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Governments everywhere have the twin responsibility of ensuring that food prices are affordable for the majority of people, while guaranteeing good margins for producers.

In practice, many opt to subsidise producers of staple foods. Subsidies usually have the effect of keeping the costs of production low enough to guarantee affordable prices for urban consumers. They may include subsidising the cost of inputs such as seed or fertiliser, or subsidising the output price to maintain an agreed minimum price.

The Kenyan government has from time to time applied input subsidies to reduce the cost of production. But they haven’t always produced the desired effect. As a result the producer and consumer prices for maize – a major staple – have always been a subject of anxious debate in Kenya.

Such a debate has been sparked once again by the recent price spike in food prices, including maize. Maize and milk consumer prices have soared to new heights, fuelling inflation which now stands at a six-year high.

The high and rising consumer prices are all the more worrying because prices of imported food commodities have largely been stable. Kenya imports approximately 75% of the rice and wheat consumed.

The increases in prices , especially for maize, are not unique to Kenya. As a result of prolonged drought in large parts of the East African region, maize prices rose significantly in 2017, especially between January and April. But Kenya has the highest per capita maize consumption in the region and therefore suffers a greater burden due to the price hikes.

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The current drought situation in Kenya has begun debate about our preparedness as a country in responding to incidences of drought, and whether we ever learn from such incidences to inform our response strategies. The country has, in recent times faced droughts that continue to increase both in frequency and intensity. This coupled by increasing levels of poverty, has made it difficult for many households to cope with the incidences of drought. The drought has affected crop and livestock production and yields. The result of the prolonged drought is that many people are staring at famine, unless measures are taken to address the situation.

Under normal rain conditions, annual maize production in Kenya is about 40 million bags while the annual maize demand is between 38 million and 51 million bags based on annual per capita consumption of between 72 and 98 kg. The national maize yields have remained low, averaging about 1.67 tons per hectare compared to yields of up to 6 tons per hectare in the developed countries. Since 1994, maize consumption has outstripped production and the country has to meet the deficit through imports, mainly from the neighboring countries.

Maize production during the 2016 long rains fell short of the projected levels by about 5 million bags. In addition, only about 25% (1.7 million bags) of the projected maize production in the short rains season was realized. According to the food situation assessment and projections recently conducted by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, the country had about 12.3 million bags by the beginning of the year, enough to last only up to April. The early harvest from South Rift is likely to be poor this year due to the prolonged drought and the maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND). The country needs to import at least 9 million bags to ensure maize availability up to July when the earliest harvests are expected.

Cross-border maize inflows from neighboring countries have been minimal, largely because the neighboring countries have also been affected by the ongoing drought. Wholesale prices in most urban centers in the region are above Ksh 3,500 per 90-kg bag, and are relatively higher than the world price of Ksh 1,667. Average wholesale maize prices are generally 27% above the 5-year national average. It is unlikely that farmers are still holding large maize stocks. Maize flour price is for the first time since 2012 higher than wheat flour price. For example, the price of a 2-kg packet of maize flour currently retail at Ksh 153 on average, compared to Ksh 120 for wheat flour on average.

From the foregoing, it is evident that the country is staring at a looming maize shortage, hence famine, unless maize is imported to meet the deficit. How should the government respond to the current food situation? Is it already late? Government’s response can be short, medium and long term. First, the government needs to immediately forestall the current high and escalating maize prices. The government recently removed maize import duty and VAT on bread and maize flour. While these measures are welcome, these measures may be a little too late given that it takes 45-60 days to deliver the imports. Better surveillance and a faster response to warnings of a looming food shortage are needed to improve response and avoid situations of famine and starvation. A decision to import maize, when needed, must be made with good lead time.

Medium term responses will have to focus on increased production; building strategic food reserves; better extension services to improve productivity through enhanced farm management

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Low investment in agriculture has been the main cause of low productivity. This has resulted in low production as well as low calorie intake. The level of calorie intake in recent years has shown a general decline from food staples though it is way above the minimum required intake. Caloric intake follows levels of production of staples in the country, increasing in output and decreasing when output declines.

Where output has been low, the deficit has been reduced through imports. The intake is however much lower than what is observed in the more developed countries. Caloric intake can be increased through increased consumption of other food staples such as plantain, rice and wheat products.

