All key informants and literature consulted for this paper agreed that land policies are problematic in that they are either not well defined or are actively supporting destructive trends at the local level, in terms of migration of groups farther into marginal areas and in division of land into parcels often too small to support livelihoods. Although there is no clear change in policy foreseen, studies have been done in recent years that point out these difficulties so there is some impetus in that direction.
5.4.2. Productivity of agricultural lands – high, arid/semi-arid, range, and marginal
See Map 5 of Kenya's arid districts. Kenya is endowed with extended lands suitable for pasture and dryland crops; has a smaller area suitable for crops with medium-level moisture requirements; and has even less suitable land for high levels of production of crops with high-level moisture requirements, these being found largely in montane zones and low-lying wetland areas. FAO studied the suitability of Kenya's agroecosystems for these varying levels of production and cropping in rainfed conditions; see Table 8 for examples of its findings.
Table 8. Areas (km2) of land in Kenya suitable for rainfed crop production
Fuelwood (not nitrogen fixing)
(Source: FAO, 1993).
Clearly, even for the crops and land uses for which Kenya is well known, such as pasture and tea, only a small percentage is suitable out of the total area for producing these crops, when considering soils, climate, length of growing period, rainfall, erosion potential, etc.
Agricultural research and promotion institutions have for several years been advising an approach of intensification and increased market focus in high-productivity areas, which they felt would alleviate some pressures on arid/semi-arid and marginal lands. The primary aim was to assist smallholder farmers, many of them women, to make more efficient and profitable use of the resources they had. Smallholders contribute about 75 percent of all agricultural production in Kenya. Sadly in many areas this has led to excessive individual ownership and subdivision of land for private plots too small for production. Increasingly, this trend is moving "downhill" (i.e., into medium, low, and even marginal potential areas) where to produce the needed yields for survival, farmers must convert ever-larger plots.
Some areas, such as Machakos District, have worked for decades to build soil productivity despite the natural depletion present in many semiarid soils, by building terraces and using other conservation measures. Machakos is largely devoid of wildlife, however, perhaps indicating the eventual incompatibility of the two land uses.
Pastoralism may be ending as a way of life in Kenya within the next few decades. As noted in a recent study, "due to the limitations of an ever-shrinking resource base and factors such as ecological degradation, episodic droughts and insecurity, pastoralism as a production system cannot any longer support the pastoral communities in the arid lands of Kenya" (RANTCO, 1999, p. 10). Livestock production is suffering from declines in soil productivity and lower land
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