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Government approves leasing of idle state land to private farmers

Land in Kenya

By George Munene

The Kenyan government will lease out idle land owned by Kenyan parastatals to private farmers in an effort to arrest rising food insecurity in the country.

The move greenlit by Kenya’s cabinet on Thursday seeks to reclaim public land and contract it out to private farmers for intensive agriculture.

“Cabinet approved the policy on large-scale commercialisation of public land held for agricultural production. The policy seeks to provide a framework for utilising idle land owned by public institutions for large-scale commercial agricultural production,” said a press statement from Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

Kenya is facing spiking food prices and food shortages caused by a third consecutive below-average rainy season; the Russia-Ukraine war– two countries that make up a bulk of the country’s grain and fertiliser imports — and skyrocketing global fertiliser prices. 

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Agriculture and agricultural-based products have risen on average by 20 per cent from this time last year, increasing the cost of living especially for the country’s poor — 19 million Kenyans for whom 36 per cent of their income goes into buying food. 

In February 2022, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group reported there were 3.1 million food-insecure people in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the country, a 48 per cent increase from August 2021.

Some of the biggest landowners of unused parastatal land in Kenya include the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya Railways, University of Nairobi, and Kenya Prisons.

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