Low intake could be attributed to low production in agriculture, which is a result of low budgetary allocation to the sector. This has hampered implementation of most agricultural action plans in Kenya both at the National to the County levels. Currently, Kenya allocated about 5% of its budget to agriculture. This is way below the expected 10% as per the Malabo declaration of which Kenya is a signatory.

Unlike the high value crops which have high capital investment, investment in staples has been low. This has affected implementation of National and County level activities. Adoption of productivity enhancing strategies has been hampered. Extension services do not meet the demand in the sector.

The staple food is largely produced for home consumption and the nature of these markets influences the agricultural market development and the success of structured demand interventions. Smallholder farmers’ produce little and disaggregated marketable surplus. Therefore, efforts and interventions are required to increase production beyond the produce for home consumption. The impact of low output in the market place would imply that individuals have little or no bargaining power and the transaction costs (per unit) are high and thus reduced margins. This is one of the disincentives to production.

There is no one size fit all technology that can be used as a best practice for all crop products. Good cultural practices if well observed will lead to increased food production. As Tegemeo Institute has shown, the following can also improve maize production efficiency. The use of more widespread and intensive use of modern farming technologies, fertilizers, seed, improved extension effort, well -functioning input and output markets and irrigation. A recent study by Tegemeo Institute showed that a technology package gives higher yields than when inputs are just used without expert advice.

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Pastoralism is the main production system practised by communities who live in range lands and dry lands which are usually arid or semi-arid. But pastoral communities are facing increasing pressure on their land.

Traditionally, pastoral communities have accessed and used land collectively, using customary laws and norms to manage the land. For example, the Maasai community in Kenya believed that land was a birth right accessible to everyone. No individual could restrict access over a section of land. In addition, elders of the community would determine grazing patterns, when to migrate, and would negotiate with neighbouring communities when they migrated to foreign land.

But a combination of factors has upset this equilibrium. Pressures stem from global trends such as demographic change, urbanisation, competing land use and misconceptions about pastoralism by policymakers.

Public policy has supported the individualisation and privatisation of land tenure in these areas. The declared aim is to promote investments in land and increase land productivity. As a result communities have been forced to change because of urbanisation and competition for the use of land from activities such as mining.

These pressures are similar in pastoral communities across the world. A comparison of pastoral communities in Kenya and Peru illustrates this, even though they live in very different terrain and keep different livestock. In Kenya, pastoral communities reside in low lands characterised by high temperature and low rainfall. In Peru they’re on mountain highlands that are extremely cold and have very little rain. Cattle, sheep, goats and camels are common in Kenya, while Alpacas and llamas are common in Peru.

It’s important that these pastoral communities and their practices are protected. The maintenance of collective land tenure will aid and sustain their productive systems. This shouldn’t be too difficult given that a large majority of pastoral communities reside inland where alternative use is limited.

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The ongoing drought is expected to adversely affect the agricultural sector which accounts for about 27 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for 60 per cent of total export earnings. The sector is a major source of livelihood for majority of the rural population in the country who depend on the key staples for food sustenance. Should the current weather conditions remain unchanged, the country’s crop and livestock production and consequently food security status remains at stake. Many Kenyans and especially the poor will continue to suffer the brunt of this situation through reduced food access.

Experts have predicted the impending food shortage and advised Kenyans to brace themselves for tough times ahead as prices of key agricultural consumer goods are expected to rise. The government however has maintained there is enough food to sustain the nation even as official estimates also indicate that over 1.3 million people are food insecure with majority living on food relief. The situation is ecpected to deteriorate further before getting better after the March April rains.

In a recent survey undertaken by Tegemeo Institute on maize crop prospects and the food situation in 2016/2017, mixed signals on potential crop performance were noted. Production for 2016 was estimated at about 30 million bags, some 7 million bags lower than 2015. At the time the study speculated there was possibility of the La Niña weather phenomenon occuring in late 2016 and thus compromising the short rains harvest. This has come to pass as the short rains came one month late and lasted for only two weeks, which is not adequate for crop maturity. Shortfall in domestic maize supply in the months of May, June, and probably July that may require to be augmented by imports. The report also showed that we will therefore need between 6 and 9 million bags of imports to cover the shortfall period.

Maize is a major staple consumed by many households and its limited supply is often construed to mean food deficit. The current food insecurity problems are attributed to factors such as low productivity, frequent droughts in the country, high costs of production and high costs of inputs for which a large proportion of the population has low purchasing power due to high levels of poverty. Many Kenyans are already bearing the burden with rising food bills due to escalating food prices and this may last for several months till mid this year.

