Kenya Kenya

Description of cropping systems, climate, and soils in Kenya                        (by Dr. O. Adimo)

Agriculture remains the mainstay of the Kenyan's economy, providing 26% of the GDP, and 80% of the rural population derives their livelihood from agriculture and other related activities. It is also the nations' top earner of foreign exchange, contributing about 60% of export earnings. Farms in Kenya range from small-scale subsistence family operations to large-scale mechanized enterprises with crops and/or livestock.

 Kenya's total land area is about 587,000 km2, of which 576,076 km2 consists of land and 11,230 km2 is covered by water. Of total land area, 18% has a high to medium agricultural potential. The rest is arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) and, therefore, of low agricultural potential.  Kenya has six agro-ecological zones as given in Table 1.

Table1: Agro-ecological zones of Kenya

Zone

Appr. Area (km2)

% Total

I. Agro-Alphine

800

0.1

II. High Potential

53,000

9.2

III. Medium Potential

53,000

9.2

IV. Semi-Arid

48,200

8.5

V. Arid

300,000

52.9

VI. Very arid

112,000

19.8

Rest (waters etc)

15,600

2.6

Source: Sombroek, et al., 1982.

 Of total ASAL area of 48 million ha, 24 million ha is only useful for nomadic pastoralism; the rest can support some commercial ranching and irrigated agriculture but with added technological input. Over 7 million people live in and derive their livelihoods from ASAL areas; the remaining population lives in the high to medium agricultural potential land areas or in cities. In a country where 80% of the population depends on agriculture, the high and medium potential areas have been split up into to small-scale farms of up to 0.5 – 10 ha. For example, 81% of the small-scale farmers occupy holdings of less than 2 ha. Considering that the population growth rate is 3.2%, pressure on the land is continuously reducing the capacity to sustain food production and cash crop-farming. Despite these problems, Kenya is a leading producer of tea and coffee, as well as a major exporter of fresh produce, such as flowers, vegetables and fruits. Small farms mostly grow maize and sometimes also potatoes, bananas, beans and peas. Table 2 gives the areas, production and yields for the major food crops in Kenya.

Table 2: Average (2010-2011) production, harvested area and yield of major food crops in Kenya

crop

Harvested Area (ha)

Total Production(t)

Yield (t ha-1)

Maize

2159322.0

4089043.2

1.9

wheat

148,703.0

444373.6

3.0

Barley

21,827.0

72930.6

3.3

Beans

1,055,632.0

613902.0

0.6

Rice

25,197.0

92696.0

3.7

Sorghum

223,799.0

166626.9

0.7

Millet

118,289.0

74915.8

0.6

Cowpeas

214,492.0

113802.8

0.5

Green grams

188,416.0

91824.3

0.5

Pigeon peas

143,212.0

89390.1

0.6

Irish potatoes

135924.4

1846576.0

13.6

Tomatoes

18115.9

395297.8

21.8

Cabbages

19491.0

891771.0

45.8

Source ; Agriculture Economic review 2012

Kenya has a wide range of soil types, which is caused by large variation in geology (parent material), relief and climate. Soil types vary from sandy to clayey, shallow to very deep, and from low to high fertility. However, many soil types have serious limitations such as salinity, sodicity, acidity, fertility and drainage problems. The major soil types used in agriculture are ferralsols, vertisols, acrisols, lixisols, luvisols and nitisols.

Food crops and other annual crops are grown according to rainfall amounts and temporal distribution, which is bimodal in nature. The long rains occur from March to and including May, while the short rains occur from October to and including December. Following these rainfall patterns, annual single-crop systems and double-crop systems can be found.

References

Economic Review of. Agriculture. 2010. REPUBLIC OF KENYA. Ministry of Agriculture. Prepared by: Central Planning and. Project Monitoring Unit.

Economic Review of. Agriculture. 2011. REPUBLIC OF KENYA. Ministry of Agriculture. Prepared by: Central Planning and. Project Monitoring Unit.

Economic Review of. Agriculture. 2012. REPUBLIC OF KENYA. Ministry of Agriculture. Prepared by: Central Planning and. Project Monitoring Unit.

FAO (1996). Agro-ecological Zoning Guidelines. FAO Soils Bulletin 73. Rom. www.fao.org

Sombroek, W.G., Braun, H.M.H. and van der Pouw, B.J.A. (1982). Exploratory Soil Map and Agro-Climatic Zone Map of Kenya, 1980. Scale: 1:1'000'000. Exploratory Soil Survey Report No. E1. Kenya Soil Survey Ministry of Agriculture - National Agricultural Laboratories, Nairobi, Kenya.

Gachene, C.K.K. and Kimaru, G. (2003). Soil Fertility and Land Productivity - A guide for extension workers in the eastern Africa region. Technical Handbook No.30. Regional Land Management Unit (RELMA)/ Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). ISBN: 9966-896-66-X.