The Case Study Area

Mavoko, largely known as Athi River, is situated in Machakos County some 25 km southeast of Nairobi. It is one of the fastest-growing towns in Kenya. The is partly due to Nairobi’s industrial area expansion along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway that traverses the town. Until the mid-1990s, the area around Mavoko saw comparatively little development. Recent years have, however, seen rapid growth of the town resulting mainly from industrial expansion, residential development, and

Land use map for Mavoko Sub-County. Source

FIGURE 8.1 Land use map for Mavoko Sub-County. Source: Draft Mavoko Sub-County Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plan, 2019.

the concomitant services. Interestingly, most residential properties are occupied by people working in Nairobi and Machakos town. This is because they find the town more affordable, in spite of the commuting distance.

Mavoko had a population of 139,380 in 2009 (GoK, 2010) and it was the fifth-largest urban center amongst the 24 centers in the Nairobi Metropolitan Region (NMR). The growth rate of the area is about 17.1% (GoK, 2013). It is the fourth-fastest-growing urban center in the NMR. The other three fastest-grow'ing are Juja (21.09%), neighboring Kitengela (20.09%), and Ngong (17.87%). In addition, the cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) was more than five times faster than the entire NMR, with CAGR = 3.32% during the same period (CGM, 2019) (Figure 8.1).

Study Findings

Given the nature of the study phenomenon, the results were diverse and could be grouped as legal, institutional, social, economic, and spatial. In particular, the results include: changing land uses, conflicts over explanatory sequential approach to land access and land uses, inequitable access, ownership disputes, and institutional failure among others. The specific results were as follows:

i) Changing Land Use Patterns

It emerged from the study that, given the increasing population along the corridor and the Mavoko area, land use patterns have witnessed steady change. The area witnessed a change from cattle ranching in the 1950s to intensive poultry and livestock farming. This finding concurs with findings by Larbi (1995) and Hitte (1998) respectively. It further emerged that these uses keep shifting further away from the city fringes due to increasing competition and/or demand for the land in the areas closer to the urban fringes by more paying for land uses such residential, commercial, and industrial land uses.

In addition, the change from farming to residential, commercial, and industrial land uses has also contributed to increasing the population in the urban fringe, consequently increasing demand for more residential housing and spaces for commercial as well as industrial activities. Indeed, the last two decades have seen major industrial complexes set up in the town. This explains the high cumulative growth rate of 3.32%. This essentially points to a high in-migration absorption rate for the study area (CGM, 2019).

Indeed, the setting up of an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) that resulted in the establishment of a number of other industrial entities, such as cement producers, distillers, and quarrying, among others. These industries are the main employers in the area and attract large numbers of semi-skilled and unskilled workers from the area and around the country. The findings confirm the argument that demand for land remains a derived demand (Warren, 2000).

ii) Competition for Land

The study established that a significant proportion of the population (largely new arrivals in Nairobi and poor residents) are forced to the periphery in search of reasonably priced housing. Interestingly, even in the periphery, this type of accommodation is found largely in informal settlements, on the one hand. On the other hand, it is a consequence of the inability of the City of Nairobi to provide adequate accommodation for the population at affordable prices.

Similarly, the study established from a literature review and spatial data that a large proportion of the upcoming middle-income population are forced to the fringes by their inability to access land within the city (Obala, 2011; Draft Mavoko Integrated Urban Strategic Development Plan, 2019). This partly explains the rapid expansion into the hitherto agricultural and/or UNCHS (1982), ranch land. This is because at the city fringes, they are able to enjoy the two worlds—a relatively quiet environment for a home and economic opportunities provided by the city. However, the arrival of these groups on the city fringes also presents new challenges. While most practitioners are quick to see a strain on infrastructure and management of the areas, other important challenges, such as potential and real conflicts, remain unexplored.

iii) Land Subdivision and Change of Use

The study results further revealed that alongside population increase in the study area, social and economic processes resulted in land use changes and subdivisions. The social processes included weakening governance structures, natural household formations, changing family structures, and community dynamics, including changing aspirations, among others. On the one hand, economic processes included changing income levels, economic changes, and changes in tastes and preferences. These factors are similar to those Larbi (1995) observed in the case of Accra and Kombe and Kreibich (2000) observed in the case of Dar es Salaam. In the study area, it was revealed that these processes peaked in the 1990s and saw large parcels that were largely owned by local cooperative societies and private limited liability companies in the area being subdivided into smaller portions.

