The Akamba Land Tenure System and its Impacts on Women’s Land Ownership in Masinga Division, 1895-2010.
Vengi, Ambrose Kimanthi D
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This thesis looks at the Akamba land tenure system and its impact on women’s ownership of land in masinga division. The research acknowledges the critical importance of land reform in Kenya as a country that inherited colonially structured and unequal land ownership patterns. However, there are limits to state-led, masculinised and politicized land reform when women , as gendered subjects in government policies and as a social category are not considered in theory and practice of land reform programme. The research employs patriarchy and gender as a tool of analysis theories to investigate the objectives, driving forces and the politics of land reforms, to establish the extent to which the reforms initiated between 1895-2010 created economic spaces for women and to suggest policy recommendations not only for land reform reconstruction but also agrarian development in Kenya. Whereas land reform was necessary in the context of highly unequal land ownership and poverty, this research provides information on how land reform programme diminished opportunities for women to be empowered and shrunk the democratic spaces for genuine participation of women in the development process by denying them rights to land and widening gender inequalities. The objectives of the research are: to investigate women’s right to land during the pre-colonial period; to interrogate the impact of colonialism on women’s ownership of land in Masinga division; to interrogate the impact of land tenure reform on women and to explore the relationship between land tenure system and food security. The research was based on the premises that colonialism impacted negatively on women’s ownership of land and that subsequent independent governments did little to address this. The study adopted qualitative research design to collect data, formulate vital principles of knowledge and analyze data on land reforms. This involved the collection and analysis of data. The snowballing technique was used for identifying special cases for in-depth interviews. The study established that structural changes brought about by land tenure reforms have eroded the traditional laws that guaranteed women’s right to land. This is so, despite new tenure laws that allow women regardless of marital status to own land. The research findings further indicates that the women farmer has no titled land of her own and has to depend on her husband’s land for her food farming. Lack of security denies her the freedom to make major decisions concerning the land. It is this sense of insecurity of tenure which affects women’s investment decisions, since the owner of the land has the ultimate legal authority over land use. The research recommends that the government should consider passing legislation that makes it mandatory for married couples to register their land jointly upon marriage. Further to this, there should be a multi-agency deliberate attempt to support women in challenging discriminatory aspects of customs and practice of patriarchy which limits women’s ownership of land.