AN INVESTIGATION INTO CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF AGRICULTURAL LAND USE CONVERSIONS IN THE URBAN FRINGES: A Case Study of Nairobi-Kiambu Interface

Agricultural land use conversions into other uses in the urban fringes have been of great
concern, not only to Kenya, but the world over. In Kenya, this has been more pronounced in
the Nairobi-Kiambu interface, among other urban fringes, whereby coffee farmlands and
other fertile agricultural land parcels are being developed with residential estates. This has
resulted into wanton conversions of agricultural land into residential use with its negative
consequences of reduced agricultural land for agricultural, especially food, production. This
study was carried out to investigate causes and effects of the agricultural land use conversions
in such urban fringes.
The Nairobi-Kiambu interface was chosen as a case study because it was noted to experience
a lot of large-scale agricultural land conversions to residential use and no previous similar
studies have been conducted. The area was selected to represent such other areas in the
country. This was due to limitation of time and finances. Secondary data included written
sources, both published and unpublished materials. Primary data entailed four sets of
questionnaires which were administered to local residents/farmers in the study area;
professionals (real estate valuers and physical planners) and real estate developers. Live
interviews were also conducted to the district and ministry of Lands officials. The officials of
the local land control board and county council were also interviewed. The respondents were
selected randomly. Five large-scale residential estates were identified to be falling under the
study area with approximately 500 homes. Ten per cent of the homes in each estate were
given questionnaires, that is, 50 homes. 10 valuation firms, 5 physical planning firms and 5
property development firms were chosen to represent others, with bias towards the firms that
were noted to be operating in the study area. The data was analysed by use of descriptive
statistics and presented using tables, photographs and graphs.
The research revealed that the current agricultural land use conversions in the study area are
very prevalent and have both positive and negative effects, with the negative effects far
outweighing positive effects. The study also established that the agricultural land use
conversions are as a result of interrelated factors; low returns in agricultural activities,
demand for housing, increase in urban population, weak and ineffective land institutions and
proximity of the case study (fertile agricultural lands) to Nairobi City Centre, among others.
Further the research established that the management framework to regulate agricultural land
use conversions is inadequate and ineffective.
Adequate and effective policy, legal and institutional frameworks as well as effective public
participation in land use conversions, comprehensive land use planning and good governance
are recommended as appropriate solutions to counter the causes and negative effects of the
agricultural land use conversions, revealed by the study.

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