11 September 2017

Kenya: Food Insecurity Fears as Land Division Eats Into Agriculture

Sub-division of agricultural land in Kisii and Nyamira counties is now a major threat to food production and security in the region.

Officials are calling for radical measures, including utilisation of storied buildings, to free up space that would go towards creating economically usable pieces.

Agriculture officials say cultural practices such as inheritance have reduced ownership to less than a quarter an acre in most homesteads.

"Land fragmentation is a major threat to efficient, food production. Continued sub-division will lead to a major food crisis," said Kisii county director of agriculture Nathan Soire.

Mr Soire added that current land units are very small and, therefore, uneconomical for agricultural production.

Mushrooming residential houses are the other culprit in the continued chopping of arable land.

Agriculture officials say that producing food crops on a large scale will soon be unviable.

A report by Moi University's Department of Agricultural Economics and Resource Management says land fragmentation requires an urgent solution, warning that there is still insufficient data to determine how it is eating into agricultural output.

"Continuous decline in farm size is likely to negatively impact on farm level efficiency, especially food production," says the report titled Understanding the Effect of Land Fragmentation on Farm Level Efficiency.

"Understanding land fragmentation within specific contexts and using consistent empirical approaches will serve as a guide and solution to key policy decisions in agriculture," it says.

Another survey conducted by the Catholic Church's Jesuit Hakimani Centre (JHC), showed that sub-division of land and climate change are among the major threats to food security in Kenya.

Many Kenyan farmers, it showed, grow food on land inherited from their parents, while 25 per cent have bought pieces of land. Only 11 per cent have leased the land for farming.

During a meeting with agriculture officials, Kisii Governor James Ongwae warned that land sub-division was emerging as a major threat to food security.

"Land fragmentation has contributed significantly to the declining agricultural production among farming households in Kisii County," said Mr Ongwae.

Kisii National Land Commission Coordinator Andrew Rotich said land is an emotive issue and needs proper handling.

He said the Minimum and Maximum Land Holding Acreages Bill, 2015 would have salvaged the Kisii and Nyamira counties' land situation.

"The Bill would have helped regulate excessive sub-division," he said.

The proposed law in respect to private land was aimed at reducing inequality and promoting equitable distribution, as well as regulating sub-division, to ensure economic viability.

The Bill also sought re-organisation of rural settlements, sustainable utilisation of private land and promotion of national security and economic stability.

Farmers in agriculturally rich regions were restricted to farm on not more than 25 acres. Land holdings in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, where real estate has been booming, would be limited to between 0.1 hectares and two hectares. Ownership in counties and towns would be limited to between 0.2 hectares and two hectares.

It also prescribed 0.05 hectares as the minimum commercial plot size in urban areas.

But the Bill, which encountered a lot of opposition from Kenyans and Parliament, is yet to see the light of day.

Mr Soire said Kisii residents should gradually free up arable land through utilisation of storied buildings or having clustered settlements in the face of an increasing population.

"We are pushing for urban and peri-urban agriculture by introducing intensive production systems in multi-storey gardens, hanging gardens and hydroponic farming," he said.


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