Front Cover
 Title Page
 Introduction: Women in Kenya's...
 Role of women in agriculture in...
 Agriculture extension training
 Role of female extension worke...

Group Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Title: Woman to woman approach in extension : the Kenyan experience
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081706/00001
 Material Information
Title: Woman to woman approach in extension : the Kenyan experience
Series Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Kigutha, Hilda N.
Publisher: University of Florida
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Africa   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Africa -- Kenya
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081706
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Introduction: Women in Kenya's development
        Page 1
    Role of women in agriculture in Kenya
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Agriculture extension training
        Page 11
    Role of female extension workers
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
Full Text

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In Africa where prevailing farming practices demand heavy
manual labour input, women have customarily played a major
role in agricultural production of both cash and subsistence
crops. However, research programmes and rural development
projects have repeatedly failed to take these roles into
account with consequences that are often detrimental not only
to the social status of women but also to the success of these
projects in meeting national or regional development objectives.

This paper examines some benefits that could be obtained
if women interests are integrated into development projects
and it proposes the use of trained agriculture and home economics
extension workers for faster rural development and improved
quality of living.


Women are one of Kenya's greatest untapped resources.
Nearly all adult rural women engage in farming activities on
their own small holdings and produce much of the food that
their families consume. As food processors, women are extensively
involved in meeting nutritional needs of the family. Women's
domestic work also consists of such time consuming tasks as
firewood collection and hauling water, as well as meal
preparation and childcare. Women are inhibited from fully
utilizing their production potential by (a) their limited access
to wage employment and thus capital for investment, (b) their
limited access to productive resources such as land and
credit; and (c) their labor intensive and. excessive work burdens-

Since 1971, the government of Kenya has attempted to
enhance the integration of rural women into national development
by strengthening rural women's groups, by establishing a
Women's Bureau in the Ministry of Culture and Social Services,
and by increasing the number of women extension agents. At
agricultural training institutions such as Egerton College,
more women are being enrolled now than ever before, although
the number is still small compared to that of men. These

- 2

actions highlight important steps taken by the government
of Kenya, but they are far short of an all-encompassing
strategy and program.

The percentage of females entering primary schools has
been increasing from 30% of total primary enrollments in 1961
to 47% in 1978. For secondary schools, however, female
enrollment only increased from 33% of total enrollments in 1961
to 36% in 1978. At colleges and university level, only 22%
of students are female (USAID 1981).

Role of Women in Agriculture in Kenya

Women have been traditionally assigned food production
responsibilities while men are responsible for land clearing
and the cultivation of the traditional cash crops (coffee,
tea, cotton and sugarcane), and livestock. The introduction
of cash crops, and the monitization of such food crops as maize
and beans have brought women increasingly into the agricultural
cash economy. However, they are still burdened with
traditional child-rearing, water carrying, and food preparation
responsibilities. Some studies show that women in East Africa
spend one third of their working time in actual field work and
that women work accounts for 60-75 percent of all farm labour.
In household management, women perform all the functions of
food processing and preparation, cooking, childcare, collection
of water and fuel and the feeding of penned animals. In
other parts of Kenya, women build and maintain the traditional
houses constructed with wood,,mud and thatch. These activities
account, on average, for two-thirds of women's work time
(Anderson 1984).

In the past, programs that were directed to increasing
farm productivity and income have often increased the work
burden of rural women. This occurs most often when a household
adopts labour-intensive cash crops such as coffee, tea,
sugarcane or pyrethrum, or when it adds livestock such as
poultry, pigs or dairy cattle. Also male migration to towns
and cities for wage income has increased women's farming
responsibilities as has the schooling of children which diverts

- 3

children labour from the farm and at the same time demanding
school fees which must come from earnings of women.

Women are active in small scale trade of food commodities
and other household products. About 90 percent of the sellers
in the rural markets are women. They are, however, frequently
excluded from access to more formal and large scale marketing

While this description of the rural women's work is
accurate in general, there is a great deal of variation among
women, and in the.gender division of tasks particularly
between provinces and ecological zones. This division of tasks
depends on family structure, traditional tribal customs, the
degree of involvement in pastrolism versus agriculture, and
whether the family has migrated from the traditional family
area to a new area with different customs.

