Farmer empowerment in agriculture and its association with smallholder farm incomes in Kenya

Henry Muli Mwololo, Jonathan Makau Nzuma & Cecilia Nyawira Ritho

Poverty in its various forms is widespread among smallholder farmers, including income poverty, rendering interventions that improve household income relevant. We employ a linear model on cross-sectional data collected from October to December 2015, with the preceding 12 months as the reference period. The data was from 835 smallholder farmers in Kenya to assess the effect of farmer empowerment in agriculture on farm income. This is a departure from numerous previous studies, which considered the intra-household empowerment of women relative to men on the assumption that men are empowered, which may not always be the case – as we show in this study. The results show that farmer empowerment in agriculture increases per capita farm incomes. Unlike male farmers, who benefit from the overall empowerment in agriculture, female farmers do not, possibly due to constraints in complementary drivers of farm income such as access to productive resources. Interestingly, improving the income domain for female farmers increases their farm incomes more than for their male counterparts. We conclude that farmer empowerment in agriculture is a necessary driver of farm incomes, with the production, leadership and income domains being the viable impact pathways. Thus, development interventions should target specific empowerment domains while controlling for sex differences among the target farmers.