Inderscience Publishers

Male vs. female labour in an agroforestry system in the central highlands of Kenya: correcting the misconception

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A study of male and female labour on food and cash crops was carried out in an agroforestry system in the Central Highlands of Kenya. The study tested the hypotheses that farmers concentrate most of their labour on crops with the highest gross margins whilst women concentrate most of their labour on food crops and males concentrate most of their labour on cash crops. A time allocation study was carried out over a seven month period during the short rain season of 1999-2000. Coffee was found to have the highest gross margin and to be the most labour intensive crop. However, gross margin alone cannot be taken as the only determinant of the labour allocated to a particular crop. Also important in determining the labour allocation to crops may be the importance of the crop and its labour requirements. Female labour was found to be significantly higher than male labour in all crops other than coffee. Women contributed 67% of the labour used in cash crops, which also comprised 78% of the total female labour on crops. Male labour on cash crops was 79.7% of the total male labour on all crops. The activities that were performed by men in male managed farms were found to be performed by women in female managed farms implying substitutability of male labour by female labour in the female managed and female-headed households.

Keywords: gender, labour, agroforestry, gross margins, male managed farms, female managed farms, Kenya

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