Bio-economic evaluation of farmers’ perceptions of viable farms in western Kenya
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Waithaka, M.M.; Thornton, P.K.; Herrero, M.; Shepherd, K, D. 2006. Bio-economic evaluation of farmers’ perceptions of viable farms in western Kenya. Agricultural Systems 90(1-3):243-271.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/2189
Arable land in western Kenya is under considerable pressure from increasing human population. Rural households depend on farming for at least part of their livelihood, and poverty rates are among the highest in Kenya. Land is often depleted of nutrients, and for most farmers, access to inputs and markets is poor. There is a need to identify options that are manageable within the context of the farmer’s resource base and the household’s objectives that could improve farm household well-being. In this study we integrated qualitative informal participatory approaches with quantitative mathematical programming and biophysical simulation modelling. Households in four sub-locations in Vihiga District were clustered and pilot cases identified. Meetings were held with farmers to elicit their perceptions of what their ideal farm would look like, and how its performance might compare with their own farm’s performance. With farmers’ help, a range of scenarios was analysed, relating to changes in current enterprise mixes, changes in current farm sizes, and changes in prices of staples foods and cash crops. A considerable mismatch was found between farmers’ estimates of their own farm’s performance, and what was actually produced. There seems to be a threshold in farm size of 0.4 ha, below which it is very difficult for households to satisfy their income and food security objectives. Even for larger farms whose households are largely dependent on agriculture, the importance of a cash crop in the system is critical. There is a crucial role for extension services in making farmers aware of the potential impacts on farm revenue of modest changes in their farm management systems. We are monitoring nine households in the district, whose farmers have made some changes to their system in an attempt to increase household income and enhance food security.