A study of the relationship between agricultural simple commodity production and simple household reproduction among smallholder cooperative coffee producers in Githunguri Division of Kiambu District in Kenya
This is a study of the relationship between agricultural simple commodity production and simple household reproduction among coffee simple commodity production households which are members of the coffee cooperative movement in Githunguri division of Kiambu district in Kenya. It is intended to establish the socio-economic conditions in which they reproduce their production relations. To achieve this general objective, the following specific objectives were set and investi- gated: (a) the type of production relations the coffee simple commodity production (SCP) household enters into for its coffee production and exchange with extra-familial formal institutions. (b) the amount of the value of its annual cash remuneration such relations appropriate. (c) the amount of the annual cash remuneration due to the household from coffee production transferred out of the domestic economy through its members' entry into domestic relations for coffee production. (d) the level of inadequacy of the cash remuneration from coffee production in covering the market value of the household's monthly individual consumption goods. (e) the alternative types of non-coffee production sources of income the coffee SCP ...• .•. household falls back to and the ~ouqt of monthly cash income the members generate for their intensified commoditization. The bulk of the findings of this study are based on data collected through interviewing a sample of 163 household heads among members of 22 of the 27 coffee factories in Githunguri division. These were selected from the three listing frames of the three coffee cooperative societies. The method of selection used was the multi-stage stratified cluster technique. It involved firstly identifying the cluster, e.g. Gititu, Komothai and Mikari cooperative societies. Secondly, all the coffee factories under each ofthese clusters were sampled. These were our strata within the clusters. From the strata (factories) systematic random sampling was done, through selecting designated numbers from the factories' lists. From these we achieved our sample size. The biggest cluster provided the biggest number of respondents while the smallest provided the fewest. Due consideration is given to studies that have focused on the peasant question in general and the" debate on African peasants" in particular. It is argued that they have in general failed to analyze the matrices of production relations that typify its reproduction. The above shortcoming has contributed to the conclusions of one school of thought which holds that the bulk of African households are ' , self-sufficient" and uncaptured by capital and state. The implication here is that the reproduction of their social relations of production falls outside of the cash nexus and within subsistence production. It is concluded in this study that such a conception on the autarky of peasant agricultural production is logically flawed because it tends to ignore the primacy of the unity of household labour and capital. It also ignores the dominance and determinance of the modem market as well as the "logic" behind simple commodity production. Thus our findings emphasize that coffee is a commodity produced by households for cash exchange in the world market as opposed to a mere product, a use value. Our findings indicate that the majority of the households enter into two sets of production relations. The first is characterized by the provision and reproduction ofliving labour power mostly by the household members. Its annual cash wage value by far exceeds the amount of cash remuneration the household receives. Thus for instance the annual net cash income that remains at the disposal of the household after the cash wage value of the labour power is subtracted from the annual coffee earnings was found out to be zero and below. Kenya shttling~for 76.6% of the respondents, up to Ksh. 7059 - .. to 20.9% and between Ksh.7060 and Ksh. 13,000 to ~ry 2.4%. The above findings lead to the conclusion that the commodity relations the coffee SCP household enters into for coffee production are in fact exploitative to its members. Due to the inadequacy of the coffee earnings in meeting the market cost of the household's individual consumption goods 95.6 % of the households have intensified the commoditization of the simple reproduction of their households. This is through engaging in alternative non-coffee production activities as sources of income to cover the monthly cost of simple household reproduction. The second set of production relations are "extra-familial', and involve the formal institutions that handle, process and market the coffee. They were found to appropriate 35 % of the household's cash remuneration between the producer and the consumer. This proportion does not include the amount of surplus value extracted from the value of the annual coffee earnings through the purchase of material inputs like fertilizers, chemical solutions and even home made manure. A significant conclusion arrived at on the basis of our findings is that the conditions of coffee production among the coffee SCP households in Githunguri are in large measure secured through non-familial conditions which do not wholly depend on kinship and communal sanctions. Indeed these are largely mediated through such institutions, as the modern market when the household buys simple reproduction items for labour power reproduction. Others in this production - exchange - reproduction chain are the coffee factory, secondary society, the K.P.C.U. Ltd., the Coffee Board of Kenya as well as other regional and international extra-household institutions. These findings contribute to the' , debate on African peasantries" by showing that they are inextricably" captured" by both state and capital, and are not self-sufficient as argued by some social scientists. Ifwe agree they are "captured" and" dependent", then we will readily agree that the relations of production and reproduction within which they find themselves in are highly exploitative to individual households. From these we would be able to debate on how they could be extricated from the development impasse they find themselves in .