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Some socio-economic factors that affect decisions on small ruminant production by small-scale farmers - A case study of west Laikipia

M. M. Mucuthi1, K. Munei2 and K. C. Sharma2

1. Laikipia Research Programme, P. O. Box 144, Nanyuki, Kenya
2. Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nairobi
P. O. Box 30197, Nairobi


Abstract
Introduction
Materials and methods
Results and discussion
Effect of small-scale farmers' off-farm occupations on small ruminant production
Effect of livestock extension services on small ruminant production
Constraints to small ruminant production
Conclusion
Recommendations
Acknowledgements
Bibliography


Abstract

One of the main problems of small-scale farming in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of west Laikipia is that of low household incomes. A major contributor to net farm income in this area is income from livestock production. Previous studies show that small ruminants have many advantages over the large ruminants (Mburu, 1988; Ngategize, 1989; Andargachew Kebede, 1990). The objective of this study was to identify some of the socio-economic factors that affect decisions on small ruminant production enterprises and recommend ways of increasing income from them.

A sample of 65 small-scale farmers was selected from two of the subdivided ranches in the ASA lands of west Laikipia. We found that the age of the respondents and the ownership of small ruminants were not correlated. Respondents identified pneumonia and Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) as major constraints on small ruminant production, but not insufficient grazing. However, we observed that parts of the study area had only fair to poor grass cover. Lastly, we found a negative correlation between the presence of off-farm income and income from small ruminant production, but none between contact with livestock extension personnel and the number of respondents reporting small ruminant mortality as a major constraint.

Facteurs socio-économiques intervenant dans les décisions prises par les petits exploitants de West Laikipia concernant l'élevage des petits ruminants étude de cas

Résumé

La faiblesse des revenus des ménages constitue l'un des principaux problèmes qui touche la petite exploitation agricole dans les terres arides et semi-arides de West Laikipia. Dans cette région, les revenus de l'élevage représentent une part importante du revenu agricole net. Des études antérieures ont montré que les petits ruminants offraient de nombreux avantages par rapport aux gros bétail. La présente étude visait à identifier certains des facteurs socio-économiques qui déterminent les décisions prises en matière d'élevage ovin et caprin et à recommander les moyens à mettre en oeuvre pour augmenter les revenus qu'on peut en dégager.

Un échantillon de 65 petits exploitants a été sélectionné dans deux des ranches subdivisés situés dans les terres arides et semi-arides de West Laikipia. Il n'y avait pas de corrélation entre l'âge des enquêtés et la détention de petits ruminants. D'après les exploitants interrogés, les principaux obstacles à l'élevage de petits ruminants sont la pneumonie et la péripneumonie contagieuse des caprins, et non pas l'absence de pâturage. Il a pourtant été constaté qu'à certains endroits de la zone d'étude le couvert herbeux était de médiocre qualité. Par ailleurs, il y avait une corrélation négative entre la disponibilité d'un revenu non agricole et les revenus de l'élevage de petits ruminants, et il n'y avait pas de corrélation entre l'accès à des services de vulgarisation de l'élevage et le nombre d'enquêtés pour lesquels la mortalité des agneaux constituait un important facteur limitant.

Introduction

It is estimated that 82% of the population in Kenya live in rural areas, mainly as small-scale farmers. In Laikipia, 91% of the population live in rural areas (GOK, 1991). From this, it can be deduced that the majority of the population in the district are small-scale farmers. This is confirmed by the fact that by 1987, land buying companies in the district had bought 74% of the former European ranches and subdivided 63% of them (GOK, 1987). In the study area, nearly two-thirds (2/3) of the small-scale farms have been settled (Table 1). This makes small-scale farming in the district significant. It is for this reason that the Laikipia Research Programme (LRP) has orientated its research towards this type of farming. Most of the LRP research is focused on small-scale farming in the ASA lands which make up 80% of the district.

Table 1. Information on the human settlement in the study area.

