Spatial Analysis of Constraints and Opportunities in Banana Value Chain in Meru County, Kenya
Mbuthia, Susan Wanjiru
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The changes such as increases in urban dwellers and demand for high quality and safe products being witnessed in agrifood systems around the world present opportunities for farmers to orient production to meet the emerging needs. To this end, governments in Sub- Saharan Africa have been reconstituting new trading policies. In Kenya, banana farming is a prospective activity through which small-scale farmers could exploit the emerging opportunities. This study examines the banana value chain in Meru County in order to determine the constraints and opportunities therein and the farmers’ responses. Although agricultural value chain studies are strongly recommended as possible intervention strategies of increasing the farmers’ competitive position in their activities, past studies on banana farming in Kenya mainly focused either on production or marketing. This study focused on the following objectives; profiling the demographic-socio-economic characteristics of farmers and traders, determining the constraints and opportunities in banana value chain, and evaluating the spatio-temporal distribution of periodic banana markets. A survey design and mixed method approach were used in data collection. Research instruments included: (i) Questionnaires administered to 384 farmers and 384 traders who were purposively selected. (ii) Interview guide used for 8 key informants. (iii) Focus group discussion guide used for 2 groups. Data processing and analysis was done using excel and SPSS. Quantitative data was analysed using analysis of variance, t test, Pearson correlation coefficient and nearest neighbour index. Qualitative data analysis was guided by SWOT and Scoring cards. Results showed that: women dominated production (52.6%) and marketing (57.6 %); a significant (p < .000) difference existed between earnings by men (Ksh 16,770) and women (Ksh 14,249) farmers; farms were small (1.9 acres) and significantly (p = .032) different in size across the sub counties; and 177stools were harvested monthly but significantly (p < .001) varied across locations. Wholesalers dominated banana trading. Pests and diseases (23.2 %), and high marketing costs (24.2 %) were the leading constraints. Opportunities included; short distances (3.3 kilometres) between farms and markets which significantly (p < .000) varied with locations, and unmet demand for bananas and high prospects for value additions. Markets with a closer time dimension did not have a wide spatial distance and vice versa (r = -0.530, p = .076); and the banana markets were not uniformly distributed (Rn = 0.31). The study concluded that: (i) some demographic-socio-economic characteristics of farmers and traders influenced their activities in the chain. (ii) The chain is characterized by several interdependent constraints (iii) Banana value chain has enormous potential to benefit farmers (iv) Markets do not meet the needs of the farmers equally. It is therefore recommended that: (i) community training on production and entrepreneurship targeting women to be conducted. (ii) Meru County government to partner with private firms in helping farmers address constraints and exploit existing opportunities. (iii) Banana traders to curve out a niche market in order to promote banana value addition, and (iv) the County government to either reorganise market in synchronised way or establish new ones in areas not optimally served.