Author(s):  Gamba, Paul ;Ngugi ,Caroline; Verkuijl, H; Mwangi, W; Kiriswa, Frank

Wheat is the second most important cereal crop after maize in Kenya (KARI 1989) and is becoming an important source of food for both humans and livestock. Demand for wheat and wheat products is growing at 7% per annum, and even though production is increasing, only about 50% of domestic consumption requirements are being met (Hassan et al. 1993). Increasing population, rapid urbanization, rising income levels, and changing tastes and preferences are major factors contributing towards this demand.

Wheat production started at the beginning of the century in Kenya, but it was not until 1927 that a formal wheat breeding research program was initiated at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s (KARI) National Plant Breeding Research Centre (NPBRC) in Njoro, Kenya. Since this program began, over 100 wheat varieties have been released (NPBRC 1974, 1984, 1987, 1989).

Despite better performance of these new varieties in terms of yield, disease resistance, and other desirable characteristics (Hassan et al. 1993), the rate of adoption has been slow, implying that new varieties have either not reached farmers or have not been adopted for various reasons.

This study examines factors that influence farmers’ adoption of improved wheat varieties and analyzes wheat farmers’ socioeconomic characteristics that are relevant to the adoption process.

The Study Area

The study was conducted in the major wheat producing Districts of Narok, Nakuru, and Uasin Gishu. These Districts combined account for 80% of Kenya’s domestic wheat production (KARI 1989).

Narok, Nakuru, and Uasin Gishu Districts are located in the high potential (>1,800m) and low potential (<1,800 m) agroecological zones. The high potential zone generally receives more rainfall over a longer period of time than the low potential zone.

Rainfall ranges from 500 mm to 1,000 mm in low potential zones and 1,200 mm to 1,800 mm in high potential zones. Rainfall is unimodal with distinct peaks in April and August. The wheat season stretches from June to November, sufficient time for the wheat crop to mature, given varying planting dates.

Soils in study areas vary. Nakuru District mainly has soils developed from volcanic ashes that are generally deep and well drained. Narok District has soils developed from igneous rocks that are shallow to deep and excessively drained. Uasin Gishu District has soils developed from tertiary or older basic igneous rocks that are extremely deep and are well drained.

Wheat Farmers Seed Management and Varietal Adoption in Kenya