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Gender and Land Rights Database

Kenya

In 2005, the country’s population was estimated to be 35 599 000, of which 17 859 000 were women (1). People living in rural zones comprised 79.3 percent of the population, while 20.7 percent lived in urban areas in 2006. In 2003, the average population density was 56.1 people per square kilometre (2). While most people are farmers, lands suitable for cultivation represent only 20 percent of the total. The population density in areas having high potential for agriculture is more than six times the country’s average (2).

 

In 2007, the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$24.2 billion and the per capita GDP was US$645 (3). Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and the principal source of livelihood. Seven out of ten Kenyans cultivate crops, raise livestock or engage in fishing and forestry (2). In 2007, agriculture accounted for 23.8 percent of the GDP, generating employment for about 75 percent of the population (4) and comprising 80 percent of export earnings, 70 percent of materials for agro-industrial production and a major share of government revenue (2). Industry accounted for 16.7 percent of the GDP and services accounted for 59.5 percent in 2007 (4).

 

With a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.535 in 2006, the country ranked 147th out of 182 countries (3). From 1990–2001, 23 percent of the population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line (1). The number of undernourished people in 2000–2002 reached 10.3 million, which is 33 percent of the population (5). Female-headed households, which accounted for 37 percent of total households in 1999 (6), are most vulnerable. As of 2003, 80 percent of female-headed households lived under the poverty line, in part because of their limited ownership of and access to land (7). HIV/AIDS has put a strain on all sectors of the economy. In 2003, there were 2.2 million infected people and it was estimated that there were 730 000 AIDS orphans (6). Women are among the population group most at risk to be infected with HIV: 22 percent of women aged 15−19 were infected in 2003, compared with 4 percent of men in the same age group, and 37 percent of women aged 20−24 were infected, compared with 11 percent of men in the same age group (6). Life expectancy at birth was estimated in 2004 to be 60 years for women and 58 years for men. The literacy rate for adults 15 years of age and older was 70.2 percent for women and 77.7 percent for men (8).

 

In 2007, women accounted for 46 percent of the economically active population; 49 percent of the economically active women worked in agriculture (9). In 2003, women constituted 64 percent of subsistence farmers and 80 percent of the agricultural labour force, often working on an unpaid basis. Rural women work an average of nearly three hours longer per day than rural men. Women provide approximately 60 percent of farm-derived income, yet female-headed households on average own less than half the amount of farm equipment owned by male-headed households. In spite of their important contribution to the agriculture sector, women represent only 5 percent of registered landholders (7).

 

In the decades following independence from the British in 1968, some colonial-era laws lingered and many new laws were introduced, none of which adequately protected women’s property rights. Women continue to experience property discrimination sanctioned by the Constitution, laws and practices (7). The Government’s policy of tenure individualization and privatization in the early 1990s has resulted in weaker tenure security for women. Under customary tenure systems, women were guaranteed a right of use through their husbands after marriage. The process of land registration left women out of adjudication, conferring title to the male household head. Land-use decisions are made by men to the extent that women’s food crop products are marginalized and cultivated on poorer soils. Women’s lack of tenure security is also an issue because men continue to migrate to urban areas, leaving many women to manage lands over which they have no rights (10).


Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography