A Farm Gate-to-Consumer Value Chain Analysis of Kenya’s Maize Marketing System
IDWP 111. Lilian Kirimi, Nicholas Sitko, T.S. Jayne, Francis Karin, Milu Muyanga, Megan Sheahan, James Flock, and Gilbert Bor. 2011. A Farm Gate-to-Consumer Value Chain Analysis of Kenya’s Maize Marketing System
Maize is the most important staple food in Kenyans‘ diets, providing roughly a third of the
caloric intake for Kenya‘s population. Maize is also the central crop in Kenyan agriculture,
being grown by 98% of Kenya‘s 3.5 million smallholder farmers.
Maize marketing and trade policy in Kenya has been dominated by two major challenges.
The first challenge concerns the classic food price dilemma: how to keep farm prices high
enough to provide production incentives for farmers while at the same time keeping them low
enough to ensure poor consumers‘ access to food. The second major challenge has been how
to effectively deal with food price instability, which is frequently identified as a major
impediment to smallholder productivity growth and food security. In attempting to cope with
these interrelated challenges, policymakers have grappled with issues of the appropriate role
of the state in marketing and pricing, and the extent to which variable import tariffs and trade
controls can promote the achievement of national policy objectives.
A third and as yet inadequately appreciated maize policy challenge, one that is facing the
agricultural sector more generally, is the growing problem of access to land and the shrinking
size of smallholder farms. Partly as a result of declining landholding sizes in Kenya, most
rural farm households have become net buyers of maize. The potential for transforming
smallholder farmers from maize buyers into surplus producers is becoming increasingly
difficult as population growth and land pressures continue unabated. Over half of the
smallholder farms in Kenya are less than 1.5 hectares. In this context, a major, yet
underappreciated, agricultural policy issue is how to achieve broad-based smallholder-led
agricultural growth under conditions of increasingly acute land pressures. Identifying the
appropriate role and potential of maize intensification in densely populated rural areas is
needed to address this important policy question.