The effect of using animal traction on farm efficiency and household labour allocation on smallholder farms in Kenya: a case of Kirinyaga district.
The continued sub-division of land due to population pressure coupled with traditional inheritance patterns has led to an accelerated decrease in individual land holdings. The small-scale farm will therefore remain the model farm in Kenya in the foreseeable future. To meet the food demand of the increasing population, increasing productivity of small-scale farms is paramount. Appropriate mechanization of the small farm is one of the ways of increasing farm production. In addition to allowing for expansion of cultivable land, the use of animal traction has the advantages of deeper ploughing and greater timeliness in carrying out field operations. However, when introduced into a household, animal traction can affect the labour allocation patterns of the whole household. Furthermore, with the existing patterns of labour allocation by gender, the increase in labour demands may imply shifts in workloads between gender categories and also between agricultural operations. The current study analysed the effect of using animal traction on maize production efficiency and on inter-gender labour allocation. A multi-stage sampling approach was used to select 80 farmers in Kirinyaga district from whom data were collected using a structured questionnaire. A profit function was estimated to test the hypothesis of equal economic efficiency between “traction” and “hoe” farms. Farm labour-time allocation models were estimated and used to test hypotheses regarding intergender labour allocation patterns. xi The results indicated that farmers who used animal traction obtained maize profits that were 86% (CONFIRM THE FIGURE) higher than those who used the hoe. ‘Traction’ farmers obtained an average profit of Kshs 6,423.00/acre from the maize enterprise while their ‘hoe’ counterparts achieved an average of Kshs 1,342.53 from maize enterprise. This was so in spite of the ‘traction’ farmers having used lesser amounts of fertilizers in maize production. Farmers who used animal traction had more land under maize and hired more labour than those that used the hoe. However, use of animal traction was accompanied by increased labour requirements that were in this case met through hiring. The factors that were found to influence the female farm labour- time allocation were the education level of the female farmers, the number of dependants in the household and the amount of hired labour. . On the other hand, hired farm labour and farm income were significant in the male farm labour-time allocation model. The significance of these coefficients implies that, labour time allocation of the different gender groups can be altered if any interventions affecting the corresponding variables are undertaken. The study underscores the viability of animal traction in increasing efficiency of small-scale farms. The results showed that with the use of animal traction, there was an increase in farm labour requirements but there was no overburdening of any particular gender group in the household. The extra labour requirements xii were largely met through hiring. Animal traction was largely used by men at the land preparation stage with little application during weeding. The government and other agencies should continue with their efforts in advocating the use of animal traction in the smallholder farms. But there is need to consider intensifying mechanization beyond the land preparation stage. Financial assistance and training should be considered for helping farmers acquire and learn to use weeding implements. This would ease the problem of extra labour needs that arise with the use of animal traction. However, given the ability of households to hire more labour, use of animal traction can be viewed a good source of rural employment.