 

Frequency

Per cent

Number of settled farms

605

61

Number of unsettled farms

390

39

Total number of farms

995

100

These small-scale farmers face many challenges in generating household incomes. One way of helping them is to increase the income they receive from small ruminant production. This study therefore focuses on some of the socio-economic factors that affect decisions on small ruminant production in west Laikipia. Some of these factors are more economic than sociological, while others are more sociological than economic. It is difficult to separate the two, but this study focuses primarily on the sociological factors. A discussion of all socio-economic factors can be found in Mucuthi (1992).

Materials and methods

In 1990 there were 28 former European ranches and five government settlement schemes in west Laikipia that were in various stages of settlement and/or subdivision. In eight, subdivision was completed and therefore maps were available. For sampling convenience, we selected two ranches from this group. Each selected ranch was subdivided into four equal subclusters and one subcluster was chosen from each ranch as the starting point. The farms or sampling units were not sampled randomly within the subclusters but systematically from a randomly selected corner of the subcluster.

Using this method, 65 respondents who were defined as small-scale farmers were interviewed. They represented 9% of the potential respondents in each ranch. Herd size (50 small ruminants and 10 cattle) instead of land size was used to classify small-scale farmers, though recognising that land size is the standard measure of farm classification. Herd size was used because Kohler (1987) found that in west Laikipia most small-scale farmers owned no more than 50 head of small ruminants and eight head of cattle. No prior appointments were made for visits, but efforts were made to interview the husband or the wife, or in default, the de facto head of the farm. Otherwise, the enumerator moved to the next farm. Each respondent was asked general questions relating to small ruminant production. They were also asked specific questions relating to the factors that affected decisions on small ruminant production.

The Farming Systems Research (FSR) approach was used in determining the factors considered to affect decisions on small ruminant production. This approach was used because, among other attributes, it is characterised by the "bottom-up" rather than the traditional "top-down" approach to farmers' problems. It also recognises the need to have research tailored to a specific area, in this case the small-scale farming area of west Laikipia. When using the FSR approach, there is a time-lag in the recognition of the problem and finding the relevant solution. Therefore, the approach is inherently expensive. Nonetheless, it is consistent with the development strategies of the Kenya District Focus For Rural Development as it builds on, rather than destroys, the farmers' development techniques. This study considered the age of the respondent, farm size, frequency of contact with livestock extension personnel, type and amount of income accruing from off-farm income and constraints to small ruminant production.

Results and discussion

Age of respondents

Only in 20% of the cases was the male head of the household involved in herding. Most of the herding was done either by the wives (35%), children (25%), or hired labour (20%).

Neither ownership nor herd size of small ruminants was associated with age of respondent (P>0.05). Age may not be a crucial factor in the adoption or non-adoption of projects on small ruminant production.

Farm sizes and small ruminant production

In the study area, the mean farm size was 5.3 ha, with most of the respondents owning between 3.7 and 7.2 ha (Table 2). Thirty-six per cent of the land was used for crop land while 4% was used as homesteads (Table 3); the rest of the land (60%) was available for grazing.

Grazing land size, however, tends to be determined by the area reserved for crop production rather than vice versa. This explains why land size per se was neither significantly correlated with the herd size nor with the presence or absence of the small ruminant enterprises (P<0.05). It also confirms our earlier assumption that land size can be a deceptive criterion for identifying small-scale farmers for livestock-related studies and projects, especially where the farmers are employing extensive methods of livestock production. It was observed that when small-scale farmers had extra income to invest, they preferred to invest in livestock rather than in crop production (Mucuthi, 1992).

Table 2. Land ownership by farm sizes.

Farm in hectares

Percentage of respondents

Under 1.8

3

1.8-3.6

9

3.7-4.8

40

4.9-7.2

37

Over 7.2

11

Mean 5.3

100

Table 3. Mean land sizes for various land uses in the study area.

