Most Kenyans, especially the majority poor rely almost exclusively on land and natural resources – such as forests, water, wildlife, fisheries, drylands, wetlands and minerals – for sustenance. Apart from Agriculture which sustains over 80% of Kenyans, other livelihood activities like pastoralism, fishing, tourism and processing natural resources for sale are entirely dependent on natural resources. Kenyans also rely on natural resources for food, water and energy for domestic use. Apart from being the sole livelihood source, land, particularly ancestral lands are also the subject of great emotional attachment. Indeed, discontent over ownership, access, use and control of land and resources therein has remained the most notable source of conflict in the country’s history.
Yet, Kenya’s history is wrought with conflict based on injustices related to ownership, access, use and control of land and resources therein. These conflicts remained largely unaddressed by official government policies and legislations until the National Land Policy of 2009 and the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 put in place an overarching governance framework for the country’s land and natural resources. These were followed by enactment and or review of several land and natural resources – related laws and policies. Among other things the reforms established guiding principles which must be observed while managing and using land and natural resources, including sustainable development, public participation, equity, and accountability. However, these principles are yet to be fully understood and appreciated by the duty bearers and citizens alike, leading to continued unsustainable use of, irregular allocations, tensions, and conflict over natural resources.
Tensions and conflict over land and natural resources are expected to persist due to impacts of climate change, land degradation and increasing poverty and population growth. Moreover, recent discoveries of oil, gas and high-value minerals is expected to exert more pressure on the land available for other economic activities.
The Land, Resources and Equity programme seeks to promote and support development and implementation of appropriate laws, regulations, institutional frameworks and capacities for sustainable and accountable management of land and natural resources. The programme also seeks to promote and support equitable access, utilization and sharing of benefits accruing from investments on land and natural resources. In addition, the programme seeks to support and work with local communities to practically conserve and restore degraded lands, forests, wetlands and other natural resources.