Policy Implications of Land Subdivision in Settlement Areas: A Case Study of Lumakanda Settlement Scheme

The significance of land is that it constitutes the most important economic, cultural and political issues in Kenya today. It was true when Kenya became a colony dominated by European settlers. It remained true through the Mau Mau war and the transition to independence, both of which revolved around competing demands for land. And it has remained true since the 1980's to-date, in a country where the educated, the rich and poor alike consider land as the single most important form of personal wealth and is deeply entrenched with its distribution and use.

Subdivision of land into small un-viable holdings is a serious problem limiting the agricultural productivity of land in the Settlement Schemes (formerly called the white highlands). This study considers the problem of land subdivision in Lumakanda settlement scheme in Lugari District. Lumakanda Settlement Scheme was part of the former white highlands that is now experiencing rapid population growth currently standing at 4.1% p.a. With good rainfall that is abundant and generally reliable, coupled with agro-ecological conditions, the area is considered a zone of high agricultural potential. The predominant crop is the subsistence staple, maize, which is planted once a year.

Access to factors of production and technological constraints were mentioned as important factors affecting farmers in Lumakanda Settlement scheme. The declining land sizes, lack of capital and access to credit, and lack of appropriate farming technology has substantially limited production on sub-divided former European farms. The study revealed that the household structure and the need for alternative sources of income were the main factors influencing more subdivisions of land. The rapid population growth has had tremendous impact on the settlements economy and ecology. The high immigration has not only changed land ownership pattern, but also the mode of production. Hunger for land has led to both legal and illegal subdivision of land regardless of its productive capacity. This change in land-use signifies a tremendous intensification of land in the study area. This calls for better land tenure and farming techniques, research and technological innovation in Lumakanda Settlement Scheme.

Land subdivisions have led to un-viable land units and over-intensification of production leading to environmental degradation. Subdivision of land was found to be an evolution of the individual tenure. It emanates out of natural evolution of land. It is spontaneous out of family subdivisions of land through successive generations and in-migration.

Agriculture is dependent on land, which is the critical primary input. Production has been affected by three main factors namely:

•   Equity in land  distribution which  is  mainly political  and  has  encouraged  land subdivision

•   There is the issue of efficiency in production, and

•   Changed structures of production arising from the declining land holdings.

Acquisition of factors of production to enhance production leaves most farmers vulnerable to manipulation leading to sale of land. Also most farms were found to be unable to expand scale operations and therefore handicapped, thereby increasing problems of viability particularly in terms of absorbing risks

All these problems call for an outside intervention in the form of land reform. Land reform will lead to equity and efficiency in management and production. This can be in form of land consolidation through formation of either common family homesteads or having shares and non-erection of physical boundaries, thus freeing more land for agriculture. This will promote use of mechanization and enhance the economies of scale thus increased production.