Thursday, May 20, 2021

Women need power in Kenya

 The survival of Kenya’s smallholder farmers, who predominantly rely on rainfed agricultural systems, is at stake as farmers are increasingly battling floods, droughts and heat stress at more frequent, intense and unpredictable rates. It has led to severe crop and livestock losses.

Peris Wanjiku, a smallholder farmer in Othaya, Nyeri County, which lies approximately 152 kilometres from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, has watched as her fellow farmers have slowly started to sell off their land in the face of increasingly erratic weather patterns. She said that in a good year, a commercial crop farmer makes between $2,000 to $3,000 per acre from crops such as maize, wheat, tea and coffee. At the same time the price of land was quite high. The country’s average smallholder land size is approximately 1.2 acres.

“An acre of farm land in Kiambu generally goes for a minimum of $100,000, depending on the area. If I hold on to my acre, how many years will it take me to make that kind of money? We are at a crossroads,” Wanjiku said.

The average price for an acre of land in Kiambu County is $323,000 — the third-highest land price across the county. According to the Hass Consult, a leading real estate company, the highest land prices are in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, followed by the coastal county of Mombasa. 

Kenya’s Food Security report released in January predicted a 30 percent decrease in harvest due to below-average rainfall experienced from October to December 2020. A similar report released in March forecast below-average long rains from March through May this year and a subsequent low harvest.

World Bank estimates show that women run at least three-quarters of Kenya’s farms. Meanwhile, women were allocated only 1.6 percent of approximately 10 million hectares of land that was registered between 2013 and 2017, according to the Kenya Land Alliance.

“We indeed have the issue of male-dominated land ownership and female-dominated land use. A majority of women farmers do not have the power to make decisions on how land is utilised,” Judy Matu, the chair of the Association of Women in Agriculture Kenya, explained.  Matu said that at the same time, not only do women farm on land that they do not own, all commercial crops and bigger livestock belong to men. “Women run farms on a day-to-day basis and they need knowledge on proper farming practices such as agroforestry, organic and conservation farming..."

County Climate Risk Profiles Critical and Timely for Kenya’s Struggling Smallholders | Inter Press Service (

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