Type of land use

Land size (ha)

Per cent of total

Mean grazing land

3.2

60

Mean crop land

1.9

36

Mean size of homestead

0.2

4

Mean land holding

5.3

100

Availability of grazing for livestock

Most respondents (84%) utilised their own farms and the unoccupied farms for grazing. They kept as many animals as they were able to, because there were no grazing restrictions. The stocking rate, which was calculated by dividing the number of ha of the available grazing land by the Tropical Livestock Unit (TLU = 250 kg) was 2.8 ha per TLU. This was less than the carrying capacity recommended to graziers of 3-5 ha per TLU (Pratt and Gwynne, 1977).

When the stocking rate was calculated with the assumption that only one's own farm was available for grazing, the stocking rate was even lower at 1.4 ha/TLU. Without feed supplementation, the available grazing land in the study area could support only one cow or 10 small ruminants per respondent. Unfortunately, only 27% of the respondents gave any form of supplementary feed (maize stover and crop residue) to small ruminants. Available fodder was fed mainly to cattle.

Effect of small-scale farmers' off-farm occupations on small ruminant production

Respondents engaged in off-farm occupations because food crop yields in the ASA lands are unreliable. Even in good years, maize crop yields (a maximum of 20 bags of 90 kg) are not enough to guarantee the respondents sufficient food and income for one year.

When off-farm work was the main occupation, the head of the household was engaged in permanent off-farm work. However, we could not rule out the fact that respondents engaged in farming to supplement off-farm income. We found that 60% of the respondents depended solely on net farm income while 40% were also engaged in off-farm work.

The proportion of respondents dependent on net farm income was higher than that reported by Kohler (1987). He found that in central Laikipia, only 33% of the respondents depended on net farm income. The lower dependence on off-farm work in the study area compared to central Laikipia was because the respondents in west Laikipia were farther away from the main employment areas.

Of the 43 respondents, 38 with positive household income had small ruminants; only data from these respondents were used in the test of difference of means.

A comparative analysis of the levels of income from small ruminant production for respondents with off-farm income and those without, did not indicate any significant difference (P>0.05) in the mean small ruminant herd sizes. Therefore, any significant difference in mean incomes from small ruminant production was from the number of small ruminants sold by the respondents.

Table 4 shows that the mean income from small ruminant production for respondents without off-farm income was significantly higher (P<0.05) than for those with off-farm income. Though the sample sizes were small (19 respondents) and the standard deviations high, large variations across observations do occur in cross-section studies (Pindyck, 1981).

Table 4. Comparison of differences of mean income from small ruminant production, for respondents with and without off-farm income.

 

Without off-farm income

With off-farm income

Mean income (Kenyan shilling)

1326a

523b

Standard deviation

1344

942

Sample size

19

19

Values within the same row with different superscripts are significantly different (P<0.05).

The high mean income from small ruminant production for respondents without off-farm income indicates the significant contribution of small ruminants to net farm income. Indeed, small-scale farmers in the ASA lands considered small ruminant production and off-farm income as the most important sources of household income for development as well as daily expenses. Small ruminant production contributed 50 and 54% to income used for daily and development expenses, respectively (Mucuthi, 1992).

Effect of livestock extension services on small ruminant production

The five Ministry of Livestock Development extension personnel were either livestock production personnel (LPP), who advised the respondents on animal husbandry, or veterinary personnel (VP), who were in charge of livestock treatment. While the LPP were expected to visit farmers on a regular basis, the VP were expected to stay at predetermined places where farmers could reach them. However, advisory and treatment work was sometimes done by the same people.

Table 5 shows the number of visits by the LPP as reported by the 50 respondents who had small ruminants. Of the respondents, 74% were never visited at all while 20% were visited whenever the need arose. For the VP (Table 6), the majority of the respondents were visited whenever the need arose and the rest were never visited.

Tables. Reported visits by the livestock production personnel

Response

Frequency

Per cent

Never visited

37

74

Whenever need arises

10

20

Fortnightly

2

4

Weekly

1

2

Respondents interviewed

50

100

Table 6. Reported visits of the veterinary personnel.

