Affordable Tools for Demarcation of Land are Widely Available

We cannot do the all the work alone. There are not enough of us.

Joe Kheti, Kenyan Surveyor

This is the next in the series of blog posts on research into applying ICTs to the data capture element of land registration. The previous blog post was titled: Registration of Community Land in Kenya.

According to some studies, an estimated 70 percent of the property in emerging economies is undocumented and a majority of smallholder farmers around the world farm without the protection of having legal rights to their land documented by government records.[1] According to the World Bank, 62 percent of people in Sub Saharan Africa live in rural areas. In Kenya, the number is 74 percent.[2] Undocumented rural land in Africa is estimated at approximately 90 percent; in Kenya, the number is 60 percent.[3]

In February 2017, the Land Surveyors Board of Kenya states there were 108 licensed surveyors in the country with the population of about 48.46 million (or 1 licensed surveyor per approximately 450,000 people) and an area of 580,367 km².[4] One complaint that is often heard among surveyors is that there are not enough of them to adequately document all the land in Kenya.

At the same time, Kenya is a major technology hub of Africa. The “availability of mobile technology, access to the Internet, and provision of government services (referred to as e-government) and open data initiative all contribute to a growing information ecosystem in the country”.[5] The International Telecommunication Union states that in 2016 mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions in Kenya were 81.28 per 100 people and percentage of individuals using the Internet was as high as 26 percent. The number is likely higher in 2019 (this research was done in 2017).

Information and communication technology tools are widely used in development in Kenya, with more focus on the poor and the marginalized as the producers and innovators with ICTs.

Initiatives and innovations that target “land matter”, as it is often called in Kenya, have been somewhat scarcer than initiatives and innovations in other sectors. However, there are some activities currently planned or ongoing in the country that touch on land management. For example, the Kenyan government plans to digitize all of its 57 land registries, introduce digital mapping, and complete the national spatial infrastructure by 2022.[6] The country also aims to use space technology to help ascertain property boundary rights registration and issuance of land title deeds to millions of applicants.[7]

While these are mainly top-down initiatives, our research looks at off-the-shelf, easy to use, hand-held mobile and GPS units and their potential role in the community’s participation in land demarcation and land registration. We believe that the learning curve for these tools is less steep than perhaps for other technologies since these tools are ubiquitous and often used in other aspects of life in Kenya, such as communication, entertainment, access to information, Internet, and mobile banking.

Selection of Tools

The idea of communities demarcating their own land is predicated on a series of assumptions. One of the assumptions is that cheap and widely available tools that can be used for land demarcation exist. In our research (conducted in 2017) we selected the following tools for testing:

These GPS and mobile tools were selected because they are among the most commonly used brands in Kenya, had the newest chipset technology at the time, their cost is permissible for use by the communities or local NGOs, and have the most commonly used operating systems in Kenya (the following tools were not used in the research: [8] [9] [10]).

More coming soon.

Authors: Primoz Kovacic, Michelle Gathigi, Justus Muhando, Alan Mills


[1] See:

[2] See:

[3] See:

[4] See:

[5] Kovacic, Primož and Jamie Lundine. 2014. “Mapping Kibera. Empowering Slum Residents by ICT.” In Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood, edited by Steven Livingston and Gregor Walter-Drop, 115-129. New York: Oxford University Press

[6] See:

[7] See:

[8] Trimble TDC100: Due to issues with the shipment and customs this device did not arrive on time for testing.

[9] Smartphone with improved GNSS: Not able to test the tool, due to a delay in shipment.

[10] Samsung Tablet A 8 Inch: Not included in the research in the end.

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