Makueni District Profile: Crop Production And Marketing, 1988-1999
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v Abstract This profile describes the changes in policies affecting marketing and crop production in Makueni District since 1988. The creation of the district led to a larger market for milk and vegetables around Wote, but as yet there have been no substantial improvements in infrastructure. Liberalisation has freed up the trade in milk, grains and agricultural inputs, though the price effects are difficult to discern, due to loss of control over money supply and inflation during the 1990s. Most effects seem positive, the exception being the collapse of Makueni cotton ginnery. Operations of government departments are handicapped by small recurrent budgets, unless foreign aid is available, leading, for example, to the collapse of the Training and Visit Extension system. Crop production varies hugely and erratically from year to year, depending on the rains. Trends are difficult to analyse, as the recorded statistics amalgamate the results of both seasons. Maize and pulses remain the main crops, but those farmers who can go into fruit and vegetable production find them profitable. Farmers sell their produce in the most accessible large market. About half to two thirds aim to feed their families from their own crops in good years, but during the last five years they have often had to purchase much more food than planned. Most have received food aid, and regard it as essential to maintain their capacity to work when the rains return. However, relief food was not found to be internalised as a survival strategy because, as a general rule, government policy discourages dependency on relief food. Most farmers have plans to increase their marketed output. They were able to make essential purchases (tools, carts, and granaries) for this purpose in years when they had a good harvest, although many drew necessary capital from their non-farm income. Educational costs also constrain investment, but weighing equally heavily in preventing investment is the awareness of climatic risk, especially with respect to high value crops. They are not particularly conscious of changes in government policy.