Effects of Agricultural Commercialization on Food Crop Input Use and Productivity in Kenya

Effects of Agricultural Commercialization on Food Crop Input Use and Productivity in Kenya

Analyses the effects of smallholder commercialization on foodcrop input use and productivity in rural Kenya. The main research issues were:

  • To examine the determinants of smallholder fertilizer use on food crops, with a focus on the effects of household and regional agricultural commercialization
  • To examine the determinants of food crop productivity, again with a focus on the effects of commercialization
  • To discuss the implications of the findings for policy and additional research necessary to improve the contribution of cash cropping to rural food productivity growth and food security.

The principle findings of the study are:

  • The degree of smallholder commercialization differs widely across zones in Kenya. Even within a particular zone, households differ significantly in the degree of commercialization
  • Crop commercialization is not uniformly correlated with landholding or area cultivated among the households surveyed
  • Household agricultural commercialization, ceteris paribus, generally has a significant and positive effect on food crop fertilizer use and productivity
  • The effects of particular cash crops on these variables was found to differ markedly by region, independent of the household-level effects of agricultural commercialization
  • As expected, smallholder adoption of hybrid maize seed, frequently in combination with fertilizer, was shown to have significant positive effects on productivity per unit of land
  • There is a meaningful payoff to formal education in terms of food crop productivity. Fertilizer use was also found to positively associated with education

In general, the results indicate that discussions of agricultural commercialization and its effects were positive in most cases. But this conclusion should not be overgeneralized. What matters is what kind of commercialization, how particular schemes are organized, and their effects on smallholder access to inputs, management advice, market outlets, price levels and price risks, etc.

The most important pathways by which crop commercialization may improve food crop productivity are hypothesized to be:

    LI> Crop commercialization provides a source of cash that allows the household to overcome credit-related constraints on the purchase of fertilizer and other cash inputs
  • Participation in a cash crop (e.g., coffee) generally improves the household’s access to inputs distributed through the cash crop marketing firm (e.g., coffee cooperatives), which may result in the household using some of that input on food crop production
  • Cash income from commercialized production patterns also facilitates the ability to purchase draft oxen and traction equipment that may promote food crop productivity.

The emerging picture indicates the benefits of attempting to address the risks and market failure aspects necessary to make increased agricultural commercialization viable rather than accept these risks and market failures as inherent, unalterable features of the African context that require a food first production orientation. Increased access to food depends on income growth, and for the majority of African smallholders dependent on agriculture, income growth is tied to productivity growth in agriculture, i.e., increasing the value of production generated from available household resources. A major task for future research is to understand better how successful commercialization arrangements linking smallholders and marketing/processing firms have been structured so that their successful ingredients can be replicated and incorporated more broadly into commercialization strategies in other regions. This is likely to yield high payoffs in terms of increasing agricultural productivity and food security. [author]

A summary versionof the paper is also available

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