Continuous monitoring of the situation will enable identification of key challenges and opportunities for increased production in future as well as areas of policy intervention. The Institute as part of its mandate to offer evidence backed policy advice to stakeholders’ advocates for policy measures to prepare early for a maize shortage. Taking into account the lag-time in procurement processes there is need to manage potential deficits in order to help contain food prices as well as making early consideration of potential sources of such imports given the drought in the region which may trigger export bans in surplus producing countries and the limited availability of GMO free maize. An evaluation of the 50% Common External Tariff (CET) on imports is also needed for potential imports of maize from outside EAC or COMESA.

Despite favorable conditions for production, the nation has over the years grappled with similar situations, thus implying unexploited potential and/or lack of sufficient policy support for increased production. Measures such as investments in irrigation and water-harvesting devices to contain weather induced pressures that have consistently dogged the economy will also go a long way in offering long term solutions to the need for consistent adequate food production in the future. In a previous report, the Institute had advocated for irrigation development as a strategy the government can employ to improve food security. Lessons drawn from irrigated maize production studies showed that irrigation is profitable and that the Galana Kulalu food security project has the potential to produce about half of the country’s food requirement thus contributing significantly to food security and the GDP through the incomes earned. Efficient use of land, fertilizer and water under both intensive and extensive maize production under irrigation, were identified as factors that would contribute to lowering the unit cost of production and lead to increased food production. Since the production of irrigated maize is flexible, there can be more than one crop in a year thus implying that high returns can be achieved if production is targeted at seasons when there is low supply of maize in the market. We advocate it is time that concerned stakeholders pool in efforts to ensure necessary measures are put in place to restore the agriculture sector to a viable state.

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Smallholder farmers in Africa face challenges in getting reliable access to sufficient quantities of quality seed of superior varieties at the right time and at affordable prices, and this affects their agricultural productivity, incomes and resilience. The seed sector suffers from poorly functioning external seed quality assurance mechanism and certification services that are mostly centralized and publicly-run, often complicated by the rampant cases of fake/counterfeit seed. In addition, poor and inadequate financing of seed businesses hamper the development of seed sector in Africa since most seed entrepreneurs still rely on own-savings to finance their businesses due to lack of collaterals. Also, farmer-based seed systems in many African countries are poorly recognized and supported in the current seed laws, perhaps as a result of a general bias towards major market crops in the existing legal frameworks and poor participation of smallholder farmer representatives in the law development and implementation. These challenges must be addressed in order to transform the African seed sector and avail quality and affordable seed of superior quality of preferred varieties to smallholder farmers.

Since September 2014, the Program on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa) has engaged in action learning research and network development towards the collaborative identification and analysis of complex and potential solutions that are of strategic importance at the national level, but need to be tackled at the continental and regional level. At a recently concluded conference in Nairobi, seed experts and key stakeholders from across Africa met to discuss the various challenges affecting smallholder seed sector development in Africa. The two-day conference, whose theme was “Breakthroughs for a vibrant seed sector in Africa”, was used to share findings of the two-year action learning projects with a view to translating these into change agenda. The conference also was meant to strengthen the ISSD Africa learning and innovation platform. Key topics discussed at the conference included: effective mechanisms for quality control, finance options for seed business, making business out of low-profit seed, and seed laws that promote an integrated seed sector. Other topics included variety information for seed producers, agreements for access to public varieties, support to Africa Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP).

While there is no systematic methods of quality assurance in the informal seed systems, external quality assurance mechanisms also function poorly and certification services are mostly centralized and publicly run. There is need therefore to build stronger internal and external mechanisms for seed quality control, and support a review of certification systems. In addition, flexible and innovative options are needed to cater for seed entrepreneurs operating in diverse systems, including value chain financing, grants, contracts and loan guarantees. To promote seed policies and laws that also include legal space and support for farmer-seed systems, there is need for awareness creation on the importance, roles, and needs of smallholder farmers, including stronger representations of smallholder farmers in seed law development and reviews. Also, while progress has been made in variety development and release, access to varieties in the public domain still remain a challenge. Novel mechanisms are needed to get information on new publicly-released and public sector-managed (i.e., local varieties in gene banks) varieties to farmers and at scale. In addition, improved access to foundation seed is crucial for an effective seed value chin development.

