Young Perspectives on Pastoral Rangeland Privatization: Reconfiguring Identities, Aspirations, and Social Relations
The Kenyan pastoral rangelands are undergoing dramatic tenure transformation, changing from systems of communal management to private ownership. This process has stirred up considerable debate among scholars, policy makers, and pastoralists, with many warning of an impending crisis in pastoral livelihood security and advocating for a return to collective holdings. The voices and opinions of young people are remarkably absent from these debates. Based on long-term fieldwork and mixed methods approaches, this paper explores young people’s perspectives on land privatization in a community in Southern Kenya that has recently undergone the process of privatization. It illuminates the profound impact that tenure change is having on young people’s lives and identities. While young people are unprecedently exposed to powerful governing narratives of privatization as modernization, mainly through formal education, they internalize such narratives in relation to their particular circumstances. Through young people’s own written narratives on privatization and follow-up qualitative interviews, this study demonstrates how young perspectives are influenced not only by age, but also by other dimensions of social difference (such as class, gender, and ethnicity) that help determine land access and shape land-based aspirations. Traversing such social distinctions among the youth is the widespread recognition that privatization is reconfiguring social relations. Among adult landowners privatization has created conflicts among neighbors over land allocations, boundaries, and trespassing. Among young people the tensions are inter-generational and familial, as they now more explicitly depend on community elders, parents and siblings to gain access to land. Bringing a children and youth perspective to issues of land tenure transformation deepens our understanding of the role of tenure change in processes of development and social transformation and provides critical insights into how best to approach land tenure reform as a means to achieve socially equitable development outcomes.