Socio-economic impacts of sugarcane farming on livelihoods and the biophysical environment in Transmara sub-county, Kenya.
Oyugi, Beryl Akoth
MetadataShow full item record
Sugarcane farming has been practiced the world over since the Persian farmers discovered the “reeds that produced honey without bees” between the 6th and 4th Centuries in India. Since then, sugarcane farming has been practiced in various tropical regions of the world with the major driver of the industry being the world’s increasing demand for sugar. This has led to the expansion of arable land under sugarcane cultivation, with a myriad of problems presenting themselves ecologically, socially and economically. This descriptive survey was carried out in 2012-2014 to assess the effects of sugarcane farming on community livelihoods in Transmara sub-county, Kenya. A sample size of 384 farmers was randomly selected from an accessible population of 850, 920 people. Data was analysed using standard descriptive statistics. The study found that sugarcane farming has greatly enhanced household livelihoods through more access to income. Farmers now obtain Kshs. 37,554 from a tonne of sugarcane every six months as opposed to a mean of Ksh. 3,500 per hectare from leasing maize farms. Unlike other sugarcane belts, shift to sugarcane farming has not undermined food security in Transmara. Up to 95% of the respondents indicated having enough food from their farms (maize, bananas and indigenous vegetables) to feed their households all year round. Only 15% of the population interviewed has committed their entire arable land to sugarcane farming while 77% lease land for sugarcane while growing food crops on their individual farms. As expected, 62% of the respondents indicated that sugarcane farming has contributed to reduction in forest cover by about 12% during the last 18 years. Reduction in grazing fields also means that free range livestock farming has to change to space intensive systems like zero-grazing. Respondents also indicated that expansion in sugarcane fields has interfered with migratory corridors thus escalating human-wildlife conflicts. The cat family now hides in sugarcane plantations. Snake bites too, have increased. The contracts signed between farmers and the millers give more leeway to the millers who singly benefits from sugarcane by-products (i.e. bagasse, molasses and filter mud) while farmers only obtain the price of raw sugarcane per tonnage. In retrospect, 97% of the farmers who were introduced to sugarcane farming by either South Nyanza Sugar Company or Transmara Sugar Company Limited were made aware of what it would mean to them. Millers extend extension services and credit facilities to sugarcane farmers in line with contract arming principles. From a corporate social responsibility perspective millers invest in community water projects. None of the key natural resources in the study area are gazetted, hence the need to intensify integrated community-based conservation strategies such as issuing of tree seedlings alongside sugarcane by the millers. There is need to liberalize the sugar industry to allow farmers to be flexible against the constant price fluctuations that result in net losses. Millers should also advocate for practices that allow for environmental conservation as sugarcane can only be intercropped in the early stages before canopy formation and moreover, utilizes up to 50% of soil nutrients. The farmers’ practice of maintaining sufficient for food crops should be encouraged and supported with appropriate extension