and Women Farmers
Standard analyses of women's enormous contribution to African agriculture focus on how women provision the household by growing food/subsistence crops. Most case studies lament how women are overburdened, undercompensated, and left out of cash cropping, new technologies, and new income streams. When the language of structural adjustment is used, women produce the “nontradable” crops that feed the family and perhaps market small surpluses, whereas men grow the cash crops, the “tradable crops, ” for national and international markets to produce the family's income (Gladwin 1991). In this chapter, I analyze commercialization strategies for local and export markets used by women and men farmers, mostly in western and central Kenya, based on work carried out in 1996.
In the research detailed here, women and men farmers in the smallholder sector grow crops commercially for the export trade (French/green beans, snow peas, macadamia nuts, fresh flowers, etc.) to the European market, exotic Asian vegetables for Kenyan urban markets, certified seed for the Kenya Seed Company (KSC), and barley for Kenya Breweries Limited. Women and men in this study are contract farmers for large commercial firms, growing export crops. Many other farmers are independent producers who sell to local markets and exporters. Women and men also are involved in agriculture as sellers and distributors of agricultural inputs (fertilizers, seed, and agrochemicals), and many serve women farmers. About 300,000 to 400,000 women and men farmers are organized into dairy cooperatives. The national brewery estimates that about 30,000 women grow barley, the national seed company estimates that about 20,000 women produce certified seed, and officials of the canning factories state that tens of thousands of women grow horticultural crops. Members of the companies