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FAO in Kenya

Kenya at a glance

The agriculture sector in Kenya

The agriculture sector continues to play a vital role in the rural economy. The sector was one of the first to fully devolve the function of service provision to the county governments underscoring the importance of County Governments' role in ensuring food security. Agriculture is key to Kenya's economy, contributing 26 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 per cent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors. The sector employs more than 40 per cent of the total population and more than 70 per cent of Kenya's rural people. Agriculture in Kenya is large and complex, with a multitude of public, parastatal, non-governmental and private sectors.

The sector accounts for 65 per cent of the export earnings, and provides the livelihood (employment, income and food security needs) for more than 80 per cent of the Kenyan population and contributes to improving nutrition through production of safe, diverse and nutrient dense foods. The sector is also the min driver of the non-agricultural economy including manufacturing, providing inputs and markets for non-agricultural operations such as building/construction, transportation, tourism, education and other social services.

The dynamics of poverty within Kenya are changing and directly influence the country's agricultural sector. Currently 46 per cent of the population live on less than 1 USD a day, 36.5 per cent are food insecure and 35 per cent of children under five are stunted (chronically malnourished) in Kenya. The country's population has increased significantly (growing from 11 million in 1970 to 39.5 million in 2011) and at the current rate of growth, it will be double in the next 27 years, reaching 81 million in 2039. As a result of this rapid increase, land parcels in the areas of high agricultural potential are decreasing in size, affecting food production.

Farmers, who are used to rain-fed farming systems, are being pushed into dryer, more marginal areas where they become increasingly vulnerable to drought and the unpredictability of weather patterns resulting from climate change. The population increase, coupled with the expansion of agriculture into arid lands, has affected the dynamics of pastoralism, where increased competition for natural resources has sparked escalated conflict in some areas. Furthermore, there has been a marked increase in the number of people dropping out of the nomadic livelihood, often moving into settled communities which are heavily reliant on food aid.

Given the importance of agriculture in rural areas of Kenya where poverty is prevalent, the sector's importance in poverty alleviation cannot be overstated. Strengthening and improving the performance of the agricultural sector and enabling the engagement of the poorest and most vulnerable in this process is therefore a prerequisite and a necessary condition for achieving recovery and growth in Kenya after recent years of drought an slow development.