Land access in the development of horticultural crops in East Africa

This research in Sustainability evaluated land access dynamics (availability, acquisition, and use changes) on the introduction of passion fruits in East Africa (Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda).

Rapid population growth in fertile agricultural lands of East Africa creates land scarcity, which limits land access for new horticultural crops. However, their introduction is increasing because of their high market price, which improves farmers’ income.

This study has shown that land access among rural passion fruit farmers in Burundi, Kenya, and Rwanda is through inheritance, purchase, and leasehold arrangements. Land purchase and leasehold systems are modern methods and therefore could indicate the modernization of agricultural practice among smallholder farmers. These changes could also indicate an increase in the value of agricultural land and increased income for smallholder farmers. Some  farmers bought land and abandoned other crops to pave way for passion fruit production, which has some type of attraction; including monetary, high nutritional value. Crop abandonment could affect food production and household income, especially when prices of passion fruits fall. As such, this situation reveals the need to regulate the different modes of access to agricultural land to guarantee sustainable agricultural production and to avoid dysfunctions that may accentuate land conflicts. Governments should consider land issues in public development agendas, especially through policies on land purchase, registration, and leasehold procedures. Local authorities should train communities on strategies for an equitable share of communal land for agricultural activities, and discourage widespread farmland fragmentation through inheritance.

In conclusion, adoption of high-value horticultural crops is supported for the increased income of rural farmers in East Africa, however, constraints on land access may limit the achievement of optimum income from the cultivation of these crops. Therefore, efforts should be directed on the improvement of land access and tenure security in rural areas of East Africa.

Further reading

The research can be found here, and the PDF document here.

The article belongs to the Special Issue Impacts of Land Tenure Systems on Land Use Sustainability

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