The determinants of choice and profitability of farm mechanization in Kenya:A case of tillage methods in maize production in Bungoma district.
Agwara, Hezekiah O
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In this thesis, I report the results of a study on tillage choice behavior among seventy-seven farmers from Bungoma district in Kenya. Using 2001 production data, the study sought to fit a discrete choice model to analyze factors influencing farmers' tillage choices in maize production. In addition, I investigate the profitability of using the tillage methods. I estimate a multinomial logit model for the effects of a set of technology attributes and their interactions with farmers' socioeconomic and demographic characteristics on the tillage choice (response) probabilities. I used gross margins from maize production to analyze profitability. The results of empirical estimation of the model show that farmers considered cost and time most important tillage attributes in their choices. That is, high cost and longer tillage time significantly reduced tillage choice probabilities. Specifically, marginal effects show that the choice of both tractors and manual tillage is more sensitive to cost increments than animal traction. More so, manual labor is more sensitive to tillage time than its alternatives. Animal tillage is less sensitive to adjustments in either attribute, which underscores the limitations for intervention on these two aspects. Among the farmer-specific characteristics, larger households, lower off-farm incomes, and high orientation to market make tillage time an important choice attribute. Furthermore, farmers with high marginal propensities to consume are more concerned with tillage cost. However, group membership and high off-farm incomes make cost less important in the choice of tillage methods. Looking at the gross margins, I find that maize production is profitable, on average. The average gross margin per acre was Kshs 6,932, with tractor and AT owners reporting the highest margins of Kshs 10,829 and Kshs 9,118, respectively. Overall, AT tillage was the most profitable and manual tillage the least profitable. Whether this are reasonable profit levels is a matter for further research. More so, I do not find a statistically significant difference in the GM across the three methods, at the 95% confidence level. Specifically, the difference in the gross margins from hiring AT or tractors was negligible. As such, we would expect time to be more important. The main conclusion of this thesis is that farmers' perceptions of observable tillage attributes influence their tillage choices. In general, I find that unit costs and time of tillage exert greater influence on choices but their importance change depending on farmers' socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Thus, improving tillage attributes and proper targeting of farmers is important in the formulation of mechanization strategies. Finally, profitability analysis shows that tillage would be of little benefit to the farmers without improvements in other agronomic practices.