Contract farming in smallholder poultry enterprises in Thika district
This study is concerned with assessing the influence of contract farming on the smallholder poultry enterprises in Thika District. In order to achieve this overall objective, 60 households which practised poultry farming under contract arrangement were selected by use of stratified random sampling. To check for possible differences or similarities in poultry farming, 10 households not engaged in any contract arrangement were identified through snowball sampling and used as a control group. In addition representatives from contracting feed companies, district agricultural officer, sub-district livestock production officer were and area chiefs were purposively selected as key informants for the study. Data was collected by use of questionnaires and interview guides through a guided face to face interview. In order to complement data from household surveys, two focus group discussions were conducted each in the two purposively selected locations. The data was analysed by use of SPSS and Microsoft Excel Tables. The study established that there was a higher proportionate ownership of contracted poultry enterprises by men as compared to women ownership. In addition, it was found out that women from all the contracted households contributed a disproportionately higher labour burden to the poultry enterprise but received considerably low income in comparison to their male counterparts in the household. It was also established that limited access to government extension assistance and poor road infrastructure influenced the likelihood of smallholder farmers to join contract arrangements. Farmer’s need to solve transport challenges for poultry inputs and outputs as well as marketing challenges for their eggs was a major reason for the smallholders to join the contract. The study revealed that households in informal contract arrangements could easily exit one contract and join other contract arrangements because it was a verbal agreement based on trust unlike households engaged in formal contract arrangements which were bound by a written tripartite agreement and could only exit upon meeting contract stipulations. The study concludes that contract farming arrangements can potentially benefit smallholder poultry farmers especially by solving their transport and marketing challenges and eventually resulting to increase in their income generating capacity but can also potentially relegate the smallholder farmer to a mere participant in the contract relationship. This becomes evident particularly in instances where the contractor fails to involve the smallholder farmer in designing of contract terms, revising of contract terms, manipulates the expectations of the smallholder farmer and in turns fails or superficially addresses the concerns raised by the farmers. This weakens the sustainability of the contract relationship. The study therefore recommends that the government should enact legislation specific to contract farming to safeguard the interest of both the contractor and the farmer and provide measures to be taken to solve problems which arise in the course of running the contract. In addition the government should step up the efforts of agricultural assistance through revitalising the role played by government extension officers towards smallholder poultry farmers as well as safeguarding these farmers from import of cheap eggs from neighbouring countries. Besides, gender transformative approaches should be emphasized by the contractors in order to enhance a cordial relationship within the household as far as labour burden and receipt of income from the poultry enterprise is concerned.