Africa: Dividing farmland a threat to food security (IPS)

| October 27, 2014

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When Kiprui Kibet pictures his future as a farmer, all he sees is the ever-dwindling size of his small plot.

Mr. Kibet farms in fertile Uasin Gishu County in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. He says, “I used to farm on 40 hectares but now I only have 0.8 hectares. My father had 10 sons and we all wanted to own a piece of the farmland.” The family harvested 3,200 bags a year on 40 hectares, but Mr. Kibet produces only 20 bags, and sometimes less.

The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO, states that a majority of Africa’s farmers now grow food on less than one hectare of land. In Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, the number of people with one hectare of farmland has decreased by 13 to 17 per cent in the last decade. Experts say that subdividing land is becoming a significant threat to food security.

FAO says that small-scale farmers account for at least 75 per cent of Africa’s agricultural output. But according to a 2012 USAID report, 25 per cent of young adults who grew up in rural areas did not inherit any land because there was no land to inherit.

Titus Rotich is an agricultural extension officer in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. He says, “Farmlands are becoming so small that with time, farming will no longer be economically viable … land is only used to set up a homestead, and to grow a few backyard vegetables and rear a few chickens.”

Large-scale land purchases may also be contributing to the problem. Allan Moshi is an expert on land policy in sub-Saharan Africa. He says investors are rushing to East and Southern Africa and buying up huge tracts of land. He warns, “Large-scale land acquisition not only reduces available land for locals, but what is available to the locals still has to be subdivided [because of] land inheritance.”

Isaac Maiyo works for Schemers, an agricultural community-based organization in Kenya. He says, “Small-scale farmers still produce more than big farms. Big farms often lie idle. Investors hoard them for speculative purposes, but food is only rarely grown on this land.“

Some African countries have enacted laws to prevent land from becoming too fragmented. South Africa’s Agricultural Land Act prevents the “subdivision of agricultural land to the extent where the new portions created are so small that farming will no longer be economically viable.” The Kenyan Agriculture Act states that agricultural land should not be subdivided below 0.8 hectares. But many farmers do not know the law exists.

Mr. Kibet says: “We subdivide not based on what the law says, but based on the number of dependents who want a share of available land, particularly where land inheritance is concerned.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Africa’s Dividing Farmlands A Threat To Food Security, go to: