Exploring Social Relations of Smallholder Sugarcane Farmers in Mumias sub-County, Kenya

Lilian Kidula-Lihasi, Christopher Onyango, Washington Ochola


Social relationship is now one of the most significant trends in community organizing and development. Relationships are known to result to multiple networks; and when these networks work together they promote farmers’ interests and add value to livelihoods. To promote sugarcane production and marketing, smallholders in Kenya are organized into different milling companies and out-grower associations. However, smallholders’ inability to negotiate sector relations and lobby for their interests is linked to ineffective performance of these organizations in Mumias sub-County, Kenya. Studies show that smallholders’ participation in attractive markets is determined by ability to reach relevant markets and adequately negotiate returns and pricing; but as markets change, a need to develop strategic alliances that consider those changes is a prerequisite. This paper explores relationships of smallholder sugarcane farmers in Mumias sub-County, Kenya, aimed at identifying opportunities to strengthen networks that promote smallholders’ interests and participation in the value chain. Social network theory was employed to identify the nature and strength of relationships, and uncover the patterning of actors' interaction. A random sample of 261 farmers was selected from a population of 1,907 smallholder sugarcane farmers in Lureko Location, Mumias sub-County, Kenya to participate in the survey. In validating issues emerging from the survey, another sample of 9 farmer leaders and 15 smallholder sugarcane farmers were purposefully selected to participate in Key Informant Interview and Focus Group Discussions respectively. Analysis involved the use of descriptive statistics and Social Network Analysis. Out of the study subjects 70 percent reported a low level of relationships. Relational ties between actors though weak, were channels for accessing knowledge, inputs, markets and food, besides regulation of policy. This findings serve as input for evidence-based policy dialogue in developing strategic alliances that promote smallholder participation in agricultural value chains, consequently improve food security and livelihoods.

Keywords: Sugarcane, Smallholder, Farmers, Relationships, Participation, Livelihoods

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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