on the grazing lands not to over-step the boundary demarcated to distinguish between areas to be occupied by people and those set aside for grazing livestock?,” Munyes posed.
Munyes said that Turkana County is primarily a pastoralist community with pastoralism being the core livelihood hence the need for protection of grazing land.
“We need to protect the land that makes livestock to survive, we will develop Turkana, we will allow infrastructure, we will allow LAPSSET and others but not at the detriment of pastoralism, we have pastoralists in Botswana, Ethiopia, we must protect our livestock,” Munyes reiterated.
He commended efforts by development partners Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Mercy Corps, Kenya South Sudan Uganda and Ethiopia (KESSUGET) Turkana and others in preventing, managing and solving land and natural resources related conflicts in Turkana County.
Munyes advocated for formulation of a law that protects the pastoralists with regard to land ownership, owing to the fact that a larger percentage of the residents of Turkana practice pastoralism as a way of life.
“There should be a law that protects the riverine areas such that even if the urban areas are congested there is some space where the pastoralists may live. It is legislation only that will help us because land issue is emotive,” he added.
Munyes called upon the County Government of Turkana and the partners to develop the underutilized land in Turkana to promote eco-tourism through establishment of conservancies. He highlighted the case of Samburu where conservancies had been established to promote eco-tourism, which in turn contributed to economic development.
“We should use land appropriately in a more productive way; this County has a lot of natural resources, we should organize people to come together to get access to these resources,” Munyes said.
On his part Loima Member of Parliament Jeremiah Lomorukai said that pastoralism in Turkana County is threatened because of land grabbing and proposed that leaders lobby for land adjudication and registration to the residents as a lasting solution to the problem.
“The manner in which the land is grabbed is like we don’t value the so called livestock, it should be known that pastoralism constitutes a larger percentage of our lives,” Lomorukai said.
Lomorukai urged the Department of Lands in Turkana County Government to embrace technology to digitize the system of land allocation to the people.
He emphasized that the process of land registration must be carried out in accordance with the opinion of the local community as per the provisions of the Community Land Act of 2016, which categorizes Turkana as a community land.
Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) Chief Executive Officer Faith Alubbe educated participants about the provisions of the Community Land Act 2016 concerning land registration. Alubbe articulated that the community has the right to own the land.
“In the community land people have the inherent right to own it, before the registration process, the community should come up with bylaws which will act as a guide on what to be excluded in the inventory like shrines, graves and others,” Alubbe said.
Turkana County Chief Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Lands and Physical Planning Esther Lokweei encouraged partners to work hand in hand with the County Government of Turkana and advised residents to decide wisely on the mode of land registration.
“Land registration must be cognizant of the fact that Turkana People are pastoralists,” asserted CEC Lokweei.
The CEC recalled that the county government failed in its first attempt to register the land in Turkana when the inventory failed to meet the desired standards. She however promised that there is enough budgetary allocation currently to ensure the current inventory fulfils the standards required to start the process of land registration.