How does common property rights in private land work??
Creating Common Grazing Rights on Private Land Parcels
Assignment compiled by:
Pauline Gitonga (PhD Student)
Dryland Resource Management Doctoral Programme
University of Nairobi, Department of Land Resource and Agricultural Technology
Outline of Presentation
The presentation will address the following course outline
1. Property Rights of Natural Resources
2. Land rights reforms
3. Resource management and governance
Property rights are the access rights to a stream of benefits from
a given set of resources. Property rights are derived from the
people’s culture or community’s rules (Ostrom, 1990).
Characteristics of property rights: 1 .Duration 2.Flexibility3.
Exclusivity 4.Quality of title 5. Transferability and
6.Divisibility (Meyer, 2001).
Common grazing resources are comparable to institutions and have the
following characteristics (Ostrom, 1990; Bhim,2001)
1.They are shared in a consensual manner
2.They are a means of monitoring and enforcing compliance to rules
among group members, ranging from mild, informal sanctions to
stringent, formal ones. Three levels of enforcement are possible:
3.Institutions tend to distribute benefits unequally among group
members it is not a 50-50 share it is a consensual share
Most pastoralist groups, like the Samburu of northern Kenya,
have historically accessed natural resources such as pasture,
forest and water through communal management systems
Communal management systems consist of local institutions that
regulate access to and use of resources by delimiting the user
group, establishing rules for accessing and withdrawing
resources, monitoring how resources are used and sanctioning
violators of rules.
They facilitate cooperation thus enabling pastoralists to survive
in fragile environments subject to periodic crises such as drought
Systems are not static and have changed over time in response to
both external and internal factors (Sandford 1983, Behnke et al.,
Many pastoral systems are examples of successful common
property management systems.
Historical institutions that shaped property rights of land tenure
system in Samburu
British colonial regime altered Kenyan pastoral system through
restrictions on grazing and limits on livestock holdings
The overall perception of this era was that ecosystems occupied
by pastoralists had the capacity to support stable populations of
herbivores and plants but the irrationality of pastoralist’s
communities (over grazing and over stocking activities)
prevented establishment of equilibrium conditions (McCabe,
1990; Behnke et al., 1993)
Historical background cont..
The independent Kenyan government developed land adjudication policies in
pastoral areas (1960s and 1970s).
This lead to the establishment of group ranches and in Siambu, Samburu
district, privatization of 23 individual parcels of land (Lesorol, 2003; Mwangi
Privatization shifted de jure control over land from the community to
individual land owners and created new land use activities - large-scale
cultivation, rental and sale of land.
Privatization of land in Samburu emerged out of social conflict among groups
with different interests and differential bargaining power. Internal and external
factors to the community contributed to this change.
Current land use and land Tenure system (year 2000 and
The Siambu community were satisfied with private land
ownership due to the added autonomy they had over land use
decisions (Lesorogol 2003)
livestock continued to graze in the privatized area of Siambu, in
the early 2000s
There were no particular set of rules regulating grazing access.
However in 2006 new rules begun to emerge that established a
communal control over grazing access in the privatized area
A re-emerging Commons? A hybrid land tenure system is
New grazing rule emerged in Siambu due to disputes over
1. Public paths
2. Use of wheat stubble.
The new rules were;
1. Reciprocal grazing access-anyone who wants to graze their
livestock on others’ private parcels must allow others’ to graze
their livestock on his parcel.
Enclosure as a two-way process: if someone fences their parcel,
they may exclude others from grazing on it or charge a fee for
grazing access. However, that individual cannot freely graze their
livestock on others ‘parcels.
These rules were consistent with efforts to combat free-riding on
the commons, with the twist that the commons in this case was
private land that was not legally a commons
The new grazing rules in Siambu is an intriguing case of
institutional innovation and discounts the theory that private
rights are more desirable and efficient when compared to
common/public good rights.
Suggested Research areas
There is a need to document the implementation and enforcement
processes of the new rules so as to enable a better understanding of the
hybrid land tenure system (public-private situation).
The impact of the new rules on actual land use practice and the
economic and social consequence is another key area for further
The impact of the new rules in addressing the gender disparity in
The impacts of the new constitution decentralization system on the
hybrid system will it be more powerful under the decentralized system
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