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Author(s):  Kodhek, Gem; Jayne, Thomas, Nyambane, G; Awuor, T; Yamano, T

Agriculture forms the foundation of Kenya’s economy. However, the information base on agriculture - including basic indicators on farmers’ input, production, and marketing behavior, household food consumption patterns, etc. - is weak and largely outdated. Agricultural policy is largely made on the basis of conventional wisdom about the way things work. In a dynamic, evolving economy, long-standing perceptions may become increasingly inconsistent with current reality, particularly when the system has been exposed to dramatic changes such as structural adjustment, market liberalization, and the advent of new technology.

In such a setting, entrenched perceptions about the way farmers, traders and consumers actually behave may lead to unintended and even counterproductive government policy. This paper aims to demonstrate how monitoring the rural economy through timely, periodic and reasonably representative household surveys can inform debate on existing and emerging policy issues.

Agricultural policy in Kenya revolves around the widely accepted goals of income growth, commercialization, food security and equity considerations. But progress toward these goals cannot be measured, and expenditures in their pursuit be prioritized or justified, in the absence of data on how the agricultural economy really works. While agricultural data is collected by various organizations in Kenya, it is frequently reported in ways that cannot usefully shed light on major policy issues or inform key policy debates. The weak state of agricultural sector data makes planning on the basis of available data extremely hazardous. This leaves analysts and policy makers with little apart from intuition, conventional wisdom and political expediency as guides to policy making.

Tegemeo is contributing to improved policy making through availing policy relevant data to sectoral policy makers. This paper presents baseline data (1996/1997 season) on a set of indicators of the state of agriculture and rural welfare that are useful for monitoring policy objectives mentioned earlier % income growth, commercialization, food security and equity. The paper also provides information on rural conditions and perceptions that are not commonly reported by other statistical organizations in Kenya.

The report is organized into
sections as follows:

Section 2. Sample Design and Selection

Section 3. Sources and Levels of Rural Household Income

Section 4. Agricultural Production and Input Use

Section 5. Household Food Consumption Patterns

Section 6. Household Crop Purchase and Sale Behavior

Section 7. Household Perceptions of Changes in the Performance of the Grain Marketing System

Section 8. Equity

Section 9. Conclusions

The paper has several conclusions and recommendations:

· Much of the ‘conventional wisdom’ on which policy is based is not supported by evidence, and often is incorrect. An example of incorrect conventional wisdom is that most farmers in Kenya prefer high maize prices and derive an important part of their income from selling maize. While this view does fit a certain, relatively small strata of farmers in selected areas of Kenya, most farm households in Kenya stated a preference for low maize prices as they are net buyers of this commodity.

· The large proportion of farming households, even in what are always thought of as maize surplus zones, that buy maize may warrant further consideration of the costs and benefits of policies designed to raise local maize prices, such as the current maize import tariff and producer support price schemes.

· Dealing with the agricultural sector as if it were a homogeneous monolith may give misleading impressions and can have impacts that go contrary to overall sectoral policy objectives. Agricultural policy making in a resource-constrained environment may be more effective if based on an understanding of the limits in achieving certain outcomes for all farmers in all regions and for all crops. Important regional differences suggest that tailoring policies with their regionally desegregated impacts in mind can lead to improved outcomes.

· Poor food deficit households have characteristics distinct from cash crop and wealthier households that suggest that if the alleviation of poverty is an important goal of agricultural policy, more attention needs to be focused on such households.

How Can Micro-Level Household Information Make a Difference for Agricultural Policy Making? Selected Examples from the KAMPAP Survey of Smallholder Agriculture and Non Farm Activities for Selected Districts in Kenya.

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