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availability in Kenya.  See Table 9 for an example of data for part of Meru District.

Table 9.  Per Capita Livestock Holdings (Tharaka, Meru District)




Total Livestock




Total Population




Livestock per capita




(Source: various, cited in GOK, 1992, p. 28).

The RANTCO report recommends ensuring that some choices and communal land ownership and land use options remain in place for management of pastoral areas, as policy decisions are made in future about land use and tenure regimes for Kenya (1999).

5.4.3. Subdivision and conversion of vegetation/forest to agriculture.

Globally, habitat loss and fragmentation is considered the primary threat to biodiversity and endangered species conservation.  In Kenya, the deliberate policy of subdividing land traditionally held in common, and accessed for its different resources by pastoralists, wildlife, and smallholder farmers, is furthering the “expected” process of fragmentation and restricted access for each of these stakeholder groups even more rapidly.  See Cropland Availability Indicator:  compared with the average cropland available today for all Africans, Kenyans have less than half that amount due to the excessive subdivision of land.  (Data from World Resources Institute, 1998).   The government of Kenya has noted that small plots, i.e., 0.5 ha or less, cannot provide more than a part-time income for a family, even when adequately irrigated (GOK, 1992, p. 46).

The COBRA project began in 1991with the assumption that the government “would remain committed to developing and operationalizing principles of land use management that are rational and sustainable.”  It appears in hindsight that the government was not so committed, even long before the 1990s (e.g., see Mwangi, 1996).  The government actively encouraged a program of subdivision and individual titling on group ranches and other communal lands.  Even in low potential areas, such as group ranches surrounding various national parks, subdivision is beginning to occur (Campbell, 1999; Githui, 2000).

The land use conversion documented in the Mbeere study mentioned in section 5.1.5. has caused clearing of almost all of the natural vegetation and wildlife habitat that existed in 1961.  Bush cover, for example, went from 65 percent in 1961, to 46 percent in 1982, to 6 percent in 1995.  Farmland increased at the same time from 24 percent to 39 percent to 84 percent (Olson/LUCID, 2000.)

The Campbell/LUCID study (1999a) comparing wildlife – people interactions over 20 years in the Amboseli and Tsavo area also points to the strong possibility that, although group ranches have not been formally subdivided yet in this area, they may be soon.  Tensions between elders and younger people, who seek more secure authority over land, are driving these changes.  Maasai ranch members with knowledge of the land tenure changes occurring elsewhere have been seen marking off choice areas for themselves.  Researchers fear the results of such a process may lead to conversion of land use, and consequent loss of cover and wildlife habitat, similar to that noted in the Mbeere study.  

5.4.4. Soil erosion.

Kara PagePage 2510/23/2006

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