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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.

See Working Paper here ...


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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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