Who owns land in Kenya? Unpacking what the KDHS 2022 data tells us about men and women's land ownership
September 19, 2023
We take some time to delve into gender disparities in non-agricultural land ownership in Kenya. Men own more land, with their names on title deeds, at a younger age. Women dominate in joint ownership but face challenges with title deeds, highlighting the need for gender equality in land access.

Land Ownership in Kenya 

Land is an important asset in Kenya and throughout Africa, but women and men do not have equal access to it. According to a 2021 briefing paper by the Kenya Land Alliance, an organisation that works to improve land laws in Kenya, women hold only 1 percent of all land titles in their names and 5-6 percent jointly. However, women contribute 80 percent of the workforce in communities that depend largely on agriculture. 

In Kenya, one of the most important sources of health data is the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), which is published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and Kenya’s development partners. It surveys Kenyans on a range of topics including land ownership, reproductive and child health, sexual and gender-based violence and female genital mutilation.

The Kenya Demographics and Health Survey 2022 (KDHS) is invaluable in terms of understanding Kenya from an official perspective, and fortunately land is one of those areas covered. You can explore a range of additional topics covered in the dataset including reproductive and child health, sexual and gender-based violence, and female genital mutilation by exploring the dataset on our CKAN repository..

In this blog post we will examine how gender affects ownership of non-agricultural land. For women, according to the report, “ownership of assets may provide protection in case of marital dissolution or abandonment, positively influence their position in their homes, and decrease their vulnerability to various forms of violence or discrimination.”

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2022 Key Indicators Report surveyed both men and women on the ownership of non-agricultural land in Kenya. We will use the tables below to explore how gender differences impact the ownership of non-agricultural land.


In Table 28.3 and Table 28.4 of the KDHS Survey they show data relating to non-agricultural land ownership. Parameters include the presence of a title deed and whether the owner’s name appears on the title deed for women and men respectively. For each table, the data is categorised according to age, urban or rural residence, the level of education attained and the wealth quintile.

To begin to understand how differences in gender might affect land ownership, we can measure how the various aspects of land ownership in the survey, such as sole or joint ownership, or the presence of a title deed, vary between men and women. We can do this by subtracting the percentage values in Table 28.3 (Women) from the percentage values in Table 28.4 (Men).

The resulting table below, which we have named (Men – Women) shows differences between men and women landowners for every point in the survey findings. The largest differences show the starkest differences and would be good starting points to explore further.

Figure 1: Table showing differences in values between Table 28.3 (Women) and Table 28.4 (Men). The pink cells show negative values indicating that the value in the Women table is greater than the Men table. White cells show positive values and indicate that the corresponding value is higher in the Men table than in the Women table. Figures in red show large differences between the Men and Women tables.


Before we examine the findings in detail, a brief look at the (Men –Women) table above shows two clear findings. Across all social characteristics (age, residence, education and wealth), a greater share of men than women own land alone. Also a greater share of men than women have their names on their title deeds. This is indicated by the positive differences in percentage (white cells).

When it comes to joint ownership, not owning land at all, not having the correct owner’s name on the title deed, and not knowing if a title deed exists or whose name it has, women clearly predominate. This is indicated by the negative differences in value (pink cells).

That sets the stage well for our analysis. Now let’s look at our findings.

Land Ownership

The first point of interest is that 0.5% of men aged 15-19 years own non-agricultural land alone, whereas 0.0% of women do. The difference is small, only 0.5 percentage points, but it points to the fact that men begin to own land quite early at an age when few people have earned enough money to buy property, potentially due to inheritance. The gap in percentage points increases with age, culminating in the age group of 45-49 years, when it lengthens to 11.6 percentage points, suggesting a striking difference between men and women.  Below is a chart showing men and women who own land alone, by age.

Figure 2: Percentage of men and women owning land alone, by age.

The graph shows that while the share of both men and women owning land alone increases with age, the gap between men and women is also growing. At the 45 – 49-years age group, the gap between men and women owning land alone is widest, at 11.6 percentage points.  

In joint land ownership however, women predominate, perhaps pointing to a tendency by women to partner or use groups to acquire non-agricultural land. The gap between women and men owning land jointly at the same 45 – 49-years age group is narrower than that of sole ownership, at 6.1 percentage points.

Figure 3: Percentage of men and women jointly owning land, by age

Whose name is on the title deed?

For people who possess a title deed, having the landowner’s name on it makes establishing ownership of the land easier, and is therefore desirable. 


Men had a larger share of landowners whose name was on their title deed than women. This gap became more pronounced at the 30-34-years age group and was widest in the 35-39-years age group, where the gap was 18.4 percentage points. 

Figure 4: Percentage of people with their name on their title deed, by age and gender

However, women had a larger share of landowners whose names were not on their title deeds. From small gaps in the earlier age groups of 15-19 years and 20-24 years, the gap widened further, with the 40-44-years age group showing the largest gap at 17.9 percentage points, nearly a fifth of all respondents at that age group.

Figure 5: Percentage of people with title deeds that do not have their names, by age or gender

About a quarter of women do not have their name on their title deeds across all age groups, with the highest proportion being women at age 40-44 at 27.1%, while only 9.2% of men in this age group do not have their names on their title deeds. The male age group with the lowest proportion that does not have their names on their title deeds is 35 - 39 years at 7.1%.


Whereas a greater share of women than men landowners have no names on their title deeds, the difference is most pronounced in urban areas, where it is 19.3% percentage points. More than a quarter (27.6%) of urban women do not have their names on their title deeds, while the same applies to only 8.3% of men. Among rural residents, the gap is narrower at 9.2 percentage points.

Among people who do have title deeds with their names on them, men outnumber women among both urban and rural residents by 14.3 and 15.5 percentage points respectively.

Figure 6: Percentage of men and women without their names on title deeds, by residence.


At all education levels, the proportion of women whose title deeds do not have their names outstrips the proportion of men. Notably. However, only 4.1 percent of men with no education have title deeds without their names on them, whereas the same applies to 24 percent, nearly one quarter, for a gap of 20 percentage points. Even the most educated women have a far greater share of title deeds not reflecting their names (25.7%) than men than men with no education at all (4.1%).

This suggests that education is not the most relevant factor in ensuring your name is reflected on a title deed, but there are processes that favour men more than women, such as traditional inheritance.


Among people whose names are not on their title deeds, the gap between men and women is largest at the top (fifth) wealth quintile at 22.2 percentage points, but smallest at the middle wealth quintile (4.4 percentage points). 

The fact that the wealthiest women constitute the highest share of women whose title deeds do not bear their names (27.8%), yet similarly wealthy men suffer from this problem the least (5.6%) suggests that the name on a title deed may be decided by a process that advantages men independent of wealth, such as traditional inheritance.

In conclusion we have found that men have a far easier time than women when it comes to owning non-agricultural land in Kenya. More men own land alone and more of them have title deeds that show their names than women. Men enjoy these advantages even when compared to the most educated and wealthy women. These statistics clearly show that much work remains to ensure that women enjoy improved access to land. 

Cover photo: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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