Are forest tenure rights secure for local communities and indigenous peoples in Kenya?: Assessment of land tenure rights under Kenya's new legal framework

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Key messages

  • The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) undertook a review of Kenya's legal framework to understand whether, and to what extent, Kenyan legal provisions were sufficient to secure community land and forest rights. The primary objective was to assess how adequate Kenya's legal framework was in protecting and promoting tenure rights of forest communities, including in protected areas.
  • The law appears to offer adequate security for the tenure rights of forest communities. Kenya's Community Land Act, enacted in 2016, defines community tenure rights comprehensively and has legal provisions to enhance and guarantee tenure security. Forests on communal land are secure, at least on paper.
  • Areas of public gazetted forests that are claimed by indigenous groups as their customary territory are not well secured by law, even though the Constitution recognizes indigenous groups. However, a task force is now addressing this gap.
  • Most challenges lie in determining community identity and customary land rights, and registration of the community and land rights. This affects areas claimed as ancestral lands by indigenous and marginalized communities. Resolution requires investigations into historical land injustices to provide remedies.
  • Key actions to strengthen protection and promotion of forest communities' tenure rights are: participatory mapping and inventory of community land requiring determination of customary rights and registration; implementation of legal mechanisms for community participation in public forest management; and a system to map out community forests which fall under a) land lawfully held, managed or used by as community forests, grazing areas or shrines or ancestral lands; and b) lands traditionally occupied by hunter-gatherer communities.


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