Examples are cited, such as Kinanie, Kyumvi, Mlolongo, and the hills near Daystar University that were subdivided into smaller portions and the uses were changed.

The most notable was the conversion of land in the area by Farmer’s Choice, a chicken and pig-rearing company that had for decades been located in Mlolongo area of Mavoko. It relocated its farming activities about 40 km from Mlolongo. It converted the land use in Mlolongo from agriculture to residential, commercial, and industrial uses. The movement by Farmer’s Choice was informed by largely economic considerations, as the land use in the areas was quickly changing from agricultural to other uses (residential, commercial, and industrial). Cumulatively such happenings lead to densification of the areas as well as facilitating the supply of land for other uses, thereby fueling the land market.

Similarly, public institutions in Mavoko were largely allocated land by the state. Like private individuals, the public bodies too are occupying land parcels without titles or registration of ownership. The public institutions include schools, health centers, and administrative offices, amongst others. The lack of ownership documents poses a major challenge for proof of ownership of land and is likely to lead to increased land conflicts. In addition, this state of affairs unfortunately provides a fertile ground for fraudulent access to land owned by either individuals or public institutions.

iv) Access to Land and Ownership

There are two main categories of land in the study area, that is, public and private. Access to land can be mainly achieved through two main ways—by public allocation and as a gradual market process (Government of Kenya, 1991). Results from the study interviews revealed that others accessed land through inheritance and/or succession. The category that accessed through inheritance and/or succession received from their relatives (parents, wives, or husbands, etc.). It is understood that access and ownership of land entails having secure rights. This presumes acquisition of land through a legally recognized process that includes: acquisition through the market, public allocation, and/ or inheritance or succession. Acquisition through the market implies a willing buyer- willing seller transaction process leading to the buyer being given full rights. Ordinarily, this w'ould mean secure tenure rights for the holder. The same applies to public land acquisition processes—it assumes that the right and legal procedures were followed in the allocation process.

Official land allocation processes, the study revealed, have been skewed towards a clique with political networks. They are thus neither able nor capable of allocating land to those either in need or capable of developing the same. On the other hand, access to land through market delivery mechanisms has facilitated access by the rich who are keen on hoarding land for prices to rise before selling. This partly explains the housing deficit, particularly for the low-income groups.

v) Illegal Land Delivery Mechanisms

The failure of the market and public land delivery processes to satisfy a significant proportion of the population has partly led to the evolution of illegal land delivery processes. This is an approach based on fraudulent processes. The fraudsters mimic official land delivery approaches—they register a self-group that is a community-based organization, then in collusion with public officials invade the land, subdivide the land, and allocate it to a few members while, selling the remainder to unsuspecting members of the public. From the interview results, it emerged that the unsuspecting individuals are then issued with share certificates as evidence of ownership. Often land owners are unable to evict the invaders even with court orders, given the web of interests. In most cases, the leaders of the groups are often powerful and w'ell-connected (See Obala, 2011; Obala and Mattingly, 2016).

