Livelihood diversification and entrepreneurship: an analysis of production and marketing innovations in smallholder farming in a rural Kenyan district, Mbeere
Njeru, Geoffrey R.
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In the marginal arid and semi-arid agro-ecosystems of Africa, livelihoods largely depend on crop and animal husbandry, and non-farm employment. For years, farming in such areas has been compounded by recurrent rain failure, acute soil erosion, high pest incidences, overgrazing and poor cultivation methods leading to a serious environmental hazard. In the last decade or so, the scene has witnessed the entry of new forces: structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), with their corresponding currency devaluations and subsequent rising input costs, liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation and general institutional decline due to mismanagement or as part of the conditionalities accompanying the World Bank's/IMF's structural reform package. The consequent withdrawal of the state from its traditional roles of agricultural marketing, and especially stabilisation of producer prices and sourcing for external markets, protectionism and provision of services such as basic inputs (certified or improved seeds and technology through research and extension) appear to be putting the African farmer in a rather precarious position. Further, the lack of industries to absorb surplus rural labour, the growing poverty and a rising demand for food and incomes imply that a greater proportion of the rural population in Kenya and other parts of Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) is likely to combine agriculture with non-agricultural activities especially petty trade, as they continuously undergo a process of deagrarianisation. On the other hand, market reforms accompanying SAPs appear to have brought with them profit opportunities, which some (though few) farmers have seized upon to increase or stabilise incomes for their households. In Mbeere, this seems to be taking place in the introduction of various forms of production and marketing innovations among smallholder farmers in the areas of fruit and dairy iii production. Such farmers appear to be embracing what appears like entrepreneurial or profit-oriented farming, though without completely abandoning ordinary or traditional farming. This form of livelihood diversification in turn, seems to be having positive implications for income redistribution, employment creation and poverty reduction. These production and marketing innovations need to be studied with a view not only to understanding them better but also to informing future policy that targets the rural poor. This research proposal is divided into six sections. Section 1.0 gives the introductory overview or background of the study and attempts to define the direction of its thrust with regard to other recent development research findings and policy. In Section 2.0, we present the focus of the study and raise the pertinent questions the research seeks to address. The third section (3.0) offers a justification and outlines the objectives of the study. Section 4.0. attempts to locate the study in the difficult and overcrowded arena of development theory. Highlights of the physical, economic and agroecological characteristics of the study area (Mbeere) are presented in section 5.0. And finally, Section 6.0 explains the methodology to be used in data collection and analysis.