Household labour organization and utilization patterns on small farms in Western Kenya: Implications for agricultural production
A salient feature of smallholder production in Western Kenya is the use of fami1y 1abour. Wage 1abour is the 1east dominant form of organizing subsistence production. The small fann households have been integrated into the larger market economy. The penetration of capitalist influence into the indigenous economy is reflected by the emergence of labour and land markets and a growing involvement in the migration process, off-farm employment and schooling. This study examined the impact of these processes on family labour supply to detemine the extent to which they withdraw labour from the household. In view of the differences between the two communities and the complexity of the factors at play, the determination of cause and effect is necessarily problematic. The issues that have been dealt with in this study are a product of a 'dialectical tnter play between the internal processes at the household level and the external forces emanating from the larger market system. The withdrawal of household labour through male labour migration, off-farm employment and school participation of children have led to major changes in the structure of the division of labour. One of the consequences of these processes is the expansion of women's roles in reproduction and production. The data showed that women in Western Kenya make a significant contribution to agricultural production. They are very heavily involved in crop production and household activities. Their involvement in livestock production is culturally defined and structurally circumscribed even though when the children and male heads of household are away, women combine livestock activities with their traditional responsibilities. The study found that availability of family labour is vital to farm production especially in terms of the amount of land that can be brought under cultivation. But labour alone is not a sufficient factor. Equitable access to land and other productive resources is critical.