LAND INVASION

Sell off Mumias as quickly as possible

In Summary

• Squatters have started invading the 12,000 acre nucleus estate of the mothballed Mumias sugar company

• Kenya's population is predicted to rise to 85 million in 2050 from 50 million today

Mumias Sugar factory.
LYING IDLE: Mumias Sugar factory.
Image: HILTON OTENYO

Squatters have invaded the 12,000 hectare nucleus estate of Mumias Sugar company which has been closed for two years (see P25).

The acute land shortage in Kenya will only get worse as the population grows. Today the population is 50 million but it is predicted to rise to 85 million by 2050.

As and pressure intensifies, government will have to decide whether it is better to assist smallholders to farm productively or to keep large commercial farms in business. Government has to answer that question today in Mumias.

The government could generate substantial revenue if they sub-divided Mumias. As with the break-up of large farms after independence, this could increase agricultural output if properly supervised.

However this would kill the sugar company as the factory needs the nucleus estate to guarantee a minimum supply of cane. The advantage of Mumias as a large commercial enterprise is that it supports the formal economy.

On balance, it is best to keep Mumias alive. But if the government wants to do that, it should sell it off as quickly as possible to the highest bidder. Otherwise even more squatters will move in and government will get nothing.

Quote of the day: "But which is the stone that supports the bridge?"

Kublai Khan 
The warlord became ruler of the Mongol Empire on May 5, 1260