The analysis of labour utilization in smallholder tea farms in Kenya
Rapid growth has taken place in the smallholder tea sector in Kenya and the dynamic response to incentives, by which this has been accomplished, is remarkable. This study undertakes to examine the role of one of the major inputs in tea production, labour, which in addition to working on tea must also work on subsistence production, household activities and off-farm jobs. The introductory chapter traces the historical development and success of the smallholders in Kenya growing tea, a crop originally thought to be unsuited for smallholdings. The developmental aspects of tea in providing rural employment, .income and foreign exchange are highlighted. The role tea plays in absorbing labour in the rural areas is considered in the context of some of the existing development models. It is argued that since the labour absorption capacity of the urban sector is limited, models of the Lewis-Fei-Ranis type may not be suitable to the Kenyan situation while models emphasising rural labour absorption such as that of Fisk (1962) and M yint' s 'Vent for Surplus' model (1964) may be useful. Survey data originally collected in 1965-66 is used to examine the allocation of labour to various activities and the interrelationship between them. It is found that while other agricultural activities have a seasonal pattern, tea after establishment has some everme ss and flexibility of labour demand. Tea is found to be closely associated with increasing hiring of labour (a positive correlation existing between tea acreage and hired labour). The hired labour either supplements family labour or is used where the family has off-farm work. there was no evidence of a labour consntraint for tea production. the production function of tea is revisited in an attempt to include harvest Labour in the function under the hypothesis that, at the margin, there may be some substitution between the labour and the tea bushes. This relaxes the earlier assumption of fixed factor proportions hypothesi sed by Etherington (1973). However, the study concludes by not rejecting the earlier hypothesis and asserts that in a situation where there is no labour constraint, provided that capital and other inputs like management have been correctly specified, there may be no need to include harvest labour because output will determine it and this will be available in the family or through hiring. The study concludes with some suggestions for further investigations into the current situation on the smallholder tea farms of Kenya following the continued rapid expansion of the tea area and increased maturity of the tea bushes over the last fifteen years.