Rural smallholder farmers are central in the supply of agricultural products to agro-industries, consumer-oriented local markets, and export markets at the regional or international level. They are central in attaining food security and contribute substantially to economic growth. However, these farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have poor access to land resources and as a result, this undermines their potential in spearheading economic development and improvement of livelihoods [1
]. The current advances in the adoption of new crops by these farmers have the potential to alter their roles and contribution to food and export products. For example, the adoption of passion fruits by rural smallholder farmers may result in changes in land use, income generation, and food security among participating households and their communities. In the recent past, a tendency of farmers to shift from cereal crops (wheat and maize) cultivation to high-value horticultural crops has been observed in East Africa, but the impact of such changes on food supply and sufficiency has not been well evaluated [4
High population pressure in sub-Saharan Africa contributes to the rapid development of settlements. This promotes the clearance of forests and grasslands for settlements and crop cultivation [6
]. Moreover, high population pressure causes an increase in land fragmentation, which hinders sustainable and productive agricultural ventures [6
]. Most farmers in rural areas have small pieces of land (less than 1.5 ha), as a result of land fragmentation caused by inheritance of land resources [8
]. Furthermore, these farmers have limited alternative sources of income, hence, they lack the potential to expand their farmlands [1
Land rights in East Africa include customary land tenure systems, trust land tenure, and private land tenure systems. Customary land tenure systems comprise land resources collectively owned by communities, they are common in Kenyan pastoralist communities found in semi-arid and arid areas as well as in similar communities of both Burundi and Rwanda [10
]. Government trust land is owned by the state corporations and other public institutions, such as public parks, public offices, public institutions, public land reserves, and protected areas [11
]. Private land owned by individuals is normally under freehold or leasehold terms. Trust and private lands are formally registered and there is the issuance of title deeds. Land registration is well organized in Kenya, but poor in both Burundi and Rwanda [12
]. Challenges to legal rights to land in the latter are due to poor regulations, for example, land rights in Burundi are poor since a majority of landowners do not possess legal documents proving their ownership [6
]. There is a lack of sufficient regulations to support customary land tenure systems in the three study countries, therefore, some of such lands are not registered. Furthermore, communal land tenure systems face challenges of land-use conflicts within or between members of the communities. On the other hand, women have low access to customary land [7
]. However, the development of democracy and new regulations have promoted East African states to ratify international conventions on natural resource conservation involving the management of land resources, such as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and United Convection to Combat Desertification. There is potential that such developments will promote the improvement of land policies and regulations.
Land inequalities began during colonization through dispossessions of land from African communities [15
], at independence, new challenges comprising poor access to resources by the Africans, high economic pressure, an urgency to maintain the productivity of white settler farms, and the need for compensation of departing white settlers resulted in the poor transfer of ownership of the land resource, promoting high land access to political elites, skilled Africans, and other wealthy Africans [15
]. Post genocide Rwanda, on the other hand, has faced a challenge of land redistribution [18
], while persistent civil wars in Burundi have resulted in the displacement of people from their lands. Since this country is densely populated, returning internally displaced refugees often found their land already occupied by other people, hence resulting in a pressure of land reallocation, social tension, and land disputes [6
At present, most rural areas in Burundi, Kenya, and Rwanda are densely populated [21
]. This contributes to land scarcity for agricultural activities such as crop cultivation, as such, farmers have challenges of increasing their cultivated land. With limited resources, they could increase their cultivated land through land purchase and land rental markets [1
]. Besides, land scarcity could pressure farmers to increase land productivity for high income; such changes have previously involved intensive farming and adoption of high-value horticultural crops such as fruits and vegetables. These agrarian changes associated with the intensification of agricultural production and the high population growth raise questions on the sustainability of rainfed agriculture [6
]. Previous studies have observed that changes resulting in abandonment of food crops for the benefit of horticultural crops affect food production and supply [4
Passion fruit is a common horticultural fruit crop adopted by rural households in East Africa that have small agricultural land sizes [5
]. However, the impacts of the introduction and adoption of this fruit crop in rural areas of Burundi, Kenya, and Rwanda are unknown. Previous studies have strongly suggested that the present upsurge in the uptake of new horticultural crops, including passion fruits, would increase farm income [3
], but there is lack of sufficient data to support this, furthermore, there is an absence of data on how land access challenges affect the adoption of horticultural crops and the likely impacts on income and food supply. Thus, there is a need for research to evaluate how land access and associated land-use changes affect the introduction of horticultural crops among rural smallholder farmers. Therefore, this study evaluated land access and land-use changes associated with the adoption of the passion fruit by smallholder farmers in East Africa and provides a critical assessment of probable long-term effects in the context of land scarcity.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Choice and Description of Study Areas
