In Summary
  • A new study by two researchers from Michigan State University on the country’s land ownership system and policies indicates that those enjoying subsidies on inputs like seed and fertiliser are not smallholders but medium and large-scale farmers.

Washington

Land experts at a global forum have faulted Kenya’s policies on agriculture, saying they have failed to improve the lives of the poor.

A new study by two researchers from Michigan State University on the country’s land ownership system and policies indicates that those enjoying subsidies on inputs like seed and fertiliser are not smallholders but medium and large-scale farmers.

At harvest time, public funds channelled to the National Cereals and Produce Board to purchase maize for strategic reserves mostly benefit established farmers, the study further notes.

Presenting their findings at a World Bank conference in Washington, DC on land and poverty, Thomas Jayne said: “You cannot realise significant positive changes in poverty reduction when the very people you are trying to help are bypassed by enabling policies.”

Dr Milu Muyanga, who was part of the research team, said food security will remain a pipe dream if Kenya continues to pursue anti-poor agricultural policies.

“What is more worrying is that the focus of the subsidies and purchase of produce focuses on one region of the country – the Rift Valley,” he said.

The researchers also found that while the policies favour medium- scale farmers, not everyone in this category fully exploits their land. About two-thirds of the total farm area is held for speculative purposes, which has led to decreased agricultural output.

“In the next decade, there will be an unprecedented number of people in rural areas entering the labour market. If agriculture is not viably developed to absorb them, they will become a major political headache to the the country and the region,” Mr Jayne said.

He further warned that, compared to that of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya’s agricultural land is shrinking, and this will force the government to provide alternative employment opportunities for its young people.