Relationships between the farming practices of small scale Farmers and household food security: a case of Mumoni division, Mwingi district, Kenya.
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This study sought to investigate the farming practices of small-scale farmers in Mumoni Division, Mwingi district; and, to determine how they relate to their households' food security. The specific objectives of the study were: a) To establish the farming practices of the small-scale farmers; b) To investigate the extent of household food insecurity among the small-scale farmers; c) To determine the relationship between selected ~emographic and socio-economic characteristics of the small-scale fanners and their households' food security; and, d) To determine the relationship between selected farming practices and farm-related factors 0f the small-scale farmers and their households' food security. The study was carried out in Mumoni Division, Mwingi district. It was cross -- sectional in nature as it sought to e~tablish the prevailing situation. A combination of probability and non-probability sampling techniques were used to identify the respondents who were drawn from the high and low altitude areas of the division. Individual respondents were identified by use of the area sampling method. A total of 109 respondents were studied. Data were collected by use 0 r interview schedules and observation guides. The collected data were summarised by use of frequencies and percentages. The Pearson product moment correlation was used to determine the strength and direction of relationships between variables while the independent samples t-test was used to compare household food availability means for selected variables. The findings of the study show that the level or technology employed in farming among the respondents was relatively rudimentary with hand tools and especially the traditional hoe being the most commonly used. Oxen ploughing was the only mechanised option available to those who had or could access an ox-plough and draught VI animals. Animal manure, vegetable trash and crop rotation were the major fertility maintenance/ promotion methods reported as used by the respondents. None of the respondents reported using chemical fertilizers in food production Women made up the Illajority 01' the day-to-day managers 01' food production This was partly because 01' the out-migratiou or men to other places in search of employment The farmers concentrated in food crops production mainly sorghum, ! bulrush millets, cowpeas, green grams,_maize and beans. Colton and castor oi] trees, cash crops hitherto C011111l01lclyultivated ill the area had been abandoned due to marketing problems. Traditional agriculture was f(JLJ11dto have a lot of influence on farming among the respondents with a big proportion or them i.c. 60% relying on it as the major source or inlonnation on lill1lling The rC,lS()IISI()J·this were partly because it offered cheaper and less demanding alternatives to other options. Farmers generally begin work ill their farms early with many starting operations such as land preparation and planting before the rains The major constraint reported by the respondents as limiting agricultural production was the erratic rains. Other constraints included lack of essential inputs e.g. seeds; illiteracy, crop pests, inadequate agricuhural extension services, labour COIl,<r;atiutx, among others. Poverty Vias identified as a major limitation to the farmers' access to certain essential inputs e.g. seeds and hired labour. As at the time of data collection, the respondents' households were found to be experiencing a level of moderate food insecurity This is because some households reported not having any food ill their reserves while SOIIICwere skipping cer rain meals- a coping mechanism when food supplies are constrained Relationships between household food availability and selected demographic, socio-economic and farm-related VII factors indicated generally weak but positive correlations. These findings implied that though important, these variables were not the most critical in assuring household food availability. Significant differences in household food availability were noted far selected variables· i.e. manure application, ownership of draught animals and the ownership of an oxen plough. To enhance food production, there is need to buile! the capacity of the food producers i.e. the fanners and to provide the necessary support services that would allow the maximum utilization of available resources within the environmental limitations or Mwingi District.