The Farm Shop Trust is a social enterprise striving to become the leading agricultural retail franchising platform in Kenya, for the benefit of smallholder farmers across Africa. Myself and three other fellows are currently volunteering at the Farm Shop Trust’s headquarters in Kiambu County, Nairobi, Kenya for six weeks. Working on behalf of Plymouth University and Duchy College on a project involving Comic Relief. Over the past four weeks I interviewed a number of women about the Farm Shop Trust and wanted to find out their thoughts on farming in Kenya.
In my first few days in Kenya I originally saw lot of women tending crops so I came to the premature conclusion that mostly women tended to grow crops and men seemed more likely to farm poultry and cows but several weeks in to my six week trip I noticed that that wealth, rurality and other employment within the household seemed to also have an effect on whether crops or livestock were farmed and who within the household did most of the farming.
At the launch of a new Farm Shop Trust store at Murera, Kenya that I attended; 17 of the 21 farmers that attended were female and from interviews and discussions I learnt that most of them farmed mainly dairy cattle or kept laying hens. Many of these farmers had tried to farm broiler chickens at some point but had reported that it was a high risk venture for most, tempered with the possibility of quick and plentiful profit.
I discussed with Samuel (Farm Shop’s marketing manager) why this group had such a high percentage of female farmers attending compared to another Farm Shop Trust event where 80% of the farmers were male. Samuel explained that in rural locations, such as where the supply demo day had taken place, the men focus on farming as the main source of income and see attending these events as important to their social standing. In contrast, the new shop at Murera was in a developing semi-urban area where the men were away at work and the women where in charge of the farming (both livestock and crops) and therefore more women attended the event.
I wanted to explore this further and asked women farmers what they thought the differences in farming between men and women were:
Rachel Wanduri farms mostly Maize (corn), potatoes and beans and said:
“Yes there is a difference. Men control resources and ownership of the land and women do the hands on farming and know the everyday problems their crops face. I have tried to increase my yearly profits by keeping broiler chickens. I tried to keep Broiler chickens twice this year already but last time they died of Newcastle disease.”
Joyce Githinji owns four dairy cows, one of which is about to give birth and in contrast, she said:
“Men and women do not farm differently. I have passion to succeed with my farming and will do the same things any man would do. We are all human and I am not different from a man.”
Susan Jaugana, a poultry farmer with 50 broiler chickens, 1200 laying hens and an interest in farming Coriander as a quick cash crop next season said:
“I do not think men and women farm that differently.”
“Women are more likely to notice something wrong with their chickens faster” Susan added with a grin.
Interestingly, there are a range of responses; in some locations farming responsibility seems to fall along very traditional lines where men are the primary decision makers and land owners and women tend crops on a daily basis while in other areas women have the opportunity to take responsibility and make decisions about the use of land.
Ultimately, my observations are incomplete. This article, though interesting, will not provide a balanced insight into the division of farming responsibilities within Kenyan households until I ask male farmers the same question.
If you have any questions about my work with farmers in Kenya please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Related posts in our Farm Shop Kenya Series: