Gender concerns in banana production and marketing: their impacts on resource poor households in Imenti south district, Kenya
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In Kenya, the general decline in traditional cash crop production has contributed to a major shift to other subsistence crops from the mid-eighties. A majority of small scale farmers have replaced the cash crops with banana farming. Previously, banana was considered a semi-subsistence women’s crop. The shift of banana farming from subsistence to commercial production has attracted many men and women into the industry. However, this has changed gender relations in the households and banana farms thereby generating gender concerns. The objective of this study was therefore to assess the gender concerns in banana production and marketing, their impact on resource poor households and make appropriate recommendations. The paper is based on a study carried out in Imenti South District, Meru County in the year 2011. A stratified random sample of 125 farmers was selected. Four focus group discussions (FGDs), eight key informants (KIs) and two case studies were purposively sampled. Semi- structured, structured questionnaires interview guides and observations were collectively used to obtain the data. The study showed that women have control of bank accounts, banana income and are hiring own land to plant bananas. However, this has brought intra-household gender conflicts especially in resource poor households further disempowering men who have resulted to drinking local brew and burdening women more. The potential of bananas to raise the standard of living among the resource poor is thus not being realised. There is need for awareness creation among stakeholders on gender mainstreaming which will lead to policy formulations. Such a move will assist in defining ways of introducing any technology that changes a woman’s subsistence enterprise into a commercial undertaking. The study further recommended empowerment of men and women in resource poor households through formation of gender responsive farmer groups.