The most important feature of life of women in Kenya's
rural areas has been the massive migration of males to the
towns and cities. With the males taking urban wage employment,
the women have been left with virtually the entire agricultural
production, particularly on the small holdings, is crucially
tied to the ability of the government to provide production
services and incentives to the women farmers. Although most
of the women have no land rights, they are responsible for
most of the day-to-day decision making in matters of food
production, animal husbandry, cash crop management, marketing
and home management responsibilities.

A popular notion among economists and others concerned --
with agricultural production is that all farmers are
underemployed. This assumption disregards the double burden
of women who have to combine productive activities on the
farm with important domestic work. It also fails to appreciate
that the seasonality of agricultural work is the only natural
way to give farmers some well-deserved holidays.

It is therefore, important that any agricultural research
such as FSR/E must find out who does what task, when,where,
how and why, and incorporate these findings into technical
research so that findings can meet the needs of all producers,

- 4 -

regardless of sex. Agricultural research must include staff
who are capable of analysing the social, economic anc cultural
issues. Time has come when research should stop focussing
attention on what product is to come at the end of the line
but equally important, where, when and the possible effects
both positive and negative, of the new tool or breed that
they are introducing.

Agricultural research in Africa has two prominent
characteristics: overemphasis on cash crops, on the one hand,
and, on the other, a tendency to ignore women in the planning,
decision-making and implementation-of research. Recent
research in Kenya and Tanzania for example, shows unassailably
that agricultural extension programs frequently ignore the
importance of women as major contributors to both farm labor
and home grown food.

Preliminary findings on a research project on the "Effects
and response of government agricultural policy in small-holder
farms in Kenya", recently carried out in one district indicate
that women work longer, produce more, make virtually all
decisions on food production and perform twice as many chores
as the men. If these findings are representative of the Kenyan
small holding, they would greatly influence future policy
assumptions concerning what is "reality on the ground". And
if reality is that women are the more significant economic
agents in small holder agriculture then, for policy
effectiveness, a shift must be made in our agriculture extension
priorities (Daily Nation 1985)i.

In 1986, women will be the minority of the graduates of
our agricultural training institutes. For example, Egerton
College which is the leading agriculture extension training
institution in Kenya has only 324 women out of 1431 students.
This is only 22.6% of total enrollment.

The main link between research and the farmer is extension.
However, most extension agents are males who find it easier
to deal with men as a result of socio-cultural conditioning.
The neglect of women is associated with the introduction
of cash crops and the inferior status given to the food

- 5 -

sector during the colonial period, a legacy that has contributed
greatly to Africa's current food problems. Since subsistence
food production was mainly the responsibility of women (men
having been mainly hunters and warriors) women's activities
though very important were down graded.

When cash cropping was introduced, it became a male
domain since it was a source of cash income. It then followed
that research findings, credit, and technology were all
directed toward men as if they were the sole producers. The
fact that Kenya is basically a patrillineal society seemed to
justify this bias.

This division of rural producers and systems has had many
repercussions. It ignored the household allocation of
resources and how this was to be affected by the introduction
of new crops and techniques. As a result, the food sector
and women have been marginalised in terms of access to resources
land, technology, information and credit facilities. This
fact is best illustrated by a study in Tanzania cited in the
FAO Review of Agriculture and Development which states that,
" The plough predominated on block farms of cotton, while in
nearby plots of food crops women laboriously turned the soil
using the hoe".

Another tendency in agriculture research is the
assumption that what is good for men is also beneficial to
the entire household. For instance, agricultural planners and
researchers talk about mechanization only in the context of
clearing land which is a predominantly male task.

