Influence of agricultural input subsidies program on food security in Rongo District, Kenya
Tinega, Evans O
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Food insecurity and extreme rural poverty are major socio-economic problems facing many households in Kenya today. A study was undertaken in Rongo district in South Nyanza region of Kenya to investigate the extent to which farm inputs, program implementation, storage of farm produce and group dynamics influence food security. It was grounded on the theory of Social Protection which believes that systems of social protection enable societies to advance the well-being and security of their citizens by protecting them from vulnerability and deprivation so that they can pursue a decent life. The theory underscores the need for national governments to protect the poor from extreme hunger and poverty through the creation and management of safety net programs that utilize agricultural input subsidies to strengthen household food security. The criterion for the selection of this study was based on the poverty levels and distribution of input grants that were provided by the government to resource poor farmers in the district during the 2008/2009 financial year. The sample was derived from the study population of 1000 farmers using a 10% ratio of determining sample. Farmers were selected using stratified random sampling technique. The sample was stratified by child-headed, female-headed and subsistence households. The individual respondents were then picked from each stratum using simple random sampling technique. A pre-test was done in the neighbouring Uriri district to determine the reliability of the data collection instruments. The internal consistence technique was applied, and expert opinion sought to determine the validity of the research instruments. A total of ten agricultural personnel were selected using purposive sampling and were interviewed using a focus group discussion guide to triangulate information on program implementation. Data was collected using formal and informal methods. Data was collected, coded, entered and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 17.0 computer software. Data analysis outputs included descriptive statistics, means, frequencies and percentages. The results showed that up to 60% of the respondents were males and 40 % females. Further, the findings indicate that farm inputs increased yields more than two fold, from a low of 6 bags to a high of 18 bags per acre. Increase in crop yields have translated to increased household food security. The study found out that agricultural extension personnel were fully sensitized in project implementation and this enhanced the distribution of the input subsidies. However, delayed issuance of inputs beyond the onset of the rains caused variations in crop yields of between 13 bags and 18 bags per acre. The existing marketing groups enhanced program implementation by quickening the distribution of farm inputs and the benefits reported by the groups included saving money accruing from surplus farm sales and the knowledge gained in strategic marketing. The presence of a market for surplus farm produce and the establishment of community cereal banks enhanced the purchasing of produce and formation of market linkages. Consequently, marketing of grain rose from an average of 1,295 to 1,757 Kenya shillings. This study therefore, concludes that the use of agricultural input subsidies had a huge influence on food security in Rongo District. Though there was increased consumption of grain, the quality of the grain consumed was damaged to some extent and this requires future interventions to reduce the damage that could provide an avenue for aflatoxin development and the consequent healthy risks. Further, the cereal banking concept should be fully exploited through proper group formation and training to increase farmers' knowledge on agricultural value chain. Further research is recommended to investigate the influence of cumulative and excess use of inorganic fertilizers on the environment.