A newly released report paints a pitiful picture of agricultural land usage in Nyandarua, an agricultural county, where less than 50 percent of arable land is under cultivation.
The details contained in recently released Social-Economic Transformative Agenda Report for Nyandarua County show that the county has 57 percent arable land but only 25 percent is under food production.
“In addition to size and fertility, other main challenges include urban sprawl which threatens agricultural land with unplanned growth of settlements,” reads part of the document.
Ongoing massive land division in high potential zones accounting for 65 percent and the low potential areas accounting for 35 percent of arable land is likely to worsen food security in the county.
FOOD SECURITY THREATENED
The food insecurity caused by the subdivision might escalate to the national level, Nyandarua being a food basket supplying milk and horticultural produce to Nairobi, Nyeri, Murang'a and other neighbouring counties.
A survey by the Kenya Dairy Board places Nyandarua as the second-highest milk producer after Kiambu County.
Most of the land subdivision is taking place in dry Ndaragwa constituency, which has the highest irrigation potential and is set to benefit from the Sh100 million Karagoini Water Project funded by the national government.
The Karagoini water project is meant to supply domestic and irrigation water in lower Ndaragua region.
Land brokers have invaded the area, subdividing the farms to eighth-acre pieces, which agricultural experts term as a disaster in waiting.
“The national and county governments need to come up and implement land laws and policies, especially in rural areas. The subdivision by land brokers and agents is a disaster in waiting, we are creating slums and criminal dens in high-potential agricultural areas,” said an agricultural economist Ms Jane Karanja.
She wonders how the buyers will utilise quarter-acre pieces of land in rural areas.
“No profitable farming practices can be done in such small plots of land, they are meant for settlements. The areas have industries, they are not accessible to employees working in urban areas meaning they cannot be developed to rental houses, where will the buyers intending to live there earn their living, we are shifting a problem from our urban centers,” she said.
She also says that such land subdivision by agents is also making the costs of land prohibitive, giving the example of an acre plot selling at Sh400, 000 in Ndaragua.
The Social-Economic Transformative Agenda for Nyandarua County report notes that there is pressure in the subdivision of land including land in agricultural areas with high potential due to increased population growth.
“A total of 55, 500 hectares out of the 184, 900 arable hectares is already affected thus reducing the average farm holding from 4 hectares and 0.8 hectares in low and high potential zones,” noted the document.
The other challenge contributing to land fragmentation to uneconomical pieces, according to the document, is a common belief that every man must own land.