Lured by huge profit margins by land brokerage companies, small-scale farmers in Nyandarua County have been subdividing their agricultural farms into smaller plots for sale.
Like the land companies, the farmers are targeting low-income workers living in towns and rural areas.
Land and agricultural experts agree that the subdivision is a relief for those looking for a place to settle, but warn about the future implications of this trend.
“It’s a good thing that many people can save to raise the Sh100,000 to Sh150,000 for the quarter-acre plots, but it will also be a crisis in the future,” says Mr Naftaly Mwangi, a lands surveyor in Nyandarua.
“It has made the cost of buying land for agricultural production prohibitively high, while at the same time providing homes to thousands of low-income earners.”
Despite the downside, he acknowledges that land surveyors, lawyers and the government are making good money from the land transactions.
“Besides making huge profit margins selling subdivided lands, the land brokerage companies are also making good money processing tittle deeds,” he said
“The danger here is that most buyers forget or delay in paying the hefty land document processing fees and are likely to lose their land through resale or someone just appearing with some receipts or other documents claiming ownership. The brokerage companies are privately owned, they can shift and close their businesses any time.”
Most brokerage companies charge between Sh15,000 and Sh25,000 to process land documents.
Most elderly people selling land are not in immediate or urgent need of the money, but are selling to feel rich, with millions of shillings in their bank accounts.
Others sell to punish their children who either abandoned them in their old age or are vagabonds who cannot be trusted to inherit the family land.
Ms Esther Muigai, from Suguroi village, owns 30 acres inherited from her husband and has subdivided five acres into smaller plots hoping to earn Sh4 million.
Land brokerage companies.
“One acre sells at between Sh200,000 and Sh300,000. It’s profitable to sell the plots at Sh100,000, which many people can afford. I will also have helped many homeless people to have a place they can call home,” she said.
Feeling abandoned by her children, she is saving the money in a bank account to take care of herself.
Agriculturally productive land along the Gwa Kungu-Pesi-Nanyuki road in Leshao Pondo ward is rapidly becoming an informal settlement, with over 5,000 plots already sold by land brokerage companies.
Mr John Ndiritu, among the settlers, says the plots might in the future become less valuable, and those buying them hoping to sell at a higher price later might not make any profits at all.
“Unless some industries are set up around here, there will be no source of livelihood for the families. They cannot do any farming, since the plots are too small. They will feel squeezed as families grow and opt to sell the plots at throwaway prices,” he said.
He says the other crisis will be lack of proper planning, where the brokerage companies and individual farmers selling small plots fail to consider or leave space for amenities such as sewerage systems, dumping sites and cemeteries.
But Ms Ann Thogori sees business in the growing rural informal settlements.
“The larger the population, the more money in circulation. Somehow, people will always find some means to survive and cater for the needs of their families,” she said.
“The huge population will come with business opportunities for innovative, business-minded people.”