Using community by-laws to secure customary land rights in Kenya


This webinar on 16 November 2018 discussed how communities can use by-laws to secure their land rights.

Meeting of the Ogiek community of Sasimwani to review their draft by-laws (Photo: Namati/Jaron Vogelsang)

Indigenous and rural communities that use customary land tenure systems are among the least likely populations to have legal recognition of their rights to their lands and natural resources. 

On Wednesday 16 November 2016, IIED hosted a webinar on strengthening the security of tenure of indigenous and rural communities, particularly focused on communities that employ customary tenure systems. 

The webinar showcased an integrated approach to strengthening tenure security, based on local governance building, conflict resolution, participatory mapping, and grassroots legal advocates.

The meeting featured a speaker from Namati, an international organisation dedicated to advancing the field of legal empowerment and strengthening people's capacity to exercise and defend their rights, as well as a representative of the Ogiek Peoples' Development Program, an NGO which campaigns for the rights of the indigenous forest dwellers Ogiek community in Kenya.

This online seminar was designed for civil society organisations in low and middle-income countries that want to support communities whose land rights and livelihoods are affected by agricultural projects.

Outline programme

  • IIED senior researcher Philippine Sutz introduced the seminar
  • David Arach, Community Land Protection Program's East Africa program officer at Namati, introduced Namati's approach to community land protection, focusing on the key stage of community by-laws drafting, and
  • John Lengoisa from the Ogiek People's Development Program discussed how the Ogiek community is applying the community by-laws process to build community unity, improve local land governance, and bolster the Ogiek's legal claim to their traditional lands.

The presentations were followed by a facilitated discussion with webinar participants. The discussion addressed questions such as:

  • What are the key features of the community by-laws process? 
  • How can communities and civil society organisations use such by-laws to protect community land rights? 
  • What are the challenges, and how can they be addressed? 

This online seminar was funded by UK Aid from the UK Government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the UK Government. 

Read more

The webinar was part of IIED's work on Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment, a collaborative initiative that aims to help local communities protect their rights in relation to natural resource investments. Recent legal tools seminars have looked at using online technology to empower communities facing land deals and enhancing the role of women in land management decisions.

About the speakers

David Arach is a Ugandan national who has experience working as a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, David joined Namati as the Community Land Protection Program's East Africa program officer in March 2016. He is armed with a strong passion for justice, advocating for security of tenure, and strengthening communities' ability to protect, document and defend their land rights. 

Before joining Namati, David worked with Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU) to implement their community land protection program. David graduated from Makerere University, Kampala in 2009 with a Bachelor's Degree in industrial chemistry, where he also attended post-graduate courses in M&E and statistical data management. In addition, he has received formal training in facilitation skills.

John Lengoisa is the programs officer for the Ogiek People's Development Program. His work is devoted to defending the human rights of his people, the Ogiek, and other indigenous peoples. John has a passion for documenting community knowledge of traditional practices regarding land and natural resources and applying that knowledge to support the sociological, cultural, political and technological success of indigenous communities.


For more information about IIED's Legal Tools work, contact:

Lorenzo Cotula ([email protected]), team leader, legal tools