A cabal of highly-connected individuals have grabbed a whopping 300,000 acres of land from the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) land near the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project in Kilifi County.
The grabbers are said to be annexing at least 25,000 acres per month.
One of the grabbers is so bold that he has reportedly started constructing a dam on the grabbed parcel.
In a letter dated April 9, 2021, ADC has asked the Ministry of Lands and National Land Commission (NLC) to intervene and reclaim the land.
“The attention of ADC has been drawn by the invasion of the land by few settlers, who have cultivated less than 10 acres in few small areas, adjudication process in the name of ADU KAMALE, ADU CHAMARI and WAKA ADJUDICATION sections and massive subdivision and clearing for access roads by land buying companies/private persons,” ADC board chairman Nick Salat says.
He adds: “The resultant subdivisions are being sold to unsuspecting buyers and have already started cultivation and clearing of access roads.”
The land said to have been grabbed is valued at about Sh15 billion at an average of Sh50,000 per acre.
ADC now says unscrupulous persons have encroached on part of its 1.75 million Galana/Kulalu ranch and sub-divided it and are now selling it to unsuspecting members of the public.
The corporation says that already, one of the suspected grabbers is excavating a dam on the invaded land without the approval of the agency.
Salat’s letter is addressed to Land Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney and copied to NLC chairman Gershom Otachi, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, Agriculture CS Peter Munya, Treasury’s Ukur Yatani, Director of Land Adjudication, Director of Surveys and Kilifi County Commissioner.
The letter comes at a time when the Attorney General’s office had advised ADC through the Lands ministry to cancel all leases issued to private individuals or conservancies to free the land for other uses.
In a letter dated January 12, 2020 to CS Munya, Attorney General Paul Kihara gave options in which the ADC could terminate the existing leases.
This included negotiating with lease holders for a mutual agreement or asking some of the lease holders to surrender initialized land.
“If the termination notice issued will take less than two to 12 months, with the majority of the leases being 12 months for the notice to be effective.
Since the government is desirous of implementing the food security agenda on priority basis, it recommended that negotiations be instituted with the lessees,” Kihara wrote.
Last December, a senior official from the Lands ministry camped in Malindi for almost a month with about 100 surveyors, who were overflying the expansive land using two choppers.
It is not clear if the government officials were part of the adjudication process or were on a fact-finding mission.
The grabbers are subdividing the land in portions of between 50 acres for small parcels and 5,000 acres for the big parcels.
By December 2020, ADC says the sub-division process had already claimed an area approximately 101,171 hectares or 250,000 acres.
“By the time ADC board of directors visited the land, the process of subdivision was going on and by February 27, 2021, the process had already encroached on ADC land by 121,952 hectares or 301,350 acres.
This means the illegal land buying companies or individuals are illegally subdividing ADC Galana by the rate of 25,000 acres per month,” Salat adds.
When the board members landed, the developers fled making it impossible to establish their identity according to Salat. The land said to be grabbed is almost the equivalent of the entire Kisii County, which is estimated at 320,000 acres.
Galana ranch hit the news in 2013 following the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy William Ruto who had included it in their agricultural manifesto where they had sought to irrigate a million acres to boost food security.
The flagship project, however, failed to take off following allegations of corruption with a parliamentary committee touring the facility and recommended the termination of the project on grounds that it was no longer viable.
In December 2015, the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture recommended that the Sh14 billion project be terminated saying it had wasted taxpayers’ money and asked the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to look into the issues of procurement irregularities.
The 1.75 million-acre ranch was established in 1968 as a game and trading company before being acquired by the government through the ADC to provide a buffer zone between Tsavo National Park and surrounding communities.
The ADC now wants state agencies to move quickly and save the land from marauding grabbers arguing that the law should have been followed even if the land had to be annexed to settle squatters.
The ADC board chair argues that the relevant land laws including the Constitution, Land Act, Land Adjudication, Physical and Land Planning Use Act 2019, ADC Act, the Surveys Act, Community Land Act, Land Control Act, Land Registration Act or Land subdivision process have not been followed.
“The purpose of this letter is to request the Ministry of Lands to liaise with ADC and have the perimeter boundary established by the director of surveys and around overlap of adjacent land with established adjudication section as well as respecting the laws,” he says.
According to the law, the ADC board should have passed a resolution indicating the reasons to sell or allocate any of its land.
The same resolution is then communicated to the National Treasury for concurrence.