Since the early 1990s, the dominant consensus in the debate on land rights reform in sub-Saharan Africa has been that external interventions to privatise land rights are usually inappropriate and likely to remain so. This article suggests that two elements in the debate – the scope for varying adjudication criteria, procedures and support systems in order to enhance equity, and the influence of a region's agro-ecological and socioeconomic characteristics on the impacts of tenure change – merit further attention. The article urges a shift towards a more pragmatic approach, sensitive to the diversity of both physical and socio-economic conditions within which tenure systems operate. Illustrative evidence is drawn from a relatively low-potential farming region in eastern Kenya.