Kenya: The Reality Of Agriculture In Kilifi
My visit to Kilifi County early April 2015 came with a rude shock.
I have been here for four years undertaking my degree studies, and have come to terms with the varying climatic conditions and the areas socio-economic set up. In these four years, I witnessed varying rainfall patterns, some lasting at least three days. In some circumstances, the heavy down pour would soak many of my classmates who resided outside campus, some would miss classes while others would crash in their friend’s hostels. The rain was one of the reasons I would fight tooth and nail alongside well fed gentlemen for a room in the campus. When it was not raining the intensity of the sun would make one think twice before coming out of one’s accommodation. The sun’s intensity has been attributed to the lifestyle of the coastal communities; they are perceived as slow individuals who would prefer going to the beach, rather than work in the farms. Well who can blame them if the sun is that hot and the soils can hardly support agriculture and therefore need more work to improve fertility and water retention capacity.
My recent visit made me come face to face with even more issues than just climate; I realised that gender, land ownership and control of food production resources are the leading issues that affect food availability in this county.
Kilifi County has been named one of the poorest counties in Kenya, despite its potential in agriculture. For a while now they have been depending on tourism and fisheries but this synergy is the most unstable and at the moment it is as good as dead. Tourism has been affected by insecurity in Kenya. While fishery on the other hand faces the tragedy of the commons and it is now a dwindling resource that is unable to support the growing demand of the population this is reflected by the size quantity and price of the catch availed in market places.
Gender as an issue affecting agricultural production is highlighted by the fact that farming is left to women. Physically, a woman is feeble compared to men and therefore may take more time ploughing a farm leading to little production. Time taken to till land that will feed a family of more than eight members is a lot, this gives rise to wide spread ignorance (lack of information on a certain topic) amongst women on the issues of farming. These women farmers are unable to get a hold of information on new and improved farming techniques that could scale up their yields. Most of the land on the other hand is communally owned, which deprives the farmers (women) control over this vital resource. Apart from lacking control over land resources, seed is another resource they have to queue and beg for to have. Water, fertilizer and other agrochemicals are out of reach and distribution is biased. Once again climate change has not spared these women. They have to find ways of using the little rainfall the heaven provides, and continue to defend their small plots of land from desertification, which is creeping up on their land fast- considering their location on the Arid and Semi-Arid Land.