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Working paper 31 - Trends In Kenyan Agricultural Productivity: 1997-2007

Author(s):  Kibaara, Betty; Ariga, Joshua; Olwande, John; Jayne, Thom


Agriculture continues to be a fundamental instrument for sustainable development, poverty reduction and enhanced food security in developing countries. Agricultural productivity levels in Sub-Saharan Africa are far below that of other regions in the world, and are well below that required to attain food security and poverty reduction goals.

On the other hand, the rate of agricultural productivity growth since the early 2000s has been quite impressive in many African countries, including Kenya, yet this is no cause for complacency. Sustained and accelerated growth requires a sharp increase in productivity of smallholder farmers. The Strategy to Revitalize Agriculture (SRA), Kenya Vision 2030, Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have underscored the importance of increasing agricultural productivity in the fight against poverty.

In the past, agricultural production was largely a function of acreage, but further growth in production will have to be driven by productivity growth. This paper analyzes trends in the Kenyan agricultural productivity using household panel survey data collected from 1275 households in eight agro-regional zones for 1996/1997, 1999/2000, 2003/2004 and 2006/2007 cropping years.

This panel data analysis overcomes problems of comparability and differences in sample design that compromise other trend assessments and thus provides a unique opportunity to evaluate changes in smallholder agricultural productivity. Productivity changes for maize, tea, coffee, sugarcane, cabbages, Irish potatoes and dairy are examined.

The major drivers of the productivity trends across the agro-regional zones are discussed. The paper identifies policy interventions required to either sustain productivity growth or improve declining and stagnating sub-sectors.

Results show a consistent growth in maize productivity across most agro-regional zones and panel years. Some of the key factors that have contributed to productivity growth in maize over the 1997-2007 period include increased percentage of households using fertilizer, increased adoption of high-yielding seed varieties, and an increased density of fertilizer retail outlets leading to a decline in the distances to sellers of agricultural inputs.

Fertilizer use dose rates on maize, however, have remained fairly constant. Further analysis reveals that some households did not use inorganic fertilizers and the defining feature of these households is location in semiarid areas where fertilizer use on maize may be risky and unprofitable.

The dairy sub-sector recorded impressive growth over the 1997-2007 period. Increased investment in dairy production and production of fodder crops reflects increased adoption of improved breeds, highlighting the importance of investment in knowledge and technology. Tea productivity has grown slightly, driven by increased fertilizer use, especially in the Western regions of Kisii and Vihiga districts. Productivity of sugarcane and coffee, on the contrary, declined during the decade, mainly due to challenges, some related to management, facing the sub sectors. Cabbage and Irish potato productivity fluctuated over the panel period, and did not show any meaningful trend.

The per capita land owned and per capita cultivated land has declined over the panel period, which appears to be related to intensifying population pressures and land fragmentation in many areas of the country. More than 30 percent of the smallholder farms in the sample control less than 1 acre of land. While agricultural productivity in general appears to be rising in Kenya, rising land pressures in the more densely populated areas is a major threat to future food security and rural livelihoods. Productivity growth and market access can partially overcome these threats, but sustainable rural livelihoods may well require attention to improved access to land.


Trends in Kenyan Agricultural Productivity: 1997-2007




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