Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the country plans to seize idle parastatal land, and will hand it to private companies to utilise for food and cash crop production.
The East African country’s Cabinet approved this move last Thursday, and said this is an effort to boost food security and ensure the average Kenyan is able to afford the cost of living, as the cost of the monthly shopping basket in the country has inflated since the beginning of the year. Food prices have skyrocketed as a result of supply chain disruptions caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict; not just in Kenya, but across the globe.
“Cabinet approved the policy on large-scale commercialisation of public land held for agricultural production. The policy seeks to provide a framework for utilisation of idle land owned by public institutions for large-scale commercial agricultural production,” a government statement read.
Commerical crop revivial
The East African country now seeks to upscale large commercial production crops such as beans and maize for the domestic market, having historically failed to revive large-scale production projects such as the Galana Kalalu irrigation scheme.
“The Galana Kulalu Food Security project is located in the coastal region within Kilifi and Tana River Counties, situated about 105km north west from Malindi town off the Malindi-Voi Road. The area borders Tsavo East National Park to the East, and it is accessible through the Malindi Tsavo Road. The project involves development of physical infrastructure for viable and economic utilisation of the natural resources available within or accessible to the area making up the Galana Kulalu Ranches.
“This includes, but not limited to water storage, conveyance and distribution, irrigation, livestock production, aquaculture road network, land development, eco-tourism among others. It consists of various enterprises including maize, sugar cane, horticulture and orchards, dairy and beef ranching, fisheries, tourism and recreation, processing industries and human settlement,” according to Kenya’s National Irrigation Authority.
According to data, the country’s agricultural production grew at a negative 0.1% rate last year. This is down from 5.2% in 2020, owing to low rains that affected crop and animal production. As a result, the cost of basic foods like maize and vegetables has reached new highs, pushing consumer inflation to 6.47% in April – up from 5.56%, the month before.
Agriculture now accounts for 22.6% of Kenya’s GDP, down from one-third three years ago. In the last five months, the number of Kenyans experiencing starvation has increased by 33%, setting the groundwork for a major food catastrophe.
Climate change has also led to a lack of rain for the region, and this has impacted the country’s ability to supplement crops for the main harvest season, resulting in increased food insecurity.