Gender-specific constraints affecting technology use and household food security in western province of Kenya.
The factors that hinder farm intensification process among smallholders in Kenya are many and varied. These factors are not gender neutral; they affect the ability of both men and women to achieve greater productivity in agriculture. Lack of farm intensification contributes to stagnation of agriculture, increases poverty and limits rural development. The problems that face women farmers are more distinct due to socio-cultural constraints that affect their access to and control over essential assets necessary for improving their livelihoods and those of their households. Lack of access to and ownership of productive assets is an effect as well as a cause of poverty. The objective of the study was to assess gender specific constraints that affect the impact of farm technologies on household food security among smallholders in Western Province of Kenya. A multi-stage stratified random sampling technique was used to select 499 households. Using a semi-structured questionnaire administered to household heads together with six focus group discussions, the study examined how gender affects the intensity of use of farm technologies such as hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal draught power and storage technologies and impact on household food security. In addition, the study analyzed the effect of the level of education of household head and contact with extension service on maize yield. The results show that lack of access to land, extension services, credit, income and low education level are the most important constraints facing women farmers. While women accessed credit from informal sources such as rotating credit and savings, men accessed credit from banks and cooperatives. Women who accessed credit spent more on farm inputs and consequently they realized higher maize output. The results further showed that access to extension services was a problem to both genders; 21 % of women and 20 % of men had access to extension services - demonstrating the inability of the current extension system to disseminate existing and new technologies to smallholders. Access to formal school-based education and extension service had a
large and significant effect on maize yield. Women were further constrained by limited time to perform their roles as well as limited access to technologies. Wives (59%) were more affected by labour changes associated with technology use than husbands (21%). The findings provide useful information to policy makers on how to address the complex issues related to gender, agricultural development and rural poverty.
Key words: Gender, technology, food security, Kenya