Trends in Regional Agricultural Productivity in Kenya

Author(s):  Nyoro, James; Jayne, Thomas

Agriculture in Kenya remains a dominant sector in the economy (PAM 1995). Agriculture s contribution to rural employment, foreign exchange earning and rural incomes are so important that any broad-based improvement in rural living standards will almost certainly require substantial productivity growth in agriculture.

Agriculture in Kenya has undergone major changes over the past decade since the implementation of structural adjustment and sectoral reform. The effects of these policies and programs on agricultural productivity continue to be debated. Much donor-supported analysis presents evidence of a broad economic turnaround in Africa, and finds support for increased agricultural productivity growth, in contrast to the gloomier picture commonly painted about stagnating African agriculture (e.g., Block 1994; Sahn and Sarris 1991; USAID 1993; World Bank 1994).

Macro-economic and agricultural sectoral reforms are identified as major factors explaining the rise in productivity growth. By contrast, analyses supported by UNICEF, FAO, and other donor agencies have strongly questioned the effects of structural adjustment and/or food sector reform on agricultural productivity growth and household food security (see, for example, Cornia, Jolly, and Stewart 1987; Mosley 1994; Cheru 1999).

Understanding the national and regionally-disaggregated movements in crop production and input use over time is a critical component step in clarifying the discussion, identifying which policies have worked and which haven t, and formulating a empiricallybased agricultural development strategy for the future.

The objectives of this paper are threefold: 

(1) To assess the direction and magnitude of changes in agricultural productivity in Kenya in the last 25 years for five of the most important agricultural provinces in Kenya, with particular focus on the period since the initiation of agricultural policy adjustment in the 1990s; 

(2) To identify the major factors affecting changes in crop productivity .
(3) To identify cost-effective strategies likely to promote future agricultural intensification and productivity growth in Kenya s crop sector in the post-reform period. 

A regionally disaggregated approach is taken in order to identify variations in the patterns of growth across high-potential and low-potential areas and develop possible implications for policy about where the focus of future efforts should be. Section 2 discusses the data and methods used in the analysis. Section 3 assesses the broad trends in the value of agricultural output per hectare and per agricultural laborer.

Section 4 disaggregates these trends by province to compare the trends not only by the geographical location of the regions but also by crop mix. We also examine how policy changes in the agricultural sector may have affected patterns in input use on various crops. Lastly, Section 5 discusses the conclusions, policy implications, and outstanding knowledge gaps for future research to support policy makers efforts to raise agricultural productivity in Kenya.

Trends in Regional Agricultural Productivity in Kenya