Determinants of choice of improved Maize Seeds in Arid and Semi-Arid areas of Kenya: The Case of Yathui Division of Machakos District
Smallholder farmers in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya can increase maize yields by growing improved varieties that are available through formal seed markets. Smallholder farmers’ access to improved germplasm, however, is limited. The objective of this study was to understand how the seed maize market channels are structured, the bottlenecks to them operating more efficiently, effectively and equitably, and to identify the factors that influence the choice of smallholder farmers in the arid and semi-arid areas of Machakos District. Data was generated by use of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Qualitative data on the structure of the seed input market chains in the study area was followed by a household survey of 150 random sampled households. The sampled households were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Logit model was used to analyze quantitatively factors influencing farmers’ choice of improved maize seeds. The study findings showed that extension contacts, access to credit, membership to farmer groups and experience with improved maize varieties positively influence the likelihood of farmers’ choice of improved maize seeds. Cost of seeds, distance to output markets and to extension service, unavailability of improved high yielding maize varieties at the farm level, and transaction costs negatively influenced choice of improved maize seeds. The study reveals a large unexplored formal maize market. It is recommended that government implement policies that empower smallholders such strengthening extension service and encouraging players outside government to provide the service, make credit more accessible to smallholders and organize farmers into producer groups. It is further recommended that maize seed dealers make seeds available by penetrating closer to farmers.