The Impact of Sugarcane Farming on Household Food Security in Belgut Division.

Agricultural sector plays an important role in the economy of Kenya. This sector has been developed with the aims of attaining economic growth, assuring equity in such growth and stability of farm incomes as well as a wider participation by small scale farmers and large scale farmers in cash crop production and meeting the country's domestic food requirements. The most important cash crops in the study area are coffee, tea, sugarcane and occasionally maize.

The study addressed itself to the food security situations among households involved in sugarcane farming in Belgut Division of Kericho District. The study proceeded by assessing the food situations of these households as depicted by production of different crops and sugarcane and land allocation among different crops. Since women are the people mostly engaged in farming activities in the rural-areas and are traditionally charged with the responsibility of feeding household members, the study was interested to know the effects of cash crop farming on women's ability to feed their households. The study uses data obtained from household based field questionnaires administered to sugarcane farmers. The study analyses data as pertains to the socio-economic characteristics of farmers, the general farming systems in the Division; types of crops grown and acreage allocated to each crop before and after sugarcane were introduced in the Division.

Analysis of the farming systems showed that there are two types of farming systems in the Division, namely food crop and cash crop farming systems falling under the control of women and men respectively. Analysis on the allocation of land holdings between different crops shows that with the introduction of sugarcane acreage under food crops has declined while that under cash crops has increased with sugarcane taking a higher portion of holdings. The study found that there was a significant difference in acreage under food crops before and after the introduction of sugarcane. Analysis of food output and acreage showed that food output is dependent on acreage, as acreage under food crops decreases food output also decreases. The analysis has also shown that while food demands are high due to family sizes food purchases are low because of low and unpredictable incomes accruing to sugarcane farmers. The availability of factors of land to women who traditionally play an important role in ensuring food security at the household level was found to have declined with the introduction of sugarcane because it is men who decide what to plant on difference part of the farm. Since men have more interest in cane production, food production suffers.

The study makes the following recommendation, that due to high levels of food insecurity in the Division, as result of sugarcane introduction, households should be encouraged to produce food sufficient to feed the households before venturing in to sugarcane. The formulation of agricultural policies should also be integrated to minimize the opportunity cost incurred in the process of trying to achieve cash crop and food crop objectives.

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