It is evident that public land parcels are more susceptible to land grabbing because they are often not clearly demarcated and/or fenced, or because the heads of these institutions do not intervene in time to stop the land grabbing. Land grabbing has thus continued to mainly affect public institutions. Illegal land occupations lead to lengthy legal actions. In the process, legitimate landowners incur huge unwarranted legal costs. Yet in reality, this points to the failure of local authorities to effectively administer and manage both public and private land parcels.

vi) Land Conflicts and Insecure Land Tenure Rights

Ownership of land entails having secure rights that ensure the property owner has the right to use, sell, and undertake any permissible development on the property. This presumes acquisition of land through legally recognized processes that include: acquisition through the market, public allocation, and/or inheritance or succession. Acquisition through the market implies a willing buyer-willing seller transaction process, leading to the buyer being given full rights. Ordinarily, this would mean secure tenure rights to the holder. However, this is not often the case in the study area, where landowners, particularly those whose land parcels are undeveloped, are faced with litigation. These undeveloped land parcels in the area are subject to uncertainties over ownership, because of the risks of either forceful occupation and/or uncertainty over authenticity of ownership documents. This is particularly the case because of fraud in the land management processes—where at times one parcel of land has several sets of ownership documents.

The responses from interviews/documentation of transactions indicate that land cases take a long time to be concluded, given the huge backlog of cases, and in the meantime the legitimate property owners are unable to undertake any transactions on their land parcels. Yet in many cases, the litigant may be using fake papers. Such cases are not uncommon in Kenya. For instance, Ouma Wanzala reported in the Daily Nation Newspaper of February 18, 2019 that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) was due to hand over the title of a property that had been subject of a court dispute between the University of Nairobi and a private company for decades. In this case, the involvement of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, EACC, and other government agencies may have forced the private company to drop the case and seek consent.

Similar cases are common in the study area; for instance, on December 6,2018, George Owiti reported in the Star newspaper that the Cabinet Secretary in Charge of Interior Affairs in the Country had ordered groups that had forcefully invaded land parcels owned by private and public companies to move out of those land parcels. It was further reported that the local area administrator pointed out that the groups had changed their approach— they first invaded the land, then posed as land agents and/or brokers. They then sold the land to unsuspecting individuals.

Although the study did not obtain quantitative data on fraudulent land transactions, qualitative data points to this. The attempt to rectify the situation by the establishment of several tasks forces to address the question of fraudulent transactions confirms that when the problem is coupled with forceful invasions and official complicity, this contributes uncertainty on the security of tenure for landowners. It is this collusion with public officials in the lands department that has seen both public and private institutions and individuals lose their land parcels to unscrupulous gangs and individuals. Thus, public institutions like the Meat Training Institute, the Numerical Machining Complex, East African Portland Cement, numerous cooperative societies (including those in Ngelani, Lukenya, and Drumvile), and private individuals lose large swathes of land to fraudsters and land grabbers. These have interfered w'ith their ability to meet their mandates.

vii) Proliferation of Squatter and Illegal Settlements

Slums and settlements are quickly sprouting on land illegally acquired by the land fraudsters in the study area. In a span of about 20 years, more than ten parcels have had settlements illegally established on them by organized groups, who in addition obtain illegal subdivision approvals and documents that purport to show their ownership of the land parcels. This is attributed to the inability of local administration to rein in unapproved housing development. On almost all undeveloped public land parcels in the area are “squatters.” Squatting has a new way of accessing both public and private land. Land transactions in these settlements are largely through informal processes based on local networks and trust, similar to what Obala and Mattingly (2014) observed in case of informal settlements in Nairobi.

In addition, land management in the informal settlements mimics formal practices, with sale agreements drawn by lawyers and creation of ownership registers specific to each settlement. This is fairly adaptive and responsive to the existing situation.

The informal settlements play a critical role in the provision of accommodation to the large workforces, particularly laborers working in the industries and for logistics companies. This is because they would find it difficult to pay rent. It is evident from spatial data that informal settlements are either located close to high-end residential neighborhoods and/or near manufacturing concerns. Thus, the illegal and squatter settlements are largely located close to sources of labor. This in itself confirms the centrality and symbiotic relationships between illegal and formal settlements on the one hand, and on the other, it reveals a positive contribution at the macro-economic level facilitating urban economic development.

Besides, there are inadequate housing units available in the area to accommodate the increasing population. This role is significant, and must be looked at against the argument of UNCHS (1982) that informal settlements are part of the important links between rural and urban development.

 
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