In many African countries, there is very limited coordinated action to ensure that seed sector development activities align with the stated CAADP and ASBP commitments. Whereas there is increased policy interest and commitment at national level to develop a more pluralistic and integrated seed sector, the policy support and investment still favors the formal seed systems. Improved implementation of seed sector development priorities in the Africa Union’s CAADP-ASBP agenda and aligning these with National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs) can contribute to more strategic and coordinated interventions at national level, thus enhancing improved access to quality seed for farmers.

ISSD Africa program supports the development of a market-oriented, pluralistic and vibrant seed sector development in Africa that can provide smallholder farmers with access to quality seed of superior varieties. The program is guided by four themes: promoting seed entrepreneurship, increasing access to varieties in the public domain, matching global commitments with national realities, and supporting the Africa Union Commission (AUC) Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), the African Seed and Biotechnology Program and the seed sector development. Activities have been carried out in 10 African countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ISSD Africa Secretariat is hosted at Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, Egerton University.

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Dairy is an important industry in Kenya contributing about 14% of the agriculture GDP and 4% of the National GDP. It supports more than one million smallholders and plays a critical role in food and nutrition security through milk consumption and increased household incomes. It is estimated that about 80% of milk is produced by smallholders. Due to these factors, in addition to the commercial orientation in the dairy industry in Kenya, the sub-sector has the potential of playing an important role in improving the livelihoods of small-scale farmers hence also contributing to poverty reduction.

However, there are several challenges in the sector including low productivity and high costs of production, which may compromise the extent to which the industry can contribute to these goals. Additionally, the system of production practised may affect performance. As average per household land sizes continue to shrink, many farmers are shifting to zero-grazing system. The zero-grazing system is in many cases also the model of choice by development programs that are promoting dairy production in the country. But does the shift to zero-grazing system come with increased efficiency and profitability? Tegemeo Institute partnered with the Kenya Dairy Board to seek answers to these questions in a recent study undertaken in 20 counties that are important in milk production in the country. Farmers interviewed ranged from those practising zero-grazing to those undertaking open grazing.

Our study finds that zero-grazing is the most efficient production system. Despite expected differences by counties, famers practising zero-grazing have the highest milk productivity at an average of 9.2 litres/cow/day compared to 6.8 litres for semi-zero and 4 litres for the open grazers. Consequently, the zero-grazing system gives the highest per unit revenue on average, translating to KSh 103,773 worth of milk per cow per year. The other systems return KSh 84,430 (semi-zero) and KSh 39,030 (open).

The good outlook of the zero-grazing system dulls however when costs are considered. Our study finds that costs are highest for the zero-grazing system. Without accounting for own factors of production and fixed costs, an average zero grazer spent KSh 62,081 per cow per year, compared to KSh 42,851 for semi-zero grazers and KSh 15,197 for open grazers. This leads to a gross margin of KSh 41,691 per cow per year for zero grazers, closely followed by the semi-grazing system at KSh 41,579, and KSh for 23,832 for open grazing. The high cost for zero grazers hence equalizes their gross margins to those of semi-zero grazers, despite zero-grazing resulting in higher milk production and revenues from milk. The largest direct cost components for zero grazers are feed concentrates and hired labour, contributing 42% and 18% to total costs respectively.

Accounting for full costs of milk production, including own factors of production and fixed costs, we find that profitability of the semi-zero grazing system overtakes that of the zero-grazing system. Full costs of milk production amount to KSh 102,963 per cow per year for zero grazers, KSh 71,076 for semi-zero grazers and KSh 29,090 for open grazers. The zero grazers thus return the lowest profit at KSh 809 per cow per year, versus KSh 13,354 for semi-zero grazers and KSh 9,940 for open grazers. Labour (including family labour) is the largest component of total cost contributing 38% followed by feed concentrates at 23%.

As population continues to increases and average land sizes shrink further, zero grazing may be the only possible production system for majority of small holders in the future. However, this study finds that profits are lowest under this system, due to two reasons. First, the efficiency observed under this system in terms of milk productivity and consequently revenue from milk is not high enough to offset the incremental costs that come with intensification. Even if productivity in some counties is higher, an average productivity of 9.2 litres/cow per day as observed in this study is clearly low for zero-grazing system. Increased productivity would increase profitability substantially. Simulations show that if average productivity is increased by merely 30%, translating to an average of 12 litres per cow per day, profits for zero-grazing would increase to KSh 31,940/cow/year. A productivity increase to an average of 15 litres per cow per day (63% increase), lifts profits to KSh 66,227/cow/year. Clearly, policy measures are required to address low productivity under zero grazing. Adoption of improved breeds, addressing quality issues in feed concentrates, and improved feeding practices are some of the means to achieve this increased productivity.

