Study warns land subdivision to affect agricultural production

Sub-division of land and climate change have emerged as among the major threats to food security in the country, a new study released shows. 

The study, unveiled at the National Conference on Food Security and Climate Change in Nairobi, shows a worrying trend of a decrease in production of food despite increasing population, thanks to land subdivision and impacts of climate change.

The research was conducted by the Catholic Church's Jesuit Hakimani Centre (JHC) based in Nairobi.

JHC Director and Lead Researcher in the study Elias Mokua, recommended that Kenyans should gradually free up arable land through utilisation of storied buildings or having clustered settlements in the face of increasing population.

Dr Mokua also urged communities to bury their kin in communal cemeteries instead of homesteads.

"Currently, the challenge is the culture of inheriting and subdividing the land among siblings. This has made land almost too small for significant production. In addition, huge amounts of rich agricultural land are being turned into real estate. This must be reversed" he said yesterday at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi during the two-day conference.

Isiolo County Deputy Governor Mohammed Guleid, said there is need for a shift of mindset among Kenyans from the culture of owning land to land use and production through leasing.

"People don't have to own the land they use for agricultural production. This policy will help more land to be used in production and not just being owned by somebody," he said.

According to the study, half of the farmers surveyed were growing food on land inherited from their parents, while 25 per cent had bought pieces of land. Only 11 per cent had leased the land for farming.

Senator Kiraitu Murungi who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Food Security Bill would soon be tabled in the Senate as part of efforts to reduce the number of Kenyans suffering from hunger.

"Kenyans who are dying from hunger are even more than those who die from terrorist attacks in the country. Provision of food to Kenyans is no longer a matter of choice. It is a right in the Constitution," he said.

Mokua also called for more budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector to support small-scale farmers to boost production in the face of climate change.

He said that Kenya is yet to meet the Maputo Declaration, which required African countries to allocate at least 11 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture. In the last financial year, the country allocated only 4 per cent.

"As a result, the government seems to be struggling to assist small scale farmers. Agricultural extension services meant to support farmers, for instance, are not felt by many of them. Most farmers find it difficult to access the available subsidised inputs such as fertiliser and seeds," he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to address the UN Climate summit next week on how climate change is affecting the country's key economic sectors such as agriculture and tourism and the measures being put in place.