Kenya: Multinationals holding vast land should cede to local landless communities upon lease expiry, urges columnist

Author: Magesha Ngwiri, Daily Nation (Kenya), Published on: 25 March 2019

"Multinationals must prepare to cede some land to the very poor"

...Today, Kenya Canners is known as Del Monte Ltd, but little else has changed; the pineapple plantation straddles kilometre upon kilometre of fertile well-watered land that is at once a delight to the eye and a subject of covetous debate in Murang’a and Kiambu counties. Nobody seems to be quite sure just how much land the fruit-growing and processing multinational owns in that region, but everyone agrees it is way too much in an area that has too little land and too many people.  It is estimated that Del Monte owns 22,000 acres while others say the land is actually more than 45,000 acres. However, the matter should be laid to rest when a survey ordered by the National Land Commission identifies just how much land is being utilised so that the rest can be surrendered to the respective counties. Whatever the case, it is doubtful the company can continue owning so much land in perpetuity when the surrounding areas are bursting at the seams with a burgeoning, landless population.

This whole issue of historical land injustices and how they should be rectified erupted a few years ago when it was realised that there was a chance some multinational companies could be forced to cede land in Murang’a, Kiambu, Kericho, Nandi, Laikipia, Taita Taveta and Machakos counties. The foreigners were granted the land under 999-year leases by the colonial governments, ostensibly because it was unoccupied. However, with the enactment of the 2010 Constitution, the leases were reduced to 99 years — retroactively — which meant they would expire from this year.

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Related companies: Del Monte Foods