Gender Inequalities and Lack of Attention to Gender in Agricultural Development in Kenya

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Problem Statement
  • Increase in Consumer Prices of the Food Staples


Gender inequalities and lack of attention to gender in agricultural development contribute to lower productivity, higher levels of poverty, as well as under-nutrition (World Bank, FAO and IFAD, 2009; FAO 2011). The 2012 World Development report dedicated to Gender Equality and Development warns that the failure to recognize the roles, differences and inequities between men and women poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of agricultural development strategies (World Bank 2012).

In many countries in Africa, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of female-headed households (FHH) in recent years. Although African women are often responsible for providing food to their families both in female- and male-headed households (MHH), they generally have less access to land than men, less access to education, and are expected to carry most of the burden for housework and childcare. In addition to such easily observable inequality, there is also prevalent, less easily identifiable, discrimination in the form of less secure tenure, more superficial extension advice, rationing out of credit markets, and other subtle forms of social and cultural discrimination. This has implications for technology adoption, food security and access to markets. Increasing women’s access to land, livestock, education, financial services, extension, technology and rural employment has the potential to boost their productivity and generate gains in agricultural output, food security, economic growth and social welfare (FAO, 2011; Meinzen-Dick et al., 2010). However, this will only address the effects of the easily observable forms of discrimination discussed above. The subtler forms of discrimination might well remain and could continue to cause worse outcomes for female headed households.

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Although there is a considerable literature on the relationship between gender and agricultural productivity and technology adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa, gender gaps in food security have received far less rigorous empirical attention. This research thus contributes to the literature in several directions. First, the research will consider the household’s own perception of food security, which provides a better assessment of the food security situation throughout the year. The use of subjective measures, including self-reported poverty (Deaton, 2010), who argues for wider use of self-reported measures from international monitoring surveys and people’s subjective perceptions of their economic welfare (Ravallion and Lokshin 2002) who used subjective economic welfare measures in Russia is a growing field, and the research represents one of the first applications to food insecurity.

Second, unlike earlier studies (Mallick and Rafi, 2010) that used pooled regression, the research will use an exogenous switching treatment regression effects approach which will allow the researcher to identify the effects of observable and unobservable discrimination against women on their food security status. This lets the researcher understand the effects of both observable and unobservable gender discrimination on food security. To the researcher’s knowledge, he is the first to disentangle different forms of discrimination against women and in particular apply impact evaluation methodologies in the context of gender impact on food security. Finally, the research will use plot level data which makes it possible to control for plot characteristics which have a direct impact on crop production which subsequently impacts food security.

Table 1-1

Trends in population and selected food security indicators in Kenya: 1990-2004 national averages Selected statistics
Population (millions)
Food energy availability (kcal/person/day)
Number of undernourished people (millions)
Proportion of undernourished people (%)

Problem Statement

A concerning problem of food insecurity in Kenya is concentrated in the rural areas. In 2000, 51 percent of the rural Kenyan households were food insecure, compared to 38 percent in urban areas (GoK, 2000). At national level, the problem is reflected in:
Growing dependence on food imports

Kenya has been getting increasingly dependent on food imports (Nyangito et al., 2004). To meet the growing demand for food, the government has to import cereals against scarce foreign exchange. It is estimated that between 1995 and 2005, per capita cereal production grew by about 11 percent while the commercial imports rose by 320 percent.

Increase in Consumer Prices of the Food Staples

The implication of the imports has been increasing value of the imported cereals. Based on data from the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research (KIPPRA)

(Nyangito et al., 2004) and the Kenya Statistical Abstracts (GoK, 2006), the nominal prices of maize and rice were calculated to have risen by 49 and 55 percent between 1990 and 2004, respectively. In general, the rise in price was relatively higher than that of the incomes (Nyangito et al., 2004).

At household level, the combined effects of insufficient domestic food production and increasing food prices have eroded the ability to access adequate food by many people. This is reflected in a high number and proportion of undernourished people in the country (table 1-1). Even though the trend in average daily food energy availability is positive, the mean availability, 2150 kcal (2002-2004) is far below the FAO’s recommended average minimum of 2250 kcal per person per day. Similarly, although the proportion of the undernourished population dropped by 8 percent between the 1990-92 and 2002-04 period, it still remained relatively high at 31 percent (of the population) within the same period, representing about 10 million people.

General Objective Of The Study Is To Determine The Effects Of Household Gender Head On Household Food Security In Kenya.

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