Influence of cash crops on small scale rural farmers' livelihood sustainability: a case of Stevia Rebaudiana in Kericho county, Kenya
Small-scale fanning in Kenya plays an important role in the country's food production and it is the sustenance of rural populations' livelihoods. However, due to the diminishing production of agricultural food produce, as a result of deteriorating soil fertility and drier climatic conditions, which has also been coupled with low prices for primary agriculture products, many small-scale fanners have been confined to living in poverty. However, these assertions made by various parties who support the idea of small-scale fanners turning to the production of cash crops, have not yet been clearly evidenced in practice as alleged in the literature. Therefore, this study sought to explore and ascertain the claims made by many authors and organisations that cash crops do indeed offer a better opportunity for small-scale rural fanners than traditional food crop in the pursuance of an improved livelihood. The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of cash crop fanning on the livelihood sustainability of small scale rural fanners. The study took the case of stevia fanning by small scale rural fanners in Kericho County. The objectives of the study were to determine the influence of cash crop fanning on the five assets of sustainable livelihoods: human, social, physical, financial and natural capital assets of sustainable livelihoods. Qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques were used to process and analyse the data collected so as to draw valid conclusions. The target population was 2000 small scale stevia fanners in Kericho County. From this population, a sample size of 322 was selected as per the Krecjie and Morgan's sampling frame. The systematic random sampling procedure was used to select the fanners that were included in the study. A survey design was used for the study. Questionnaires were administered by the researcher to the intended respondents under study. An observation guide was also used by the researcher to determine characteristics of the respondent's livelihoods. A pilot study was carried out in Bomet county, kaplong location so as to determine the validity of the research instruments. Reliability of the instruments was determined using test-retest method. Before commencing to the field, the researcher presented the proposal for examination by the University examination panel of defense. It was approved the researcher then sought clearance and introduction letters from the University of Nairobi authorities. Ethical considerations were ensured during the research. The main finding of the study was that: stevia fanning improves the physical capital assets of the fanners. Farming stevia also improved the farmers' financial capital asset. Fanners get a monthly income from stevia which helps pay for their expenses. The social capital asset has been influenced both positively and negatively. Relationships among fanners who grow stevia has improved on, however, it was found out that the farmers who adopted stevia are those who are already well to do and so stevia might have helped widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Human capital has benefitted from stevia fanning as income is used for educating household members and providing health care. The study concluded that stevia fanning has positively influenced the five assets of sustainable development namely: human social, natural, physical and financial capital assets. Recommendations were made for the government to support fanners so they are not exploited by commercial stake holders. The study has contributed to knowledge on the influence of cash crop fanning on the five assets of sustainable development. Further research need to be carried out in some areas such as the impact of proposed large scale stevia fanning on the community, stevia value chain and how stevia fanning affect gender imbalance in household labour requirement.