Characterization of small-scale farming systems in West Kenya and opportunities for their improvement

Submitted by charlotte.schilt on Thu, 07/21/2016 - 10:58

Designing agricultural transformation strategies that modernize small-scale farming in Africa require actions built upon solid, holistic baselines and proven, affordable technical intervention. A study was conducted in west Kenya to characterize the farming operations and household condition among smallhold farmers. The assessment consisted of a structured survey among 291 randomly selected households and compiled onto a single spreadsheet with rows as household cases and 98 descriptors as columns. Overall summary statistics were calculated, and then stratified by three criteria; household resource endowment, agro-ecological zone and sex of household head. A farming systems diagram was inferred from these results. Overall average farm size is 0.87 ha, family size is 6.8 persons and majorities of those interviewed were household heads (68% of respondents) and women (58% of respondents). A simple parameter of resource endowment describes weighted per capita field area per household member of about 1800 m2. Household income is $466 per year, food shortfalls last 110 days per year, and households produce 819 kg cereals, 211 kg grain legumes and 74 kg root crops per year. These households raised 2.5 cattle, 1.4 goats or sheep and 13 chickens, deriving annual incomes of $78 from animal enterprise. The 39% of households with lowest resource endowment (< 1000 m2 per capita) operate on only 0.34 ha per farm, earn only $155 per year, suffer food shortfalls of 122 days per year, and households produce 326 kg cereals and 119 kg grain legumes. Of the three agro-ecological zones within the study area, the Midlands offers the greatest opportunity for interventions as the Lake Victoria Basin is drier and the Upper Midlands is becoming peri-urban. Large contrasts were observed between women- and men-led households, with the former on farms 0.4 ha smaller, annual income $168 less, 18 additional days of hunger per year and producing 248 kg less cereals and 94 kg less grain legumes. Organic resource availability was approximately 3.3 tons per year and allocated in a variety of ways, with women allocating three-fold more manure to grain legumes, and most palatable crop residues being passed through livestock. These findings compare favorably to the four key entry points independently identified by the Humidtropics Program for its West Kenya Action Site; Legume Integration, Striga Elimination, Crop Diversity and Animal Enterprise, and interactions between these entry points offer promising lines to farming systems research in the future.

Woomer, P.L., Savala, C.N., Kaleha, C. and Chamwada, M.
Universal Journal of Agricultural Research, 4(4), 109-120