In Kenya and Africa in general, little. research has
been done on mass production of equipment for weeding, pre-
storage processing, or transport for fetching crops from the
fields which are predominantly female tasks. In many parts
of Kenya women till the land with holes not much different
from those used in pre-colonial times some twenty five years

Agricultural research, on the whole tends to be preoccupied
with technical solutions: new inputs, large irrigation
schemes, price incentives, export etc. The human aspect are

- 6

generally ignored, especially in the case of women at times
referred to as "other family labour" and lumped together
with children and other relatives. In most cases, women's
labour is computed as a fraction of men's units of labour,
regardless of the tasks involved or the realities of the

The success or failure of any agricultural development
project in achieving its objectives can depend on proper
identification of the target group in time to influence the
choice between alternative technical strategies. Rural women
play an important and frequently overlooked role in
agricultural production, especially among small holders,tenants
and landless rural households. As more agricultural projects
are designed to benefit these target groups, the importance
of rural women for the success of such project increases.

When small scale traditional production is in women's
hands, the success of the project depends on.. whether or not
women adopt the technical solutions proposed. For this to be
possible, rural women have got to be informed about the
innovative practices, have incentives for adopting them and
have the time and resources to invest in production.

In a review of ten FAO assisted field projects in
different areas of the developing world (FAO 1983), it was
found out that women's role in the majority of the project
was either completely ignored or was given very little
consideration. The case studies showed that the integration
of women in agricultural projects is not just a welfare concern
but essential for the achievement of other goals such as
increased production food.self-sufficiency and sustained
reduction of poverty and malnutrition. Women are relevant
because progress in a given field of agriculture depends on
the women's level of productivity and incentives to adopt
innovative production techniques.

In the interest of project efficiency, the division of
labour as it relates to the scope of the project should be
taken as a starting point to determine who should receive
assistance. When an activity is entirely in women's hands,
women should be identified as the priority target group.

- 7

The mere mention of farm families" or "farmers and
wives" as a target group in project proposals is insufficient
in identify the actual target group. In Kenya and other
African countries extension contact with rural women poses
different problems from contact with men. In some communities
cultural barriers restrict contact of male extension workers
with rural women. Furthermore, when extension activities such
as demonstrations are directed to farm families, it is unlikely
that both husbands and.wives will attend. Farm women have
greater time constraints which limit their attendance at
demonstrations. As such alteration must be given to scheduling
demonstrations in places where women are likely to be present
in seasons and at times of the day when women are likely to
be less busy.

Because of these constraints, it has been found more
efficient to schedule separate demonstrations for men and women,
in different times and places and where possible, with a
female demonstrator for women. Due to the limited mobility
for women, training is best more effective when taken to the
women rather than expecting women to travel to the place where
the training sessions are held.

Among most rural communities in Kenya, it is the women's
responsibility to pay for cash items such as children's
clothing, school fees and supplies, groceries and other family
needs. Whereas men pay for large items of capital such as
land, housing etc. In dealing with such communities, one
should not overlook the complexity of male and female roles.
In the past, modernization of agricultre- has tended to -
concentrate land, assets and cash-earning opportunities in
male hands at the expense of women, thereby making it far
more difficult to fulfil their traditional roles as providers.
When this happens, women may not be able to provide adequate
food for their families and this has a negative impact on

A major deterrent to improvements in food production in
which women are involved is that women generally produce food
for home consumption, and therefore are rarely able to obtain

- 8 -

cash or technological advice that would help them improve the
techniques use (Boserup,1970). Men are more involved in cash
crop productions and hence have access to cash that enable
them to improve production of their crops. Because of greater
government interest in cash cropping technical information is
more often provided to.help men learn to cultivate with modern
methods, with cultivation gradually improving through a
system of investment and research by the government. There is
much less interest or government support in food crops research
or technical assistance. As such, the food crops sector which
is mainly left to the women continues with traditional methods
which are generally low in productivity. Besides, cash crops
usually are assigned the best agricultural land, thus pushing
the food crops production to the marginal areas.

