An Investigation of the Drivers of Diversification to Banana Farming among Households in Meru County, Kenya
Ananua, Stephen Mwendia
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Banana farming is a practice carried out in many countries in the world for commercial and subsistence purpose. India is the world largest producer of banana and Uganda the second. However, Uganda is the leading producer of banana in Africa. On the other hand, Kenya is one of the countries practicing banana farming with several regions in the country growing the crop for subsistence and local markets. Meru County, specifically Imenti South sub-County, has embraced this activity with many households engaging in banana farming at a high rate. The study addressed the following specific objectives: to establish the extent of diversification to banana farming among households in Imenti South sub-County; to determine socio-economic factors influencing diversification to banana farming among households in Imenti South sub-County; to assess the benefits of diversification to banana farming among households and determine constraints of diversification to banana farming by the households in the study area. The study used a cross-sectional study design where quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection were applied. Quantitative data was collected using questionnaires while qualitative data was collected using key informant interview guides. A total of 388 farmers were selected using cluster sampling while 20 key informants were purposively selected to take part in the study. The study applied descriptive and regression which analyzed quantitative data using SPSS version 20. The qualitative data was also analyzed thematically using Nvivo software so as to understand the emerging themes in the study. In regard to extent of diversification, findings showed that 72% of the respondents had diversified to banana farming from coffee farming. In relation to socio-economic factors, age (p=0.033), education (p=0.014), average monthly income level (p=0.024), ecological area (p=0.021), land size (p=0.016); availability of labor (p=0.014); availability of farm inputs (p=0.024) and availability of hybrid seedlings (p=0.012) had a statistically significant relationship with banana diversification. In regard to benefits of diversification, 86% of the respondents cited high market returns (profitability) and high crop productivity to be the main benefits of diversification. In regards to constraints of diversification, small land sizes (89%), inadequate farm inputs (76%) and shortage of water (73%) were the main constraints facing banana farming diversification. In conclusion, there is a high rate (72%) of diversification to banana farming which is driven by high crop returns and productivity of the banana crop. On socio-economic factors, higher education attainment, improved monthly income, bigger land sizes, ecological area positively affected diversification. However, lack of sufficient farmer support systems such as lack of sufficient water and inputs remains a key challenge for diversification to banana farming. Therefore, there is need for the government to develop and implement policy guidelines which create a supportive environment for diversification to banana farming such as proper market price regulation, supply of water to farms and easy access to production inputs to farmers.