The Land Governance Programme Manager at the Food and Agriculture Organisation Husna Mbarak has emphasised the urgent need for litigants in Kenya to embrace alternative dispute resolution methods to expedite the settlement of property cases.

This call comes amidst concerns over the prolonged adjudication process in courts, which typically takes about six years, significantly impacting the availability of arable land.

Ms Mbarak pointed out that during protracted legal battles, disputed lands often remain idle, exacerbating the strain on agricultural resources. Notably, areas where land is communally owned are experiencing a surge in court cases related to land disputes.

Kenya has witnessed a staggering increase in food and beverage imports, amounting to Ksh339 billion between September 2022 and September 2023.

This marks a 41 percent surge compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. The spike in imports has been attributed to disruptions in the global food supply chain and a decline in local agricultural production.

Experts warn that this trend is likely to persist due to diminishing arable land and a burgeoning population.

To combat this challenge, the Food and Agriculture Organisation is urging the judiciary to raise awareness about alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

By expediting the adjudication process, more land could be freed up for agricultural activities, thereby bolstering local food production.

In addition to legal hurdles, agronomists express concerns about the continued fragmentation of arable land.

The subdivision of land parcels not only diminishes the overall volume of food produced but also escalates production costs. This trend poses a significant challenge to efforts aimed at achieving food security in the country.

In light of these challenges, stakeholders stress the importance of adopting alternative dispute resolution methods to streamline the settlement of property disputes. By doing so, Kenya can unlock the potential of its agricultural sector, ensuring sustainable food production and economic growth.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org