Environmental problems of smallholder sugarcane production in the Nyanza sugar belt
Due to a variety of favourable environmental factors, Commercial Sugarcane development projects are centred in the Coastal, Western and Nyanza Provinces of Kenya. However, previous plans for sugarcane production expansion based on opening virgin lands have not materialised because imports of sugar are still running high, more than 80,000 metric tons in 1975. Like most other commodities~ world market prices have undergone marked swings in 1973/74, resulting in a difficulty to project sugar production and consumption patterns within a reasonable degree of error. In view of this problem, the current Kenya Dev~lopment Plan focuses on self-sufficiency with an export rather than an import overlap. To achieve this goal, agrarian reform, to tackle the stumbling block of land holding and tenure patterns, is suggested to be the sine guanon of economic development, the precondition for increasing sugar production, improving income distribution, facilitating employment opportunities and ~eyerping r~~l to urban migration in the. Nyanza Sugar Belt. The area has a total of oyer 32 •.44 t.housand hect.ares of cane , . Kenya r-eLi.es more on the Sugar Belt wm,Ch supplied 97.,.747.metric tons (59.5% of the total product.Lon in Kenya) 'of .s'Ug~ :Ln1974. But the present expansion. of sugarcanea well into margil1aJ, Lands :in the belt is doomed to f.ailure un'Less solutions are found to _alleviate .environmental problems limiting sugarcane growing and production. This thesis is an account of the environmental problems affecting smallholder sugarciill8.produ,ction. It inqicates th~t .a gap exists in the literature between cane. growing in Kenya and, ot.her- Gountries. Need.Less to say, the increase of sugarcane production in the future will largely depend on contribution x from the "traditional farmers" in the Sugar Belt. The survey revealed that sugar production in the area is being hampered by the vagaries of weather, diseases, pests and weeds alike, although the actual spatial distribution and yield of the crop will depend on a farmer's willingness and ability to ameliorate environmental limitations. Rainfall is a limiting factor in sugar production,. but the availability of moisture to cane depencts on its amount and timing as well as on texture, structure and organic matter content of the soil. A positive relationship (r=0.670) has been observed between cane growth rate and monthly rainfall. The probability of obtaining a rainfall of 1500mm or more .per annum is 27% at Miwani and 17% at Kibos. Rainfall unreliability in the area calls for timeliness in land preparation, planting, weeding, toP-dressing and harvesting cane, while irrigation is ~ prerequisite in areas where optdmumj-afnf'a'Ll.required for cane growth cannot be obtained. Temper'atureapd radiation. are not lim:i,.ting.factorsin cane growth and pr-oduct.Lonj.b1J.t.sometdmes t.he losses caused by biotic agents in afflic.ted areas lead to abandonment of..cane fields. Environmental problems.s~cn as these willinevtt~bly le~d to a decline in sugar yield unless technological innovt;ltions .are 'Used by peasants. In reality ..the Sugar Belt is not 84 area of "mi.Ik and honey" ':fherean et;lsyliyelihQog can be cter'ived.without real effort. Analysis of sed.I,samples r-eveal.edtht;lt9Cf'/oof. the sugar.pJ,ots aJ:'e.pa,rticularlydeficient in nitrogen which is Lndd.spenaab'Le to sugarcane, Phosphor-us and sugar yield are insignificantly correlated(r =--0.1240), while there is little xi relationship (r =0.2418) between cane yield and potassium. Simple correlation between sugar and nitrogen shows a positively high significant linear relationship (r=0.9642) at 99% level of probability. Similarly, partial correlation between sugar and nigrogen holding phosphorus and potassium constant reveals a higher significant relationship (r=0.9648) at 99% level of probability. The principal determinant influencing the spatial variation in sugarcane productivity is nitrogen. It is clear from this thesis that substantial nitrogenous fertilizer in the form ~ of Ammonia Sulphate Nitrate would be needed to boost sugar yields i~ the absence of intercrppping with leguminous crops and animal manure, which has become. a scarce commodity with the decline of cattle population in the area. One of the greatest problems is cane fire w.hich has b~come a widespread. human ecolpgical factor in the Sugar Belt. Malicious ·~burning of cane in the area resulted into a. loss of 9,000 metric tons of cane iIl 1973. A s.ig~ificant correlation (r=8273) exists between increasing illega,l eal}e burrringjmd Lncr-easLng cane prices. - Furthermore, a.test.was run to depict the relatiQnsb.ip between net payment and amoUl1t of cane sol!i. The correlation coefficient (r=0.8539) "between these two variables was signi,ficant at 99% level of prob~bility. Hence, net payment to the farmer. is a - limiting factor.in cane production. Another cause of cane shortage is attributed to the diversion of cane from the white sugar zones to. jaggery factories •..AlthOugl).the Sugar Belt is acceasfbl,e to "Lal.anda" of heavy popul.atd.on concent.r-at Lon , labour. is a limiting. f'acbor-, par-t.Iy because peasant s face acute competition from largescale farmers'in terms of labour. Far~ers are further confronted with a host of socio-economic problems arising from the farmers' perception of environme~tal limitations to sugar production, illiteracy, religious taboos, absenteeism, lack of title deeds and inadequate credit schemes. In addition, demographic charact~ristics of the farmers, incomplete migration of family to the sugar farm in the settlement schemes, land us~ competition , inexperience of the farmer in sugar industry and lack of extension services present further problems. The thesis has exam~ed and established the impact of the environmental limitations on peasant sugar production as well as giving recommendations for policy planners and suggestions for further research lines. There is urgent need for more direction and encouragement of sugar production by the government because there can be no progress or expansion without financial incentives. In the absence of government intervention there are likely to be shortfalls in sugarcane production.