Effectiveness of Jatropha Curcas live fence in managing Household risks and vulnerability in Kilifi County
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Growing of Jatropha curcas has been received with mixed feelings in Kenya. The plant has tremendous potential to be Africa's most excellent bio-fuel feedstock. However, there have been concerns that the plant is not commercially viable and that it negatively affects food production and security. The lack of factual information coupled with politics surrounding the growth of the plant has compromised its uptake by local farmers. This has however not dampened the spirits of pro poor development supporters who view the plant as a potential solution to rural poverty. Live fences (Hedgerows) are a common occurrence in rural Kenya. They are frequently used as fences because of their low cost and aesthetic value. The growing of Jatropha as a hedgerow can easily be brushed off as a non beneficial undertaking considering the previous research findings on the non viability of the plant but inherent in it is a coping mechanism that households may use to mitigate against idiosyncratic and covariate income risks. The lack of risk mitigation mechanisms means that households prone to income shocks cannot smoothen consumption when faced with a risk. In the recent past, there has been a great emphasis on a social protection agenda that protects not just the chronically poor but also the vulnerable populations against idiosyncratic and aggregate shocks. A few households in coastal Kenya have embraced the technology but it is not clear whether there are any significant savings and benefits arising from the endeavor. The purpose of this study was therefore to analyze the effectiveness of the Jatropha hedgerows in managing household risks and vulnerability by first defining the relationship between household Consumption and income from Jatropha hedgerows and secondly by analyzing the effectiveness of the hedgerow in protecting the vulnerable society. The study employed a diagnostic research and involved the collection of primary data through questionnaires and schedules from forty pre selected households who had successfully grown the hedge to maturity and were receiving an income from the sale of seeds, oil and other by products from the hedge. Correlation and regression analysis were run to ascertain the relationship between household consumption and income from Jatropha hedgerows and a demographic analysis conducted to ascertain the participation of women and older members of society in the project. The results of the analysis show that Income from Jatropha hedgerows is positively correlated to household consumption proving that the Jatropha hedgerow is an effective tool for household consumption smoothing. The results also show that women and older members of society, who are the most vulnerable in the society, are participating and benefiting from the project. The findings of the study lead to the conclusion that Jatropha curcas hedgerows are effective in managing household risks and vulnerability. The study recommends that a comprehensive research on Jatropha curcas as a plant be carried out by KARl or any other relevant institution to verify claims such as low oil content and high toxicity that have surrounded the growing of the plant. The study also recommends that social protection be extended beyond financial and income related considerations to include investments that support informal arrangements and upgrade the nonprofit sector especially those that have sustainable development at their core.