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Pastoralist societies around the world are currently facing more pressures on their land than ever before. Contributing to the land pressure, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is the stance taken by policy makers who are pursuing policies that have sought to transform pastoralism into sedentary and intensified production systems. Simply put, stop the migratory and extensive nature of livestock production, which require large sizes of land. In Kenya, after devolution, the demand for individualization and privatization on community land has increased as people seek to speculate in land markets and make huge returns by betting on the expanding urbanization that is expected to follow devolution and development of mega projects, some of which are part of the Kenya vision 2030 projects. However, it is important to note that most of the pastoralist areas, change in use of land from extensive livestock production to other uses in very expensive. Second, pastoralist communities now face pressure from increasing population and climate variability. As a result, land available for pastoralists who have maintained the large herds of animal herds has been declining. Similarly, the fragmentation of land in pastoral areas has complicated sustainable use of resources in these areas. For example, in pastoral communities in the country result to violent conflict, many times fatal, due to completion for diminishing resources. The fights involve pastoral communities fighting among themselves or with other groups such as farmers.

A growing body of research now shows that communities are efficient in use of land making most of scarce resources found in pastoral areas. They achieve this by adapting their productive activities to the high climate variability and uncertainty of pastoral areas. This makes their production systems to not only be the most suited but also the most sustainable compared to alternative uses. This make the understanding of how these communities manage their land and utilize land to be critical especially to policy makers who seek to enact policies that has far reaching effect on their livelihoods as well as the sustainability of the ecological environment.

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Maize is the key staple food for the Kenyan population providing about 65% of staple calorie intake. Majority of the population both rural and urban populations and across income groups consider maize and maize meal as important items in their household food basket. Kenya produces enough maize to feed the population based on estimated per capita consumption but when other uses like seed, feed and manufacturing are considered the supply falls slightly short of demand. This shortfall is usually supplied by imports from both the East African Community and COMESA. In times of severe deficit the country waivers import duty to allow maize form the ROW. Several sources indicate that rice is becoming an important staple. This is attributed to changing lifestyles and growth of the middle income population. The national rice development strategy had projected that by 2016/17 the demand for rice will be about 350,000 MT. Available sources including government records show that demand has overshot that projection by almost 50 percent to 550,000 MT. The cost of production of maize and rice production has direct implications on national supply, access for consumption and household incomes. Additionally being members of both EAC and COMESA free trade area (FTA) requires that our farmers produce efficiently to be competitive regionally. It is in this context that Tegemeo Institute carries out annual cost of production assessments to continuously monitor trends and driving factors so as to inform policy on necessary interventions to reduce the cost of production. 

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The dominance of maize as the major staple food is on a downward trend with the rural households consuming straight-run posho declining to 78 percent in 2015 from 86 percent recorded in 2013. The average weekly consumption of Straight-run posho per household declined to 6.9 Kg in 2015 from 7.9 Kg in 2013. This decline is consistent with the fall in the national per capita maize consumption which was 83 Kg in 2009 and is currently estimated to be 55 – 78 Kg. Major consumption decline is observed among households in the High and Medium potential zones, traditionally known to be the main producers of maize; its flour a key feature in meals such as ugali. Though increasing in prominence in the rural areas, Sifted maize flour is consumed by only 26 percent of the rural households, recording an 11 percentage point increase from that recorded in 2013. Wheat, the second most important staple food in Kenya shows mixed consumption patterns. Even though the proportion of households consuming wheat flour declined from 40 to 38 percent between 2013 and 2015, the quantities consumed per household per week remained relatively constant at 1.8 Kg. The decline in the proportion of households consuming wheat flour is mainly observed among high income households while the proportion of low and middle income households consuming wheat largely remaining constant between 2013 and 2015. 