Key regions for passion fruit production in Burundi, Kenya, and Rwanda were selected for the study. In Burundi, Matongo and Isare are the main passion fruit production regions (Figure 1
]. Matongo municipality receives an average annual rainfall ranging from 1200 to 1600 mm per annum with an average temperature of about 18 °C. Isare, on the other hand, receives an average rainfall of 1100 to 1800 mm per annum with an average temperature range of 17 to 23 °C [25
]. In Kenya, Embu and Meru counties are the major passion fruits growing regions (Figure 2
]. These regions have adequate and well-distributed rainfall (600 to 1800 mm per annum), temperature regimes range from 12 to 26 °C, and the soils are fertile and well-drained [28
]. In Rwanda, Nyamagabe and Rulindo are the major passion fruit production regions (Figure 3
]. The average annual rainfall for these two regions ranges from 1300 to 2300 mm per annum with an average temperature range of between 18 and 19 °C [30
2.2. Research Design
The study employed ex post facto research design involving exploratory surveys, the use of semistructured interviews with key stakeholders, and field observations. To understand the trajectory of adoption of the passion fruit, we used the snowball approach where the municipal extension officers/agronomists and index farmers introduced researchers to the most experienced passion fruit farmers. The latter, in turn, identified other farmers who adopted this crop. As such, we were able to obtain the first sample of 135 farmers in Burundi through the assistance of extension officers and index farmers. The exploratory survey in Burundi revealed that respondent farmers with less than three years of passion fruits farming had limited knowledge on the actual production costs, cost-effective production management practices, and knowledge on the available support systems from the country‘s horticultural sector. Therefore, we included only farmers with at least five years of experience in passion fruit production. These experienced farmers were part of our in-depth investigation whose results are the subject of this article.
2.3. Sample Size Estimation and Sampling
The starting sample in each country was 135 farmers, as used in the exploratory survey. Therefore, to determine the appropriate sample size, we adopted the Yamane formula [32
where n is a sample size, N
is the total target population, and e
is the level of precision with N
= 135 and e
Purposeful sampling was used in the study, and according to the Yamane formula, a sample of 58 respondents was arrived at. However, in the survey, the achievable sample size of farmers with five years of experience in passion fruit production was 60 in Burundi, 51 in Kenya, and 60 in Rwanda, leading to a total of 171 passion fruit farmers.
2.4. Data Collection and Analysis
Semistructured interviews advocated by trained field officers led the discussions, observations, and interviews. The interlocutors could express themselves as freely as possible, and this allowed the interviewers (field officers) to capture the details of the situation at the farm level before and after the adoption of the passion fruit farming. Field observations combined with field surveys allowed the collection of reliable information on farm characteristics.
The data collected through surveys and field observations were used to determine the total agricultural land, number and sizes of plots under passion fruits production, farming systems used in passion fruit production (monoculture or polyculture), and information on farm space occupied by other crops. These data were organized in excel files and subjected to qualitative statistics using SPSS Statistics software (version 20.0. IBM, Armonk, NY, USA, 2018). The results were in the form of averages, frequencies, and standard deviations. Farm sizes data from the surveyed farmers in the three study countries were further subjected to analysis of variance using R software version 3.6.0, and the significant means were separated by the Student Newman Keuls Test (SNK test) at alpha = 0.05.
To analyze land fragmentation, the estimated average land area possessed by respondent passion fruit farmers in each study country was considered as the total land area in a typical passion fruit farming household. The majority of households had a size of four in Kenya, five in Rwanda, and six in Burundi; on average the mean household size for the surveyed farmers was five. Similarly, literature had indicated a high fertility rate of women in rural areas of East Africa, where each married woman was expected to have between 5 and 6 children [33
]. As such, we adopted five children per household as a standard representative number of heirs per household as well as the expected number of heirs in the subsequent generations. Land access by inheritance was considered, hence, the average farm size per household was divided by five to allow each heir to have his/her share, for the first, second, and third generations, respectively.
This study has shown that land access among rural passion fruit farmers in Burundi, Kenya, and Rwanda is through inheritance, purchase, and leasehold arrangements. Land purchase and leasehold systems are modern methods of land access; therefore, they could indicate the modernization of agricultural practice among smallholder farmers in these countries. These changes could also indicate an increase in the value of agricultural land and increased income for rural smallholder farmers. Since some of the surveyed farmers were found to buy land as well as abandon other crops to pave way for passion fruit production, it appears that there could be some type of attraction for this crop; monetary, high nutritional value, or other benefits. Crop abandonment could affect food production and, in some cases, affect household income, especially when the prices of passion fruits fall. As such, this situation reveals the need to regulate the different modes of access to agricultural land to guarantee sustainable agricultural production and also to avoid dysfunctions that may accentuate land conflicts. Governments of these countries should consider land issues in public development agendas, especially through promoting set up of clear policies on land purchase, registration, and leasehold procedures. Local authorities should also train their communities on strategies for an equitable share of communal land for agricultural activities, as well as discourage widespread farmland fragmentation through inheritance. Empowerment of rural farmers through agricultural sector financing could also increase the ability of these farmers to purchase land for the cultivation of new crops such as passion fruits.