Small scale farmers perception of and response of drought in Makuyu division, Murang'a district, Kenya
Kibathi, Mary Wanjiru
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This is a case study of roadside farming in Kikuyu and Limuru divisions, Kiambu district, Central Kenya. Roadside farming is an illegal activity involving the cultivation of food and fodder crops in addition to the grazing of animals on major road reserves belonging to the Government. The underlying objective of this study is to investigate some of the socio-economic factors motivating farmers to encroach on the road reserves and networks in order to establish roadside farm plots. Some basic concepts are reviewed and hypotheses and methods of data collection and problems encountered are elucidated. A background survey of the nature of the physical and human environments in which farmers base their decisions is provided, including the historical perspectives on land-population problems and transport and communication networks. The profile of roadside farmers and farm characteristics as well as the relationships between the attributes of roadside farming are presented. According to the Chi-square and regression analysis results, it is demonstrated that there are no significant relationships between: (a) Family size and roadside farm size; (b) Other legally-owned farms and roadside farm size; (c) Family income and roadside farm size; (d) Age of the roadside farmers and roadside farm size; (e) Distance between roadside farmers' residences and their farm plots; (f) Educational levels of the roadside farmers and the size of the plots owned. However, the factor analysis results yielded three factors including; financial gains attained from roadside farming, demographic factor and low family holdings which are used here to explain the existence of roadside farming in the study area. And, on the light of these findings, some policy implications and considerations are highlighted which could be implemented in an attempt to solve some of the roadside farmers problems. These are; land reform/redistribution, land resettlement, change of priorities in resource allocation towards rural areas, reduced population growths, provision of farm inputs and extension services and an improved physical planning of the local market centres in order to create better living conditions. In conclusion, it should be mentioned that roadside farming is a very controversial issue especially when considering the limited supply of the road reserves in relation to the ever increasing demand. Thus the livelihoods of the farmers can only be improved if the socio-economic problems are addressed to by policy makers and development planners. This study on small scale farmers' perception of, and response to drought in Makuyu division of Murang'a district considered different aspects such as the history and impact of drought, farmers' perception of drought and possible influence on adjustment, as well as a farmer responses to the 1984/85 and 1992 drought years and their suitability in averting drought. The study also examined statistically relationships between selected socio-economic variables and selected responses to drought. Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources primary sources consisted of farm household interviews and repertory grids which aimed at gathering information on drought years and impacts, drought perception and responses. Secondary sources were mainly weather records archival documents, maps, government records and profiles which provided data on the history of drought and the geography of the study area. Data processing and analysis utilised techniques such as percentages, averages, frequencies, correlation, chi-square, cartographic and diagrammatic representations. The study reveals that drought is a recurrent phenomenon in Makuyu division with remarkable impacts. An attempt to construe farmers perception of drought revealed that farmers' are limited in their perceptions of various aspects of drought including, its causes, probability, symptoms and methods of this hazard control. These misperceptions affect farmers' mode of adjustment. An examination of the responses made during droughts shows that farmers' responses are not effective in averting drought hazard. Using the chi-square (c2) test of significance no statistical relationship was found to exist between selected socio-economic variables (age, income, educational level and farm size) and choice of selected responses such as irrigation, mulching, type of cattle and growing drought resistant crops. In retrospect a possible future drought recovery approach is suggested based on improving the existing structures. Recommendations are made that farmers' educational programmes need to be encouraged to instil proper drought perceptions; and a long term drought pre-planning policy need be formulated sot hat effective strategies for coping with drought can be introduced. The study also points out the need to develop existing resources in Makuyu, at the same time integrating community participation as a check to future drought attacks. Areas of further research by scholars are also given.
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