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Zoning of blended fertilizer coupled with improved management of the distribution system involving the private sector can increase access to subsidized fertilizer by resource poor farmers in Kenya. The use of fertilizer is generally expected to increase crop productivity among cereal growing farmers. Majority of the small holder farmers who produce about 64% of maize in Kenya are resource poor. Land which is their main factor of production is suffering from declining soil health due to continuous use in maize and wheat production. To ameliorate this situation, the government has introduced a fertilizer subsidy program in an effort to enhance food security through increased cereal production and productivity in Kenya. Fertilizer accounts for about 30% of the cost of production and has the potential to increase yields by 50%-75%. In order to increase access at a lower cost, the government has been supplying subsidized fertilizer to motivate its use. However, the approach used in supplying the fertilizer has not been effective in reaching needy farmers who do not have access to the input. This has raised concerns whether the national subsidy programs achieve the intended purpose. Fertilizer use or the lack thereof by Kenyan farmers is an issue that has received varied attention from practitioners in the agricultural sector. The program intended to encourage fertilizer use, support local fertilizer manufacturers and strengthen fertilizer distribution. The private sector imports about 600,000 tonnes of fertilizer annually and can only sell if the government imports of about 500,000 tonnes delays. While the government alone can meet the annual national fertilizer demand, its resource base is limited, therefore, the need for private sector involvement. Its partnership with the Toyota Tsusho company will further reduce the cost of fertilizer by 40%. Supplying the right fertilizer will be incumbent on the firm producing the appropriate fertilizer for specific soils. The expansion of the subsidy program to cover other crops such as tea, coffee and sugarcane will impact negatively on the private sector’s share in the fertilizer market. The significant reduction of their returns due to decreasing sales margins will drive out from the fertilizer market those actors who cannot breakeven.

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A recent assessment by the World Bank found that by 2030, serving the food demands of Africa’s growing middle class alone will create a market worth $1 trillion (Sh 103 trillion). African “agri-preneurs” can own that market if we tap the two assets that should be an unbeatable combination: the world’s largest population of young people, and the world’s largest holdings of uncultivated arable land. In fact, Tegemeo Institute has conducted a study that has found access to land could dramatically increase youth participation in agriculture, particularly for young women farmers. There are about 1 million youths entering the labour market annually. They can contribute to significant food security in Kenya if they are gainfully employed in agriculture where increasing population, low agricultural productivity and decreasing arable land in the high and medium potential areas are a threat to food security. Their participation in agriculture has however been constrained by limited access to land in the rural areas. Unlike the rural areas, innovative urban farming takes place even on 0.25 acres of land. This allows rearing of poultry, rabbits and having green houses in urban areas where land is scarce. Such innovative approaches can involve the youths more especially where land is scarce. Involvement of the young people in farming requires development of a positive attitude towards agriculture. This will help reduce unemployment among the youths because political and social consequences of unemployed youths can be extensive as witnessed by political unrest globally. This would involve equipping youthful agri-preneurs with relevant skills to build a sustainable and resilient agricultural innovation system that will respond to unique challenges within their counties. Such skills coupled with access to land enable the youths to participate actively in farming.

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Dairy is an important industry in Kenya contributing about 14% of the agriculture GDP and 4% of the National GDP. It supports more than one million smallholders and plays a critical role in food and nutrition security through milk consumption and increased household incomes. The sector is regarded as a success case in Kenya due to the following factors: First, the sector supports a large proportion of small holders since about 80% of milk is produced by smallholders. Secondly, it is commercially-oriented creating employment both in the formal and informal milk chains through linkages; and finally, it has potential for more growth both domestically and regionally due to the high milk consumption levels in Kenya and unmet demand in the region. Thus, the sub-sector has the potential of playing an important role in improving the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. However, realization of the sector’s potential has continuously been faced by many challenges as documented in several papers and reports. Some identified farm-level challenges include high cost of production, declining land sizes, consumer concerns about milk quality and safety, lack of good quality animal breeds, and poor husbandry and farming practices, among others. 

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Zoning of blended fertilizer coupled with improved management of the distribution system involving the private sector can increase access to subsidized fertilizer by resource poor farmers in Kenya. The use of fertilizer is generally expected to increase crop productivity among cereal growing farmers. Majority of the small holder farmers who produce about 64% of maize in Kenya are resource poor. Land which is their main factor of production is suffering from declining soil health due to continuous use in maize and wheat production. To ameliorate this situation, the government has introduced a fertilizer subsidy program in an effort to enhance food security through increased cereal production and productivity in Kenya. Fertilizer accounts for about 30% of the cost of production and has the potential to increase yields by 50%-75%. In order to increase access at a lower cost, the government has been supplying subsidized fertilizer to motivate its use. However, the approach used in supplying the fertilizer has not been effective in reaching needy farmers who do not have access to the input. This has raised concerns whether the national subsidy programs achieve the intended purpose. Fertilizer use or the lack thereof by Kenyan farmers is an issue that has received varied attention from practitioners in the agricultural sector.  

