Latest facts about agriculture & food in Kenya

Data is the new gold, some say. Its use in business operations is a success factor in public and private institutions. Kenya surveys her households in a national census every ten years. The latest survey; Kenya Population and Housing Census (KPHC 2019) was in August 2019. The Kenya National Bureau of Statists (KNBS) released its final results last Friday. The results have rich data on agriculture and food in the country like livestock and crop farming that give pointers for our future food demand and supply. In this analysis, we explore some opportunities for farming individuals and businesses.

Read Also: 2019 census Data; Exploring best Agribusiness Opportunities

The KPHC 2019 census results have insights for all agricultural players. This analysis will focus on three priority areas. Country’s agriculture activities. human population and urbanization.

Selected agricultural parameters  

Kenya is an importer of various foods including beef, milk, fish, maize, sugar and horticultural products like onions and tomatoes and fruits. Interestingly, the KPHC 2019 results reveal the following information in our agriculture sector;

Commercialised farming

The main purpose of farming in Kenya is subsistence as reported by a majority of households. According to 5.6 Million households out of 6.3 million households, their purpose of farming is food production. In relation to land use, a total of 8.43 million hectares out of 10.03 million hectares are for Subsistence production. Smallholder farmers’ account for over 70 per cent of marketed farm produce. They farm in small land parcels which cannot support mechanization. Over time, these parcels productivity is fast declining.

commercial farming in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Animal Populations and Productivity

Kenya’s animal populations include 38.8 million chicken, 47.3 million sheep ad goats and 15.7 million cattle. There are 4.6 million camels, 1.2 million donkeys while rabbits and pigs are 0.5 million and 0.4 million respectively. According to the census results, there are 1.16 million beehives in the country. See the animal populations distribution below.

According to the economic survey of 2020, the estimated total supply of animal source foods in Kenya in 2019 was; 6.68 billion litres of milk, 413.5 thousand heads of pig, 3,080.8 thousand cattle and calves and 11,302.7 thousand goats and sheep were slaughtered in 2019. the Recorded Marketed Production at Current Prices of eggs and chicken in the period was KES 9,227.8 million.

KNBS, Number of Livestock Population in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Small ruminants dominate the livestock population in Kenya. There are 47.32 million animals across the country. There is a preference for goats to sheep. while the number of goats is 28.01 million, there are 19.31 sheep in the country.

Sheep and goats population in Kenya

There are 38.82 million in Kenya. the highest number is the indigenous chicken at 30.32 birds. In terms of commercial chicken farming, there are more exotic layers than the exotic broilers.

KNBS, Chicken Population in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Similar to the poultry sector, the population of cattle in Kenya is dominated by indigenous cattle. Most of these 13.01 million cows are owned by pastoral communities in the ASAL regions. Majority of the 2.21 exotic dairy cattle are concentrated in central highland areas. Ranchers concentrate on exotic beef cattle which were 0.56 million during the KPHC survey.

KNBS, Cattle Population in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Crop Farming in Kenya

Maize and beans are the favourite food crops in Kenya. Out of 5.6 million households that report practising crop farming, 91 per cent grow maize. 64 per cent of the households grow beans. Other popular food crops grown by most farming households are bananas, kales, cassava and sweet potatoes. The crops with the least farmers in Kenya are rice and wheat.

This information proves there is a need for investment in research and promotion towards the adoption of alternative and orphan crops such as pulses, sorghum, millet, cowpeas and green grams in vast semi-arid regions. This will be a measure of diversifying our national food basket. 

Main food crops types grown in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Avocado and mango trees are the most popular permanent crops grown in Kenya. They are farmed by 0.96 Million and 0.79 million households respectively.  This is far higher compared to tea, coffee and cotton growers. There is a need for investments to improve our domestic capacity to process our fruits. This will reduce the incidences of post-harvest food losses, especially when all trees have matured and actively producing. Avocadoes can literally lift a million farmers from poverty. 

The main cash crops grown in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Irrigation Farming in Kenya

Only 0.37 million of 6.4 million farming households practice irrigation in a country that faces a prolonged drought every 10 years.

Rain-fed crop production is unsustainable as droughts become severe and frequent. We must promote climate-smart agriculture; irrigation and fast-maturing crops to mitigate this risk. 

Urban Farming

Out of 1.5 million households In Nairobi, only 0.032 million households take part in farming. Urban farming adoption is very low despite rapid urbanization. If you Farm in towns, you can harvest fruits, milk, eggs and meat right in one’s backyard, balcony or rooftop. 

Human Population

Population growth trends in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

Kenya has a total population of 47.6 million people.  This has increased with 36.7 million people in the last 50 years. The population growth rate was 2.2 between 2009 and 2019.  The population shows the current and future demand for food. The country now grapples on ensuring sustainable availability and affordability of food to her citizens.  Our food security faces many threats such as climate change, disease and pest infestations. 

Population growth and urbanization lead to land subdivision into smaller parcels shrinking our arable land further stressing our yields.

Rapid urbanization 

most populous towns in Kenya
Source: KNBS, KPHC 2019 Results

30.8 per cent (14.7 million people) of Kenyans live in towns according to the 2019 census by KNBS. The country’s capital, Nairobi, is the most populous with 4.3 million people.  The coastal historical city of Mombasa is second with 1.2 million people. The top ten most populous towns excluding the above cities are Nakuru, Ruiru, Eldoret, Kisumu, Kikuyu, Thika, Naivasha, Karuri, Ongata Rongai and Garissa.

This presents two unique challenges;

  • shrinking farmlands as we set up residential flats on fertile areas.
  • An older population of farmers in rural areas whose average age is around 60 years as rural-urban migration continues.

Samuel K

Samuel is the founder and senior agribusiness development consultant at Agcenture. He can be reached at

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7 Responses

  1. March 12, 2020

    […] per cent (14.7 million people) of Kenyans live in towns according to the 2019 census results by KNBS. Between the years 2030–2040, the urban population will surpass 36 per cent according to […]

  2. June 16, 2020

    […] Related: 2019 Census Results: Insights on Kenya’s Agriculture […]

  3. September 3, 2020

    […] Population and urbanization growth. According to census 2019 results, Kenya has 47.6 million people. 30.8 per cent of them live in urban towns. Nairobi her […]

  4. September 8, 2020

    […] food.  As the most grown food and cash crop, it has farmers across the entire country. According to 2019 census results, 91% of 5.6 million farming households grow […]

  5. October 7, 2020

    […] to the census 2019 results, there are 38.82 million chickens. Most of them, 30.32 million birds, are the indigenous types. The […]

  6. October 8, 2020

    […] has an estimated population of 5.58 million layers according to the 2019 census results. Together with the indigenous chicken, they supply 1.6 billion eggs per year according to the […]

  7. March 4, 2021

    […] Population and urbanization growth. According to census 2019 results, Kenya has 47.6 million people. 30.8 per cent of them live in urban towns. Nairobi her […]

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