As of October 2019, there were 126 licensed Surveyors in Kenya. Going by this number one might think that it’s very difficult to be a licensed Surveyor. Other professionals in the built environment such as Quantity Surveyors and Architects are boasting of a thousand plus registered practitioners. Advocates are boasting of ten thousand plus members.
What could explain the big disparity? Are there fewer people graduating in the surveying discipline as compared to other disciplines? The answer to this question is Yes and No. Yes because the numbers are indeed fewer than Architects and no because Quantity Surveyors graduating from our Universities match the numbers of Surveyors. If there is a disparity, the margin is small.
My assessment is that the surveying discipline has morphed into what is referred to as Geomatics or Geospatial Engineering. Geomatics is now a wide career and graduates can specialize in areas other than traditional surveying such as Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Geo-IT and Photogrammetry. So you find graduates specializing in any of these areas and adopting them as their life’s work.
For the avoidance of doubt, being a licensed Surveyor is mostly useful in carrying out boundary work. Any survey work that involves creating new boundaries between parcels i.e. Subdivision and Amalgamation must pass through a Licensed Surveyor. This means that it can be done by an approved assistant but it must be checked and bear the signatory of a licensed Surveyor. So in short, boundary surveys in Kenya can only be carried out by licensed Surveyors or approved assistants working under their supervision.
Other types of surveys such as Engineering Surveys, Control Surveys, staking out construction plans, etc. do not require a license. One only needs to have acquired the training from an approved institution and be a member of the umbrella organization for Surveyors and Realtors i.e. The Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK).
The Land Surveyor’s Board (LSB) is the statutory body responsible for regulating and advancing the practice of land surveying in Kenya. The Director of Survey is the Chairman of the Board which includes membership of practitioners from both government and private practice.
In the past, the LSB was accused of portraying cartel-like behaviors by making it hard for practitioners to acquire the coveted license. This created a situation where all the boundary work was shared among a few surveyors hence depriving others of an economic benefit and right to profit. This was not only unfair but it caused two unforeseen outcomes; the emergence and proliferation of quacks, especially in the rural areas, and a deplorable lack of interest among graduate surveyors seeking the qualification.
However, this situation has changed and the LSB is actively seeking to license practitioners who have qualified. This is due to a change in mindset brought forth by the new appointments to the board. They are, however, going through many challenges including igniting interest among already fed up graduates who were previously frustrated in their quest, and an inability to reign in over quacks who are offering sub-standard and unprofessional services to Kenyans all over the Country.
So, to be a licensed surveyor in Kenya one first needs to be a full member of the ISK. Some of the qualifications for being a licensed surveyor are already achieved once one becomes a full member of ISK, but for the sake of summary the following are the irreducible minimums for one to be admitted to the roll of licensed Land Surveyors;
- Perform a farm Survey of at least ten (10) hectares with a section having a curvilinear boundary of not less than one hundred (100) meters in length. NB the curvilinear section may be part of a different survey;
- Perform a Cadastral Survey of at least thirty (30) plots either in one scheme or several schemes. (At least 1 scheme to contain 7 plots);
- Perform a Topographical Survey of a minimum of five (5) hectares of a medium density area and done in accordance with the Board’s guidelines on topographical surveys;
- Perform a Control Survey with at least four (4) new control points. This may be achieved within the farm survey mentioned in (1) above;
- Duly completed declaration forms, A & B of the third schedule of the Survey Act;
- A pass in the Board’s Land Law Examination;
- Full membership of Institution of Surveyors of Kenya, with a certificate of participation and up to date payment;
- A duly completed application form of the Land Surveyors Board;
- Application letter to the Board;
- Application fees of Kshs. 10,000.
Once the applicant has met the above minimums, the board sits to approve or reject the candidates and announces the outcomes on the Land Surveyor’s Board website.
The average age of the licensed Land Surveyors in Kenya is above 50 years old. More needs to be done to roll in more practitioners so that there is continuity in the profession. Otherwise, surveyors will become an endangered species in the next three decades.