News » Kenya: Change of Land Use Threatens Food Output
12 February 2012 -- Experts say the increasing use of agricultural land for settlement and commercial purposes is threatening food security.
According to a new report most land owners around urban centres in the Rift Valley are converting their farms to commercial use as the price of land rises.
"Modification of land from agricultural to commercial and settlement use and relocation of farmers due to insecurity has led to drastic decline in production of some food crops," Peter Isigi, the Rift Valley Provincial Crops Officer, said in the regional annual crop production report.
The most affected areas are Nakuru, Eldoret, Kitale and Kericho.
"Sub-division of larger farms into small uneconomical plots cannot sustain cultivation of cash crops such as wheat," Mr Isigi said. Rift Valley province produced an average of 3.2 million bags of wheat from 159,820 acres under cultivation which is below the national consumption demand of about 10 million bags.
The country imports the deficit from Egypt and Mauritius under the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) protocol.Maize and wheat production in the region is set to decline this season as most farmers in areas that were hit by the 2008 post-election violence resort to cultivation of short term crops like potatoes and beans.
"Insecurity in some parts of the region, environmental degradation and declining soil fertility are leading to low yields," adds the report.Grain farmers in areas like Molo, Kuresoi, Timboroa and Burnt Forest have diversified to cultivation of fast- maturing crops as they entail low investment and better returns.
"It is profitable to invest in cultivation of crops like beans, potatoes and vegetables that attract better returns as compared to maize or wheat cultivation," said John Maina from Burnt Forest, Uasin Gishu County.
Most of the post-election violence victims incurred heavy losses after their maize and wheat produce were burnt during the 2008 chaos.Rift Valley province produced an average of 19 million bags of maize against requirement of about eight million bags, reflecting a surplus of nearly seven million bags.
While the government is targeting maize production above 20 million bags, this might not be achieved as some farmers as farmers diversify to better paying fast maturing crops like beans, cabbages and potatoes.
According to the agricultural report, the region produced 622,325 bags of beans against consumption of 1.668 million bags, indicating a huge deficit.