Response

Frequency

Per cent

Whenever need arises

39

78

Never visited

11

22

Respondents interviewed

50

100

It appears that the problem of infrequent visits by the LPP was not due to lack of personnel, but due to the disproportionate time given by the extension personnel to the treatment service. Where the same extension personnel are expected to perform both advisory and treatment work, it is obvious that the advisory work will be compromised because the personnel cannot visit farms and wait for the farmers' visits at the same time.

Visits by Ministry of Livestock Development extension personnel are expected to have an impact on the small-scale farmers' management practices. It is expected that through contact with extension personnel, small-scale farmers will improve livestock husbandry practices. Thus it was surprising to find no correlation between the frequency of visits by the LPP or the VP and the small ruminant mortality rate.

Constraints to small ruminant production

Respondents were asked to indicate the most important constraints on small ruminant production and to priorities them. They indicated that mortality through disease (53%) and lack of enough water for livestock (21%) were the most important constraints. This confirms what had been reported in other studies, that diseases are among the most important constraints to small ruminant production (GOK, 1990; Herren, 1990; Mucuthi, 1992).

The LPP and the VP are supposed to advise small-scale farmers on the best animal husbandry practices. It was expected that more frequent visits by these personnel would lower the significance of diseases as a constraint. However, an insignificant correlation (P<0.05) was found between the frequency of their visits (both LPP and VP) and the number of respondents who reported that diseases were the major constraint. This is because most respondents were satisfied with the veterinary treatment but not the small ruminant production advisory services.

Insufficient grazing was not seen as a major constraint by the respondents. Nevertheless it was apparent, especially in the unoccupied farms. In assessing the availability of grazing, grass cover was determined by the amount of bare soil observed by the enumerator at the time of the interview. Less than 10% of bare soil cover was considered to be good grass cover, 11-30% was medium and 31-50% was bad. It was estimated that 59% of the occupied farms had good grass cover, 30% had medium grass cover and 11% had bad grass cover. The unoccupied farms had medium soil cover or worse.

To achieve the optimum carrying capacity, one needs to do any or all of these things. First, livestock numbers must be reduced. However, where grazing is communal, as in the study area, this method has been unpopular. Second, livestock feed can be improved and increased. Although this is easier to achieve than the first option, lack of enough grazing for small ruminants was not seen as a significant constraint by the respondents. Feed availability could be increased by planting fodder trees like Leucaena and Sesbania along the fences and on terraces. Third, the productivity per animal can be enhanced through upgrading and improving management. This is the easiest of the three options to implement. It is not expensive and would be agreeable to the respondents.

Conclusion

a) In west Laikipia the age of the respondent did not affect participation in small ruminant production enterprises.

b) Land size was not correlated with small ruminant herd size or the ownership of small ruminants. Land size can therefore be a deceptive criterion in classifying small-scale farmers for livestock-related studies and projects.

c) There is a significant contribution (P<0.05) of income from small ruminant production to net farm income for respondents without off-farm income.

d) Respondents were satisfied with the services of the VP but not with those of the LPP.

e) Grazing land was determined by the area reserved for crop production but not vice versa. Respondents also perceived capital, rather than land, as the limiting factor in livestock production.

Recommendations

a) For livestock-related studies and projects, land size should not be used as a criterion for classifying small-scale farmers.

b) Action needs to be taken to improve the optimum livestock carrying capacity of the study area.

c) The question of poor extension services for small ruminant producers needs to be addressed. Some options would be to separate the roles of the personnel and/or charge a fee for their services.

Acknowledgements

This research was carried out with funds provided by Laikipia Research Programme and in collaboration with Nairobi University and the Ministry of Livestock Development. The authors are grateful to Dr Urs Herren of Laikipia Research Programme for his comments, and his help in editing this paper.

Bibliography

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