Off-farm Work and Fertilizer Intensification among Smallholder Farmers in Kenya: A Cross-Crop Comparison

oseph Opiyo a Research Assistant at the Institute presented a paper on Off-farm Work and Fertilizer Intensification among Smallholder Farmers in Kenya: A Cross-Crop Comparison. The relationship between the farm and off-farm sectors has been a subject of much debate though very little empirical work exists. The paper sought to establish how off-farm work affects fertilizer use on smallholder farms in Kenya.

The analysis was done by type of off-farm work i.e. combined off-farm, non-farm and work on other farms. Whereas non-farm comprises of salaries and wage employment, business and informal activities & remittances while work on other farms refers to farm kibarua as it is commonly known as in Kenya. The paper also analysed the effect of off-farm work across selected crop types i.e. maize (a major staple), vegetables (an emerging cash crop), and tea (a traditional export crop).      

Findings show that the effect of off-farm work on fertilizer use per hectare differs by crop. Off-farm work has a negative effect on fertilizer intensification on maize and vegetables but no effect on fertilizer use on tea. Non-farm sources of income seem to drive the overall effect and household characteristics play some role in the intensity of fertilizer use, asserting the notion that fertilizer markets are imperfect.

The direction of relationship between off-farm work and on-farm investment has important implications for public policy to support rural communities during the process of economic change. The results could guide a mix of investments geared towards the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.

Authors: Mary K. Mathenge, Melinda Smale and Joseph Opiyo