When technical assistance is provided by the government
for food crop production, men often preferentially receive
the assistance instead of women. In the National Maize Project
in Tanzania, 20% of the participating women were visited by
an agricultural extension agent as compared to 58% of the male
participants (Tinker, 1979). This was blamed on cultural
constraints to male/female interaction and to the belief that
women are not capable of learning technological innovations.
The biases of agricultural extension agents to work with men
in some tribal areas in India, led to women being pushed out
of their traditional agricultural roles (Dixon,1978). When
technological interventions have been introduced they have led
to increased work loads on women with no benefits on this
increased activity. This increased workload too has produced
negative effects on food production and family nutrition, as
was observed in a rice scheme which was introduced in Kenya

Approaches to strengthening Women Roles

Many of the forces working against women's agricultural
output are not being directly counteranced. Women have not
been asked how much work they do and what their constraints
are. They have not been asked what technologies need to be

- 9

developed to help them in a variety of tasks. They have not
been asked what makes their access to official and farm
resources so difficult. These omissions are not always
deliberate but have resulted from the mistaken perception of
women's roles in food production.

Much can be done to obtain a more precise assessment
of rural conditions and women's roles, but in the first place
those women themselves must be asked what they need. Women
need a voice to air their views and needs for assistance from
extension services, credit services, agricultural research
stations and other government agencies. This requires the
strengthening of women's rural organizations and institutions
such as women's cooperatives, home economics clubs and other
welfare associations.

At another level, women farmers need new appropriate
technologies for their farm and domestic tasks. With
recognition of the importance of women for food security and
improved family nutrition, farming systems research and
extension should seek ways and means to improve the yields of
the food crops and small livestock concerns. On the farm,
women need improved small-scale equipment for processing food
crops, such as hand sellers for maize. They need much better
storage facilities to reduce the substantial proportion of
post-harvest losses of food to disease, insect pests, and
animals. They need labour-saving improvements for tasks
considered women's work, such as weeding. Women also badly
need access to information on acquiring or making improved
labour saving devices for the home and the farm.

In extending informationtraining / other services to/and
women, extension agents whether in agriculture, home economics,
nutrition or health care should work within the constraints
on women's time imposed by the daily needs for domestic and
farm tasks. Such services may need to be concentrated in the
agriculturally slack reasons and to take place in the farms.
If out of the farms, they should be as near to the farms
as possible.

- 10 -

In the past, projects specifically designed to aid
women's role in development did not attempt to calculate
profit and loss in the projected enterprises nor the time
costs which would lead to losses in other activities. This can
be prevented in future, if the factors involved are fully
taken into consideration with the use of time allocation surveys.
If used with economic estimates of costs and returns, they
can also show the differential impact of rural development
projects within the household so that such projects can be
better designed to meet both economic and social needs. In
Farming Systems Research and Extension greater involvement
of women in planning and action at group and family levels,
would be the appropriate and effective means to chart the way
for interventions aimed to development goals.

There are many demands made in agriculture, namely: to
increase agricultural products for export, to increase the
flow of raw materials for local agro-industries, and to
satisfy national and local food requirements. All these must
be carefully balanced if social development and well-being of
the people are to go hand in hand with economic development.

To what extent are agriculturists in developing countries
being adequately trained to accept such responsibilities
and to solve such dilemmas? Most agricultural training courses
introduce students to the contribution which agriculture
production can make to the national economy. But the same
cannot be said with regard to agriculturist's impact on social
development, and to the contribution which agriculture can
make to human well being; in particular to the solutions of
problems of hunger and malnutrition. The planning of food
supplies and the provision of adequate diets for the people of
developing countries has become important problems confronting
agriculturists, and it is essential that their training should
equip them to tackle such problems as the first priority.

Food and nutrition problems cannot be considered from
any one viewpoint alone. What is required is an inter-discipl-
inary approach to the whole complex of economic, social and

- 11 -

cultural conditions, characterizing the food chain and the
nutritional status of the population both at nationwide and
area level, which impinge on the community. The agricultural
extension worker, has a significant role to play in such an
inter-disciplinary attack on the problem, and his training
should be geared to enabling him to participate fully in this
inter-disciplinary endeavour (FAO 1982).

Agriculture Extension Training

Many developing countries have started an education
system which trains middle level extension workers to work
in the rural areas.

