34pc of households farm on less than one acre land

A farmer watering vegetable leaves in a farmland. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

More than a third of the 6.4 million farmer households in Kenya produce food and cash crops on less than one acre of land, a new Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) report shows, signalling the non-viability of their ventures.

The report, which is based on 2019 census data, reveals growing pressure for land resources in the country as the population continues to grow.

Some 17 counties have half of their agricultural households (1.26 million) farming in less than an acre. The 17 counties are home to 40 percent (2.53 million) of agricultural households in the country.

“Most of the farming households operate land holdings of less than one acre. Out of the 6.4 million farming households, 34.9 percent had less than 1 acre of land holding,” the Analytical Report on Agriculture, revealed.

Nairobi, Kiambu, and Vihiga counties had the highest proportions of households engaged in agriculture in 2019, practising it on less than an acre of land. In Nairobi, 73.2 percent of 31,516 households that practiced agriculture tilled less than an acre of land, as did 65.6 percent of the agricultural households in Kiambu and 62 percent of the 113,645 agricultural households in Vihiga.

A total of 2,219,745 households practiced agriculture on less than an acre of land by 2019, out of which 57 percent (1.26 million) were based in the 17 counties. Others are Isiolo, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Marsabit, Mombasa, Kakamega, Meru, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Kericho, Nyandarua, Bomet and Kisii.

"Between 2 to 5 acres, which accounted for 28.7 percent of total farming households. Farming households who operated between 1 to 2 acres accounted for 24.6 percent of the total farming households,” the KNBS report observed.

Households operating between 10 to 20 acres of land accounted for 1.1 percent of all farming households, and the farming households operating more than 20 acres of holdings were less than 8 percent of all the farming households, KNBS reported.

The high number of households practicing farming on land under one-acre can be attributed to population growth in the country, with the report also noting that the majority of Kenyan farmers practiced subsistence farming.

Commercial agriculture was only practiced by 23.3 percent of the 6.4 million households that engaged in agriculture with just four counties having more than half of their agricultural households practicing it for commercial purposes, the report observed.

“Nyamira county had the highest proportion of commercial farmers at 63.3 percent. This was followed by Kirinyaga (57.4 percent), Kericho (52.1 percent), Nyeri (51.3 percent) and Embu (49.5 percent) counties,” the KNBS report stated.

The report also showed that some counties with the highest adoption of irrigation agriculture also recorded high numbers of households engaging in subsistence farming, meaning that farmers are yet to fully tap irrigation for commercialised farming.

Of the 5.6 million crop-farming households in Kenya in 2019, 373,225 practiced irrigation farming.

“Irrigation was practiced by 6.7 percent of the households. A higher proportion of urban farming households (11.1 percent) practiced irrigation compared to rural farming households (6.2 percent),” the report shows.

The counties with more than a quarter of their farming households practicing irrigation were Isiolo (47.6 percent), Garissa (41.4 percent), Mandera (35.5 percent), Turkana (34.9 percent), Kirinyaga (32.4 percent), Tana River (27.1 percent), Kajiado (26.6 percent) and Wajir (25.8 percent).

Conversely, Isiolo, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Kajiado, and Tana River had more than 80 percent of households engaging in farming practicing subsistence farming.

“Counties with the least proportion of farming households practicing irrigation include Nyamira, Vihiga, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Migori,” the report stated.

Subdivision of agricultural land into small and often uneconomical sizes has become a challenge in Kenya.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.