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Commercialization of Smallholder Horticultural Farming in Kenya

Poverty, Gender, and Institutional Arrangements


Beatrice Wambui Muriithi

This study assesses income and poverty effects of vegetable commercialization in Kenya with a special focus on gender issues and evaluates the performance of institutional arrangements that link small producers to the high-value vegetable supply chains. Using econometrics analysis of two rounds of rural household survey, the study reveals that the participation of smallholders in the domestic and export vegetable markets is declining. Weather risks, high costs of inputs and unskilled labour as well as erratic vegetable prices contribute to the declining trend. The impact evaluation of market participation reveals that households supplying the export market have a higher per capita income. The examination of gender roles indicates that the improvement of land productivity and the promotion of women’s access to agricultural training and extension services might enhance their market participation. The analysis of vegetable contractual arrangements indicates that the governance structure is important to the profitability and hence the sustainability of farmer-trader relationships.
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Chapter Four


4. Commercialization of Smallholder Horticultural Farming: Gender Roles and Implications for Household Well-being in Kenya

4.1 Introduction

The shift by smallholders from traditional markets to more innovative and modernized food supply chains entail important gender implications (Maertens & Swinnen, 2009). The commercialization of agriculture is often associated with new production technologies, marketing opportunities, and profit increases, which may reduce the role of women even if they were the main contributors of farm production before the shift. This is evident from the findings of previous studies such as for rice production in Gambia (von Braun et al., 1994), groundnuts in Zambia (Wold, 1997), French beans in Kenya (Dolan, 2001), and leafy vegetables in Uganda (Shiundu & Oniang’o, 2007). Focusing on vegetables, the rapid emergence and spread of high-value modern supply chains may have profound implications over the control of resources in rural households. Women are mostly excluded from contracting with large horticultural firms for the delivery of high-value produce (Dolan, 2001; Maertens & Swinnen 2009). For example, Dolan (2001), demonstrate how the expansion of the European vegetable market changed the domain of women in the control of vegetable production, resulting in reduced control over land resources, income, and labour contributions to household subsistence. Men appropriated land and labour resources traditionally used by women to cultivate vegetables for subsistence use and for sale in domestic markets to participate in the production of export vegetables (Dolan, 2001).

These modern supply chains are expected to have...

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