The program intended to encourage fertilizer use, support local fertilizer manufacturers and strengthen fertilizer distribution. The private sector imports about 600,000 tonnes of fertilizer annually and can only sell if the government imports of about 500,000 tonnes delays. While the government alone can meet the annual national fertilizer demand, its resource base is limited, therefore, the need for private sector involvement. Its partnership with the Toyota Tsusho company will further reduce the cost of fertilizer by 40%. Supplying the right fertilizer will be incumbent on the firm producing the appropriate fertilizer for specific soils. The expansion of the subsidy program to cover other crops such as tea, coffee and sugarcane will impact negatively on the private sector’s share in the fertilizer market. The significant reduction of their returns due to decreasing sales margins will drive out from the fertilizer market those actors who cannot breakeven. In a research study focusing on farmer participation in the fertilizer market, Joyce Makau a Research Associate at Tegemeo Institute found that the national fertilizer subsidy has a potential of displacing commercial sales from the market and this reduces farmers’ likelihood to participate in the commercial market by 30 percent. On average, every ton of subsidized fertilizer distributed by the government displaces 200 kilograms from the commercial market. The situation may worsen due to the deepening of budgetary allocation to the fertilizer subsidy program in Kenya. In essence, the government will end up being the sole actor supplying fertilizer in the market and this has potential risks.

The major risk include the existence of elite capture in the fertilizer subsidy program where those benefitting are the educated, wealthy, male-headed households and those with large land sizes and high non-farm incomes rather than the worse off. This implies that the current distribution system of subsidized fertilizer is benefiting households who can afford commercial fertilizer. Earlier studies by Tegemeo had previously shown that only 9% of farmers receive subsidized fertilizer. Of these, 60% are from the high income group. The poor and the middle income households received 4.2 kg and 3.5 kg disproportionately less subsidized fertilizer, respectively.  This is an indication that Kenya’s national fertilizer subsidy does not favor resource-poor households. This raises questions as to whether the program beneficiaries are households who truly need the fertilizer rather than those who are well connected. Other risks are fertilizer adulteration and weak infrastructure in terms of roads and credit access received significantly less subsidized and commercial fertilizer.

Therefore, redesigning the current national fertilizer subsidy program becomes an important option. One strategy that will enhance access of subsidized fertilizer might be the zoning of the required fertilizer based on soil maps in the country that shows the distribution of soil nutrient demand. This alongside the use of the redeemable e-Voucher system which is more transparent subsidy management that will enable the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Fisheries to establish a network of dealers, reduce the cost of distribution of the product to farmers and create a database of stakeholders particularly the private sector. Moving forward, the use of e-procurement by farmer groups or at county level needs to be explored if farmers are to access the appropriate fertilizer for their soils.

 

Writer Joyce Makau, Research Associate, Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.

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A large majority of the communities living in the land under communal land tenure have used customary laws to manage and utilise the land. Under customary law, communities had established well respected boundaries and did not possess formal titles to land. Formalisation process, which started under colonial rule, introduced the title deed as a formal document recognised under law that sufficed as proof of ownership over land.

From the colonial period, successive government administrations have promoted privatisation on land tenure in areas under communal land tenure. Individuals or group of individuals (in the case of group ranches) were issued with a title deed that guaranteed formal land rights over against such lands. The rest of the land under communal land tenure was classified as trust lands. Under the old constitutional dispensation, these lands were under the local government, while in the new constitutional dispensation are under the National Lands Commission and County Governments.

However, communal lands under trust face the most serious threat in guaranteeing land tenure security. Since 1960s, the trusteeship by local governments had always been abused. For instance, local leaders and politicians and individuals who were well connected with the local elite were able to alienate land and formalise by way of acquiring title deeds in areas under communal land tenure, a fact well documented in the Ndungu Report of 2004. Further, communities were never involved in decision making when plans, both development and land use plans were made. This only served to increase land tenure insecurity with the community fearing displacement every time a project on their land is mooted.

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In Kenya, 67% of the total land is under communal land tenure, and supports about a quarter of the country’s population (10 million persons) and 70% of the livestock population. A large majority of these lands are characterised by arid and semi-arid conditions such as high temperatures and low rainfall. As such they have been inhabited by pastoral communities who practise extensive livestock production systems that are well-suited to these conditions. These communities have used communal land tenure to manage the lands. Communal land tenure systems not only facilitate this type of livestock keeping but also play a key role in determining the social, economic and political status of pastoral communities.

