One thing that is very apparent in Nairobi that the future wish of everybody here seems to be buying a piece of land and farming with it. I don’t know how often I heard the same sentence from different people about this.
I am always wondering why and what for? As it always seems as if it is something not well thought through. I often feel that it is more the romantic ideal of having a farm and growing your own fresh and good food. Most often it is dreamed about by people, who never grew a single thing in their life and who are also living comfortably and happy in Nairobi and from their other wishes don’t seem to want to actually leave Nairobi. So what would a piece of land bring? Is it maybe only the thought about it what people love without actually wanting to follow it? Or is it just the hope to become an employer and entrepreneur?
I strongly believe it has a lot to do with the latter. The professional perfection people are taught to strive for in Kenya is becoming an entrepreneur. Thereby helping the economy, creating job opportunities and obviously driving Kenya to stay the innovation hub of Africa. Sadly Nairobians always seem to forget that not everybody is meant to be self-employed or an entrepreneur, let alone manage the work or the productivity of others. And there is nothing wrong with it. Especially if you look at high failure rates and the amount of work and mental health issues too much pressure can bring. Self-employment is also not a solution for a lack of actual work experience and hands-on skills – because if you then don’t have the right mindset focused on learning, hard working and a determination to time management, people end up in situations they could have avoided if they would have reflected on themselves more honestly. Also, in a lot of cases, even if mildly successful it doesn’t necessarily create employment, at least not in the long run.
The same goes for private farming. One of the biggest problems straining the food security of Kenya is that farmland is not efficiently used and not industrialized. Too many small farmers are providing crops without security for themselves and with production outcomes less than ideal. The further scattering of agriculturally used land will only press on this problem more, with rising environmental problems, like droughts and or floods, the degradation of land, etc. What Kenya here would need is not everyone farming for themselves but bigger farming groups, who work their crops together in more efficient ways.
As long as the farming and self-employment romantic exist there is little chance to have especially in the area of agriculture effective and productive ways of creating food security in the long run. I am not talking about the next 5 years but more about the next 50. The strain on international food production gets more and more every day – worsened not only by climatic change but also overpopulation, waste of food, urbanization, and elite-oriented distribution. In combination with bad infrastructure and rising oil prices, it will get more and more difficult to transport the goods where they are needed.
I understand the urge to own land. After all, it creates personal security and offers a place of belonging. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be forgotten that land is a scarce resource. Agriculturally usable land even more so. Populations and governments need to start focusing more on what comes next and not just the next day. So shouldn’t the land usable for farming go to those who can use it the most effective to create better outcomes and lifestyles for the many?