Cabinet gives nod to farming on idle state land


Economy

Cabinet gives nod to farming on idle state land


A cabinet session chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 12, 2022. PHOTO | PSCU

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Summary

  • Cabinet on Thursday approved the seizure of unused land in a bid to boost food security and reduce the cost of living.
  • Food prices have risen in recent months due to bad weather and global supply disruptions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which delivered expensive wheat and cooking oil.
  • Kenya is now seeking a model where thousands of acres of public land will be leased to private investors for the production of food and cash crops that rely less on rain-fed agriculture in favor of irrigation.

The government will repossess unused land from parastatals and lease it to private investors for commercial farming to accelerate food production for local supply and exports and create new jobs.

Cabinet on Thursday approved the seizure of unused land in a bid to boost food security and reduce the cost of living.

Food prices have risen in recent months due to bad weather and global supply disruptions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which delivered expensive wheat and cooking oil.

Kenya is now seeking a model where thousands of acres of public land will be leased to private investors for the production of food and cash crops that rely less on rain-fed agriculture in favor of irrigation.

Parastatals holding vast undeveloped lands include Kenya Railways, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, East African Portland Cement, Kenya Prisons and the University of Nairobi.

“Cabinet has approved the Policy for the Large-Scale Commercialization of Public Lands Held for Agricultural Production. The policy aims to provide a framework for the utilization of unused land owned by public institutions for large-scale commercial agricultural production,” said a dispatch from the Cabinet meeting held on Thursday.

In the past, the government failed in its attempts to revive large-scale agricultural production with projects such as the Galana Kulalu irrigation scheme.

The Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project was launched in 2015 with the intention of opening over 1.2 million acres of land owned by the Agricultural Development Corporation to irrigation.

Kenya’s agro-trading sector currently focuses on commodities such as tea, coffee, fruits, vegetables and flowers, which are major earners of foreign exchange.

Today, Kenya seeks large-scale commercial production of food crops such as maize, beans and vegetables for the domestic market.

Official data shows that the country’s agricultural production growth fell to -0.1% last year, compared to a 5.2% increase recorded in 2020, mainly due to poor rains which led to a reduction in production. plant and animal production.

That saw the cost of food staples like corn and vegetables hit record highs, pushing consumer inflation to 6.47% year-on-year in April from 5.56% a month earlier.

Agriculture accounts for 22.6% of Kenya’s gross domestic product, up from a third three years ago. The number of Kenyans facing starvation has increased by 33% in the past five months, paving the way for a possible food crisis.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) said the food situation in Kenya has deteriorated, with the number of people in need of assistance falling from 2.1 million in August to 2.8 million at the end of last year, because of the failure of the short circuit October-November December. rains.

Absence of short rains will have a negative impact on food, as torrential rains this season play a vital role in supplementing the main season harvest.

The NDMA warned that the situation would become dire as the year progressed, stressing Kenya’s ability to produce enough food for its people.

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