From the colonial period, pastoralism has been misunderstood by the authorities. The colonial government implemented land policies such as the East African Royal Commission 1953-1955 and the Swynnerton Plan of 1954, which advocated for individualisation and privatisation of land tenure. They viewed pastoralism as retrogressive, inefficient, and did not lead to investment in land. Instead private land tenure was seen as the best form of promoting investment in land and improving productivity. They argued that private and individual tenure was a key step towards improving environmental conservation, reducing herd size and improving livestock breeds, thereby improving productivity and livelihoods.

The post-independence government maintained these policies and further, the Lawrence Report of 1966 recommended privatisation of land tenure in pastoral areas. With support from donors, the government in the 1960s and 1970s established group ranches starting in the now Kajiado County, before spreading out to other Maasai lands i.e. Narok and Laikipia Counties and further to other pastoral communities. Although the formation of group ranches was inconsistent with the pastoral communities cultural norms of land ownership and access, for example, the Maasai believed that land was a birth right accessible to all, they did not oppose the formation of group ranches mainly because they wanted to protect their ancestral land from “outsiders” and the government also provided additional incentives such as provision of water and disease control. Despite the establishment of group ranches, the communities used customary laws to manage the land. For example, the elders became leaders of the ranches and communities maintained cultural access norms with no restriction on use of land. On the other hand, land that was not adjudicated was held in trust by local governments on behalf of the communities in those locales.

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Kenya is one of the few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to experience an impressive rise in fertilizer use following a series of input market reforms in the early 1990s. Two major consequences of these reforms were declining fertilizer marketing margins and distances between farmers and fertilizer dealers. We quantify the effects of these changes on commercial fertilizer use and maize production in Kenya by estimating fertilizer demand and maize supply response functions using nationwide household survey data. Our results indicate that between 1997 and 2010, the estimated 27% reduction in real fertilizer prices that can be attributed to falling marketing margins associated with market reforms led to a 36% increase in nitrogen use on maize fields and a 9% increase in maize production resulting from both yield and acreage effects. On the other hand, decreasing distances to fertilizer retailers from the perspective of a given household did not appear to raise fertilizer use or maize supply, although a comparison across households using average distances over the panel indicate that those closer to retailers do apply more fertilizer on their maize fields.

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Policy makers and development experts believe that irrigation is the panacea to frequent drought related crop failure and to meet the demand for cheap and stable food supply in Kenya. The country has experienced heavy crop losses associated with drought in the years 1980, 1984, 2000, 2008, 2009, and 2011(WFP, 2011). Since 2009, the government set out to reduce reliance on rain-fed production by investing KES12.5 billion into rehabilitation of irrigation schemes in the country. This report reviews existing literature on irrigation in the World and provides views by experts on the potential for irrigation and its major challenges. The review considers policy on irrigation and the past investments to elicit lessons which could inform research for new policy on irrigation in Kenya. The findings show that local experience with irrigation development in most public irrigation schemes is bad. The UN advises caution on large-scale irrigation in pastoral areas which could cause significant environmental degradation and low economic returns despite heavy subsidies, while undermining the pastoral economy. Avery (2013) argues that irrigation in semi-arid areas will be challenged by high solar radiation and temperatures, and dry winds that desiccate soils and crops. Experts have raised many questions in literature reviewed which include; what is the nutritional quality of irrigated crops not have been bred in semi-arid areas? How are local markets (supply and demand) going to be affected by the increase in supply of maize? What criteria will the government use to allocate water? What will be the impact of irrigation on the river ecology (hydrology, onsite soils, water tables, water logging, salinization, sodication, nitration, wildlife, micro-organisms, pests and diseases, genetic diversity, etc)? What will be the social and political impact of an influx of workers from other ethnic groups into the regions being developed for irrigation? What is the ex-ante economic surplus of the project? What is the opportunity cost of maize irrigation compared to alternative livelihoods like pastoralism? What is the policy on land and water use rights for investors, stakeholders and minority ethnic groups especially the Watta, Orma and Giriama living in Galana/Kulalu? What will be the effect of large-scale irrigated maize production on the market considering its potential effect on maize producing regions in Western Kenya?

See the Policy Brief here ...

 

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