By Leonida Kombo,
For the past few months Kenyans have been grappling with increasing food prices, especially the cost of staples such as maize meal, milk and sugar. To better understand the situation, we had a conversation with 353 Kenyans asking about their food security and here’s what we heard.
The rising food prices are real. 96% of Kenyans said they are spending more money on food since the start of the year. To compensate, 85% reduced their meal size; 55% are cutting back on sugar and 18% reported reducing their intake of maize meal. Many have found creative ways to substitute these popular foods opting instead for rice, chapati and beans, even taking to the internet to learn how to cook chapatis according to Google Trends.
Though 36% of Kenyans believe that the increasing food prices are mainly due to the drought, food security is also affected by land use habits and attitudes towards farming as suggested by the UN . Our conversation revealed that 45% of Kenyans own land. 70% use it to farm. Though 93% of Kenyan farmers operate in small scale, more efficient land use and technology could improve their yields.
We spoke to business development consultant, Mary Muthoni of Africa Turnaround LTD who highlighted land fragmentation as a Kenyan practice detrimental to sustainable land use such . Reasons for fragmentation include cultural factors such as land inheritance which was how 67% of the land owners we spoke to acquired their land and also farmers selling land in small acres for economic relief.
Mary also referenced a gap in knowledge about strategies for sustainable land use. While there are several stakeholders willing to teach farmers how to increase their yields, only 30% of the farmers we spoke to felt confident with their knowledge of agricultural best practices such as crop spacing, pesticide application, etc. and only 37% had consulted an agricultural extension officer.
According to Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN ), sustainable land management is the use of land to meet changing human needs while ensuring long-term socio-economic & ecological functions of the land hence enhancing agricultural productivity. In Kenya, sustainable land management is making great strides through tech. Mary shared with us that more farmers are using mobile money and apps to access credit facilities to help grow production at a lower cost. She added that there’s also an increasing demand for mobile platforms which provide farmers with agricultural tips and market information. “The use of ICT in agriculture has been a major leap, and it’s exciting,” Mary concluded. Tech is empowering farmers and growing the agricultural sector, in the end ensuring that we all have food on our tables.
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