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The impact of HIV/AIDS on the land issue in Kenya - March 2002

HIV/AIDS was declared a national disaster in Kenya in November 1999. The cost of the pandemic to the country is colossal, estimated at US$700 billion thus far. Frantic efforts are underway to address the different negative effects that it is having on the country. An HIV/AIDS desk has been established in every government ministry to ensure its impacts are promptly identified, monitored and mitigated. The importance of examining the impact of HIV/AIDS on land in Kenya cannot be overemphasised given the importance of land as Kenya's primary form of capital for development, with agriculture employing 80 per cent of the workforce and providing 60 per cent of the national income. The development of the agricultural and rural sector is ranked as the country's top priority for poverty eradication, while food security is among the major national development objectives in Kenya's development policy. The foregoing and the work of the Land Tenure Commission that is developing Kenya's first consolidated land policy are evidence of the timeliness of the study.

This study is one of four commissioned in Eastern and Southern Africa to examine the impact of HIV/AIDS on land issues in the two regions. That such a study is essential for ensuring that ongoing land reforms are effective in alleviating poverty emerged at a land conference hosted by the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN).

This study therefore sought to examine the impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the land issue - tenure and reform - paying particular attention to the most food insecure and vulnerable socio-economic classes of the population, and especially including widows and orphans. The study argues that HIV/AIDS has had an impact on the land issue in Kenya at the household level. This impact has not surfaced explicitly in terms of buying and selling property. However, the effects are evident in the loss of breadwinners and adults at their most productive stage, which has negatively affected the financial status of most households, leading to a decrease in agricultural productivity, and by extension, household livelihoods. The financial impact extends to money spent on medical care and the time taken from income generating activities to seek medical care and care for those with HIV/AIDS, and for orphans, which stretches the household budget. Significantly, HIV/AIDS has worsened the situation of vulnerable groups, specifically widows and orphans who are at times dispossessed of land, their source of livelihood. The objectives of the study are to examine:
  • The changes in land tenure systems as a consequence of HIV/AIDS;

  • How HIV/AIDS is affecting land reform programmes, for example, death of beneficiaries, inheritance rights of their family members;

  • How the changes in land tenure, access/rights to land among different categories of people as a consequence of HIV/AIDS are affecting agricultural productivity, food security and poverty;

  • The strategic options for survival among HIV/AIDS affected households in terms of land, for example, abandoning land due to fear of losing land, renting out due to inability to use land, distress sales of land, etc, and the consequences of such survival options/strategies on security of access and rights to land;

  • How HIV/AIDS is affecting staffing of land administration services and land reform programmes;

and to
  • Analyse the implications for the future of the above on land tenure systems and their administrations; and

  • Identify areas for further research and policy intervention with concrete recommendations.

In this context, the study examined:
  • Key issues on land reform, land ownership and rights, land tenure, food security;

  • HIV and AIDS issues in Kenya at the national and local levels;

  • Major disputes on land;

  • How HIV and AIDS is contributing to these disputes;

  • Methods of dispute resolution, and changes due to HIV and AIDS;

  • Efforts being made to address the impact of HIV and AIDS on the land issue;

  • Community based intervention strategies;

  • Gaps in existing laws and regulations.

The study method involved:
  • A literature review on land reform, tenure, food security, poverty and HIV/AIDS issues in Kenya;

  • Interviews with key informants from government, NGOs, local administration and institutions and women NGOs;

  • An in-depth field survey of 30 households in two communities in two districts of Kenya.

This study finds that there is a relationship between the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the land issue in Kenya. Specifically, the study suggests that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is causing changes in land use, labour and financial standing due to deaths and an increase in the number of people living with AIDS, which in turn is impacting negatively on women and children. These effects need to be taken into account by the Government, in particular in the on-going reform processes.

In Chapter 1 the study presents background on Kenya, the problem under consideration, the objectives of the study, and the scope of the study. Chapter 2 provides a detailed literature review on HIV/AIDS and land issues in Kenya. Chapter 3 explains the design and methodology aspects of the study, while Chapter 4 presents the results and findings of the study. It elaborates on the findings and identifies the policy gaps and issues that need to be addressed. Chapter 5, presents the summary, conclusions and policy recommendations of the study, and identifies areas for further study.

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