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Legal and Planning Methodology for African Commons: Reviewing Rangeland Governance in Kenya

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Kibugi, Robert
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1434
Sector: Grazing
Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): rangelands
governance and politics
Abstract: "Rangelands in Kenya lie within the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) with low and erratic amounts of rainfall and harsh environmental conditions. Traditionally inhabited by pastoral communities, livestock keeping is the main source of livelihood supported by this environment. These communities have age old ecological and land use practices that have ensured that pastoralism works for them. They practiced common property traditions to share resources, providing options for both dry and wet season grazing and food contingencies. "Following Garett Hardins now discredited Tragedy of the Commons postulate, the Kenya Colonial Government declared these practices archaic, pushing for individualization of tenure, and agriculture. This policy, adopted in independent Kenya led to 'Group Ranches' an attempt at fusing common property and private ownership of land. The outcome has been disastrous, with most ranches sub-divided, resulting in expropriation of the African commons. Now there is evidence that due to the ecological dictates of ASALs, the pastoral communities are re-establishing an informal system of commons. "We examine whether the management of African rangelands as common property is inimical to sustainable utilization. Our thesis is that expropriation of the African Commons into private property was based upon a wrong premise. Taking a deconstructive theoretical approach, we examine theories, principles, and historical developments that informed these actions. We propose a legal-policy and planning methodology to safeguard the African commons as embodied by the Kenyan Rangelands. These include options for rangeland governance among them corporate legal personality for communities to facilitate common ownership, legal re-classification of the commons for transfer and sub-division, equity, codification of customary law, and dismantling of patriarchy. We further propose a planning methodology that will guide ecological governance and ensure compatible land use, as well as an overall institutional framework. The aim is governing African Commons for sustainable development of rangeland communities."

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