The colleges of agriculture which train this kind of
personnel were started when it became increasingly clear that
an efficient agricultural extension service could not be built
up using university graduates alone. Rather, it was found that
effective transmission and application of research findings
and new agricultural technology to the grass-roots depends on
a strong cadre of technically trained, intermediate level
personnel. This intermediate level agricultural extension
agent is also increasingly on demand from the agro-industries,
agricultural corporations, co-operative societies and
agricultural schools.

In Kenya, a two-tier system of middle level agricultural
education has been introduced; a two-year course leading to the
award of a certificate, and the three-year course leading the
award of a diploma. While the two-year course has basic
introductory courses in agriculture and economics, the applied
science content is minimal but just sufficient for the
understanding of the principles of crop production, animal
production and farm management. Upon graduation, this cadre
of personnel function as agricultural assistants, junior
extension staff and as technical assistants.

- 12

The three year course is based on a more fundamental
coverage of the applied sciences allowing a greater depth
of instruction in crops and animal production, engineering,
mechanization, home economics, farm management and extension
programme planning among many other subjects. There is a
special emphasis on practical work both in the laboratory
and the field.

In the past, the training of middle level agricultural
extension workers placed a lot of emphasis on crop and animal
technology and the management of agricultural resources at
the expense of the socio-economic subjects. However, curriculum
developers are beginning to realize that students need to be
versed in the relevant aspects of communication techniques,
social structures and dynamics, extension methodology and
other subject matter areas which affect rural development
in general.

The overall objective of broadening the curricula in
these colleges is to produce an extension worker who will be
able to assist farming communities to increase food production
and who will also be equipped with the knowledge to enable
him to perform and accept wider responsibilities. The
modern extension worker must be prepared to adopt the roles
of initiator, and of adviser to assist rural communities in
the attainment of adequate living standards and improved
quality of life.

The Role of Female Extension Workers

In the late sixties, the government of Kenya began to
appreciate the major role played by women in agricultural
production. Although women were the major food and cash
crop producers, there were no female agricultural extension
agents working with rural women. Practically all the
agricultural extension workers were men-whose main emphasis
in the extension programmes was in increasing cash crop and
animal production with very little attention being given to
the home and family.

- 13 -

In 1969 a diploma training program in agriculture and
home economics was started exclusively for women at Egerton
Agricultural College which is a diploma awarding institution.
The curriculum covers 60 per cent agricultural and science
courses and 40 percent home economics subjects. The main
objective of the program is to train well-rounded female
extension workers who will be able to meet the production and
utilization needs of the rural farmer during one home visit.
To-date more than three hundred women have graduated with a
diploma and home economics and they are employed by the Ministry
of Agriculture as extension workers in the rural areas of

Home economists working with rural women have had several
advantages over their male counterparts in agriculture. They
have been able to mix freely with rural women especially
where cultural conditions do not allow men to mix freely
with women. On the other hand female extension workers have
much more information to offer towards the solution of family
and household problems. They have helped women to overcome
their reluctance and fears, to make decisions for themselves,
to anayse the situations and to get technical expertise.
They have also helped rural women to organize themselves into
clubs or groups which have been able to get government help
in form of land or grants.

Improvement in the standard of living implies an
improvement in the general nutritional level of the rural
community and a sustained attack on the problems of malnutrition.
It also implies improved housing and health conditions of
all family members especially the children. The extension
worker therefore, must be aware of the problems of malnutrition,
childcare and other health related problems and he/she must
be able to stimulate rural communities to take part in
agricultural development programmes to ensure a steady
improvement in the quality of life.

- 14 -


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2. Boserup,E

3. Dixon,R.

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5. FAO

6. FAO

7. Huffman,S.

8. Morara, A.

9. Palmer.I.

10. Tinker,I.

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(Unpublished report).

Women's Role in Economic Development.
George Allen and Urwin Ltd.London.

Rural Women at Work. Baltimore;
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Food and Nutrition Bulletin Vo.10(1)

Integrating Women in Agricultural
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Food,Nutrition and Agriculture.
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Womens Activities and Childhood
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13, 1985.

Rural Women and Basic Needs Approach
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