In-kind transfers of maize, commercialization and household consumption in Kenya
Wambugu, Stephen K.
Djurfeldt, A. A.
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This article discusses in-kind food transfers and whether such transfers should be interpreted as a sign of the failure of grain markets to meet the food demands of the poor. The article elucidates on aspects of both consumption and in-kind transfers of maize against a backdrop of poorly functioning markets. It adds to the theoretical understanding of household based linkages and provides a documentation of in-kind commodity flows missing in many discussions of such linkages. The purpose of the article is twofold: first, it sheds light on the phenomenon of in-kind transfers of staple crops in the Kenyan context; secondly, it assesses the wider reciprocal and livelihood implications for the transferring households. The article relies on three sets of data with respect to methodology. It uses quantitative data collected at the household level in 2008, qualitative data collected at the village level in 2002 and 2008, as well as qualitative household level data gathered through in-depth interviews with 30 heads of household and farm managers in Western Kenya in June and July 2006. The survey found that 38% of the households transferred maize to their relatives. The explanations for in-kind transfers are not primarily related to poor price incentives, but the functioning of household support systems across space. In-kind transfers therefore at times drain the food resources of sending households while constituting important sources of food security for receiving households. While the focus in the literature is generally on rural–urban linkages, the direction of maize transfers was primarily rural-to-rural. The article concludes that existence of food transfers underpins the necessity of improving commercial incentives for maize and other foodstuffs and eliminating physical barriers to free movement of foodstuffs across the national space.